Comic Book Legends Revealed #465
COMIC LEGEND: Bud Sagendorf befriended E.C. Segar when he was just a newspaper boy!
STATUS: I’m Going With True
E.C. Segar was the creator of Thimble Theatre and its most famous character, Popeye. Segar passed away at the far too young age of 43 in 1938, with his character of Popeye at the time being one of the most famous comic characters in the world.
At the time of his death, Segar had a longtime assistant named Bud Sagendorf, who had worked for Segar since the younger man was 17 in 1932. Here’s Sagendorf at around the time of Segar’s death…
While many considered Sagendorf the logical heir to his mentor’s “throne,” as it were, he was considered a bit too young to take over the strip at that particular point in time (as after all, the strip was a huge money maker for King Features Syndicate and they weren’t about to just let a 23-year-old take over, no matter how much they, and everyone else, liked his work).
Sagendorf kept working for King in other areas, including Popeye licensing materials (again, everyone agreed that the guy was really talented) and in 1948, he began a long-term stretch drawing the Popeye comic book for Dell…
And finally, in 1958 he took over the comic strip and he drew it until his death in 1994 (although he stopped doing the daily strip in 1986, instead just doing the Sunday strips), becoming perhaps THE artist most associated with Popeye, even more so than Segar.
However, the story at hand is a fascinating one my pal Stony told to me years ago but I was never able to find confirmation on until I bought a copy of Sagendorf’s excellent book, Popeye: The First Fifty Years, which is amazing in that you rarely see a current comic creator do as good a job of comic history work as Sagendorf does in that book (well, Jim Steranko as a notable exception, of course).
In any event, Sagendorf tells the story of how one day, while working with Segar, Segar began reminiscing about the office he kept for a while in Santa Monica (the office building opened in 1927, so let’s say 1927). It was there that he had actually created Popeye in 1929 as a new character for Thimble Theatre. Segar mentioned a newspaper boy that he would see all the time while at the office. Sagendorf was shocked. HE was that newspaper boy!
One of the first jobs Sagendorf took when he was a boy when his family moved to Santa Monica was as a newspaper boy, selling papers on the corner. He didn’t know who Segar was at the time, he was just a nice regular customer who would always give him a sizable tip (even in those pre-Popeye days, Segar was making a fine living on Thimble Theatre).
Isn’t that awesome? Two comic greats, meeting years before they “really” met and never knowing about it until many years later?
Thanks to my friend Stony for suggesting this one and thanks to the late, great Bud Sagendorf for the information.