Eugene the Jeep is a character from E. C. Segar's Thimble Theatre comic strip, which stars Popeye. A mysterious animal with magical abilities, the Jeep first appeared in the March 16, 1936 Thimble Theatre strip. He is also present in animated versions of Popeye's adventures, including three appearances in the Fleischer Studios shorts of the late 1930's and early 1940's, and more extensive appearances in later Popeye cartoons produced for television.
Fictional character biography
In the August 9, 1936 strip (entitled "Wha's a Jeep?"), Popeye asks Professor Brainstine what exactly a Jeep is. He gets the following response:
"A Jeep is an animal living in a three dimensional world-in this case our world- but really belonging to a fourth dimensional world. Here's what happened. A number of Jeep life cells were somehow forced through the dimensional barrier into our world. They combined at a favorable time with free life cells of the African Hooey Hound. The electrical vibrations of the Hooey Hound cell and the foreign cell were the same. They were kindred cells. In fact, all things are to some extent are relative, whether they be of this or some other world, now you see. The extremely favorable conditions of germination in Africa caused a fusion of these life cells. So the uniting of kindred cells caused a transmutation. The result, a mysterious strange animal."
It has been theorized that the Jeep vehicle was named after this character: soldiers in World War II may have nicknamed the machine after the popular character because both shared an ability to "go anywhere".
Attributes and abilities
In the context of the comic strip, Eugene the Jeep was mailed to Popeye's girlfriend Olive Oyl by her Uncle Ben Zene who found Eugene in Africa. The Jeep is a yellow creature about the size of a dog who walks on his hind legs. He has a bear-like head and ears but a large nose and a long tail. The Jeep's diet consists only of orchids.
As his vocabulary is limited to the word "Jeep", Eugene primarily communicates through body language. Eugene always tells the truth, and, possessing high intelligence, is able to help humans such as Popeye and Olive Oyl solve complex problems. He has precognitive powers, and also makes use of a limited form of teleportation: he can disappear from one place and reappear in another, and can walk through and on walls and ceilings. These powers are said to stem from the Jeep's ability to cross into the fourth dimension .
The Jeep's origin story is notably similar to that of Bernice the Whiffle Hen: a small magic animal that is brought to the Oyl home from Africa by a relative, with powers unknown to its owners until a malevolent millionaire attempts to get ahold of it.
Eugene the Jeep is the school mascot for Northeast Dubois High School in Dubois, Indiana and at South Webster High School in South Webster, Ohio, although their Jeep is red instead of yellow.