Sunday, May 20, 2012

Review: Popeye #1

Popeye has finally returned to comic books, in the first issue of IDW's new series.  Written by Roger Langridge with art by Bruce Ozella, the first thing I noticed about the issue was the rather disappointing paper cover.  Instead of a slick, magazine style cover like most other comics, this one has a paper cover like the ones from those "Big Boy" comics you used to get for free at the restaurant (only POPEYE # 1 has a $3.99 price tag).  Other than that, however, the issue was great, but still with room for improvement.  Langridge is following the original Segar continuity.  Things such as Olive's brother Castor Oyl having a major role in the story... the fact that Bluto only appeared once during Segar's run making this his first encounter with Popeye after that... shows that Langridge is either a real fan, or did his homework very well.  However, I found the script to be, not only faithful to Segar, but also seemed to have a touch of early Bud Sagendorf.  The script was big on adventure but rather mild on humor. That's the first place some improvement could be made.  I would love to see the series embrace some of the wilder humor of the Max Fleischer Popeye cartoons.  Langridge has the adventure storytelling down pat, but he needs to work on getting funnier with the humor.

Ozella's art likewise echos Segar nicely, again with maybe a slight hint of early Sagendorf.  But I think it would be wiser to make the figures more fluid and slick like in the Fleischer cartoons (Stephen DeStefano is a master at that, and IDW really, really needs to tap him to do covers for the series).  Ozella needs to move beyond the stiffness and slight crudeness of the Segar/Sagendorf figures, and move to a more fluid and animated Fleischer style, blending the two as DeStefano, Ken Wheaton (whom I understand will draw issue 2), and Donnie Pitchford do.

IDW reports POPEYE #1 has sold out, and has gone to a second printing, which is also on the verge of selling out. It has also been confirmed that despite reports of POPEYE being a 4 issue miniseries, it is an on-going series.

So, my advice for the creative team would be to keep up the great work, but drop the slight Sagendorf influence, and go with a Fleischer influence to blend with the Segar style.  Final grade: for the effort and intent, issue 1 gets an A+, but for the actual final product, it gets a B+.

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