Castor Oyl is a character created by E.C. Segar for his comic strip Thimble Theatre, now known simply as Popeye. Castor is the quick-witted yet diminutive adventuring older brother of Olive Oyl, and both are the children of Cole Oyl and his wife Nana. Castor was originally an opportunistic adventurer who always tried to make money in any way he could, but, as time went by, he ended up finding his true calling as a detective, eventually becoming the head of his own agency.
He debuted in Thimble Theatre on January 14, 1920. Castor was the main protagonist of the strip for years before the first appearance of the Popeye character in January, 1929. Castor Oyl continued to be an important character in Segar's Popeye strip, but played little role, if any, in the Popeye cartoons. His only animated appearance was as a member of Popeye's orchestra in the 1935 short The Spinach Overture.
Creation and development in Thimble Theatre
Castor Oyl was created by E. C. Segar for his comic strip Thimble Theatre, making his debut on January 14, 1920 (a year after Thimble Theatre was published) and he would continue to serve as the new protagonist of the comic strips, alongside his sister Olive and her boyfriend Ham Gravy. In the strips, Castor and the others would often try to find ways to make money or avoid the evil plans of Willie Wormwood. However, nine years later, Popeye would make his debut in Thimble Theatre in 1929 in the saga of "Dice Island". Popeye's popularity would prove so great that he eventually took over the role of protagonist from Castor, but the latter would still remain in the cast.
Castor Oyl would also return as a recurring character in the 1948 comic book series by E. C. Segar's former assistant Bud Sagendorf, long after Segar's passing. Castor's comic book appearances would continue for decades until the title's end in 1984.
Castor Oyl is named after castor oil, a medicine often given to children back in the 1920s and 1930s. Similarly, his mother Nana's name is a derivative of "banana oil," an epithet similar to "baloney", while his father Cole's name is a derivative of "coal oil," a now-obsolete term for kerosene. Castor himself got married in the early Segar comics, leading his bride to take the also-improbable name of 'Cylinda Oyl', though the character of Castor's wife faded into obscurity around the same time as Popeye rose to prominence.
As Popeye's popularity greatly grew, he would be given his own animated adaptation by Fleischer Studios. However, Castor himself never became a major recurring character in the shorts, and his only notable appearance was in the 1935 short The Spinach Overture as a member of Popeye's orchestra.
Popeye's first movie
In the 1980 film directed by Robert Altman, Castor is a key character, and is played by actor Donovan Scott. In the film, however, he is made Olive's younger brother and is considerably less sophisticated than his comic strip counterpart but still all too eager to earn money.
Castor Oyl would re-appear in IDW Publishing's revival of the Popeye comics in 2012 as a major recurring character who once again seeks to make it rich and often has Popeye and Olive or others accompany him on his money making adventures. Castor is also accompanied by his old pet Bernice the Whiffle Hen once more.