Comics

Wednesday Mini Book Reviews: Popeye: "I Yam What I Yam!" and The Complete Peanuts: 1961-1962

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See past mini book reviews here.

Popeye: "I Yam What I Yam!" by E.C. Segar (Fantagraphics Books, 2006).

The Complete Peanuts 1961-1962 by Charles M. Schulz (Fantagraphics Books, 2006).

I'm behind in my reading on both these ongoing series of comic strip collections from Fantagraphics, with later volumes already out–another wonderful sign of the absurdly bountiful cultural wonders of modernity. (Don't even ask about all the Marvel Essentials and DC Showcase volumes piling up.)

I pre-cheered the Popeye volume before finishing it, and my affection and wonder at it only grew as I read it, a week or so of strips per day. As a physical object it's gorgeous, unnaturally tall and solid and colorful with the dailies in clear black and white and the Sundays in a lovely muted color. The stories within are a-burst with comedy, absurdity, adventure, and charm. The sequence where Castor Oyl feels he must call it quits with "old 'blow me down'" in a tiff over a dame is sweet and sad as can be. Still, the two stalwarts' deep affection, the galumphing but noble id of Popeye yoked to Castor's failed attempts to function as his weak-kneed superego, have plenty of crime-solving, jail-escaping, and Sea Hag-bedeviling behind and ahead of them. Both of their irreplacable voices are alive and well after all these years. Not to mention the magical whiffle hen. No one who loves comic strips should miss this chance to get all this stuff in such a lovely and convenient package.

No one needs me to tell them how great Peanuts was, I suppose–its size on our cultural landscape has been far larger than Popeye's (which helped shape Schulz as a cartoonist in his youth) for the past few generations. But if the TV specials and merchandise have blinded you to how great the strip was in its heyday, this early 1960s volume of Fantagraphics' godsend ongoing series of complete Peanuts reprints is a great place to leap in.

It has many of the strip's classic engines purring at optimal efficiency and effect: Both Lucy and Miss Othmar trying to rid Linus of his blanket habit (and, in manic physical comedy, Snoopy's attempts to steal it); Charlie Brown's attempts to use his nonexistent managing skills to turn his misfit baseball squad into winners (in one sequence, the team realizes their field chatter is hypocritical, since they don't in fact believe that Charlie Brown can strike out anyone–they all come up with more honest substitutes, with Patty's: "C'mon Charlie Brown we're not really expecting much, but we can hope!"); Lucy's bits of invented wisdom and angry outbursts ("Have you ever seen an X-ray of a hiccup?"), Frieda and her naturally curly hair arrive on the scene to harness Snoopy into her rabbit-chasing schemes; and sprinkled throughout many nifty week-long sequences, including Lucy's deciding she can stomp germs to death by having people cough on the sidewalk in front of her, and Charlie Brown attempting to get Lucy, who is having none of it, to confront the terror of nuclear disaster hanging over their generation's heads. Both collections make great gifts for comics fans or anyone you want to turn into a comics fan–it doesn't get much better than Segar's Popeye and early '60s Peanuts.

NEXT: Tonight at 7:30: Ron Bailey Debates Darwinism and Conservatism

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  1. As long as we’re at it, let me give a shout-out to the ongoing Walt and Skeezix series, reprinting Gasoline Alley strips of the 1920s. Wonderful stuff.

  2. No one who loves comic strips should miss this chance to get all this stuff in such a lovely and convenient package.

    Actually, it’s not all that convenient. That Popeye book is freakin’ huge. It’s a coffee-table book, and I’m fresh out of coffee tables. Plus, I’m already wondering where I’m going to put the “Complete Calvin and Hobbes” set I got the insane deal on this morning.

  3. Oh, and I have a new love on the funny pages: Lio.

  4. ZZZ…Zzz…zzz…

  5. Good Grief

  6. The “Calvin and Hobbes” set is too excellent to pass up at any price.

    As is any “Peanuts” collection.

    By the way, they remastered the Vince Guaraldi music from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and very nearly ruined it. Buy the un-fucked version before it goes dodo.

