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Popeye The Sailor Man
NATIONALITY: Citizen of the world
CLAIM TO FAME: The little guy who stands up for other little guys
HE is a little guy who loves getting into fist-fights and when the odds turn high against him, he just opens his can of spinach, gains supernatural strength and thrashes the bad guys. He is Popeye the Sailor Man, one of the world's most popular characters, who has just turned 79.
Whether it be from his addiction to spinach or the lyrics to his song, people of all ages imitate, collect, and aspire to be like Popeye. This muscle man was not even originally in the comic strip created by Elzie Segar. A cartoonist, he wrote Thimble Theatre and his first strip revolved around Olive Oyle's family. Popeye made his debut on January 17, 1929, in a guest spot in the Thimble Theatre, which Segar created for the New York Evening Journal. Over a period of months, Popeye developed from a supporting character to the central figure. When Segar finally brought the narrative to a close and tried to retire the sailor, outraged fans protested and demanded more adventures with Popeye. Segar obliged: the sailor replaced Ham as Olive's love interest, Castor Oyl was reduced to infrequent appearances, and the strip was renamed Thimble Theatre, Starring Popeye. In most newspapers now, the strip is named just Popeye.
Popeye, the one-eyed sailor, is always shown smoking his pipe and flexing his spinach-fuelled biceps with waif girlfriend Olive Oyl, his adopted baby Swee'Pea and his father Pappy, the burger-mooching Wimpy and hairy arch-rival Brutus at his side.
Popeye's adventures usually see him defending Olive Oyl against his glass-jawed rival Brutus. He made the leap to the silver screen in 1933 in an episode of a Betty Boop cartoon called Popeye the Sailor. Success came quickly, and Popeye was soon in newspaper comics and cinemas around the country. Popeye had his own cartoon show in the 1960s and more than 600 Popeye cartoons were drawn during the next four decades.
Popeye finally went to the big screen in a 1980 movie that starred comic Robin Williams as the sailor and Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl.
The creator of the comic strip, Elzie Segar, was born and raised in Chester, as were the models for Popeye, Olive Oyl and Wimpy. Popeye's real-life alter ego, according to the locals of Chester, was Frank Fiegel, a one-eyed, pipe-smoking man with a penchant for fist-fights. Olive Oyle's inspiration, Dora Paskel, was unusually tall and thin and wore a bun at the nape of her neck. And theatre owner J. William Schuchert so loved hamburgers that he would send his employees out between performances to buy them.
The Popeye Fan Club and a Popeye museum are there as well. A six-foot Popeye doll teeters in the library and a bronze statue of Popeye overlooks the Mississippi at Segar Memorial Park.