Popeye: Borned to the Sea #1
January 11, 2016
Popeye the Robot Puncher.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Patreon-sponsored review time again, and it's rather unique: a franchise we've never discussed before: Popeye.
(A montage of Popeye cartoons is shown)
Linkara (v/o): I'm not gonna do an in-depth look at the history of the character or anything like that, mostly because, well, the comic today is an origin story. An incredible one, if the cover is to be believed. On the off-chance you're not familiar with the character, Popeye the Sailor Man is probably best known as a cartoon, particularly for both his distinctive style of speech and the fact that when he consumes spinach, it basically gives him super strength, although given his bulbous forearms, I think we can presume he was super strong already. Despite most of his pop culture fame being based on the cartoon, he started life as a comic strip character and, naturally, found himself in quite a few comic books. Like most other franchises, Gold Key and Dell held the license for a while, eventually going through life with King Comics and Charlton Comics before we get to this 1987 book by Ocean Comics. How appropriate.
Linkara: Now, if you want information about Ocean Comics... well, I think RiffTrax put it best...
(Cut to a clip of The Star Wars Holiday Special, as watched and reviewed by the RiffTrax crew, which begins with a promo for a show called Flying High)
Bill Corbett: We don't even have a Wikipedia entry!
(Cut to a closeup of the Ocean Comics logo on the Popeye comic in question: "Popeye: Borned to the Sea #1")
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, best I could find is from a Popeye Wikia that the company started in 1980 and they published a few Popeye comics. That's it. It's sad when Google thinks you're searching for a completely unrelated Ocean Comics from Hong Kong that was started in 1994.
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Popeye: Borned to the Sea #1" and see if this comic is strong to the finish.
(AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has a rock version of "Popeye the Sailor Man" by MxPx playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): The cover is pretty good, showing off our cast of characters, with Popeye in the center looking badass. I should note that, much like other franchises, I only know the bare minimum of basics about this stuff. I watched Popeye cartoons as a kid, but that was twenty years ago. Some of the details are not exactly fresh in my mind.
Linkara: So please don't leave angry comments if I giggle like a six-year-old because there's a character named Poopdeck.
Linkara (v/o): The only problem with this is one of hindsight. I see this comical yet badass figure standing on a boat and I keep thinking he's searching for the One Piece. "Popeye: Borned to the Sea"!
BECAUSE POOR LITERACY... IS A SPEECH QUIRK.
Linkara (v/o): By the by, this is another one of those books where the title is questionable, since the copyright page says it's actually "Popeye Special No. 1". But frankly "Borned to the Sea" is a better title, even if "borned" is not a word.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): And since Popeye is "borned to the sea", we of course open on said sea.
Narrator: He was born during a typhoon off the coast of Santa Monica a long time ago. Typhoons is purely awrful things.
Linkara: Eh, I kind of remember liking it more than whiteout.
Linkara (v/o): On the sea is Poopdeck Kidd, whom I guess at some point legally changed his name to "Pappy", which is frankly a better name anyway, because alliteration always makes things better.
Narrator: Poopdeck Kidd clearly loved a rough sea. He wasn't afeared of nothink, which tells ya Poopdeck wasn't a right man where brains was concerned.
Linkara: (as narrator) What I'm trying to say is that his head was ninety percent beard and five percent brain.
Linkara (v/o): He's sailing with his pregnant wife who is loudly complaining about how they're at sea instead of at a hospital. He claims they're doing it to get the best doctors, but unfortunately, the storm seems to have upset the timetable a bit. Also, just a foreshadow how badass Popeye's mom Roxy is: she's pregnant, about to give birth, and yet is wielding a baseball bat. Speaking of, the ship crashes into some rocks, even throwing Poopdeck to the shore... and Roxy just gives birth while yelling, "YAHOOOO!"
Poopdeck Kidd: Are's you all right, Roxy love?
Roxy: No sweat, sweetie.
Linkara: This woman just gave birth and yelled like she was on a thrill ride, and she's already up and about, smoking a cigar while holding her baby. If this woman wanted to, she could conquer the world with just her baseball bat and sheer moxie.
Linkara (v/o): Poopdeck Pappy takes one look at his son and proudly declares...
Poopdeck Kidd: HE'S UGLY!
Linkara: I dunno, he looks pretty good for a kid who was literally just born. Completely clean and even has hair.
