A Titanic Team: Popeye & London

So around Thanksgiving-time I decided to re-organize my books, which occupy fourteen seven-foot bookshelves on two floors in our home. What was I thinking? It meant moving over seven thousand hardcovers, artbooks, and large-size paperbacks, with many of the books that had been upstairs going downstairs (not so bad), while many books that had been downstairs moved upstairs (aieee-e-e-e!). My back and knees were glad to remind me that books are heavy! It was a project that consumed a whole lot of hours out of a full week … but I’m telling myself it was worth all the work.

One of the benefits of that project was that I recalled many a fond reading memory as I shlepped armfuls of tomes up and down, back and forth, taking them off one shelf and putting them in their new homes on another shelf. Many of those memories are tied to LOAC’s output, and high on that list is our two-volume collection of Bobby London’s inspired Thimble Theatre/Popeye series.

There wasn’t an abundance of newspaper ballyhoo when Mr. London took on the Popeye assignment in the mid-1980s. In fact, as this 1988 snippet shows, it was easier to find coverage of a race horse named Bobby London than it was to find a profile of the talented cartoonist!

In 1989, Popeye’s 60th birthday attracted some attention. Sometimes Bobby London was mentioned or, as in this case, his artwork was featured …

… And sometimes, as these excerpts from newspapers in Maryland and Arizona indicate, he and his artwork were passed over:

Of course, that all changed in 1992. Suddenly Mr. London was getting his picture in newspapers from coast to coast …

… And hundreds of column-inches were devoted to a controversy about a story that was widely (not improperly) interpreted to be a satire focused on the debate around abortion:

That story was terminated before it could fully come to term (a dollop of irony there, perhaps), and it caused Mr. London to be removed from Thimble Theatre and separated from that wonderful squinky-eyed sailor whom he had served so well. The passage of time brought with it refreshed perspectives, and King Features Syndicate very kindly allowed us to publish the three weeks of strips that comprised the end of the story, for the first time ever, in our Popeye Volume Two.

So I started out by re-organizing my books … and I’m ending here, with a public tip of the bowler and “Thank You!” to King Features and most especially to Bobby London, for that late-1980s/early-’90s heyday for one of my most beloved characters, Popeye the Sailor.

Arf! Arf!

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