This article is about the character. For the animated short, see Popeye the Sailor with Poopdeck Pappy.
Poopdeck Pappy is a character created by E.C. Segar in 1936 for his comic strip Thimble Theatre. He is the surly and tough as nails father of Popeye who disappeared at sea shortly after the latter's birth, a departure which would affect Popeye's life greatly.
Popeye's reunion with his Pappy is the most-filmed event of Popeye's life, having been adapted for theatrical cartoons, television cartoons, films and even parodies.
Creation and development in Thimble Theatre
Poopdeck Pappy was created by newspaper cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar in the 1936 comic strip storyline "The Search for Popeye's Poppa". In said story, Popeye would gather a crew to search for his long lost Pappy, who would then go on to become a permanent character in the Popeye franchise.
After his appearance in Thimble Theatre, Poopdeck Pappy would return as a major supporting character in the 1948 comic book series by E. C. Segar's assistant Bud Sagendorf, where he would eventually be joined by his own mother. His comic book appearances would continue for decades until the title's end in 1984.
As Popeye's popularity greatly grew, he would be given his own animated adaptation by Fleischer Studios. Poopdeck Pappy made his first animated appearance in the short Goonland (1938). In this short film, it is revealed that Popeye has a long-lost father, not seen since infancy, who is being held captive in the bizarre realm of Goon Island. When he goes to rescue the "ol' goat" from the Goon prison, his father refuses to acknowledge Popeye as his son, but when Popeye himself is captured by the Goons, he eats Popeye's mislaid can of spinach to rescue his only child. In the mêlée that ensues, the filmstrip is broken and the animator staples it back together to finish the cartoon.
In the animated cartoons, Poopdeck Pappy and Popeye shared the same voice actor, Jack Mercer, until the latter's death.
Following the takeover of the Popeye animated franchise by Paramount Studios in 1942, Famous Studios made drastic changes which abandoned almost all traces of Thimble Theatre and focused largely on plots involving Popeye, Olive and Bluto in something resembling a love triangle, without many other characters appearing and with very few shorts deviating from that setup. As such, Poopdeck Pappy was largely absent, but would end up being the only other Thimble Theatre character besides Wimpy and Swee'Pea to appear in these shorts, although his appearances were limited to only three cartoons out of the 122 they produced.
His first appearance was in the 1952 cartoon Popeye's Pappy, a remake of Popeye finding his long-lost father as previously featured in Goonland. In it Popeye's mother reveals more about Poopdeck's disappearance, saying that he went to buy his son some spinach years ago, but never returned. Rather than being a prisoner on Goon Island, he was instead the 'king' of a tribe of cannibals (here involving potentially offensive racial caricatures).
Popeye's first TV series
Poopdeck returned to regular appearances in animation in the 1960s Popeye television series, where he was once again a recurring character. His first appearance in this cartoon was a slightly more faithful adaptation of his Thimble Theatre introduction.
The All-New Popeye Hour
In 1978, Hanna-Barbera Productions, with King Features Syndicate, would produce a new Popeye television series, The All-New Popeye Hour. Unlike the previous show, this series had higher-quality animation and was more akin to Segar's work and Fleischer cartoons than other Popeye animations. Poopdeck Pappy remained largely unchanged and would make semi-regular appearances.
Popeye's first movie
In Robert Altman's Popeye, Poopdeck Pappy is played by Ray Walston. Before he became the "Commodore" of Sweethaven, he had spent time in prison during the "Depreshekan" for his "infink" son Popeye's sake, yet still his son refused to eat his spinach. Popeye recognized his "poppa" because both had "the same bulgy arms," "the same squinky eye," and "the same pipe." Claiming "no resemblance" on the first two points, Poopdeck Pappy exploded indignantly at the third, "Ya idjit, ya CAN'T inherits a PIPE!" After he is revealed to be the mysterious Commodore, he is held hostage by Bluto and needs to be saved by Popeye.