Linkara (v/o): Roxy does not take kindly to the guy calling her baby ugly. I imagine the only reason she didn't tear him into as many pieces as their boat is because he was still holding the kid. As time went on, Pappy grew resentful of the fact that he was pretty much in charge of the baby while his wife sat down and watched football all day.
Linkara: And since we now apparently have two weeks in a row with something football-related, I should note that I'm pretty sure Roxy could kick SuperPro's ass.
Linkara (v/o): Well, while the situation is not ideal, it seems to me that Poopdeck Pappy just needs to try to work out his issues with his wife. Maybe get some counseling, or if they can't get through this stuff, get a divorce. Or maybe he could just walk off one day with a sack over his shoulder and a song on his lips, leaving his wife and child for no other reason than seemingly his wife won't cook dinner for him.
Linkara: Are you sure that you're not the ugly one, Pappy? Because I'm pretty sure you look like an asshole.
Linkara (v/o): Roxy managed to step up her game a bit, although she really knew nothing about what kids eat, so her decision to give her child nothing but spinach was motivated purely by how it was cheap. The narration informs us that it was an all-spinach diet in his childhood, which I'm pretty sure should mean his body was actually in worse shape when he didn't have a diverse selection of things to eat. But no. Soon he goes into high school and is able to beat up guys a clear foot taller than him who have muscles on more than just their forearms.
Bully: Hey, chubby cheeks-- what's yer name?
Newcomer: Ugly Kidd. What's id too yer?
Linkara: Wow! Your mom actually went along with naming you "Ugly"? We should feel lucky. With this kind of naming convention, he could have become a supervillain or a Sith Lord.
Narrator: Well, naturally some little poop got in a lucky punch, early on his career, and ever since then, Ugly Kidd was known far and wide as Popeye, the inhuman one-eyed whirlwind...
Linkara: (as narrator) Instead of directly calling him "ugly", we decided his nickname should be a reference to his handicap.
Linkara (v/o): Roxy decides to leave Popeye to go to Zaire, for they have no roller derbies there.
Linkara: Truly, Roxy understood the complex issues facing Central African countries in the '80s.
Linkara (v/o): Popeye supported her efforts to bring roller derbies to the world, but found he had nothing left for himself where he was.
Popeye: (thinking) I beat up all the boys and teachers in school already. They's learned all I can teach 'em!
Linkara: Our hero, everybody! Happily admitting that he beat educators to death! What the hell, man?
Linkara (v/o): Seeing an ad for the Navy, Popeye decides to enlist, lying about his age in order to get in. And I just realized that he's decided to join up with the Navy because he wants to beat people up.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of South Park)
Russell Crowe: (singing on his tugboat) Makin' movies, makin' songs 'n fightin' 'round the world!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): With but a simple chapter transition, we skip over boot camp and go straight to joining the crew of U.S.S. Chester stationed in Japan.
Linkara: And considering 1940s Popeye cartoons, I fear this is gonna get very offensive very quickly.
Linkara (v/o): Actually, Popeye encounters the normally hamburger-addicted Wimpy, as well as Brutus. Yeah, not Bluto. Basically, there was a belief in the '50s that Paramount owned the rights to the name "Bluto", so they renamed him in other media as Brutus. Of course, it wasn't actually true, so later, it was retconned that Brutus and Bluto were twin brothers.
Linkara: Because if there was one continuity issue in all of comics that necessitated a retcon, it was why Bluto was called Brutus for a while.
Linkara (v/o): I don't know why I'm joking about this. If this was DC, they would have had a ten-issue miniseries about the universe exploding and reforming in order to fix this. Anyway, Brutus is smacking around Wimpy, and if there's anything a man who proudly boasts about all the people he's beaten up hates, it's a bully. So Popeye punches him so hard, it sends Brutus upside-down and into a wall.
(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching The She Creature)
Mike Nelson: Space is warped and time is bendable!
(Back to the comic again)
Narrator: The super-duper knee-to-chin right-handed upper-cut. It's deadly!
Linkara: Did... Did Popeye just murder him?!
Linkara (v/o): Later, Brutus confronts Popeye, pissed off that somebody was able to lay him out so easily.
Popeye: Wants me to do it again, so youse can remember the feelink?
Linkara: Given that the previous punch probably gave him a concussion, I'm guessing a second punch isn't going to help him remember anything.
Linkara (v/o): Deciding not to get his ass whooped yet again, Brutus instead suggests the two have a boat race to determine who's the best sailor.
Linkara: Unfortunately, because they're in Japan, they are both defeated by a blonde girl with pigtails screaming something about moon prism power.
