Tales of Hy Eisman … and Popeye


“Other teachers would call my mother into school. They’d say, ‘He sits and draws all day.’ My mother would say, ‘He wants to be a cartoonist.’ ‘Don’t worry,’ the teachers told her. ‘He’ll grow out of it.’”

Spoiler: He didn’t.

Hy Eisman has been in the comics business for nearly 70 years! As a young man in the 1950s he was cartooning comic books and comic strips. In 1954

He came up with an idea for a newspaper strip: “It Happened in New Jersey.” It borrowed the font and the tone from Ripley’s Believe It or Not. He took it to the Newark News, which bought it for $20 a week. “It took a long time for research and drawing,” he said. His plan was to syndicate it around the state. The News had other ideas: They insisted on exclusivity. So it didn’t make him rich, “but it was stuff I wanted to do.”

The Ripley’s panel recently observed its 100th anniversary, 19 years earlier, in 1997, The Katzenjammer Kids comic strip reached its centennial mark – Hy Eisman was the cartoonist then. Next month Popeye will celebrate his 90th birthday with Hy Eisman as the cartoonist. (The Thimble Theatre/Popeye comic strip will be 100 in December 2019.)

The Jewish Standard met with Hy to celebrate his career in comics and the Popeye anniversary.



Hy remembers a lifetime associated with famous (Little Lulu, Little Iodine, Kerry Drake, Archie) and not-so-famous (Bunny, Private Secretary) comics.
And even some never-was comics.



Of course Hy talks about Popeye:

Only a handful of newspapers in the United States still run Popeye. “Most of the papers still carrying it are in the Midwest,” he said. All the pipe-smoking doesn’t play well with younger editors. “It’s very big in South America and in Spain, in Sweden and in Germany.”

He has toned down the violence. “I do one or two fights a year,” he said.

And the changes in syndicating:

The Orlando office of King Feature scans the art and emails it to a colorist in Ohio.

My check comes out of North Carolina,” Mr. Eisman said. “It’s all over the place. When I started you had to live in New York, North Jersey, or Connecticut. It’s a different world. I don’t know if there’s another guy still working in pen and ink.


As a special bonus there is photo featuring the 90th anniversary Popeye Sunday strip!


Larry Yudelson‘s wonderful Jewish Standard article/profile/interview can be read here.

Hy’s Sunday Popeye can be read here.

A look at Hy’s comic book work can be seen here.



A hat tip to Tony Vassallo for the heading.








One thought on “Tales of Hy Eisman … and Popeye

  1. I’m always happy to see a tribute to Hy Eisman! He’s such an inspiration to cartoonists, whether they know it or not. Somewhere along the way, every cartoonist has been touched by Hy’s work. Hy seemed to have ghosted everybody! Sometimes, when I see my own work and think I’ve done a good job, I tell myself, “Nah, Hy musta ghosted me on this one!”

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