By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, December 8, 2009 at 12:21 pm
Sorry, Bing: Google took a step today that tickles me so much that it’s hard to imagine a response that would please me more. Here’s today’s “Google Doodle” celebratory logo, as seen on the Google home page today.
Like every well-informed American, I was keenly aware that Popeye celebrated his 80th birthday back on January 17th. So why is Google paying tribute today? Turns out it’s the 115th birthday of E.C. Segar, the creator of Popeye, Olive Oyl, Wimpy, Bluto, Swee’pea, the Jeep, the Sea Hag, the Goon, and a bunch of other amazing characters.
Segar wasn’t just one of the greatest cartoonists who ever lived, but one of the great American literary figures, period: It’s a crime that he’s not as much of a household name as his characters. (If you know Popeye only from animated cartoons, buy these. I’ll wait while you read them.)
A Popeye purist might quibble that the Google Popeye–handsome though he is–is based on the character as he looked in the Fleischer cartoons of the 1930s, not Segar’s rendition. But the whole point of a Google Doodle is to integrate the tribute into the Google logo, so real Segar art might not have worked. And the Fleischer cartoons are pretty wonderful, too. (While you’re shopping for the Segar books, pick up this, too.)
Clearly, there are tasteful cartoon fans at Google. Which brings up an important question: Shouldn’t the company pay tribute to Barney Google, the once immensely popular, largely forgotten comics character who shares its name? (Barney’s strip is still running, but Snuffy Smith commandeered it decades ago, and the current version is…not worth celebrating with a custom Google logo.)
Next April 15th will be the 120th birthday of Barney’s brilliant creator, Billy De Beck, who–like E.C. Segar–died young and needs to be remembered. Wouldn’t a Barney Google Google Doodle be a far better way to mark the day than a tribute to the American tax system?