Grown-up Dave doesn’t think about Popeye the Sailor Man all that much, but kid Dave loved him.
It started with the cartoons, obviously. When I was very young Popeye cartoons were just as heavy in rotation as Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry. I don’t know what happened or why the Sailor Man hasn’t remained as relevant as many other animated icons, but for whatever reason he doesn’t have a very high profile nowadays.
The cartoons were one thing, but in 1980 something very peculiar and quite special happened – Robin Williams starred in a musical Popeye movie directed by five-time Academy Award nominee Robert Altman. The same Robert Altman who directed MASH, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye, and Nashville. It was surprising to the world and to this day I think film fans are a bit confused, but of course four-year-old me didn’t know any of that when Mom took me to the theater to see this unique cinematic experience.
While my actual memories of Popeye come from later viewings, I do know that I loved that movie and that it reinforced my fandom for the character. One of my earliest memories is of begging Mom for a can of spinach until she finally broke down and got one. I tried it raw – like Popeye – hated it, and switched to a can of Fritos like they used to have back in the day.
HEALTH ADVISORY – Fritos will not make you strong like Popeye, but they also will not make you throw up like raw spinach out of a can.
My Popeye fandom probably peaked right around the movie coming out and has slowly waned ever since. At no point have I disliked him; he just hasn’t loomed large in my pop culture awareness for quite some time.
I have a collection of comic strips that my mom gave me years ago, but I can’t pretend I’ve read it cover to cover. At most it’s been perused a time or two with only a few pages read in their entirety.
Actually, the last time I gave Popeye any real thought was the last time Mezco put out Popeye toys. Popeye the Sailorpedia lists way more figures than I remember actually being released. I just had Popeye, Bluto, and Wimpy from the first wave. I passed on Olive Oyl because she is the worst.
Clearly someone at Mezco is a much bigger Popeye fan than I am. Between those excellent figures from eighteen years ago(!) and this new One:12 Collective figure, they are carrying the torch for an animated hero who deserves much more recognition than he seems to get. This was one of the earliest announced One:12 figures and it’s been clear from that initial peek that this figure is a serious labor of love.
This is a truly weird concept and design – bringing a character whose most remarkable features are incredibly anatomically improbable into the One:12 semi-realistic format resulted in a look that many found off-putting at first, but that has become more acceptable as the line has gone on. I, for one, hadn’t planned on getting this one due to my strict One:12 collecting rules, but apparently at some point I relented and ordered one because it came in at the Local Comic Shop. By that time I was delighted that Past Me had made the decision because reviews were coming in and Popeye seems to be a hit, making many “Best of 2018” lists.
Is the figure worth the wait and worth possibly going outside of your fandom to obtain? Read on and find out!
Popeye comes in the now-standard One:12 window box with a slipcover.
The logo graphics on the front stand out as more fun and whimsical than previous releases, which appealed to me quite a bit. That cartoon head was just a fun thing to see when the box got put on the counter.
The inner trays are easy to remove and replace and protect the contents of the box well. Each piece is in a separate nook (cranny?) and parts that require protection are wrapped in pieces of cellophane. It’s a wonderful presentation that still impresses me even after several years of collecting this line.
I would pay for a recording of the session where this figure was pitched. I’d also love to see concept art. I can’t even imagine the process for translating a character whose most recognizable features are massively oversized forearms, a huge chin, tiny neck, and short little legs. Not to imagine a face that could best be described as “extra squinty”.
The easiest route might have been to just give up and do something more like Robin Williams’ portrayal. But that wasn’t going to cut it for that Popeye mega-fan that works at Mezco. Instead we got something that, more than anything, looks to be straight out of Eric Powell’s The Goon. And that is fantastic. Plus it makes me want a One:12 Goon.
While the One:12 Collective always delivers great faces, they’re typically pretty normal and human. From Shazam’s smile to Frank Castle’s mangled visage to Judge Dredd’s… chin, there’s not a huge amount of structural diversity. As a matter of fact, Dredd’s mug is as outlandish as we’ve gotten thus far. Unless you count Space Ghost’s monkey pal, Blip.
Popeye looks amazing. I’m not going to try to claim that the look Mezco settled on has any possible place in the realm of human reality, but next to the rest of the Collective it does not look as crazy as you might think. A lot of the credit for this goes to the intricate sculpt, which features very organic lines and wrinkles on top of the outlandish features. This goes for the head and the forearms. Naturally the face is going to receive the most scrutiny, but the massive forearms and hands look just as alive and real.
