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Popeye The Sailor

Castor Oyl: "Hey you, are you a sailor?"

Popeye: "Ja think I'm a cowboy?"

Castor Oyl: "Okay, you're hired."
—Popeye's debut on January 17, 1929 in Thimble Theater, as well as his Establishing Character Moment.

Popeye the Sailor Man-one of the eight wonders of the Newspaper Comics and Western Animation world, and one of the most popular cartoon stars of The Golden Age of Animation. Initially appearing as a oneshot character in the middle of an arc Thimble Theater, the comic E.C. Segar was making at the time, was going through, Popeye quickly gained the status of Ensemble Darkhorse among the comics readers, and stayed in the comic long after his debut adventure was over, until he finally overtook the whole comic, with it being renamed Popeye and tossing out Ham Gravy as the main character and Olive Oyl's original love interest.

Part of what made Popeye such an instant hit with audiences was that, despite his odd appearance and gruff conduct, he was one of the few moral forces in the world of Thimble Theatre-Popeye also got along great with children, even going as far as to tearing apart a guys hot dog vendor once just because he wouldn't give a broke kid a hot dog on credit (that, and insulting Popeye to his face). In other words, he was a very likable, sympathetic character despite having none of the obvious qualities of one at first sight. He was the original Anti-Hero. He is also a very noble (but ignorant) being and is very loyal to his girl Olive Oyl and will give anyone the benefit of the doubt, even his rival Bluto.

Speaking of original, Popeye was the original superhero-over a decade before Superman graced the comic pages, Popeye was blessed with inhuman strength and astounding durability and endurance, taking at least 15 bullets in his first adventure before finally being brought down.

While Popeye was already a major force in the comics, the sailor with a sock got his big break when animation pioneers Max and Dave Fleischer, known for their Betty Boop cartoons, brought him to the big screen alongside Betty Boop in a six minute short subject. These Fleischer cartoons took the series to new levels not even touched by the original comics-while Popeye was already very strong in the comics, the Fleischers made Popeye strong enough to stop a train dead in its tracks and move entire landmasses, as well as Reality Warping abilities--he could punch objects which would either morph them into something different or split them into multiple smaller objects--one short even had Popeye blow out the sun like a candle just so he could get some private time with Olive. And he could do all of this without' eating any spinach-in fact, the spinach can very rarely popped up in the original comics-this was made prominent in the Fleischer cartoons.

While some animation fans have criticised the series for it's "formulaic Popeye Vs. Bluto structure", in reality this was done out of necessity-the original comics had stories that went on from weeks to even MONTHS at a time, which would have been impossible to compress into six minute low budget cartoon shorts. On that note, the series didn't even rely on the Bluto and Popeye fighting as much as one would think-there were plenty of shorts the Fleischers made that experimented with other settings and stories outside of their rivalry, and even the ones that did feature the status quo pulled many, many different, creative variations of the formula-from battling on logs floating down a river to competing for the title of "King of the Mardi Gras", these shorts are still as fresh and original feeling today as apple pie. And obviously, the Fleischers love of surreal sight gags and Deranged Animation was carried over from their Betty Boop shorts, with such sights as the visual metaphors that appear in Popeye's muscles upon consuming spinach and the aforementioned reality warping powers of Popeye-none of which ever appeared in the original comics. Another odd fact was that prior to the war years, Popeye was hardly ever on ships-most of his adventures were set on dry land, only sporadically going off to sea.

Needless to say, Popeye's theatrical cartoons were an instant smash success on release, quickly toppling Mickey Mouse as the then-king of cartoons. While the series was gradually toned down as time went by (even in the comics, Popeye was forced to be toned down due to him having a large kid fanbase) this character and friends still pop up in some form or another to this day, with a recent TV special celebrating his 75th anniversary, as well as an upcoming Sony Pictures CGI film. Here's hoping for the best with this sailor's future!

Tropes Used By Popeye:

  • Anti-Hero: Type II or III, depending on the short.
  • Breakout Character
  • Deadpan Snarker: It got even funnier when Jack Mercer took over as the voice and made lots of funny quips and mumbles, all improvised on the spot.
  • Handicapped Badass: One-eyed badass sailor, at least with the Fleischer shorts.
  • Funetik Aksent: His violence may have been toned down over the years, but his accent remains as strong as it ever was.
  • Made of Iron
  • Motor Mouth: He's always muttering something under his breath. He talks way beyond the animation. This was because his voice, actor and comedian Jack Mercer, was allowed to improvise lines after the animation had been drawn. This became a staple of the character.
  • Reality Warper: Big time.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Spinach, of course.

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Olive Oyl

Popeye's love interest and frequent Distressed Damsel. Olive is a very fickle being, who keeps going between liking Popeye and liking Bluto, despite the loyalty from both of them.

Tropes used by Olive:

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"All brawn and no brains, dat's me!"
—Bluto to Olive in "The Anvil Chorus Girl".

Popeye's rival, who only appeared once in the original comics, but was made into a prominent character in the Fleischer cartoons. He's the bully we all know or have known in life--big, ugly and stupid. His relationship with Popeye is shaky, but it seems more like a rivalry than anything, and the two have had their friendly like moments together-and if we take one Minute Maid ad at face value, they can become downright affectionate towards each other sometimes.

