Others may disagree, but I don't think wildly popular characters can become truly "irrelevant." To capture the imagination of millions, I believe that a character has to possess an unassailably poignant tether to some timeless element of humanity. Fictional characters can rarely become culturally ubiquitous if they don't symbolize something significant. People like to think Flash Gordon can't connect with modern audiences. However, I think if a writer chose to elucidate the core metaphor of the property that penetrates the human spirit, as opposed to cosmetic changes to make the series more "contemporary," the character could be as popular as he was in the 20th century.
Another ancient character that's fallen out of public discourse is Popeye the Sailorman. Even though animation genius Genndy Tartakovsky attempted to revive the former cartoon kingpin, Popeye seems destined to sink deeper into obscurity. My love for Popeye is why I can't stop fawning over Instagram's Marcus "the visual" Williams' recent series of sketches. Pairing Popeye with modern nautical and sailor characters, Williams subtly showcases how easily the spinach-obsessed sailor could work in modernity. Williams is set to add to the series in the coming weeks, so follow his Instagram for more pictures.