Thursday, 28 April 2016

I Yam What I Yam.

I loves my Popeye, I does. Grammar aside, i think I does. Whilst shifting some comic boxes in a wee spare room at my home I came across a pile of popeye comics and related stuff which had been thoughtlessly set aside some time back. Oh so many comics and books yet only one brain and one set of eyes. Forgetting I was supposed to be tidying(Why?What for?Who cares?) I ended up sitting on the stairs rereading some old issues of Popeye I aint seen in some time. I do like the cast of his title, The easy familiarity of the loveably grotestque characters who populate the world of the hardy  and irascible sea-man. The down at heelness of them all. I feel kinship with them.
             One story I particularly enjoyed was one called "shame on You" or "Gentlemen do not Fight" or You're a ruffian,Sir" in one of the IDW Classics.It is a funny wee story,longer than usual, which pokes fun at notions of masculinity, the trouble that can be caused by the male need to be seen to be brave.Olive is still trying to get Popeye to change his ways, even though she truly likes him exactly as he is, and she becomes the head of the Anti-Fisticuff Society.Poor Olive finds her noble aspirations confused and manipulated resulting in a misunderstanding involving a bully boy named Kid Kabbage. The script is great, the art is fantastic and the whole thing is funny and endearing.
              Here is my old popeye doll. I bought it many years ago (in a different world) when Leisure World was closing down and they were having a toy sale which is something of a legend amongst collectors of a certain age who grew up in Belfast. I am from a generation that remembers that old toy store with much affection. I recall being brought to it as a boy and being told I could pick one thing and that I would get it for Christmas. It was one thing and one thing only so that choice had to made with care. When it was closing down they sold off all the odd bits and pieces that had been cluttering up their stock and store rooms. Stuff which had not been seen for many years and have not been seen since. Everything from battling robots to Godzilla monsters which they had been unable to sell( "Who's going to buy a giant moth?" one of the staff said tossing Mothra into a sale basket.
              So today I blew the dust of Popeye and introduced him to the only human being I know who has a bigger forearm than he does(And I know for a fact he does not eat spinach.Make of that what you will.) The cast and the characters of the Popeye comics must seem pretty ugly and even freakish to the present generation and I do not imagine that he himself has any of the working class cultural associations previous generations may have seen in his world. i found myself in the kitchen at work feverishly enjoying a hornpipe gig from the port of Amsterdam as I sang out the old Popeye theme tune. A workmate thought it was some mad wee poem I had made up or had been sung to me by my nanny Lizzie Borden in some distant Nantucket Nursery populated by sock monkeys and teddy bears stitched from sail canvas and stuffed with sawdust and grit. Hardy toys for hardy boys. I felt a tad melancholy that there are so many people who will not know the joys of getting to know Popeye the Sailorman or appreciating the wild abandon of a sailors horn pipe jig.
              He is a terrific role model you know. Popeye might be a scrapper and a fightet and a tattooed sailor but he is also a lover and even a poet at heart. As he once said;
              "They is nuthin' like pickin' Lil wild flowers fer yer sweetie ta make
                                                              ye feel beautious."