Popeye: Borned to the Sea #1 – AT4W

Popeye the Robot Puncher. Linkara checks out Popeye: Borned to the Sea #1.

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About Linkara

Atop the Fourth Wall is a show about bad comic books. Linkara finds the surreal and the stupid and breaks them down page by page. You'll know why they're idiotic and how they can be improved.

54 comments

  1. I remember growing up to most of the Popeye cartoons when I was little while also watching the Looney Tunes cartoons when they used to be on TNT and TBS; yeah, it‘s been 2 decades since I‘ve watched those cartoons, too. And before anyone asks, no, I have NOT seen the live action movie starring Robin Williams.

    3:43- Anyone else thinking of Wheeler from US-1 also playing the narrator in THIS comic?

    6:46- It would have been funny if Ugly Kidd grew up to change his name to Ugly Mann.

    7:55- …Someone named a Navy vessel after Chester A. Bum? “OH MY GOD, THIS IS THE GREATEST SHIP I’VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE!”

    10:35- Jesus! Never mind about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I wanna see something called Popeye v Superman: Dawn of Spinach.

    I never thought that a Popeye comic would give readers a female woman version of Jabba the Hutt, but I guess anything is possible.

    14:20- I do not like Green Eggs & Ham. I do not like them, Sam I Am.

    The robot looks like a Youngblood version of The Terminator.

    As a comic book origin story of Popeye, I found this pretty entertaining, with the exception of the racist talk, of course.

  2. “Oriental” was not an offensive or “racist” word in the past. It has only become “racist” because people have deliberately made it so (and with this I don’t mean that people have started using it as a derogatory term, but that people have artificially started claiming that it’s an offensive term, even if basically nobody is using it in an offensive manner).

    Blaming people of the past for using a “racist” word when the whole concept of the word being “offensive” was invented later is quite unfair. It’s like 50 years from now society decides that “African-American” is a derogatory racist term, and then accuse us from the year 2016 of using it in a derogatory and racist way.

    In the case of “oriental”, the concept that it’s somehow “racist” is really forced and artificial. I haven’t seen any examples in real life of people using it in such a manner. Some people have simply decided that it must be “racist”.

    I bet that “Asian” will become “racist” within the next 50 years, and people in the future will accuse us of racism because of using that word. Yet we all know perfectly well that it’s not a racist word.

    • I actually wouldn’t be surprised if “African American” was already on the way to being considered a future racist term since it holds a somewhat similar use that “Oriental” does, implying that just because someone is of color it automatically means they’re of immigrant status like how someone would use “Irish American” to describe an Irish immigrant or something even though “African American” isn’t intended to be offensive at all.

      But, at the end of the day, there really isn’t anything wrong with these specific terms outside of what society seems to dictate should be wrong for whatever reason it chooses.

      • Didn’t take long for someone to resort to the slippery slope fallacy.

        “But, at the end of the day, there really isn’t anything wrong with these specific terms outside of what society seems to dictate should be wrong for whatever reason it chooses.”

        Or maybe you should actually think about what those terms means and their social context. The reasoning is also fallible at best: “it’s not my fault I’m a prick, it’s their fault for not allowing darkness to exist.”

        • Slippery slope is only a fallacy if you can’t propose a mechanism for it happening. The mechanism is people deciding to promote the idea that a word is offensive in some way – for example, “negro” or “coloured person” which were once neutral or positive means of identifying skin colour but have since gained connotations for racism. We know it can happen, and we know how it happens.

          Besides, he was making a falsifiable prediction – “I wouldn’t be surprised” – he wasn’t claiming that such a change is inevitable based on historical events.

          • I believe Warp is right, as far as I have seen in my research “Oriental” was once not offensive, but merely was the western term for people living in and around the trading area known as “the Orient”. In fact, in the times of the printing of this comic, the people of the Asian continent – even those who did not live in or around the Orient – did not find the term offensive. For his time, Wimpy was being rather appreciative of their culture. (For that matter I so still want to ride the Orient Express, which upon my last investigations was still running.)

            While we are on the topic of race and at the risk of sounding all “holier-than-thou”, I personally find it depressing that we are still defining terms for each other. We are all humans of the human race, period. Don’t even get me started about Meta-humans and Mutants, people! They are part of the human race, too!

    • Warp, I find your argument to be “forced and artificial.” How many people of Asian decent have you really talked to about this matter to decide what they should or shouldn’t find offensive? It seems rather presumptuous to suggest this or that calling out racist language is somehow the same things as accusing others of racist intentions.