Popeye’s long, skinny neck is worth mentioning, as well. I appreciate that they kept these unique proportions rather than trying to give him a huge Scott Steiner neck or something. If you think about it, this figure could have really gone off the rails with attempts to make it “modern” and “relevant”. Imagine a beefy sailor covered in tattoos. That could have happened coming from a lesser company.
This figure has the usual incredible paint job. The face features washes to bring out the sculpted detail. What I appreciate the most is the glossy paint used for the eye. That baby blue and the sculpt around it give the figure just a dash of Robin Williams to my eye. I’m not saying it’s a likeness or even an adaptation, but I feel like I can see a bit of Williams’ soul in this face. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking from a fan.
Popeye’s trademark anchor tattoos deserve a mention. Mezco went with the look of realistic, faded tattoos rather than just a bold black. They look absolutely fantastic. Again – Mezco designed these with restraint. They could have been bigger, bolder, more detailed. Instead they’re very real and very believable.
Beyond the anatomy I’ve covered, Popeye retains his comic proportions to a degree. He has a skinny but muscled torso with nice joints at the waist and upper abdomen. The legs are equally skinny with big boots at the bottom. I was impressed with the range the feet have. There’s no joint at the ankle of the boot; it is instead concealed inside the boot. Despite that, it has a range of motion that exceeds many other One:12 releases. Obviously it’s not Marvel Legends good, but I could achieve wider stances with greater variety than I can with some other releases from this line.
The rest of the articulation is about as good as you need a Popeye figure to be. The elbows don’t bend quite as far as I want them to, but further than such large forearms might seem to allow. The only frustration I experienced was trying to pose Popeye using his spyglass. But eventually I found something acceptable.
The wardrobe is just as impressive as the figure. A shirt and jeans may not seem like much, but once you take a closer loom the amount of thought and design that must have gone into them is remarkable.
Popeye’s shirt is several different materials. The major portion of it is a soft fabric that moves and drapes nicely around the figure’s torso articulation. There’s a seam just under the chest that maintains the shape and cut in any pose. The buttons were probably created using the same technique as the detailing on the One:12 superhero suits. It’s some kind of special process of attaching the rubber or vinyl or whatever and I can’t ever remember what it’s called. The point is that they look good and they’re not going anywhere.
The rolled-up portions of the sleeves are a different fabric in order to represent the traditional look of the character. The flap on the back that identifies this as a sailor shirt has an almost fuzzy texture that I didn’t expect. The weight and thickness are perfect for this scale.
The figure’s jeans are carefully designed to look like 1/12th scale denim. They’re very dark and have the bell-bottom cut you expect. There are buttons at the top to the figure’s left like old-school jeans would have.
Finally, Popeye’s boots have a bulbous, exaggerated shape, but not overly so. The stitching and laces are beautifully detailed and the paint gives them a realistic, worn look.
Popeye comes with the standard One:12 stand, an alternate head, seven extra hands, six pipes, a pea coat, three hats, a duffel bag, a spyglass, a compass, and two cans of spinach. That’s a lot of accessories for a standard release figure.
The alternate head is one of those that’s so subtly different it took me a second to even ascertain what the differences were. Sometimes with these One:12 figures you have a missing LEGO moment – there’s never a missing LEGO brick, but you often think there is. With One:12 you sometimes wonder if they accidentally packed two of the same head, but they never did.
The extra head is basically Popeye’s fightin’ face. Once you really look it’s quite different from the default head – the teeth are visible, there’s more of a grimace, and the eye just looks angrier. The heads swap out easily and stay put once they’re plugged in. They also don’t pop off too easily during posing, which is something I considered when I saw the large ball on the tiny neck.
The hands have various poses meant to interact with all of the accessories. They’re some of the easiest to switch out of any figure ever thanks to their size and the soft plastic they’re made of.
There are three choices of headwear – a “Dixie cup” hat, a toboggan, and a captain’s hat. Pardon my terminology if any of it is incorrect. I could also have said “a Gilligan hat, a tuque, and a Skipper hat”.
