A 2016 memorial tribute to George Wildman.
The Lum and Abner story was paused in 2016 for this tribute.
Cartoonist/voices: Donnie Pitchford.
Our 2021 announcer is Dr. Joe Oliver.
Music by Marc Ridgeway.
Click to listen:
Incidentally, that’s an 11-year old Donnie Pitchford reading the first Wildman Popeye comic he owned at the bottom right of the strip!
I became a fan of Popeye from the low-budget Popeye television cartoons I saw in the 1960s. My dad bought a truncated 8mm home movie version of the Max Fleischer theatrical cartoon “Can You Take It?” in early 1965. When that flickered onto the living room wall in our home in Memphis, I felt a thrill! I knew there had to be more to this character!
While visiting relatives on my dad’s side of the family in Arkansas in the mid-1960s, a second or third cousin I’ve not seen since had a copy of a fascinating Popeye the Sailor comic book. It was a Gold Key 80-pager, loaded with the work of Bud Sagendorf! My interest deepened!
Finally, in 1966 (again in Arkansas), I was able to buy a King Popeye comic book, and there was the work of Bud Sagendorf again! Popeye comics seemed difficult for me to find. In early 1970, I located another issue of Popeye, only by then the title had moved to Charlton Comics! I bought it and immediately wondered,
“Who is this ‘Geo Wildman’ guy?”
The book was signed “GeoWildman” and I assumed his name was pronounced “Gee, oh, wild man!” I was a dumb kid. “Yuck!” I said, “This stuff isn’t as good!”
Yeah, but a year later, Charlton’s Popeye #108 was released. In it was a short story entitled “The Story of Popeye.” When I saw “Gee Oh’s” take on the first Elzie Segar Popeye of 1929 and read a little of the history, my opinion shifted!
Immediately, I wrote a letter to this cartoonist (and I now knew his name was “George”) praising his story. He was kind enough to reply! This led to 45 years of correspondence, telephone chats, and friendship!
We finally met in person in 1994 at the annual Popeye Picnic where George and Trudy Wildman were guests of the Popeye Fan Club in Chester, Illinois, the birthplace of Elzie Segar!
We spent time together again in 2004 and 2009, and those times my wife Laura was able to be along. In 2011 I was commissioned to paint a portrait of George in action for Michael Ambrose’s Charlton Spotlight magazine (click here). A few years later, I scripted two stories featuring Timmy the Timid Ghost (one of the first characters George illustrated in the late 1950s) for Charlton Spotlight Comics. George penciled and inked these stories and I provided hand lettering and coloring.
(Click here to view and/or order a copy!)
Our final work together was a 2015 Atomic Rabbit story for Charlton Spotlight #10 (click here). George produced the pencil art and I provided the script, hand lettering, inking, and coloring.
George Wildman received many honors during his lengthy career as a commercial artist. The National Cartoonists Society awarded him “Best Cartoonist, Humor Division” at an annual Reubens Awards. He was invited to provided a painted Popeye wooden egg for the White House Easter Egg Roll during the Reagan administration.
Personally it was an honor to consider George a friend and I treasure the memories of his letters, phone calls, visits, and sage advice.