King Features gives its classic animated character Olive Oyl a modern rebrand with fearlessness at its centre

She’s one of the classic animation world’s most iconic females that has, for generations, been perceived as the archetypal damsel in distress and focus of Popeye and Bluto’s embittered love triangle, but for Olive Oyl, the course of history is about to be altered for good.

King Features Syndicate has this week unveiled a new look and vibe surrounding the heroic Olive Oyl, highlighting her attributes as a star in her own right, delivering laughs to readers long before Popeye ever entered the picture. And now, following decades of living with Popeye’s stardom, the world is finally about to meet the true Olive.

Created in 1919, Olive was groundbreaking for the era as one of the first, globally recognized female cartoon characters who did not conform to traditional female stereotypes. Tough and independent, Olive Oyl never required support from a partner, providing for herself first as an entertainer and later through other careers. And while she had many interested suitors over the years, she chose never to marry or start a family.

Her strong will and affable nature make her as relevant today as she was 100 years ago.

A description of her character, issued by King Features Syndicate, read: ‘From her physical appearance to her personality quirks, Olive embraces those things that make her unusual and truly loves herself. She is a huge romantic who is proud to be a lady but doesn’t feel bound to act lady-like.

‘A smart and empowered woman with high standards, she is also lighthearted and adaptable with a wry sense of humor. Olive is self-assured, strong and not afraid to stand up for herself or get her hands dirty but also knows when to lean on her friends.

‘Her dynamic personality shows that a woman can be many things – powerful, driven, vulnerable and sensitive – and that emotions are meant to be felt and expressed. Her confidence radiates and inspires others of all ages, gender identity and backgrounds ­to celebrate their unique selves.’

As part of her rebrand, King Features has launched a set of new Olive Oyl trend guides, depicting the character as the embodiment of a lifestyle filled with humor and love. Her design incorporates a modern twist on retro fashion while her unique physical depiction remains the same.

Flexibility is also a key identifier for Olive – both physically and emotionally – so several poses that showcase her elasticity are included. The character art is thoughtfully paired with entertaining yet insightful editorial anecdotes that are relatable to her audience.

“Timing couldn’t be more appropriate to reintroduce audiences to Olive Oyl,” said Carla Silva, vice president and general manager, global head of licensing, King Features.

“For too long this strong, confident and fearlessly female character has been viewed through a singular lens. With this rebrand we are not just introducing Olive to younger consumers for the first-time, we are also presenting more established fans with sides of her personality that they have likely never known before.

“Olive is not just a character, she represents an attitude and a lifestyle that appeals to a wide audience, one not limited by age, geography, gender or background. Olive is just Olive, and we’re ready to watch her take the world by storm.”

Over the decades, Olive Oyl has had a long, successful history in consumer products. Style makers around the world have been inspired by Olive’s confidence and glamorous self-perception, particularly those in the high-fashion space.

For over 20 years she has served as Moschino’s muse appearing in collections each year across product categories, most notably their CHEAPANDCHIC fragrance which is in its seventh iteration since launch in 1995. Other recent fashion collaborations of note include Iceberg, Joyrich, Monnalisa, Liu-Jo, Original Marines, United Colors of Benetton, DTRs with GAP, C&A, Zara and a 2021 Valentine’s Day retail program with C&A in Mexico.

Beginning in Spring 2022, fans will see Olive’s new style represented across a range of collaborations, with King Features seeking new partnerships for the character in categories including apparel, accessories, health & beauty, jewelry, handbags, wellness and more.