      Oriental historically has meant things like rugs not people. Whether or not certain terms are always made with offensive intent is highly irrelevant and hardly anyone every artificial decides a word is offensive just because they want to. The implications of language have been changing over time since words of different culture have slipped into one-anothers lexicons and the realization of implications from usage is a gradual on-going process.

      In this case, according to (John Kuo Wei Tchen, director of the Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program and Institute at New York University, said the basic critique of the term developed in the 1970s. Tchen has said: “With the anti-war movement in the ’60s and early ’70s, many Asian Americans identified the term ‘Oriental’ with a Western process of racializing Asians as forever opposite ‘others’.”) Nobody just woke up one morning and decided the term was was offensive.

    • Well, I think someone has confused the fact that oriental is a pointless and imprecise word that you should never use those reasons, with it somehow being racist.

      The problem with the word is that depending on context it can mean near-east, middle-east or far-east. Before 1900 it generally meant middle east, and before 1700 it meant near east.

    • People no longer can determine racist from insensitive anyway . Racist doesn’t mean anything any more . It used to be about hating someone because of the color of the skin now somehow a word can be racist , last time I checked words can’t hate anything.

      • The reason people can’t have a rational conversation about race (and this isn’t a new problem) is because the can’t seem to grasp what race or racism even means. Racism doesn’t mean race hate nor was that the earliest meaning. There have been lots of people who hold racist view and have friends and acquaintances of a different race. This is a seriously too common misconception.

        Racism (which Merriam-Websters’ Colligate Dictionary traces back to 1933) means a belief that racial difference is the primary determiner of abilities and create by inheritance the superiority of one race over another. Racialism (traced back to 1907) means a theory of racial determination of abilities minus the superior part of the equation.

        By these definitions I would not call the referring to people of Asian decent necessarily racist, but I would call it racialist. It applies being situated with Asian regardless of ones current residence or alliances.

    • This is just bullshit. The word has a long history of being used to mean “freaky foreigner.” It’s also a word created by the West to describe other people–you know, like Negro. When we found out that Asian Americans didn’t like the term, we changed it, because there was no need to offend people.

      You know nothing about the situation. Linkara described it accurately. It’s true that, at one point, someone might use “oriental” innocently, simply because it was the only term. But that doesn’t make the term not racist.

      I could even defend it in this comic due to when it was set, but to claim that it isn’t racist is just bullshit. It shows a lack of desire to care about race relations.

      This bullshit about there being no open dialog is just that. The dialog happened, and we learned from it. We just have people who think they can tell the people who actually experience racism what it actually is. That’s not open dialog. That’s just racism–telling people of other races how they should think and act.

      • Yes, it is indeed very easy to just point and call things “racist” without actually knowing anything about their origins. In particular, saying that it’s somehow deeply offensive to refer to Japanese people as “oriental” especially makes ignorance very obvious. And the worst part is that it’s ignorance that can be fixed with about thirty seconds of research.
        Now as you may already know, while “Japan” is a word that exists in English and other languages to refer to both the state and the archipelago, it is not the one that the people themselves use. That would be “Nippon” (with “Nihon” as a very common and essentially identical alternate). Unlike “America”, which just comes from the name of some guy, this word actually has a meaning in the language- literally, “the sun’s origin”, which is often rendered as “Land of the Rising Sun”. From what I can tell, it’s not precisely known whether this name was given to Japan by China or if it was self-prescribed over the unpopular designations it previously had. Both explanations make sense- for the former, there’s the fact that from “China’s perspective”, the sun rises from Japan, and for the latter, in addition to that fact (keep in mind how extremely important Japan’s relationship to China was in its formation), how integral the sun is to Japanese mythology.
        Now with that established, let’s move on to the word “Orient”. As with a very large amount of our language, it originates with Lating, specifically “oriens”. While the common translation of that is simply “east”, literally it is “rising”. Hmm, does that sound familiar? Indeed, the association comes from the fact that the sun rises in the east. The -al suffix, of course, simply transforms the noun into an adjective: “of/relating to the Orient”.
        Now, with all this in mind, there are legitimate reasons to have a gripe with the term. As Carewolf points out, it’s vague as all hell, and thus isn’t descriptively useful in almost all cases. However, that doesn’t mean it’s racist. If we were to use your standard of “a word created to describe other people”, then the large majority of words used today in all languages used to denote various races, ethnic groups and nationalities would be as well. And guess what? That leaves the word “racist” even MORE descriptively worthless than “Orient”.

