Ahoy, collectors! Popeye the Sailor Man is heading to Boss Fight Studio with a new line of highly articulated, collectible figures. The first wave of characters in this collection — launching later this year — will include Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto, and Castor Oyl.
For Andrew Franks, a partner and art director at Boss Fight, Popeye was a dream license. The company had already started working with King Features (which owns Popeye), producing collectibles for Phantom and Flash Gordon. But Popeye was, for this self-proclaimed massive fan of the original E.C. Segar comic strip, the big want.
Thanks to Franks’ love of Popeye’s early appearances in the ’30s, these new figures are directly inspired by the characters’ original, 2D depictions.
“The first thing we wanted to do was to make sure these were the best, most authentic versions of these characters that have ever been done in toy form,” Franks says. However, translating the comic strip depictions into figures presented some challenges. For example, Seger never drew the characters from a straight-on, front view, which made it difficult to create a 3D model of the faces. “It’s sort of equivalent to the way Mickey Mouse’s ears work,” Franks explains. “Where, if you watch the way the character turns his head, the ears sort of magically migrate. They don’t actually turn in three dimensions.”
Despite these challenges, basing the figures off of these comics was important to Franks. “It’s not that there haven’t been Popeye toys before,” he says. “There’s been a lot, and there have been some great ones, but we know we wanted to take a different design direction than some of those had taken.”
Those other toys, he says, have been heavily influenced by various animated incarnations of the Popeye characters. According to Franks, the original versions of the characters really only appeared in early merchandizing, back in the ’30s.
Utilizing the comics as inspiration also influenced the characters that the Boss Fight team chose to include in the first wave. While Popeye and Olive Oyl remain fairly ubiquitous characters today, they were able to draw on characters who were more prominent in the comic strip. Caster Oyl, Franks explains, served as a main protagonist of Segar’s comic strip before it even bore Popeye’s name — when it was still Thimble Theatre.
“Being able to have this representation of a character who is actually quite important to the history of the stories, and to be able to pack in with him two magical creatures that are very important to quite a few of the storylines [Bernice the Whiffle Hen and Eugene the Jeep] was really exciting as well,” Franks says.
These characters have spent more than 90 years as part of popular culture, and Franks attributes this lasting popularity to the distinct visual style that Segar created and to the unusual hero that fans find in Popeye.
“He sort of goes against all of your standard archetypes,” Franks says. “You know, Popeye is short, he’s ugly, he’s older. And I think there’s a sort of brilliance to having this character who is so odd, but who has this sort of deeply moral core.”
For all of the Popeye fans who are looking forward to these high-end, collectible figures, there is a lot more to be excited about. According to Franks, this first wave is only the beginning for Boss Fight’s Popeye offerings.
“I think the goal is to sort of go at this deep with Popeye and to do as much as we can,” he says. “We want to hit everybody’s favorite characters from the animation or from the comic strip. So, you’re definitely going to see characters like Wimpy and the Sea Hag — all of those other great characters. They will appear eventually in some really cool ways, and we’re really looking forward to getting to work on those other guys.”
To get the latest updates about Boss Fight’s Popeye figures and its other collectibles offerings, visit bossfightstudio.com.