Thursday, May 31, 2007

Buy Popeye

I saw that the first volume of the new Popeye collection from Fantagraphics is going for $5.99 on Amazon. That's a little depressing: maybe it's just my ignorance of the book business, but that kind of discount doesn't look like a sign that the collection is selling well. This really is too bad: E.C. Segar's Thimble Theatre is on the All-Time list of Great American Arts & Culture Stuff.

If you're at all interested in American humor, comic strips, and cartooning, but you haven't read the original Popeye strips, you owe it to yourself to check this book out: you can't go wrong with that price!

Whoops - I'm not allowed to write about the Popeye comic strips without pointing out that the Popeye made famous in those cartoons is really a pretty superficial version of the Popeye in Segar's Thimble Theatre. Popeye is one of those fictional characters, like Dick Tracy or Conan, who loom (fairly) large in the Popular Culture Consciousness, even though most people are only familiar with their watered-down/simplified/cleaned-up/etc. versions.

And on a personal preference note: I've never really been able to get into Krazy Kat. Sure, I recognize and bow down before Herriman's masterful cartooning, but I'm still fairly cool towards it. But whenever I hear/read praise of Krazy Kat, Thimble Theatre is the comic strip that I picture: a vital, beautiful, idiosyncratic work of Homegrown American Genius.

Update: Whoops again - Fantagraphics has not been having any trouble selling their Popeye books. This was just an Amazon sale. Great news! But the sale is now over. Hope you didn't snooze on this one! (Thanks to Comics Comics readers for clueing me in!)


Anonymous said...

Aw crap. Just what I need. I bought the Mouse Guard and Schizo hardcovers last week on an impulse from Midtown, and two pairs of sneakers while on lunch break today... and I know I won't be able to get Thimble Theater without picking up the Dick Tracy to go with it.

I haven't really dug into the current reprint craze apart from the box set of the first two Peanuts volumes. I'm not sure I'm as crazy about it as I'm supposed to be. I feel like I haven't really figured out "how" to read it. Like, it's not really what I would call funny. It's like there's a Peanuts muscle. I like his line, even at that early stage, but I don't have the same connect to it as the strip that I feel basically changed me psychologically and helped me increase my reading level; Calvin & Hobbes. (That collection is really expensive, and I've been told that the binding isn't sewn, but glued, which is pretty lame for the price of what's meant to be an archival edition.)

But yeah. Krazy Kat, Walt & Skeezix, the upcoming Pogo. It all makes me feel like I better get in on this while the gettin's still good. The NYPL can be surprisingly good for this kind of stuff.

Jon Hastings said...

So, I'm glad that Fantagraphics decided to do the Complete Peanuts, but, as with a lot of comic strips, I think it suffers a bit if you try to read it from the beginning. I'd start with the late 1950s-early 1960s strips and then go back to the earlier volumes.

This is a great time for classic comic strip fans though: I'm eagerly awaiting the new Little Orphan Annie books.