Popeye and Son
In 1987, the latest animated series focusing on Popeye was produced, entitled Popeye and Son. The series was unique in the Popeye franchise for taking place later in characters' lives (a notable change considering the rarity of having well-known cartoon characters actually move on with their lives). Poopdeck made an appearance in the episode "Poopdeck Pappy And The Family Tree", where he came to visit his grandson Popeye Junior and tell him about the Popeye family's history. In this series, his fullname is stated to be Poopdeck "Pappy" Popeye, suggesting that Popeye is actually the family's last name.
In 2004, a CGI-animated TV movie titled Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy was produced by Mainframe Entertainment for Lions Gate Entertainment and King Features Entertainment which was somewhat based on Popeye's search for Poopdeck in Thimble Theatre. In this tale it is stated that it was The Sea Hag who took Poopdeck's eye in battle.
Poopdeck Pappy would re-appear in IDW Publishing's 2012 Popeye comics revival as a recurring character, being once again Popeye's irresponsible poppa. He has been featured regularly in issues and had a major role in issue #8 where he gained a mysterious new sweetheart, who was not entirely what she seemed.
Popeye is the spitting image of Poopdeck Pappy, though Pappy has a white beard and wrinkles near his eyes. His attire is also identical to his son's, except his color is duller and he doesn't wear a belt which makes his pants appear loose and baggy. Like his son, he also has a signature pipe which he toots as well, but unlike his son, he uses it for smoking as well.
Since his debut, Poopdeck's design has remained unchanged, with the only exception being during his few appearances in Famous Studios' shorts, where his facial hair was more "pointy" and it did not cover his upper lip.
Despite he and his son being physically identical, Poopdeck is far less principled, noble and honest than his son, doing such underhanded things as stealing from Popeye's bank account, picking on children, being a heavy drinker and partier, avoiding work, and trying to sell water for $5,000 in Death Valley. There is no love lost between him and Olive Oyl, whom he calls a "lath-legged bean pole". After Segar's death, Poopdeck's mother was introduced into the strip, to try and offer some morals to her son. She refuses to treat her son as an "eighty-five year-old adult" and often disciplines him after his raucous "nights on the town".
Despite his many nasty habits, Poopdeck does have some good in him (as small as it may be) which occasionally shows itself when it really matters. Like Popeye, Poopdeck also loves spinach which also grants him superhuman strength. Another notable trait about Poopdeck is that he is quite the ladies man, and will not pass up the chance to date and party with any dame.
Many years ago, Poopdeck Pappy was a sailor who fell for an unnamed woman and the two would conceive a son who was eventually born during a typhoon in Santa Monica. They then named their newborn offspring Popeye. Shortly after his son's birth, Poopdeck set sail from his home and was never seen again, having become shipwrecked on a Barnacle Island where he would spend his days flirting with mermaids. His disappearance left the young Popeye without a father and Poopdeck's child would then devote his life to that of the sailor's way, and sailed the seas looking for fights and adventure as well as any clue to the whereabouts of his long-lost Pappy.
The Search for Popeye's Poppa
After Popeye acquired the mysterious Eugene the Jeep, he decided to use the creature's supernatural knowledge to find his father. An expedition was set up to go to Poopdeck's home on Barnacle Island, which included Toar the caveman, Alice the Goon, Wimpy, Rough House and Olive Oyl. The ungrateful father answered Popeye's greeting with, "You look like something the cat dragged in... I don't like relatives." He came to Popeye's home anyway, followed by some mermaids whom he had flirted with.
Poopdeck's gallery can be viewed here
- According to Thimble Theatre, Poopdeck is 85 years old.
- In the cartoons they refer to him as being 99 years old.
- The DC Comics parody of Popeye (Captain Strong) is reunited in a story with his long lost father, "Pappy Strong".
- Like his son, Pappy's favorite food is spinach (which he went 40 years without).