I Love Ya But You're Strange - That Time Superman Fought...Popeye?!?

Every installment of I Love Ya But You’re Strange I spotlight strange but ultimately endearing comic stories. Here is the archive of all the installments of this feature. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have a suggestion for a future installment!

Today, based on the suggestion of reader Jonathan M., we take a look at the time during the 1970s (and even into the 1980s) where Popeye fought Superman and then actually sort of became a supporting cast member!

It all began in 1972's Action Comics #421 by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson.

We meet a sailor who eats a certain kind of food he calls sauncha that gives him super strength. A nefarious food executive tries to find a way to replicate the food's powers and cut the sailor, Captain Strong, out of the deal. Strong doesn't take too kindly to this turn of events...

If this is where it ended, it would likely be good enough to make this column, but here's the weirder thing - Bates kept bringing the good Captain back!

In 1974's Action Comics #439, we meet the Captain's girlfriend, Olivia Walling, who is being tormented by a brute of a man known as Carnox...

It turns out that Carnox was an alien who landed on Earth a million years ago who was mutated by sauncha into a gigantic brute. Upon being exposed to it again he was cured.

Strong next turned up in a 1976 Action Comics issue tying in with the popularity with Jaws by having Superman fight the Green Lantern villain the Shark. This whole time Strong (who is now married to Olivia) has not used his sauncha, although he keeps one packet with him at all times. He's just in the issue as mostly moral support.

Finally, the Sauncha train runs out in 1981's Superman #361 (Swan drew all of these issues, but what's amazing to me is that each tale had a different inker. First Anderson, then Bob Oksner, then Tex Blaisdell and finally Frank Chiaramonte), an alien attacks and Strong is forced to finally use his last reserve of sauncha. We learn, though, that that is exactly what the alien needed him to do...

Strong made one final appearance as a Superman supporting cast member in a delightful tale by Craig Boldman, Ron Randall and Karl Kesel in 1985's Action Comics #566, which also threw in a Wimpy takeoff (plus a takeoff on Popeye's dad, Poopdeck Pappy)....

Strong's last appearance (and only post-Crisis appearance) came in a fun fill-in issue of Green Arrow in 2003 by Scott Beatty, Phil Hester and Ande Parks, just as a standard captain helping Green Arrow out...

Good stuff.

Thanks for the suggestion, Jonathan!

If YOU have a suggestion for I Love Ya But You're Strange, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

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