After nearly a hundred years in existence, the Popeye comic strip is reportedly getting a woke makeover, with the strip’s latest cartoonist promising more ethnic diversity and “more characters who aren’t heterosexual.”
Cartoonist Randal K. Milholland described the Popeye character as being “gender fluid,” citing old episodes in which the plot required Popeye to dress in drag.
“I [want] to bring in more characters who aren’t heterosexual,” Milholland said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News. “I don’t live in that purely straight white world, and I don’t think a lot of other people do either.”
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In one of the strip’s biggest changes, Olive Oyl’s sister-in-law Cylinda Oyl is now Afro-Latina. Cylinda has traditionally been portrayed as a white woman with dark, bobbed hair.
Milholland took issue with the way Popeye has recently used men dressing as woman for comic relief.
“But that wasn’t always the case,” he told the newspaper. “If you go by today’s definition, Popeye was gender fluid.”
During the strip’s early days, Popeye once met an orphaned girl who didn’t have a mother.
“So Popeye dresses up as a woman and says, ‘I’m your mom now,’” Milholland said. “And it’s not a joke; it’s Popeye being the kind character he originally was. Someone who’d do whatever he could for someone down on their luck, like an orphan.”
The Popeye character was first seen in 1929 in the Thimble Theatre comic strip. The comic is still owned by King Features Syndicate, a division of Hearst Communications.
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