The Dixie cup and the captain hat have magnets in them to keep them secured to the figure’s head. The corresponding head magnet must be a fairly large ball inside the head, because the hats stay nicely affixed in several positions. The toboggan fits in such a way that a magnet isn’t necessary. All three hats match the weathered look of the figure and look great on its head, to the point where I’m having difficulty deciding which one to display. But I think the toboggan goes with the pea coat and the captain hat is the right default look. To me the Dixie cup goes more with the cartoon version’s sailor whites. And believe me when I say I might be kicking myself for not getting the exclusive version that is sporting that look.
This figure comes with a staggering six pipes and they may well be the best action figure accessories of all time for one simple reason – there are three each of two different types. This means that Mezco included these anticipating that most dreaded of scenarios, lost or broken accessories. And these things are teeny-tiny, so that’s almost inevitable. Heck, I almost lost one the second I opened the little self-contained tray that they’re in. And I recommend you keep that tray and maybe even put a piece of tape on it to keep it closed.
The two varieties of pipe are standard and “tooting”. The only real difference is the little translucent puff coming out of the “tooting” version. The stem plugs into a small hole on the left side of the figure’s face. It takes some practice to get good at plugging it in and figuring out which angle to insert it. I’m still nervous about breaking them when I install one.
Popeye’s pea coat is another marvel of Mezco engineering. It’s deceptively simple. The fabric is a soft felt that is a perfect substitute for the heavy wool used for these coats. The cut is tailored to this figure, with Velcro-lined slits on the sleeves to accommodate the massive forearms when putting it on. There’s a Velcro closure on the front, with more of those brilliant buttons. There are also false pockets sewn on. What really surprised me was the wire armature in the collar, which allows a certain amount of “posing”.
The coat is a bit tough to get on over the figure’s shirt, but with some wiggling and pulling it will eventually sit right. It looks great on and, combined with the toboggan, makes for a nice look. It’s almost a shame I won’t be displaying the figure wearing this piece, but I’m glad to have it as an option.
The duffel bag is another deceptively simple item that was obviously designed with a lot of care. The item itself is sturdy and looks nice, especially with “POPEYE” stenciled on the side, but the thing that stood out to me was the drawstring.
It’s a very sturdy little piece of nylon cord that shows no signs of ever fraying, but most impressive are the metal grommets that it runs through. They’re such a tiny little detail, but it would’ve been easy for Mezco to decide to just cut holes and seal them somehow rather than having actual grommets. It’s these kinds of things that add up to make this line so worthwhile.
Popeye’s spyglass, compass, and spinach cans share the wacky proportions of the character himself. I say this because it occurred to me that these items are way out of scale and tone with any other One:12 figure. In an odd way they’re the only factors that make this release “not work” with the rest of the line.
It doesn’t bother me a bit, but it’s definitely something to point out.
The spyglass is thick and is probably the most cartoon-y of the items. It has a brass look with translucent plastic lenses at either end. As I mentioned above it’s tough to position it so Popeye is looking through it, but it fits in the appropriate hand nicely. I believe it also collapses, but I was too nervous to push it any harder when I tried to do so.
Popeye’s compass has a functional hinge that closes tightly. The face is nicely detailed. There isn’t a hand that can necessarily hold it, but it looks good sitting in the palm of either of the open hands.
There’s one regular spinach can and one that’s been squeezed open. The standard can looks fantastic and I applaud the designers’ decision to use an actual label rather than painting one on. It adds a little something extra, especially with the great-looking metallic paint on the visible parts of the can. With a little work this fits into one of the figure’s grasping hands.
The only issue with that label is that it couldn’t be reproduced in a practical way on the crushed can, so we just have to assume that Popeye’s strength made it explode off the can or maybe simply evaporate. It’s not a big deal by any means, but it does create a visual difference between the cans.
Thanks to some sculpted imprints this can fits perfectly into the appropriate hand.
This is an outstanding action figure. I completely understand why so many chose it as the best figure of 2018. It’s a case of a company going above and beyond out of obvious love for the product.
If you’re an action figure collector who is at all fond of Popeye, you should consider getting this figure a top priority. It’s unfortunate that prices are already skyrocketing, but with as much as Mezco seems to love the Sailor Man I think there’s a possibility we could see another release or maybe a different version. That’s pure speculation, but with the internet raving about this guy I can’t imagine Mezco would pass up an opportunity to make a little more money off of him.
As for the white sailor suit version, that one has already become nigh-unobtainable, as most Mezco exclusives tend to do.
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