He is what he is, and that's all that he is -- as long as he sticks to spinach.
Popeye, the venerable sailor whose cartoon exploits appear in about two dozen newspapers across the country, is buried in a pipeful of trouble over the issue of abortion.
Bobby London, who has written and illustrated the daily Popeye strips the past six years, claims that he was fired last week for injecting an abortion-rights story line into the daily comic strip distributed by King Features Syndicates.
Mr. London, 42, said that he was given 30-days notice Friday after his superiors objected to a series of strips with an abortion-rights theme. In the most recent story line, Olive Oyl becomes a certified Home Shopping Network addict, but she receives one gift she never ordered -- a baby Bluto doll.
She wants to get rid of Bluto and is encouraged by her ever-faithful Popeye, who says the baby must be returned to its maker.
But two clerics listening at the window decide she is discussing an abortion and try to intervene. Mr. London said an independent Olive tells them to butt out.
Mr. London said that he was about halfway through the current two-month story line when he was summoned by Jay Kennedy, the comics editor for King Features, who told him the controversial strips -- and Mr. London -- were being dropped. King Features is the oldest, and regarded as the most conservative, of the major comic strip distributors.