Linkara (v/o): Wimpy suggests to Popeye that Brutus probably has a plan to rig the race in his favor, which we soon see as the race actually occurs. Brutus sabotaged their mast, which snaps in half like a toothpick a few hours into the race.
Linkara: You got to imagine how boring life must be on this ship if they're dedicating hours to a race.
Linkara (v/o): While their boat is disabled, Popeye and Wimpy spot a whaling vessel about to attack one of the creatures.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Red Dwarf, showing a whaling ship firing a harpoon at what looks like a whale, but it's actually a submarine. The harpoon is drawn to it like a magnet. Cut back to the comic)
Popeye: That's the most awrful things I's ever heard! And I's means to put a stop to it right now!
Linkara: (as Popeye) I'ms gonna writes in a formal protest! (holds up fist) With my fist!
Linkara (v/o): Popeye, apparently a living torpedo, launches himself out and punches the whaling ship in half! I really shouldn't be surprised by this. I mean, if just a small quantity of spinach gives him super strength, I assume a lifetime of eating it has made him into a fully-fledged superhuman. The whale, evidently grateful for the rescue, seems to want to help out our heroes, much to the shock of Brutus and his cohort. And indeed, we see their boat being pulled by the whale pass Brutus' boat to the finish line.
Linkara: And having Popeye have a whale navigate him like this only puts him (holds up index finger and thumb close together) slightly below Neutro riding on the back of a whale in terms of awesomeness, but only because Popeye is a sailor, so aquatic life is already in his wheelhouse.
Linkara (v/o): And that's when Brutus' head spontaneously combusted. Or his brain has a serious smoking problem. In any case, while Brutus swears revenge, we cut over to some of the whalers of that boat Popeye destroyed. It seems that their whaling operations are on the illegal side of things, and they work for the Dragging Lady Criminal Gang, which consists of two guys in loincloths, two women in corsets...
(Editor's note: "I know they're not corsets. Misspoke.")
Linkara (v/o): ...who are tickle-torturing a guy, and the Dragging Lady herself, a woman who weighs 400 pounds because she likes to eat.
Narrator: And you thought we couldn't spell 'dragon'. Ha!
Linkara: Yeah, instead of being racist, you're being a regular jerk!
Linkara (v/o): Bear in mind, even if being overweight was a reason to insult someone, she's running a criminal gang consisting of half-naked people. How many obese Americans can claim that? In any event, the whaler informs her how this mysterious sailor, so she's naturally a bit pissed off, ordering his destruction while crushing some chocolates in her hand, chocolate presumably filled with strawberry filling since, when she squeezes them in this panel, pink juice comes out. We cut to a few days later, with Popeye and Wimpy out on the town.
Popeye: These folks is okay, Wimpy. Even ifs they is so short.
Linkara: (massaging his forehead) Ugh. I can already tell that somebody is gonna try to defend this by bringing up the average height of people in Japan or something, but just... why?
Wimpy: The Orientals are a culturally rich people, chum.
Linkara: (as Wimpy) I've never even thought of hamburger porn before, but they did it, and it makes so much sense.
Linkara (v/o): Also, calling Asian people "Orientals". Some people were confused about this back in the "Protoplasman" review...
Linkara: ...which means we've now had two unrelated Patreon-sponsored comics using the term "Oriental", which is a very weird coincidence.
Linkara (v/o): But yes, the term "Oriental" is racist. I suppose you can try to make an argument when describing objects it isn't, but definitely people. It's a way to make them sound exotic and alien and othered. It's certainly not as horrible as racist terms that are meant to insult, demean and denigrate, but it is what it is: a racist term to describe nonwhite people or objects from different countries; in particular, Asian countries. And the othering is especially jarring when Wimpy says that "the Orientals" have much to offer those of the West when they are standing in a modern city! But we're getting away from things. There's slapstick afoot as Dragging Lady's assassins are intent to kill Popeye, but through hijinks, he's able to evade a knife thrower and a gunman without even realizing the assassins are there. Wimpy is soon kidnapped and Popeye led into a trap: a room full of ruffians and assassins, including the most dangerous of all: this guy.
(Said guy is holding a plank. Cut to a clip of an episode of The Simpsons)
Kodos: (being chased by Moe) He's got a board with a nail in it!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Wimpy knocks out the single candle illuminating room, leading to Popeye beating up everyone in the dark and thus off-panel.
Linkara: Well, it's understandable why they couldn't show us that brawl; they blew their budget on the whale.
