Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fictional character biography

Fictional character biography 1
Popeye Pictures
In most appearances (except during the World War II era), Popeye is a middle-aged independent sailor (or "sailor man," as he puts it) with a unique way of speaking, muscular forearms with two (sometimes one) anchor tattoos, thinning red hair, and an ever-present corncob pipe (which he toots like a steamship's whistle at times). Despite some mistaken characterizations over the years, Popeye is generally depicted as having only one blue eye, his left. In at least one Fleischer cartoon, Bluto refers to Popeye as a "one-eyed runt." It has never been revealed specifically how Popeye lost his right eye, although he claims it was in "the mos' arful battle" of his life. Later versions of the character had both eyes, with one of them merely being squinty, or "squinky" as he put it.

Popeye Pictures
Fictional character biography 2

Fictional character biography 3
Popeye Pictures

Popeye's strange, comic, and often supernatural adventures take him all over the world, and place him in conflict with enemies such as the Sea Hag and Bluto. His main base of operations is the fictional town of Sweet Haven. Popeye's father is the degenerate Poopdeck Pappy, who does not share his son's moral righteousness and is represented as having abandoned Popeye in some sources. Popeye's sweetheart (and in some sources, wife) for over 77 years has been Olive Oyl, although the two characters often bickered, especially at the beginning of Popeye's appearances. Popeye is the adoptive father of Swee'Pea, an infant foundling left on his doorstep. (Sweet Pea is a term of affection used by Popeye; in the cartoon We Aim to Please, he addressed Olive Oyl as "Sweet Pea" at one point.)

In addition to a gravelly voice and a casual attitude towards grammar, Popeye is known for having an apparent speech impediment (a common character-distinguishing device in early cartoons), which either comes naturally or is caused by the ever-present pipe in his mouth. Among other things, he has problems enunciating a trailing "t"; thus, "fist" becomes "fisk" (as sung in his theme song, which makes it conveniently rhyme with "risk") and "infant" becomes "infink." This speech impediment even found its way into some of the titles of the cartoons.

Popeye Pictures
Fictional character biography 4

Fictional character biography 5
Popeye Pictures

Popeye is depicted as having superhuman strength, though the nature of his strength changes depending on which medium he is represented in. Originally, the comic-strip Popeye gained his strength and invulnerability in 1929 by rubbing the head of the rare Whiffle Hen. From early 1932 onward in the comic strip and especially the cartoons Popeye was depicted as eating spinach to become stronger. The choice of Spinach was made because figures published in 1870 showed that Spinach had 10 times more iron than any other green vegetable. In 1937, it was discovered that the original study had a misplaced decimal point and the iron content of spinach is comparable with other vegetables.[citation needed] The animated shorts depicted Popeye as ridiculously strong, but liable to be pummeled by the much larger Bluto. When fed up with this treatment or exhausted, he would eat spinach, which would instantly restore and amplify his strength to an even greater level. (At normal strength, Popeye appears capable of lifting or pressing approximately 4,000 lb (1,800 kg); when invigorated by spinach, he can lift or press about 36 tons.) In the comic strips, spinach is presented as a panacea, infusing Popeye not only with his extraordinary strength, but also making him invulnerable to all sorts of threats (including bullets, a basilisk's petrifying gaze, or aliens' weapons) and even capable of feats like flight or extraordinarily fast swimming (usually with the aid of his pipe as a propeller).

Other differences in Popeye's story and characterization show up depending upon which medium he is presented in. While Swee'Pea is definitively the adopted child of Popeye in the comic strips, he is often depicted as being related to Olive Oyl in cartoons. The cartoons also occasionally feature family members of Popeye that have never appeared in the strip, notably his look-alike nephews Peepeye, Pupeye, Pipeye, and Poopeye.

Even though there is no absolute sense of continuity in the stories, certain plot and presentation elements remain mostly constant, including purposeful contradictions in Popeye's capabilities. Though at times he seems bereft of manners or uneducated, Popeye is often depicated as capable of coming up with solutions to problems that (to the police, or, most importantly, the scientific community) seem insurmountable. Indeed, the only thing more ridiculously inexplicable than his ingenuity, is that the writers' defiance of common sense is nearly universal. Popeye has, alternatively, displayed Sherlock Holmes-like investigating prowess, determining for instance that his beloved Olive was abducted by estimating the depth of the villains' footprints in the sand, scientific ingenuity (as his construction, within a few hours, of a "spinach-drive" spaceship, or oversimplified (yet successful) diplomatic argumentation, by presenting to diplomatic conferences his own existence (and superhuman strength) as the only true guarantee of world peace.

Popeye's vastly versatile exploits are deemed even more amusing, by a few, standard plot elements. One, is the love triangle between Popeye, Olive and Bluto, and the latter's endless machinations to claim Olive, at Popeye's expense. Another is his (near-saintly) perseverence to overcome any obstacle to please Olive - who, quite often, treats him like dirt, and ends up being the only character capable of beating him up. Finally, in terms of the endless array of villain plots, Popeye mostly comes to the truth by "accidentally" sneaking on the villains, the moment they are bragging about their schemes' ingenuity, thus revealing everything to an enraged Popeye, who uses his fists in the name of Justice.

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