Popeye is out of copyright
Not only are early incarnations of Mickey Mouse no longer covered by copyright, but as of 1 January last, neither is Popeye (King Features page | Popeye.com | wikipedia), at least in the EU. According to The Times:
Popeye the Sailor copyright free 70 years after Elzie Segar’s death
“I yam what I yam,” declared Popeye. And just what that is is likely to become less clear as the copyright expires on the character who generates about £1.5 billion in annual sales.
From January 1, the iconic sailor falls into the public domain in Britain under an EU law that restricts the rights of authors to 70 years after their death. Elzie Segar, the Illinois artist who created Popeye, his love interest Olive Oyl and nemesis Bluto, died in 1938. .. The copyright expiry means that … anyone can print and sell Popeye posters, T-shirts and even create new comic strips, without the need for authorisation or to make royalty payments. …
Elzie Segar is one of a number of authors whose work came out of copyright on 1 January last. However, in a similar story, The Telegraph warns
… the question of whether any company can now attach Popeye’s famous face to their spinach cans will have to be tested in court.