Last night I started reading Popeye by E.C. Segar, one of the earliest heroes in comics and maybe the first humor strip that had a continuing building narrative.
The plotlines are simple, but there’s an elegance to them at the same time.
The characters are wide-eyed, joyous about everything even their failures, excited for strange new things and for discovery. We really had such a different world to our culture 100 years ago.
The earliest of these stories came from 1928 from a comic strip called Thimble Theatre which had been running for almost 10 years by that point. Segar has a whole cast of characters, Popeye only one among them.
It’s really incredible to think about all of the style and culture we lost as we shifted into generic corporate superhero comics of heroes who really aren’t even heroes, that can’t change at all or progress in anything because they have to stay “iconic”, or they get replaced by new minority versions to try to play woke.
The way our books work now could have never been conceived in the 1920s, and that’s a good thing.
The simplicity in the drawings is elegant. It would be shunned by the modern crowd today who would call it ‘trash’ even though it’s truly a masterpiece.