Saturday, 16 February 2019

POPEYE - THE BANNED STRIPS - MINI-GUEST POST BY BARRY PEARL...


Copyright KING FEATURES SYNDICATE, Inc

What exactly is censorship?

If you don't know about it, for decades Popeye had been a strip read by families with great pleasure.  In 1992, Bobby London wrote and drew a series satirizing abortion, politics, and the clergy.  It was not just rejected - he was fired.

If a comic publisher or syndicator rejects a job because he feels it does not fill his needs, is that 'rejection' or 'censorship'?  Would you have published these strips in a daily paper in the comics section?

In this story, Olive gets a baby doll from the Home Shopping Network and it is a bit of a duplicate of Bluto.  When she decides to get rid of it, a clergyman thinks she is talking about a real baby.






12 comments:

TC said...

Frankly, if I had been the publisher, I would have rejected the story. I believe most fans of Popeye/Thimble Theater would read the strip for entertainment, not propaganda.

Admittedly, E.C. Segar may have sometimes included some subtle political and social commentary in the original Thimble Theater, but nothing this overt, AFAIK.

And it is not censorship if an editor or publisher rejects a story for whatever reason. The writer is free to offer the work to another publisher. (Although, in this case, the names and likenesses of the characters would presumably have to be changed, since London does not own Popeye, Olive Oyl, et al.).

It is censorship when the government (or a corporation that has a monopoly) prevents publication, since, in that case, the creator does not have alternative outlets.

Kid said...

Isn't it censorship of a kind, though, TC, if someone writes a letter to his local newspaper (for example), and the editor says he's going to omit one or two paragraphs because he disagrees with them? It's a sort of 'localised' cencorship, as the writer's message is being compromised to some degree because the editor disagrees with him for perhaps expressing his view too well. So, yes, the writer can write to another newspaper, but as far as the first one goes, it has censored part of his letter. (Not edited for reasons of space, but censored because it is the opposite of the editor's own opinion on the matter.)

However, in the case above, I'd say you were pretty much correct.

McSCOTTY said...

Wow that's one strong statement. I've never read a Popeye comic strip (never really liked the chatacter) so my image of the strip would have been one aimed entirely at children . I think the subject matter is presented too strongly here maybe if it had been more subtle it would have been more palatable but the points were made imho at the expense of humour, so I wouldn't have published this either. But an amazing strip in its own way there's a good point in it but for me it has vered too much into propaganda.

Kid said...

I haven't read it yet, PM, but I think it would've been enough to tell the guy not to do it again, not fire him for doing it. Unless, perhaps, it completely messed up the publishing schedule, but newspaper strips are usually drawn well enough in advance to avoid any emergencies.

McSCOTTY said...

Yeah I meant to say that as well for me by firing him that was verging on censorship.

Kid said...

I've read it now and thought it was quite witty, but obviously leaning in favour of one point of view. It could probably have been reworded to remove the more 'partisan' elements.

Lionel Hancock said...

A bit much.. What was going through the cartoonists mind stuns me.. Had it been released every feminist. Anti abortion.. Women's rights protest groups would have made life miserable for King Features. I'm not surprised he got fired.. As previously said comics are for entertainment not message groups.

Kid said...

Depends on the message groups I suppose, LH. The LGBT mob seem to get a free pass in just about all forms of the media and entertainment these days. I don't think Women's rights protest groups would have objected though, as it seems to be taking a pop at the clergy who would deny them what they see as their rights.

Gene Phillips said...

Artistically speaking, I like London's visual approach to POPEYE much better than that of the long-lived Bud Sagendorf version. But I'd have to agree that the satire is much too heavy-handed. The idea that the Catholic priest's ire is roused by a simple misheard phrase-- and one that the priest himself doesn't even hear-- strikes me as a bit too "easy."

Kid said...

Such is often the case with caricatures, GP, it's a shorthand way of getting the point across. Of course, it perhaps wasn't his intention to paint all clergy in that light - merely the ones whom the cap fits.

Phil S said...

I find it quite funny but not right for a Popeye audience. The real question is is is censorship when you’re writing Popeye, a charttou don’t own and has been known as a family friendly strip since the 1930s? Well yeah it is. But King Features is the owner and they have every right to to tell you the employee what to produce. It’s not the same as a newspaper not running a political cartoon when you hire a political cartoonist.

Kid said...

Personally, I think censorship is sometimes necessary, PS, but I think in this case they should just have told him not to do it again instead of firing him. The editor would surely have caught this long before it went to press, so they overreacted methinks. You should be able to reject what someone writes and draws if you're the publisher, but that doesn't mean you should be able to fire him for what he thinks.



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