Popeye the Sailor Man is a cartoon fictional character created by Elzie Crisler Segar, who has appeared in comic strips and theatrical and television animated cartoons. He first appeared in the daily King Features comic strip Thimble Theatre on January 17, 1929; Popeye became the strip’s title in later years.
Although Segar’s Thimble Theatre strip was in its tenth year when Popeye made his debut, the sailor quickly became the main focus of the strip and Thimble Theatre became one of King Features’ most popular properties during the 1930s. Thimble Theatre was continued after Segar’s death in 1938 by several writers and artists, most notably Segar’s assistant Bud Sagendorf. The strip continues to appear in first-run installments in its Sunday edition, written and drawn by Hy Eisman. The daily strips are reprints of old Sagendorf stories.
In 1933, Max and Dave Fleischer’s Fleischer Studios adapted the Thimble Theatre characters into a series of Popeye the Sailor theatrical cartoon shorts for Paramount Pictures. These cartoons proved to be among the most popular of the 1930s, and the Fleischers—and later Paramount’s own Famous Studios—continued production through 1957. The shorts are now owned by Turner Entertainment, a subsidiary of Time Warner, and distributed by sister company Warner Bros. Entertainment.
In 2002, TV Guide ranked Popeye #20 on its “50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time” list.