  7. Charlie Brown attempting to get Lucy, who is having none of it, to confront the terror of nuclear disaster hanging over their generation’s heads.

    That’s the Peanuts I want to remember, not the “cute” crap that came later…

  8. Popeye will always be a Fleischer cartoon to me. I can’t even imagine it as a comic.

    I’m in agreement with Jim Walsh on Peanuts. Sometime around Woodstock’s arrival it drifted into mindless drivel.

    The only bound comic collections I think are worth owning, are Gary Larson’s Far Side. IMVHO

  9. Thanks. You’ve just solved one of my Xmas gift problems.

  10. Brian, you should do this for a living. I’m ready to buy five copies of each.

    Best Peanuts gag is the unseen cat next door and Snoopy’s ongoing schizophrenic war with it (that Snoopy invariable loses).

  11. = the least of your problems, Mr. Edward.

  12. TWC, I am so not invariable.

  13. CLAWS OUT!

    SWIPE!

    [leaves dog house in splinters]

  14. Edward’s gettin’ fuckin’ coal

  15. Hey Urkobolds, your xmas present from me will be arriving at your door(s) soon. After you accept the gift from the kind man, you will hear the words “You’ve been served. Have a nice day.”

    Merry Fucking Xmas, Douchebags.

  16. I have probably a dozen of the peanuts books on my bookshelves that either I or my sister picked up at used book stores (for like, $.50 each, YUS!)
    I’m not that old, but I never really found the strips as they were printed in the newspaper to be funny. The books however were very clever.
    I don’t discount the animated Peanuts either, because frankly, Vince Guaraldi was the awesome. I also saw an interview with Charles Schultz saying that he liked that he could animate the characters because it allowed him to do things that he just couldn’t accomplish in the strips, like Snoopy’s interaction with Schroeder’s music.

  17. Popeye will always be a Fleischer cartoon to me. I can’t even imagine it as a comic.

    If you like the Fleischer cartoons, you’ll like the Segar comic strips. (And if you like both of those, you’ll probably dislike most of the post-Fleishcer cartoons and post-Segar comic strips…)

  18. Edward | December 6, 2007, 9:09am | #
    Hey Urkobolds, your xmas present from me will be arriving at your door(s) soon. After you accept the gift from the kind man, you will hear the words “You’ve been served. Have a nice day.”

    Merry Fucking Xmas, Douchebags.

    um… if that wasn’t you who left a poopie on my pillow yesterday evening, um…., who was it???

  19. The “Calvin and Hobbes” set is too excellent to pass up at any price.

    True dat.

    And just when i think Edwad can’t get any more risible:

    you will hear the words “You’ve been served. Have a nice day.

    Truly, he is the gift that never stops giving.

  20. That’s it, I’m out of here

  21. OOOOOH!

    Sounds like little eddie is filing a libel suit!

    Unless you happen to be in England that is a bad, bad idea, eddie.

    Currently no-one can connect your blathering with a physical person. Afte the suit they can.

    Urkobold is not even world famous among libertarians, so you’ll have a tough time giving evidence that your reputation has been harmed. But, if you actually file this suit, you’ll be prime fodder for a news story where they need a 3 minute human interest story, or some event to publicize as part of a push for anti-anonymous-blogging legislation. If such a news story comes out, you will be famous, and not in a good way. You think people are making fun of you now? Hah.

    Of course, don’t let me stop you. When arguing with American liberals who cite a ‘need’ for an inheritance tax, I argue that the unproductive free-loaders tend to be parted from the parents wealth pretty quickly. It’ll be nice watching you make a small fortune out of a large one through barratry as evidence of that, assuming you were being truthful when you said you were wealthy and jetting around the world looking into mysterious investments.

    BTW, Urkobold, you might want to make arrangements with your ISP for more bandwidth, and get some ads on your page. Play your cards right, and you can make a great deal of profit from little eddie’s foolishness.

  22. In what does the alleged libel consist? Calling people things like douchebags?

  23. for those of you, unlike EDWEIRDOOO, who is finished with shopping, hier at URKOBOLD you’ll find some excellent gift ideas (the calendar is a hot item!!)

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