Sunday marks the dawn of a new era for the beloved Popeye comics strip. King Features Syndicate has announced that cartoonist Randy Milholland, best known for his webcomic Something Positive, will take over the character and his adventures on June 5, following the retirement of cartoonist Hy Eisman. Eisman has been drawing the Sunday Popeye strip since 1994, leaving behind a 28-year legacy.
But don’t fret. Milholland has clarified on Twitter (opens in new tab) that daily Popeye strips will continue to be reprints from cartoonist Bud Sagendorf, who worked as creator E. C. Segar’s assistant and then began producing Popeye comics in 1959, two decades after Segar’s death.
Besides, the character is in great hands with Milholland. In the press release, King Features notes Milholland’s long-standing adoration for Popeye: He fell in love with the cartoon series as a kid and has since become an expert. He participated in the character’s 90th birthday celebration in 2019 and was recognized for his Popeye comics at that time thanks to Popeye’s Cartoon Club.
Milholland’s passion for Popeye history and lore will allow him to both stay true to the character’s 1929 debut in Thimble Theater comics, and allow him to modernize Popeye.
“Olive Oyl is a millennial at this point,” Milholland tells The Washington Post (opens in new tab). “And Popeye is a tail-end Gen-X’er.”
Milholland is apparently looking to update the strip’s humor and diversify Popeye’s cast of characters, which could make the town of Sweethaven look much different. Meanwhile, Milholland also intends to reintroduce the more fantastical elements of the strip that have been lost over the years, including monsters and other adventures.
“He’s bringing back characters who haven’t been seen in [nearly] a century, like Olive’s sister-in-law, Cylinda Oyl (opens in new tab),” King Features editor-in-chief Tea Fougner tells the Post. “He’s also focused on reminding readers that in addition to the tough guy and defender of underdogs they know and love, Popeye is also sentimental and kind — the type of guy we all want on our side.”
Check out a sample of Milholland’s first Sunday Popeye strip below. Even Olive Oil seems to know that changes are afoot.
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An archival Popeye collection from Fantagraphics is nominated for a 2022 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award.