Gallery: ‘Popeye Classic Comics’ Variant Covers Are Always Strong to the Finich
IDW has made excellent, if limited, use of Popeye after they acquired the license for E.C. Segar's iconic comic strip character. They published the excellent 12-issue series featuring original material by Roger Langridge and a handful of other artists that managed to capture some of the raucous spirit of the original Segar comedy adventures. They published a very weird Mars Attacks Popeye one-shot crossover by Martin Powell and Terry Beatty. And, since 2012, they've been publishing Popeye Classic Comics, which reprints the comic book work of long-time Popeye cartoonist Bud Sagendorf.
While the content may be classic, the marketing has been decidedly modern. The series has often featured variant covers, a popular tactic for claiming rack space in comic book shops. Unlike most comics, however, Popeye Classic — a product of IDW's relationship with Yoe Books — rather exclusively features excellent, often oddball artwork from some unlikely artists.
This gallery features some of our favorites. New Yorker cartoonist and Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? graphic memoirist Roz Chast drew a "celebrity caricature" of the sailor man for #11, in which his forearms and head seem dangerously over-inflated on spinach.
The following month, Matt Kaufenberg accentuated the ugliness of the famously un-handsome leading man in a piece in which a bullet-shaped Popeye attempts to fertilize his garden with spinach — and sports a nose that looks like it might be a root vegetable he grew in said garden.
For the fifteenth issue, Pedro Vargas did a great Ed "Big Daddy" Roth homage with a hot-rodding Popeye by way of Rat Fink, while Chogrin Munoz drew a decidedly cute version of Popeye punching stars, blood, and a tooth out of his cartoon enemy Bluto for issue #17.
Jim Engel and Nate Bear both managed to work a decent sized chunk of the cast in alongside the title character in their covers for #24 and #33, while Daniel Bueno drew a Popeye so abstracted that his cover for #29 looks like something that should be hanging on the wall of a modern art museum.
I've saved the best — or at least my favorite — for last. That would be Steve Mannion's variant cover for #30. The artist, who excels at drawing lovely ladies and hulking brutes, unsurprisingly produces a cover in which strikingly musclebound versions of Popeye and Bluto brawl over the fickle affections of an indifferent Olive Oyle, who, it's safe to say, has never looked better.