Public Domain Super Heroes

Olive Oyl

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Olive Oyl

Real name

Olive Oyl

First appearance

Syndicated comic strip The Thimble Theater, 19 December 1919

Original publisher

King Features Syndicate

Created by

E. C. Segar


Olive Oyl is the girlfriend of Harold Hamgravy, the original protagonist of the Thimble Theater comic strip. She is also the sister of recurring character Castor Oyl. According to the Comics Kingdom author, “Their adventures usually concentrate on acquiring undeserved status or wealth, and often end in futile embarrassment and defeat.” Olive Oyl seems to have been presented as something of a homebody, although some strips portray her as a dancer, a cook and even a surgeon. She is sometimes also portrayed as a “damsel in distress” from antagonist Willie Wormwood.

Public domain comic appearances

Thimble Theater comic strip, 1919–1922


  • All Thimble Theater comic strips published from 1919 to 1922, and thus all characters introduced therein, are in the public domain in the United States and in countries that follow the rule of the shorter term. Olive Oyl, along with Harold Hamgravy, appear in the very first Thimble Theater strip of 19 December 1919.
  • The best known attribute of the Olive Oyl character, her being a supporting character for super‐heroic and super‐villainous characters—does not fall within the public domain. The characters of Popeye the Sailor, Bluto, Swee’Pea, Alice the Goon, the Sea Hag and Eugene the Jeep, and her relationships to them, are not in the public domain. In the final Thimble Theater strip of 1922, she was still presented as going out with Harold.
  • Although few pre‐1923 Thimble Theater strips are available online, it is clear that Olive Oyl’s iconic outfit (lace collar, long black skirt with a horizontal stripe near the hem, and granny boots) was well established before 1923. She was introduced as a slender character but had become surprisingly hefty before 1922 was up. (See the strips reproduced in the links below.)
  • Many animated shorts in which Olive Oyl appears have since fallen into the public domain. However, many of the principal characters in these shorts—Popeye the Sailor, Bluto, Swee’Pea, Wimpy, Popeye’s nephews, etc. are not in the public domain.
  • The character’s more modern appearance in some of the 1940s and 1950s animated shorts (contemporary blouses, glamorous stance with protruding hip, less dowdy hairdo, shorter rounder feet wearing high‐heeled shoes) was presumably introduced in works that are still under copyright, so its use is off limits without permission.
  • Multiple sources indicate that the three classic Arabian‐themed shorts—Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor, Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves and Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp—in Olive Oyl interacts with Sinbad, Aladdin and Ali Baba’s band of thieves, are themselves in the public domain. However, caution is advised with any elements of the Olive Oyl character that were not introduced in these works or in other public domain works. 
  • King Features Syndicate own the trademark for the name Olive Oyl, so her name can only appear in the interior of any story.

See also


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