Thimble Theatre Movies – New Book

During my free time in college, I took advantage of the various research and publications focusing on pop culture icons that began showing up on library shelves. One of those books was a comprehensive publication aimed at the cartoons and strips that spawned some of our most iconic figures; Prince Valiant, Flash Gordon, Lil Abner, Nancy, Steve Canyon, and of course Popeye.

I enjoyed Popeye animated cartoons as a kid growing up, and my only direct experience with the comic strip adventures of the character was through a Big Little Book. Of course, all kids during my time sang: I’m Popeye the Sailor Man. I live in a garbage can.

It was while reading and learning about the art of E.C. SEGAR the creator of Popeye that I discovered one of his coolest creations: Funny Films. Funny Films were featured as part of Segar’s Thimble Theatre, which gave birth to the famous sailor man and his cast of cohorts. The genius behind Funny Films is so simple that the first time I saw one in print I was blown away. It may seem a little silly considering all of today’s APP driven photo enhancers, but pre-high tech these cleverly drawn and conceived bits of fluff for kids were cool.

Funny Films - Thimble Theatre Movies
1934 – Copyright King Feature Syndicate
Funny Films - Thimble Theatre Movies
1933 – Copyright King Features Syndicate
1933 – Copyright King Features Syndicate

Which brings me to a book I hope I can get my hands on. Slated to be released in November: THIMBLE THEATRE AND THE PRE-POPEYE CARTOONS OF E.C. SEGAR looks like a gem. More than a decade before he created the world’s most famous cartoon sailor, E.C. Segar began his comics career in the movies. He drew cartoons for silent movie theater slides, the Charlie Chaplin comic strip, and a daily strip about Chicago’s movies and entertainment. Then, in 1919, he penned his own “small screen” creation for the newspapers, Thimble Theatre, where Popeye was to be born. In the book, all of E.C. Segar’s early comics and illustrations are featured, including 125 pre-Popeye Thimble Theater Sunday pages, including the complete run of the famed Western desert saga, a series that rivals his later work in superb art, storytelling, and humor.


The book is not cheap, listed by Bud’s Art Book for $85.00. I hope to secure a copy to read through our local library’s interlibrary loan program. Somehow I’ll find a way to get a copy. I encourage you to talk with your library, or just do some research on your own about not only Segar but many of the classic artist and the cartoon strips they created. Many can be found online, and while the text and humor can be dated, the genius of the work will never fade.

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