Friday, April 13, 2007

Influences: E.C. Segar

Elzie Segar was a major influence on me when I was learning to draw. I had a book of Sunday Thimble Theater reprints that Fantagraphics put out in the 80s that I read over and over and over. For one thing it opened my eyes to what Sunday comic strips used to be, and it showed me that a newspaper strip could have a whole world in it, with dozens of characters and an ongoing storyline that didn't have to use 2/3 of the strip to recap.

>click on panel for entire row<

Popeye's dialogue was another thing that I thought was great at a time when my whole life was school. I mean, you learn every day the proper way to say things: grammar, spelling, pronunciation, and how not to mumble, and then this hero of the comic strip throws it all out the window. How can you not love that?

>click on panel for entire row<

From a story point of view, I loved how the basic idea was that there were a bunch of funny characters and all he had to do was put them in a situation in which they would interact and it would make a strip. Even with 12 or 16 panels to play with, each strip was about not much more than Wimpy wanting a hamburger or a duck dinner, George G. Geezil wanting to kill Wimpy, or Popeye earning and then giving away a ridiculous sum of money (the equivalent of science fiction in the Depression, no doubt).

>click on panel for larger version<

Popeye was one of the first cartoon characters that I memorized how to draw in middle school so that I could impress all my peers. I can still remember the shapes and the order I drew them in to this day. So if anyone needs an artist for the daily Popeye strip, I'm available. It'll look like a 6th grader drew it!

Finally, I loved the use of swooshy motion lines, stars, sweat drops, and tiny word balloons with tiny exclamation points, all to get across what more efficient cartoonists nowadays would use just a couple brushstrokes to do. The evidence of experimentation in the early comic strips has great appeal to me, and even reading them now one gets the feel that there is this vast new vocabulary of personal expression, if only we would explore it.



At 12:10 AM, Blogger sean said...

I had that same book. Same effect. If you check out my page, you can see my Olive and Popeye prints done for King Features.
Cool page - Thanks for the memories!


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