I saw a movie once, set in the early 1900s, with a female character named Popeye. I couldn’t figure out how a young black girl could have a nickname like that - not only was he a white male sailor with bulging biceps, but the timeframe was a bit early - until I saw the character.
In the Thimble Theater comic strip it was clear that Popeye had only one eye. It was less clear in the cartoons - in some of the later ones I think he didn’t even keep the same eye closed all the time.
Have you ever thought about what an unlikely hero Popeye is? A small, ugly man with one eye, a huge cleft chin, no teeth, skinny biceps and gigantic forearms who speaks a strange variety of broken English and gets superhuman strength by eating his vegetables.
Fffft. He’s a sailor. A manly man. He can be ugly, stupid, and have any number of moral failings, but he’s a heroic figure by default.
Look at the way that Ann Darrow fawns over Driscoll in the original King Kong. On their first meeting, he pops her in the jaw and tells her that he thinks women are a “damned nuisance,” and her reaction is to bat her eyelashes at him, adjust her posture to best show off her feminine pulchritude, and make it absolutely clear that it’s imperative that he have his way with her as soon as he can possibly fit it in. (Long before he’s given any opportunity to display his heroism.)
It’s a common archetype of the '20s and '30s – sailors are rough, rude, plug-ugly, unwashed, uneducated, and supernaturally virile and capable, which makes them very attractive figures.