Though a failure as a vehicle for a then-aspiring Robin Williams, Popeye the live-action feature was technically strong with great make-up and strong performances from both Williams as the title character and Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl. Released in 1980, was meant to showcase William's frentic energy and over-the-top vocal abilities, but was immediately panned by critics, who variously attacked everything from the script to the songs penned by Harry Nilsson.

One great quote: "Children. They're just smaller versions of us you know, but I'm not so crazy about me in the first place, so why would I want one of them?"

None of us ever saw him eating from cans of spinach, but he was, none the less, known to most of the world as Popeye. He was neither strong nor brave and he had no Olive Oyl to call his wife. All he had in this world was a shopping cart full of his stuff and his dog, Georgie-girl. There was no place for him other than the streets of Vancouver, where he had wandered collecting cans for over a decade and only the life of a street wanderer would suit him.

Popeye became a part of my life one summer that I was living in the city. Sometimes I would run into him walking along the cheerful, tree lined streets, and he would stop and tell me strange tales of strange people doing unimaginably strange things. Once I saw him with a group of other homeless near the train tracks, and he invited me over to join them. His presence made it safe for me to do so. More often, however, I saw Popeye at home, at a place we half jokingly, half mockingly called The Compound.

We were a motley crew. There was Boris, the Russian filmmaker, Bran the coke snorting pot grower, Matt the pot smoking coke dealer, Brycken, mural painter and sculptor, smarmy Constantine, who worked for a German logging company, Steve the gentle tree planter, and me, the aspiring world traveler and writer. We occupied three run down houses in an otherwise completely gentrified neighbourhood and were most fortunate to share between us almost an acre of backyard.

Popeye fit in and became a part of our temporary and eclectic family. He came by nearly everyday to say hello and although we often offered him food from our communal pot, he always refused. He wanted our friendship, not our handouts. He never came into the backyard without an invitation to do so, and would holler out his gruff greetings from the street until we asked him to join us. That summer we spent a lot of time in the backyard, tending to gardens, playing scrabble and badminton and, of course, conducting late night parties. These yielded a huge quantity of cans and bottles, which Popeye returned for the deposit.

Once, he bought us a case of beer as thanks.

Popeye lived on the streets, dependent on government checks for his keep. He never begged. In fact, he was an aspiring entrepreneur. One summer he devised a plan to help out himself and others living on the streets. Popeye collected hundreds of cans every week from people who didn't feel like returning them to the liquor store themselves or would rather pass on the deposit to someone like him. His plan was to make it even easier to donate cans and bottles by setting up special bins around the neighbourhood. A local grocer donated three Rubbermaid bins for the pilot project. Popeye did some cleaning for a sign maker who professionally labeled the bins, "Popeye's Can And Bottle Collection Service." Somehow he got a pager and put signs up around the neighbourhood. One of his bins proudly stood in front of the compound.

Things were looking up for him; the business, even though still in its infancy, seemed to give him a new sense of hope. Popeye was no longer just a street guy, he was a businessman. Talking to him about the project, you could immediately sense his excitement. He spoke with such enthusiasm, not only about the possibility of his own success, but the chance that others might follow suit and improve their lives as well.

Like some street people with mental illness, Popeye preferred to live on the streets. They were his home and offered him a freedom and independence that he didn't feel he would have living in a shelter. He had friends under the bridge and near the train tracks all in the same situation, men and women that just didn't fit into society. He could go where he wanted, when he wanted. The business might get him a bit of the respect that was otherwise lacking from his chosen lifestyle.

Unfortunately, things didn't pan out for our Popeye. His brother in Ontario died in a car accident and the welfare office arranged for him to fly home for the funeral. When he returned, he was a changed man. He didn't stop in as often, didn't tell us his usual jokes and the collection bin remained neglected and unused. He started drinkin' and fightin'. We would see Popeye with black eyes and cuts and bruises, more often than we would find him in a cheerful and talkative mood.

Popeye never completely became his old self again, maybe because of the failure of his venture, or for reasons that we will never know about. He remained, despite this, an important part of our lives and a reminder that hope belongs to us all, regardless of what happens to it or what we choose to do with it.

Inspired by this and this and this

Popeye the Sailor was originally created by a man named Elzie Segar for newspaper comics titled Thimble Theater. In his first appearance, which was in 1929, Popeye played small roles in the comic strips, providing some relief from the two main characters, Olive Oyl and Ham Gravy. Soon, the public wanted more of the lovable swashbuckler so eventually Ham was completely removed from the strip and it became Popeye's stage. Later, in 1932, Wimpy, the hamburger-munching pacifist apeared. Then in 1936, Sweet Pea (pronounced swee' pea) was born.

Popeye's first movie appearance came in 1933, where he met Betty Boop, another popular cartoon star from the time period. From this first short spawned Popeye's first group of full length cartoons entitled "I Yam What I Yam", managed by Fleisher Studios.

