Top 2019 Books: #4 Before Popeye – Segar’s Thimble Theatre

#4 Thimble Theatre and the Pre-Popeye Cartoons of E. C. Segar, by E. C. Segar (Peter Maresca, ed.), Sunday Press, $85

Technically a late 2018 publication, I didn’t get to it until the new year. Peter Maresca’s Sunday Press doesn’t just reprint lost episodes of comic strip history. They think hard about them. Before Popeye’s famous arrival to Segar’s Oyl family saga, Thimble Theatre was a hard-nosed satire of modern American acquisitiveness and family relations, with a big dose of surrealism tossed in. This oversized and impeccably restored selection of Sunday pages shows Segar growing his chops for long story arcs and vicious rogues who somehow succeed in making us root for the otherwise unlikeable Oyls. As usual with Sunday Press productions, this has insightful background material, this time from screwball comics expert Paul Tumey and historian Jeet Heer.