A few weeks back I reviewed Army Of Darkness / Bubba Ho-Tep and commented that there are a lot of shameless cash in’s when it comes to film spin offs in the comics world, and unfortunately that was definitely one of them. Which made me a little cynical about this comics mash up initially as you might think that Mars Attacks mixed with Popeye could be another pointless bit of exploitation, but it’s turned out to be an affectionately written combination of the two franchises, and surprisingly they fit together all rather charmingly.
If done well this was a comic which was always likely to appeal to me as I’m very fond of Tim Burton’s box office disaster of a movie, and used to be a big fan of the Popeye cartoons many decades ago when I was a young, young man / child. And though the art is simplistic, and the script is too, for once that’s all to it’s benefit as it nostalgically takes all of the characters and spins a daft but very likeable yarn featuring them all. The plot sees those manic Martians land in Popeye’s sometimes sleepy town, but rather than just go about shooting people randomly as in the film, surprisingly they’re met by the Sea-Hag who has plans for the invading bastards. It has quite a lot of appeal as it’s drawn in the old fashioned way that Popeye used to be, and it plays around with the innocence of the comic in a very likeable way. Popeye’s a little dumb (he can’t get his head around what the aliens are, calling them “Marsh-kin” and mispronouncing many other words) but that’s only staying true to character, and luckily he’s got a great supporting cast to help him out.
The most amusing of these is the somewhat egotistical Professor Wotasnozzle, who devises a plan to defeat the marsh-kin, sorry, martians, but of course Popeye thinks with his fists and decides to try to get an army together. It’s not quite as easy as he hoped however and he’s hoomiliated (damnit Popeye, you’re taking my ability to spell away!) I mean humiliated when his pappy turns him down, though on the plus side when he tells his tale of woe to Alice The Goon she rather kindly gets a goon army together for him. Meanwhile the professor has created a radio giving out a frequency which effects the martian ray guns, testing it out on Castor Oyl, who Mr Wimpy volunteers for the job, with the latter’s cowardice making me smile throughout. Luckily for Castor the professor’s radio frequency works and the ray gun removes his clothes but otherwise doesn’t harm him in a pretty amusing moment, made funnier when Popeye comes along and asks “Ahoy Castor whatcher doin in yer skivvies? It ain’t Saturday night” – which makes me wonder exactly what he and Popeye do get up to at the weekend. There’s no time to find out alas as suddenly burning ducks are flying through the sky (chased by the ever snack-ish Mr Wimpy) and then they encounter the Sea Hag and the martians she’s teamed up with.
This really could have been the end for Popeye if it wasn’t for the good Professors scientific know how, but rather than ending up as a pile of ash he and Alice end up just in their underwear instead. Popeye and the goons then start to beat the crap out of the aliens, but unfortunately the Sea Hag has a plan B, and Popeye is smashed in to the ground by a gigantic robot who causes the goons to flee. A deeply touching funeral for Popeye follows, or at least it probably would have if not for the sudden appearance of Pappy, who knocks out the Sea Hag, gives Popeye (and himself) some spinach, and well, you can probably guess the rest.
It’s filled with an old fashioned charm which is awfully infectious, it’s not exactly the smartest comedy ever written but it’s carried out with care, and with a real respect for the characters not only from Popeye’s world but that of Mars Attacks as well. It’s not the kind of thing which could have sustained an ongoing series, or even a mini-series for that matter, but as a one off it made me nostalgic for the days when comics could be simple daft fun, and writer Martin Powell and artist Terry Beatty have created something which will definitely greatly appeal to any and all fans of these characters.