        • I don’t know what it contributes to the discussion, but “oriental” is not considered racist in the UK, and is regularly used by the BBC to refer to the far east. “Asian” is used exclusively to refer to the Indian sub-continent.

          Tl;dr – if you referred to a Chinese or Japanese person as “asian” in the UK, people would give you odd looks.

  3. Heard another version of it. Asians consider oriental to be offensive because the don’t like the arrogant assumption by Europeans that Europe is the centre of the world. Anyway, it was a pretty awesome comic, not saying that just because I like Popeye.

  4. You know, Linkara, I never though of Popeye’s chin looking like a butt.

    I love Popeye, even the silly Robin Williams movie. I have fond memories of watching the reruns of the 60’s version in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I gotta say this take on the origin story was quite refreshing (poopdeck, lol) even in all it’s silliness.

  5. All that without a Popeye’s chicken joke. Impressive.

  6. Lister: There was a cartoon character once called Popeye, said a really profound thing. He said, “I am what I am.”
    Kryten: Are you sure? I always thought it was Descartes.
    Lister: So did I, man! It’s so easy to get those two dudes mixed up.

  7. Hey, Linkara do you ever plane to review Marvel/DC crossover comics? I’m sure there are a few bad ones out there and enough of them were made to a point you could dedicate a month to it.

  8. Excellent review Linkara, my only issue is that “puss” is slang for “face” & is pronounced like “puss-in-boots”.

    • Yes, I agree. The text quite clearly said ‘puss’ not ‘pus’. Two completely different words, not even spelled the same.
      Because poor literacy is…
      … probably pretty embarrassing.

  9. I remember reading up on pop culture history back in middle school, which mentioned that Popeye might have been the first Superhero comic. Take that Superman.

  10. Popeye is one of those characters who gets introduced into a comic strip as a minor character and ends up taking it over and having it renamed for him. The original main character was Olive Oyl’s brother, who you wouldn’t even know existed from the cartoons.

    It kind of looks like the comic, while cartoony, went a little more towards the appearance of Popeye from the Robin Williams film, rater than the comic strip and cartoons. For example, Popeye has a full head of hair rather than just a few strands on his head.

  11. I am a huge Popeye fan and have been since childhood, so i was very excited to see this posted! In the old comic strip Popeye did about as much boxing as he did sailing and he was every bit as much a bad ass back in the day as he was in this comic. I found the comment you made about the dragon lady talking about eating the steaks in front of the cow very funny because of of an old Popeye strip which runs thus. Wimpy gets contacted by a lawyer saying his uncle died and leaves wimpy a cow as inheritance ( can we see where this is going already folks?), any how he tries several times to get Popeye to trade him the cow for hamburgers ( asking for less hamburgers each time), finally wimpy asks Popeye for an old loaf of bread an axe and several kitchen utensils ( which Popeye gives him just to get wimpy out of his hair). Olive oil berates Popeye for not being a good friend to wimpy which makes him decide he is going to go find wimpy and give him a couple of hamburgers to make up with him. Popeye find wimpy on the outskirts of town ( hamburgers in each hand) with the gory leavings of where he has slaughtered the cow and ground it all up into hamburger meat. When I say gory there is no exaggeration at all the tail is hanging out of the meat grinder, the severed head is displayed along with many other gory leavings ( understandably many papers at the time refused to run the strip).

  12. So by your logic is Latino also a racist term? not trying to be a troll just curious man.

    • Depends on how you look at it. “Latino” has however been first used by the nations of Central America and South America, so it’s their desired designation.

  13. The whole spinach thing was the result of a massive less-than-legit marketing campaign which itself came from a maths mistake concerning the iron content in spinach. Short version of it is that spinach was once believed to be a significant source of iron, and was marketed as being extremely healthy as a result. The true health value of spinach was eventually realized but the marketing persisted despite being false advertising. It’s since developed into an ever-present nutrition myth, in part thanks to the popularity of Popeye.

    • Basically, it wasn’t the actual iron content of spinach, but the combination of iron and Vitamin C, the latter of which helps with the body’s absorption of the former.

  14. Fun fact: Popye is actually regarded as the very FIRST comic strip superhero. Or to be more accurate. The first comic strip character who had super powers and fought a reoccurring rival/villain.