Linkara (v/o): The police soon show up because of all the noise caused by the fight, and while Popeye was indeed victorious, he sustained a lot of injuries to his eye. The doctors try to fix him up, but it's still no good.
Popeye: I's used to this puss, doc...
Linkara: (disgusted) Ewwww!
Popeye: ...I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam!
Linkara: Well, maybe if you'd actually tried sweet potatoes instead...
Linkara (v/o): Once Popeye's out of the hospital, Wimpy gives him a pipe as thanks for all he's done to help him. However, he and another crewmate have another idea to earn them some cash: turning Popeye into Rocky. Yep, they enlist him into amateur boxing, and as you can imagine, the guy who can beat up an entire room full of people who are all armed with deadly weapons while all he had was his fists is able to quickly kick some ass. Brutus, observing the fight, figures there must be some reason why he's able to do all the stuff he can, thus eavesdrops on our heroes while they're counting their winnings, of course discovering the spinach. Back over to Dragging Lady, she's proudly announcing that she's gonna have ten steaks for lunch – right in front of the cow about to be slaughtered for that very purpose. There's being a jerk, and then there's being Dragging Lady. Anyway, she's hired an inventor by the name of O.G. Watasnozzle to create something to destroy Popeye. And when your name is "Watasnozzle", you really have no other job in life but to be a scientist or a villain in an '80s children's cartoon. But yes, he has invented "the Steel Sumo, the most powerful robot fighter ever assembled!"
Linkara: And with that declaration and the whale thing, I really am starting to wonder if the purpose of this book was to try to one-up Neutro.
Linkara (v/o): So, Robo-Sumo here is unleashed on Popeye, with no one wondering why a Terminator is being entered into things, with Brutus replacing Popeye's spinach with seaweed.
Linkara: Et tu, Brutus?
Linkara (v/o): Lifetime of spinach or not, it's hard to take on a robot designed specifically to kick your ass, so Popeye is promptly tossed around. Fortunately for Popeye, the Steel Sumo – who I should note is of course boxing and not using sumo techniques – is equipped with "synthoid veggy juice", as Watasnozzle puts it. Robots powered by vegetables, because I guess it was sponsored by V8 or something. So a rupture in his conduits allows some of the veggie juice to drip onto Popeye's face. There must be some spinach in that veggie juice, because drinking it gives Popeye enough strength to not only shatter the robot's arm, but to send him flying away.
Linkara: So, for the record, this is a comic about a spinach-eating sailor who gets into a boxing match with a sumo-wrestling Terminator, and the sailor drinks the robot's blood in order to destroy it. (smiles) I freakin' love comic books!
Linkara (v/o): Thus, Popeye stands victorious, spouting his catchphrase. And so, our comic ends with two nearby sailors walking off, one of them whom is Poopdeck Pappy. His friend says that Popeye looks a lot like his long-lost son. Um, he didn't lose him, he was a deadbeat dad. But Poopdeck doesn't think it's him.
Poopdeck Pappy: Impossirable! This Popeye is a handsome dude. Nothing at all like my boy. He was pure ugly!
Linkara: (singing to the "Popeye" theme) Iiit's Poopdeck the stupid man, it's Poopdeck the stupid man! He's dumb to the finish, I doubt he eats spinach, it's Poopdeck the stupid man! (closes comic and holds it up) This comic... is actually pretty awesome!
Linkara (v/o): But then again, so is Popeye. I of course can't speak to the authenticity of this thing, compared to other Popeye works, just with what we've got here. While I find some aspects questionable, in the end, it's an overall enjoyable story about a good guy who kicks ass and takes names while promoting a relatively healthy diet. Well, I mean, I assume he eats more than spinach, but I can't be certain. I've read that some people found the art style a bit bizarre, that they had difficulty reconciling a slightly more realistic art style, combined with small details that are much more cartoony. Personally, I find all the artwork cartoony, since the faces and bodies are pretty exaggerated, even if the surroundings are not. So I didn't have any problem with it at all and I quite enjoyed it.
Linkara: Next time, we check in with our old pal Batman as as he shills for OnStar. (gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
Dragging Lady's true nemesis is actually Speed Steer.
Anyone else ever notice Popeye's chin is kind of shaped like a butt?
(Stinger: An episode of Red Dwarf is shown)
Lister: You are what you are. Wasn't it Descartes who said, "I am what I am"?
Rimmer: No, it was Popeye the Sailor Man.