There’s Only One Jeep

Popeye Volume 5: Wha’s a Jeep? – The Jeep, or Eugene to use his proper name, is certainly one of the oddest creations of Popeye’s original cartoonist, Elzie Segar. It’s sort of dog-like and lives on orchids, but the strangest things about it are its magical powers.

The Jeep can disappear from one place and reappear in another, and can answer any yes-or-no question due to its four-dimensional brain. According to the scientist Professor Brainstine, the Jeep was born when cells from the fourth dimension mixed with those of African Hooey Hound, resulting in the animal living in Africa where it was caught by the explorer Ben Zene and sent to his niece Olive Oyl.

The talk of the fourth dimension is almost certainly just technobabble on Segar’s part, but it seems to have been proposed as early as 1908 that the fourth dimension could be time, and Eugene DOES have the ability to predict the future. The Jeep bears some resemblance to Segar’s earlier creation, the unkillable Whiffle Hen, which showed up in the storyline in which Popeye was first introduced.

Bernice is also from Africa, was also discovered by an uncle of Olive’s, was also able to escape from captivity. Come to think of it, the Whiffle Hen could only say the word “whiffle,” and the Jeep the word “jeep.” I guess they were sort of prototypes for Pokémon in that respect, although I’m sure neither Bernice nor Eugene would stay inside a Pokéball. It’s been proposed that Eugene provided the name for the military vehicle introduced in World War II, but the evidence isn’t all agreed on this point. The general speculation is that, like Eugene with his vanishing powers, the vehicle could travel anywhere. I’ve also seen it suggested that Segar invented the word “goon,” while other sources say he used an already existing term.

Anyway, this volume of comics introduces not only Eugene but also Poopdeck Pappy, whom Popeye finds with help from the Jeep’s powers. It’s fascinating to see how these characters originated.

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4 Responses to There’s Only One Jeep

  1. Anthony Will says:

    I was always intgerested in The Jeep in the old Popeye cartoons, but didn’t watch them enough to realize exactly what it was. Is Alice the Goon also from Popeye?? I have only a faint memory of her. Remember I was watching these cartoons in the early to mid seventies (yes, I’m old, I know it !!)

    • Nathan says:

      Yeah, Alice the Goon is a Popeye character. In Segar’s comics, she was originally a servant of the Sea Hag, but later reformed and had a particular bond with Swee’pea. I don’t believe she was in any of the theatrical shorts, but she was in some of the later television cartoons.

  2. I remember my dad got involved with the company that made Popeye Spinach, and my brother and I got books on the history of Popeye, in which I saw Alice the Goon and Eugene the Jeep for the first time. I don’t know what happened to that book, however. It’s not in my current collection. Among other books I can’t find are the A.A. Milne boxed set that my older brother got for his birthday that eventually got to me. they could be packed away somewhere at my mom’s house, though.

  3. halinabq says:

    Well, blow me down! There was a kids’ show on TV in the late 50’s/early 60’s featuring Poopdeck Pappy (a live actor). But I never knew he was supposed to be Popeye’s father. I suspect this show was only local to Norfolk, VA, since a quick search online yields no references to it.

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