Tropes used by Bluto

  • Breakout Villain: Thanks to the cartoon.
  • The Brute
  • The Bully
  • Badass Beard
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: In some appearances, he knocks the can of Spinach out of Popeye's hands before he can get a single morsel in his mouth.
  • Dirty Coward
  • Expy: There's another similar character named Brutus. The 1980s Ocean Comics miniseries stated that they're twin brothers.
  • Foe Yay: The Minute Maid ad makes it really suspicious, especially Olive's confused look when neither one even takes a second glance at her flirting.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Looks nice when he dresses up and shaves.
  • Large Ham
  • Made of Iron: Though not quite to the extent of Popeye.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: In Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, to jarring levels. He's a nice guy, best friends with Popeye, and when Olive starts hitting on him (not knowing she's being mind-controlled by the Sea Hag) he turns her down.
  • The Rival: Mostly in the cartoons, whenever he and Popeye have the same occupation. In the comics, Popeye claims Bluto is the only person who might be able to beat him in a fight.

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J. Wellington Wimpy AKA Wimpy The Moocher

"I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today!"
—Wimpy's Catch Phrase

Wimpy is a recurring character in the Popeye comics and cartoons, and the sheer incarnation of The Load. Smart, but cowardly, greedy, selfish, and overall a glutton, Wimpy is the kind of guy who would sell out his friends for a hamburger (in fact, he even sides with a villain at one point in the comics).

While he was a very significant character in the comics, in Segar's days even coming close to eclipse Popeye himself in importance, the Fleischers merely made him an incidental character in the cartoons, who was always just there for the mere sake of comic relief -- mostly because Dave Fleischer considered the character, such as he was in the comic, "too intellectual" to work in the film cartoons. In fact, he was so minor in the cartoons that he was abandoned by the Fleischers after "Onion Pacific", and it wasn't until a full decade later that he would appear again, in the short "Popeye Makes A Movie."

However, he has become a fan favorite, and even has a brand of burger joints in Europe named after him called "Wimpy's."

Tropes related to Wimpy as a character:

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Swee'pea, AKA "Scooner Seawell Georgia Washenting Christiffer Columbia Daniel Boom"

A Door Step Baby adopted by Popeye (or Olive Oyl, depends on the incarnation or the story), Swee'pea is a little baby who has a knack for getting himself into trouble.

A fairly major character in the comic (especially after he learned to talk) but a pretty minor one in the cartoons -- his last appearance under the original Fleischer Studios was, fittingly, in their last cartoon, "Baby wants a Battleship" in 1942, and he would appear again in the 1950 Famous short "Baby Wants Spinach."

Tropes related to Swee'pea:

  • Depending on the Writer: He's either adopted, Olive Oyle's child, or both her and Popeye's child. In some cartoons, he's hinted to be Olive's nephew that she sometimes takes care of, in others he's hinted to be Popeye's nephew (making him a cuter, less rascally replacement for Pupeye, Peepeye, Pipeye and Poopeye).
  • Changeling Fantasy: In the comic, at least, he turns out to be the Crown Prince of Demonia, who after his father was killed was sent to Popeye for protection against his Evil Uncle. This tends to be ignored by later writers, though.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: A strange version; in his first appearances he was a fairly normal baby (or at least a normal cartoon version of a baby), but over the years learned to talk and could converse on anything just as well as any adult, but in appearance he remained a crawling baby. This was Lampshaded a few times. Later appearances sometimes reverse this development and present him as too young to talk again.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: His real name is "Scooner Seawell Georgia Washenting Christiffer Columbia Daniel Boom" (Popeye got a little carried away when naming him), but he's usually just called "Swee'pea" -- to such an extent, in fact, that several writers have forgotten that this isn't his real name.
  • The Omniscient: Only in the live-action movie, thanks to his role being merged with that of Eugene the Jeep. He can tell the future and seems to know exactly what's going on at all times, causing him to become a Living MacGuffin to the other characters -- but as he's too young to talk, they're limited to "yes" or "no" questions.

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Eugene the Jeep

An odd dog like, orchid eating creature that is Popeye's pet, usually referred to as "The Jeep", he has a very powerful nose and his able to teleport, turn invisible, phase through walls and even levitate/walk on air!

Tropes related to Eugene the Jeep:

  • Living MacGuffin: In his first appearance in the comic, he becomes this -- there are a lot of people who want him for his abilities.
  • The Omniscient: He knows everything and can predict the future, and will gladly tell you if you ask him -- but since he can't talk he can only answer "yes" or "no" questions.
  • Once For Yes, Twice For No: Ask him a "yes" or "no" question; if he raises his tail, the answer is "yes," if he lowers it, the answer is "no." This method of communication isn't flawless, however, as he like so many animals also often uses his tail to express emotion; at one point Popeye thought the Jeep was answering "yes" to a question -- it turned out that he hadn't heard the question and was raising his tail because he had seen something interesting on the ground and was curious about it.
  • The Unintelligible: Some cartoons ignore the Once For Yes, Twice For No thing and just make him this, leaving other characters to translate what he's saying.

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Poopdeck Pappy

Popeye's long lost, 99 year old, senile father. Almost identical to Popeye in appearance (although he frequently denies it) except with a beard and a higher pitched voice.

Tropes related to Poopdeck Pappy:

  • Jerkass Facade: He acts this way in the CGI movie after Popeye finally found him. He wanted to protect Popeye from the witch.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In all incarnations, he is grouchy and even downight hostile at times, but when it comes down to it he's not such a bad guy.
  • Man Child: He's more childish than his son is.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: In his animated debut, he doesn't care about his son at all. Until he's in trouble, and eats some spinach so he can save his only son.
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