…in Europe at least. The copyright on the spinach-munching sailor passed into the public domain under European copyright law as of the 1st January. 2009 marks 70 years since the death of Popeye‘s creator, cartoonist Elzie Segar, although his creation is still covered in the US until 2024 by their longer 95 year rule. According to the Times:
The copyright expiry means that, from Thursday, 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.
Inevitably though, things are more complex than that. The Popeye trademark is retained by King Features, the US comic synidicate, and it is unlikely that they will let unauthorised use go unchallenged.