E. C. Segar

E. C. Segar
E. C. Segar.png
Born Elzie Crisler Segar
(1894-12-08)December 8, 1894
Chester, Illinois, U.S.
Died October 13, 1938(1938-10-13) (aged 43)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Area(s) Cartoonist
Notable works
Popeye (1929–1938)

Elzie Crisler Segar (December 8, 1894 – October 13, 1938), known by the pen name E. C. Segar, was an American cartoonist best known as the creator of Popeye, a pop culture character who first appeared in 1929 in Segar's comic strip Thimble Theatre.

Early life

Segar was born on December 8, 1894, and raised in Chester, Illinois, a small town near the Mississippi River.[1] The son of a handyman, his earliest work experiences included assisting his father in house painting and paper hanging. Skilled at playing drums, he also provided musical accompaniment to films and vaudeville acts in the local theater, where he was eventually given the job of film projectionist[2] at the Chester Opera House, where he also did live performances.[1] At age 18, he decided to become a cartoonist. He took a correspondence course in cartooning from W. L. Evans of Cleveland, Ohio.[2] He said that after work he "lit up the oil lamps about midnight and worked on the course until 3 a.m."

Early work

Segar moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he met Richard F. Outcault, the creator of The Yellow Kid and Buster Brown. Outcault encouraged him and introduced him at the Chicago Herald. On March 12, 1916, the Herald published Segar's first comic, Charlie Chaplin's Comic Capers, which ran for a little over a year. In 1917, Barry the Boob was created. In 1918, he moved on to William Randolph Hearst's Chicago Evening American, for which he created Looping the Loop and worked as a second-string drama critic.[3] Segar married Myrtle Johnson that year; they had two children. In October 1919, Segar covered that year's World Series, creating eight cartoons for the sports pages.[4][5]

Thimble Theatre, Sappo and Popeye

Evening American Managing editor William Curley thought Segar could succeed in New York, so he sent him to King Features Syndicate, where Segar worked for many years. He began by drawing Thimble Theatre for the New York Journal. The strip made its debut on December 19, 1919, featuring the characters Olive Oyl, Castor Oyl and Harold Hamgravy, whose name was quickly shortened in the strip to simply "Ham Gravy". They were the strip's leads for about a decade.

E. C. Segar's Sappo (1933)

Segar also created The Five-Fifteen for King Features in 1920; it was retitled Sappo in 1926. The Five-Fifteen started its run as a Monday-through-Saturday strip. In 1926, the retitled Sappo was converted into a Sunday-only topper to the Thimble Theatre Sunday pages. Initially, this strip revolved about the exploits of suburban couple John and Myrtle Sappo. However, Segar later added the character of inventor Professor O. G. Wotasnozzle to Sappo. Wotasnozzle's bizarre machines soon became the focus of the narrative.[6]

On January 17, 1929, when Castor Oyl needed a mariner to navigate his ship to Dice Island, Castor picked up an old sailor named Popeye in the docks. Popeye's first line in the strip, upon being asked if he was a sailor, was "'Ja think I'm a cowboy?"[7] The character stole the show and became the permanent star. Some of the other notable characters Segar created include J. Wellington Wimpy and Eugene the Jeep.


After prolonged illness, Segar died of leukemia and liver disease in October 1938 at the age of 43.[8]

Legacy and reprints

Segar is among the first to combine humor with long-running adventures. A revival of interest in Segar's creations began with Woody Gelman's Nostalgia Press. Robert Altman's live-action film Popeye (1980) is adapted from E. C. Segar's Thimble Theatre comic strip. The screenplay by Jules Feiffer was based directly on Gelman's Thimble Theatre Starring Popeye the Sailor, a hardcover reprint collection of 1936-37 Segar strips published in 1971 by Nostalgia Press.[9] In 2006, Fantagraphics published the first of a six-volume book set reprinting all Thimble Theatre daily and Sunday strips from 1928 to 1938, beginning with the adventure that introduced Popeye.

In 1971, the National Cartoonists Society created the Elzie Segar Award in his honor. According to the Society's website, the award was "presented to a person who has made a unique and outstanding contribution to the profession of cartooning." The NCS board of directors chose the first winners, while King Features selected recipients in later years. Honorees have included Charles Schulz, Bil Keane, Al Capp, Bill Gallo and Mort Walker. The award was discontinued in 1999.[10]

In 2012, cartoonists Roger Langridge and Bruce Ozella teamed to revive the spirit of Segar in a 12-issue limited series, Popeye, published by IDW.

Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest it was "SEE-gar".[11] He commonly signed his work simply Segar or E. Segar above a drawing of a cigar.


E. C. Segar's Looping the Loop (1918)
Title Start date End date
Charlie Chaplin's Comic Capers March 1916 April 1917
Barry the Boob April 1917 April 1918
Looping the Loop June 1918 December 1919
Thimble Theatre (Popeye) December 1919 October 1938
The Five-Fifteen (Sappo) December 1920 October 1938

Popeye & Friends Character Trail

In 1977, Segar's hometown of Chester, Illinois, named a park in his honor. The park contains a six-foot-tall bronze statue of Popeye. The annual Popeye Picnic, a weekend-long event that celebrates the character with a parade, film festival and other activities, is held the first weekend after Labor Day.[12] In 2006, Chester launched the "Popeye & Friends Character Trail", which links a series of statues of Segar's characters located throughout town.[13] Each stands on a base inscribed with the names of donors who contributed to its cost and is unveiled and dedicated during the Popeye Picnic. The 2006 debut sculpture of hamburger-loving Wimpy stands in Gazebo Park. A statue of Olive Oyl, Swee'Pea and the Jeep, located near the Randolph County Courthouse, followed in 2007. In 2008, a Bluto statue was dedicated at the corner of Swanwick and W. Holmes Streets, in front of Buena Vista Bank. The 2009 statue of Castor Oyl and Bernice the Whiffle Hen stands in front of Chester Memorial Hospital. One additional statue has been unveiled each year.

Year Character(s) Location
2010 SeaHag/Bernard McDonald's/Walmart
2011 Cole Oyl Chester Public Library
2012 Alice the Goon Chester Center
2013 Poopdeck Pappy Cohen Complex
2014 Prof. Watasnozzle Chester High School
2015 RoughHouse Reids' Harvest House
2016 Nephews-Peepeye/Poopeye/Pipeye/Pupeye Chester Grade School
2017 King Blozo Chester City Hall
2018 Nana Oyl Manor at Craig's Farm
2019 Popeye's Pups Chester Firehouse
2019 Sherlock & Segar Baskerville Hall on Swanwick Street
2020 Toar St Nicholas Landmark

Spinach Can Collectibles/Popeye Museum is located in the center of the city.(Opera House)[14]

On December 8, 2009, Google celebrated Segar's 115th birthday with a Google Doodle of Popeye. The doodle used Popeye's body as the 'g', had 'oogl', drawn to resemble Segar's drawing style, and a spinach can as the 'e', and featured Popeye punching the 'oogl' to cause the spinach to fly at him through the air.


  1. ^ a b Grandinetti 2004, p. 2.
  2. ^ a b Gabbatt, Adam (December 8, 2009). "E.C. Segar, Popeye's creator, celebrated with a Google doodle". London: Guardian. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  3. ^ "Cartoonist Segar, Popeye Creator (Obituary)". The New York Times. Associated Press. October 14, 1938. p. 23. Retrieved October 6, 2015 – via ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
  4. ^ "The Early Works of E.C. Segar". Archived from the original on November 10, 2013. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  5. ^ "The Thimble Theatre Comic Strip starring Popeye". Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  6. ^ Donald Phelps,Reading the Funnies: Essays on Comic Strips. Seattle, Wash. : Fantagraphics Books, 2001. ISBN 9781560973683 (pp.52-3)
  7. ^ Coulton Waugh, The Comics. New York, Luna Press, 1974. ISBN 9780914466031 (p.117)
  8. ^ "Ed Black's Cartoon Flashback". Ncs-glc.com. Archived from the original on May 16, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  9. ^ Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession, pp. 125-126, Dave Jamieson, 2010, Atlantic Monthly Press, imprint of Grove/Atlantic Inc., New York, NY, ISBN 978-0-8021-1939-1
  10. ^ "NCS Awards". Reuben.org. September 22, 1965. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  11. ^ Funk, Charles Earle. What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.
  12. ^ "City of Chester, Illinois .::. Home of Popeye - Segar Park". Chesterill.com. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  13. ^ "City of Chester, Illinois: Popeye Character Trail". Chesterill.com. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
  14. ^ "City of Chester, Illinois .::. Home of Popeye - Character Trail Page". Chesterill.com. Retrieved May 12, 2011.

Works cited

Further reading

  • Blackbeard, Bill. Marschall, Richard (ed.). "E. C. Segar's Knockabouts of 1925 (and low blows before and after): The Unknown Thimble Theatre Period". Nemo. Fantagraphics Books (3): 6–25.

External links