In 1942 Fleisher Studios was purchased by Paramount and oddly renamed Famous Studios. From 1933 to 1942, Fleisher Studios created some of the best Popeye shorts ever viewed, so it wasn't a surprise when Famous Films couldn't achieve such quality as its predecessor.

Then, in the 1960's, all hell broke loose in the world of Popeye. The cartoons started to be mass-produced all around the world, distorting the original concept of the Fleisher shorts.

While Popeye was being watched by children on Saturday morning TV, he was still staring in his comic strips, which by now have been adopted by a multitude of magazines and newspapers. But Popeye's next big feature didn't go over so well at the box office. In 1980, Popeye the Sailor was made into a live action film. Robin Willams was Popeye, Shelly Duval was Olive Oyl, Ray Walston was Poopdeck Pappy, and Paul Smith as the infamous Bluto. In my opinion, this film was truly terrible and should never have been created.

Here is a list of most of the important characters that appeared with Popeye in his cartoons/comic strips:

  1. Popeye
  2. Olive Oyl
  3. Brutus (Bluto)
  4. Poopdeck Pappy
  5. Wimpy
  6. Eugene the Jeep
  7. Sweet Pea
  8. Sea Hag

I suppose my whole inspiration for writing this little number was seeing a can of Popeye's Spinach in the store. In the cartoons/comic strips, to win the final battle against whatever villain he was facing, Popeye would bust out a can of spinach, which gave him some sort of 'super strength'. When I was little I saw a Popeye cartoon and was thusly compelled to start a collection of Popeye the Sailor memorabilia. Upon seeing this concoction on the shelf, I had to buy some to add to the archives growing in my display cases. After purchasing the spinach, I took it home and placed it in an empty spot in the display case... the collection was complete. Now all I have left to do is write on here about my useless knowledge that is, Popeye the Sailor Man.


Some information utilized from these sources:

  • http://www.bcdb.com/pages/Other_Studios/K/King_Features_Syndicate/Popeye/
  • http://www.toonopedia.com/popeye.htm
  • Popeye was an old arcade game released by Nintendo way back in 1982.

    The story

    You are in control of the world famous "Popeye the Sailor Man" in his quest to win the love of "Olive Oyl". Standing in your way are "Bluto" and the "Sea Hag", but fortunately you have a secret weapon on your side in the form of spinach!

    This game was created just a bit after the Robin Williams movie of the same name. It has a lot in common wih the film too, mainly in that it was sort of popular, and is still well known today, but somehow seems to be lacking something.

    The game

    The first screen is probably all that most of you will ever see. Olive Oyl drops hearts from the top of the screen and you have to catch all of them before they hit the ground and break. This would be fairly easy, except that you face constant harrassment by both Bluto and the Sea Hag. Your main weapon against Bluto is a bucket that you can punch and drop onto his head (which must be timed correctly), and the one can of spinach, which you can eat and then become powerful enough to knock out Bluto.

    The second screen is features musical notes instead of hearts, and has two guest stars in the form of Wimpy and Sweet Pea. While the third screen has you catching letters to spell "HELP" and build a ladder up to Olive Oyl. After the third level you get to watch a little intermission screen, and then the game starts over again with increased difficulty.

    The Machine

    Most Popeye machines were upright cabinets, but cocktails were also available. This game was simultaneously available from Nintendo of America, Nintendo of Japan, and Atari-Ireland. The cocktail was a rather plain Japanese "school desk" style cocktail. Many different games were available in these cocktails.

    The upright was in the standard Nintendo cabinet, the same one used in Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior, Radar Scope, Donkey Kong 3, and Sky Skipper. Almost all other Nintendo titles used alternate versions of this same cabinet, Mario Bros. was wider, Punch Out!! was taller, etc, but they were still nearly identical. A dedicated Popeye machine will be blue, although you will sometimes see them in different colors (non-blue Popeyes are conversion cabinets).

    The sideart was a large sticker showing Popeye and all his friends. This sideart is commonly available as a reproduction, which is a good thing, since people tended to peel off sideart stickers. The marquee shows Popeye and Olive Oil on a blue background, while the monitor bezel has a plethora of characters from the cartoon involved in different scenarios.

    The control panel has game instructions, pictures of Popeye and Bluto, along with a joystick and a punch button.

    The Atari-Ireland version of the game plays the same, and has similar exterior graphics, but came in a cabinet similar to the Tempest one, and had silk screened sideart instead of a sticker.

    Where to play

    All the Nintendo arcade titles were fairly popular and are easy to find in private collections. You might still bump into one from time to time in an out of the way place (bar, laundrymat, etc), but don't count on it.

    This is a good game for any arcade game collection, as it has pretty decent replay potential. This game seems to be fairly cheap, when compared to other Nintendo brand arcade games from the same era.

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