  15. oriental wasn’t an insult at the time this comic was published. it means of the orient. and not of the occident.
    in spanish, my native language there is no negative connotation. we are known as occidentals. and people east of europe are known as orientals.
    i am an occidental.

    • if someone of asian descent called me an occidental i would not be insulted because it is not an insult.
      i AM an occidental. why is occidental not offensive but oriental is? the only possible excuse you would have for this is because the occident is superior to the orient and so the mere mention of this word is insulting because it’s belittling.
      but this argument in itself is racist.
      if the orient was the same as the occident there would be no such stigma, you see how american political correctness doesn’t even make sense?

    • He acknowledge the language differences when it comes to non-anglophone uses. In the end, though, as he said, the implications are nasty.

  16. I was wondering if Popeye saying he was 55 was a reference to the character being that old at the time. I looked it up, and the comic started way back in 1919, which is 68 years before the comic’s 1987 publishing date. The animated show started in 1933, though, which is 54 years before this comic. Maybe they were predicting a later release for the comic or maybe the went from the date that the agreement for the animated series was signed!

    And yeah, the racist stuff is present, but this takes place in some indeterminate place in the past, so it would be a bit strange if it was absent.

  17. Minion of Yahtzee

    Anybody else want to see a crossover between One Piece, Popeye and One Punch Man? Or is that just me?

  18. Again, some people don’t know that Oriental is racist. I know that my aunt uses that term occasionally and she really doesn’t know that it’s racist. Anyways, this comic, from what I saw, was well done and ridiculously great.

  19. I hope that quick mention towards the beginning means that Linkara reads One Piece.

  20. Fun fact, where I live “Oriental” primarily means Indian and Pakistan food and traditional dress-styles, has nothing to do with Japan or China and is definitely not considered racist, since most of the people labeling their restaurants or stores as “oriental” are Indian themselves.

  21. To contribute to the discussion over whether the word “Oriental” is racist or not, I would have to agree with Linkara that it’s OK to use it to describe objects, but not people. I mean, think about it; using an adjective that would normally describe objects to describe people degrades those people as just objects.

    • Except that the term “Orient” originally referred to the place, and it is a very common convention of language to refer to people in reference to the place they happen to be from. Africans are from Africa, the French are from France, etc. So, if referring to them as “Orientals” is demeaning because it degrades them as just objects, then the same is true for any such terms as French, African, American, etc.

      Actually, the reason people from far eastern countries don’t like to be called “Oriental” is largely because the peoples from disparate countries do not consider themselves to be a common people. Japanese do not consider themselves the same as Chinese or Vietnamese or Korean. And many of them maintain very strong cultural ties with their ancestral homeland. As such, they tend to prefer to be called by their actual country of origin and not by any broad generic term.

  22. Oooooh, this looks glorious!!!! I do like Popeye, despite them being a wee bit formulaic. Looks better then the CGI film that came out a little while ago.

    Only no Olive; bizarre.

    I love how anything and everything can happen in a Popeye story despite it’s basic set up; like TinTin.
    If requested via Patreon, would you review TinTin?

  23. I have no reason to defend someone basing their views on intelligence around people’s height, nor do I have any data on the average height of Japanese people in the 1940s.

    That said, this is a story about _sailors_ in the _1940s_. Casual racism should be expected of these characters if they’re going to be realistic. You can bowdlerise it for a young audience if you want, but things being “questionable” or “problematic” is no excuse for historical revisionism.

  24. The artwork… I started to recognise Ben Dunn’s style about halfway through. Then I saw the Ninja High School poster and felt vindicated.
    Thing is, I didn’t think I could tell one manga-style from another before now.

  25. So much for politically correct.

  26. Wow Popeye could have joined the Italian Fascist Party or hell the German National Socialist Party yeah I almost see it happening, if Popeye wasn’t White English American or an Uncle Sam patriot to a jingoistic fault he could have been a N A Z I, but given his insubordinate disobiediant nature and a penchant for a low-calorie and not-so-much vitamin filled leafy grassy vegetable, he’s no good anywhere, but they would use him to bully and beat up intellectuals and common educated folk for a while.

  27. Who the hell wrote this? Josef Goebbals.

  28. ? Or Hermann Goering?

  29. “You’re a Sap Mr. Jap, you make a Yankee Cranky” “You’re a Sap Mr. Jap Ho Delano’s gonna spanky” yeah 1942 cartoon.

  30. Oh it’s Uncle Sam is gonna spanky, looked it up on Youtube.

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