ED BLACK'S CARTOON FLASHBACK


IN PICTURES

When Segar began drawing "Charlie Chaplin's Comic Capers" and "Barry the Boob" at the Chicago Herald in 1916 and 1917, somewhere during that time the folks at W. L. Evans' correspondence course in cartooning thought it would be good to feature one of their successful students in an ad and this was the result. Segar's undated self-caracature ran in magazines.

Hearst transferred Segar to New York and the New York Journal in 1919 and ordered him to create a strip called "Thimble Theater" to replace "Midget Movies." The cartoonist of that feature, Ed Wheean, was hired away by the George Matthew Adams Service where he created "Minute Movies." Here is an early version of Thimble Theater, complete with billing. The girl is Olive Oyl; the character with the moustache and top hat is the villain Willie Wormwood and the other fellow is Harold Hamgravy, Olive's offstage boyfriend.

As Segar grew more comfortable with the Thimble Theater strip, he dumped the billing and Willie Wormwood. He created a brother for Olive, Castor Oyl. Harold Hamgravy became Ham Gravy. Here is a 1920 strip showing early versions of the strip's three main characters. This trio carried the strip for ten years before Popeye entered. After that, Castor Oyl's and Ham Gravy's days were numbered.


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A 1923 Thimble Theater strip shows a change in character design for Castor Oyl and Ham Gravy as Sear's drawing ability improved just by doing it day after day. By the time Popeye entered the strip, Segar was ready.

In Thimble Theater's early years, Olive Oyl's girth was a little thicker than later on, when she transformed into a walking stringbean. This panel is from the strip of February 16, 1924.

The very first appearance of Popeye in Segar's Thimble Theater strip was on January 17, 1929. No bells rang and no whistles blew. Segar's intention was for Popeye to appear in this one sequence. When it ended, so would Popeye. But the reading public had other ideas.


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