Friday, December 19, 2008

Thimble Theatre

There have been quite a few anniversaries this month related to Popeye and his friends but today's is the most important of all.
It was on this date 89 years ago that Elzie Crisler Segar started the newspaper strip "Thimble Theatre".
(The first strip is shown above)
The strip at first was a parody of the silent era melodramatic movies that were popular at the time. But soon Segar dropped this premise and started to flesh out his "actors" giving them personalities and characteristics.
The original stars of the strip were Olive Oyl, her first boyfriend Harold Ham Gravy and Willy Wormwood, who served as the villain to Olive's damsel and Ham's hero. Wormwood was soon dropped and then Segar added Olive's brother Castor Oyl, who at first was portrayed as a kook. Segar later changed Castor into a scheming get-rich-quick opportunist who a lot of the strips stories revolved around.
The strip did well and had a decent circulation but it was due to the syndicate's owner William Randolph Hearst, that the strip thrived. He was a big fan of Segar's storytelling style and characters and would be rewarded in 1929 when Popeye the Sailor was introduced into the strip.
Popeye was the catalyst that propelled the strip into super-stardom.

So Happy Birthday Olive Oyl and Thimble Theatre. And what of Popeye? He has an important anniversary coming up next month.
Stay 'tooned.

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