Talking With Clover Press Publisher Hank Kanalz All About ‘Popeye Variations: Not Yer Pappy’s Comics an’ Art Book’

by Olly MacNamee

A new collection of contemporary takes on the classic character, Popeye, is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter. And, as a fan of the spinach-chomping sailor, I was more than delighted at this news and hunted down Clover Press publisher, Hank Kanalz to talk to him all about this new book, Popeye Variations: Not Yer Pappy’s Comics an’ Art Book, the artists contributing and more.

Olly MacNamee: Clover Press are about to release an all-new Popeye book. But, it may not be what fans are expecting. Rather than look back at past glories, Popeye Variations, as the title would suggest, is a collection of strips, pin-ups and more from a diverse array of artists. But, what can readers expect more specifically from this hardback?

Hank Kanalz: An amazing collection of Popeye art and strips that skews away from standard style-guide model-sheet, and rather embraces the quality and style of a wide variety of artists.

MacNamee: And how did this hardback come about? I know Popeye turned 90 a few years back, so why now?

Kanalz: We’ve actually been working on this book for some time, inspired by the work King Features did in collaborating with 60 different artists to create comic strips in celebration of Popeye’s 90th birthday. Craig Yoe approached us—this was before I joined Clover—and he and Ted are huge Popeye fans. And between the two of them, they have worked with some talented artists and even have some incredible pieces in their private collections. And being the eclectic publishers that we are, we wanted to share much of this art with Popeye fans of the world.

MacNamee: What were some of the more surprising contributions you received from the various artists involved? Any you can share with us, maybe?

Kanalz:  The monster-themed art from folks like Dave Calver, Aeron Alfrey, and Lan Danovich stood out. I’m not used to seeing Popeye in this space, and something like a Popeye zombie really stands out.

MacNamee: I must admit, it may be a bit old-fashioned, but I’m a huge fan of Popeye. I imagine you are too. So, what do you think makes Popeye such a unique character?

Kanalz: I’ll admit my mom bought Popeye spinach back in the day. I don’t know if they still sell it, but the branding worked with us as kids. I believed it! And I didn’t read the strips regularly, but watched the cartoons and was over the moon when they released the live action movie. He’s the everyman, and you have to root for him to win over Olive.

*Editor’s note: Popeye canned spinach is still currently available for sale at grocery stores nationwide!

MacNamee: And if this proved popular, any plans of an Olive Oyl or even a Thimble Theatre follow up collection?

Kanalz: Sure, we’d consider it, other themes – there’s so much art out there created over the last 90+ years!

MacNamee: And, last but not least, other than Popeye Variations what other gems can we expect from Clover Press this winter?

Kanalz: We’re excited about our PROJECT MK ULTRA vol. 2, detailing the CIA’s use of LSD in covert experiments. And THE GOLEM OF VENICE BEACH, resurrecting a golem in today’s Venice Beach scene. THE ART OF DRACULA follows up Ricardo Delgado’s illustrated novel with an art book with 200 pages of world building designs and art. Then there’s the spectacular CARMEN: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL, adapting the classic opera in graphic novel (with P. Craig Russell providing layouts, no less!). And I can’t forget the GODZILLA & KONG book, a collection of storyboards by Richard Bennett, showcasing his work in the different Godzilla movies – it’s a master class in storytelling.

You cab check out the Popeye Variations Kickstarter here now.

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