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Jules Feiffer at Sag Harbor

On May 28, there will be a 4 p.m. screening of “Popeye,” the film, at the Sag Harbor Cinema, followed by a Q&A with Feiffer. A collection of Feiffer’s work will be shown during a one-night exhibit at Julie Keyes Gallery in Sag Harbor after the film.

Feiffer wrote a memoir, “Backing Into Forward,” reflecting on his career. The book features drawings from childhood, including a recreation of Popeye drawn when he was about 7 years old, which will be shown at Julie Keyes Gallery.

In a recent interview on his back porch on Shelter Island, he had a copy of the book, turned to the page with the drawing.

  

So, I mean, Popeye was a very popular newspaper comic strip, and published by William Randolph Hearst. That’s why I have it. And at the age of 3 or 4, I wanted to be a cartoonist.

And I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be one of these famous cartoonists.

The identity of that cartoonist would change as I grew up and got older, and my tastes have now matured … went from knock down, drag out funny stuff, to adventure stuff, to satiric. But it never wavered.

Among the many cartoons I love, there was one I was absolutely rabid about, and it ran in the Sunday papers as a 16-page comic book. Newspapers didn’t run comic books, but this ran every Sunday in 16 pages. It was called “The Spirit Section.” And The Spirit was created by a cartoonist, also from the Bronx, where I came from, named Will Eisner. And he was, from the time I was, I don’t know, 8 or 9 or 10, one of the heroes of my boyhood, among these cartoonists.

   

One of the things that came out of my fame is, I wrote a script for a movie called “Carnal Knowledge” that Mike Nichols directed.

The guy who figured out the sets and all of that was a guy named Richard Sylbert, Dick Sylbert. And he and I became good friends. And after “Carnal Knowledge,” Robert Evans, the producer, approached Sylbert. … Evans had wanted to do the movie “Annie,” which was a big Broadway hit, based on “Little Orphan Annie,” the comic strip.

“Annie” had already been taken. Evans, who had a contract with Paramount, saw that Paramount put up the “Popeye” animated cartoons, and that they had the license on Popeye, which were put up by an animated cartoonist company named the Fleischer Company.

So Evans, whom I’d never known … he called me up and he said, “Would you write ‘Popeye’?” And I said, “Well, it depends on which ‘Popeye.’ If you want the Max Fleischer animated cartoon ‘Popeye,’ I don’t want to do it. If you want do the original E.C. Segar, based on the genius of Segar, I’m your guy.” He said, “I want to do whatever ‘Popeye’ you want to do.”

Great Sag Harbor Express interview with Jules Feiffer on breaking into the cartooning business
and about his good times and bad times working the Popeye movie.

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