Thursday, April 06, 2006

Jeep! and Jeep again!

Someone asked me why I sign my posts here and elsewhere with a merry "jeep!"

Lee Falk used to occasionally stop a story, in his marvelous and widely-imitated adventure strip the Phantom, and recount the character's origins. He captioned this segment "For Those Who Came In Late." As someone who ALWAYS came in late, I always loved these segments.

For Those Who Came In Late, E. C. ("Gus") Segar created probably the best comical adventure strip with Thimble Theatre. It didn't start out as an adventure strip. It was a gag-a-day strip, spoofing silent movie serials, with a cast that included a vile villain (whose name escapes me now), a Hero by the name of Ham Gravy, and the damsel in distress (played by Miss Olive Oyl). Then Olive's brother Castor was introduced, and suddenly wild and wooley adventures were the order of the day.

In 1929, Castor and Ham hired a sailor to run their ship (on the way to break Dice Island). Said sailor's name was Popeye, and within a couple of years Popeye had pretty much taken over the strip.

Segar continued to introduce fantasy characters with strong possibilities for humour. One of the best was Eugene, the magical 4th dimensional jeep. Not only could Eugene predict the future (which was of little help, since all he ever said was "jeep!") but he could petrify sea hags, travel through 3-dimensional space & time, and eat all the orchids Popeye would supply.

And he was good luck, to those who practiced virtue and honesty. (Thus, he wasn't good luck for Wimpy.) So when I was editing a Popeye zine, I began signing my letters with a "jeep!" and a picture of Popeye. Nowadays, I do most of my letter writing on the web, and I can't usually draw a Popeye picture. But I still sign my letters and posts with "jeep!" since it seems to be good luck.

--Gran'pa Chet


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