Monday, March 27, 2017

Charles M. Schulz: Cartoons Without Peanuts!!!!!

   Peanuts opened me to the universe of comics. Comics taught me how to read and to love reading. But while my world of comics began with Peanuts, Charles Schulz’s didn’t.
But first, A special shout out and thank you goes to Nat Gertler, who gave time and energy and helped make this blog as complete as possible!  And my thanks also goes out to  Michael J. Vassallo!!!!!!!

 For my entire life, until February 13, 2000, even on my worst days, I always had a minute with Charles Schulz that made me smile.
Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” said by the King to the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s, “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.” So let us start with Schulz’s “Lil Beginnings…”

During the 1950s, Peanuts was not the only place Mr. Schulz put his pen to paper for.  Along the way there were several other projects which, throughout the years have been collected, often in several different forms for several different editions.  Let’s look at them:

  “Li’l Folks”, is a 2003 book that collects the wonderful cartoons Charles Schulz did before Peanuts. Jean Schulz explains how doing this first strip taught Schulz to “…work on a regular schedule…to develop character and ideas…And it gave (him) a chance to develop (his) drawing and ideas.”  This is Peanuts before Peanuts. Schulz said he was inspired by the comic strip “Grin and Bear It.”

After failing to get the King Features, in New York to Syndicate the strip, it ran in the Minneapolis Tribune. It soon moved to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
     This book also how his early ideas worked their way into the actual Peanuts strip. This wonderful book also presents some strips BEFORE Li’l Folks!

    Li’l Folks began on June 8, 1947 and ran for two and a half years. The newspaper was not encouraging to Schulz, rarely communicating with him. But they did shrink the size of the strip 1/3.  Li’l Folks was not run on the same page as the other comics, it ran in the women's section of the paper. Schulz he asked the editor, Doug Fairbanks to run it with the other comics. When Fairbanks said no, Schulz dropped the project.

  During this time, Schulz sold 17 cartoons to the Saturday Evening Post, a very popular magazine at the time.

Art Linkletter was a popular radio and TV personality who appeared as host and a guest on talk shows, game shows and even as an occasional actor. From 1952 to 1970, Linkletter hosted a daily talk show entitled “House Party.” (The name would change when he switched networks.) A popular part of the show was Linkletter “interviewing” four children, as I recall, every day. This led to him publishing a book entitled, “Kids Say the Darndest Things” (Prentice-Hall, 1957.) It was followed by “Kids Still Say the Darndest Things!” (Bernard Geis, 1961). Both books were illustrated by Charles Schulz.

The line drawings are scattered throughout the first book and there are not very many of them. There are more in the second book. Sometimes they align with the text, sometimes not.

       In 1957, seven years into the Peanuts run, Schulz began a new strip that took an imaginative look at sports and games. “It’s Only A Game” was offered to newspapers in two different formats.  First, as a three times a week “daily” black and white strip or a Sunday strip that featured that week’s three dailies, but in full color.  Finding himself too busy to work on the strip, Schulz supplied layouts and ideas to his friend Jim Sasseville to finish. The strip lasted only 63 weeks.

       Jim Sasseville also drew some of the Dell comic book of Peanuts.
See Michael J. Vassallo’wonderful blog on the Peanuts comics!

In 2004 Nat Gertler designed a black and white edition of a book that featured these wonderful cartoons. It had commentary by Jim Sasseville.

In 2013, Mr. Gartler released a color edition, which also contained the commentaries.

In 2012, “Bridge Mix” was published featuring the Bridge cartoons Schulz and Sasseville drew for “It’s Only A Game.” "Spares" featured the bowling cartoons.

The Church and Teen-Agers
     Charles Schulz took his religion seriously and yet with humor. “Young Pillars” was an introduction to a series of books that used cartoons originally drawn for “Youth,” a religious magazine.  Beginning in January 1956, Schulz created a bi-weekly cartoon for the teen-agers who belong to the Church of God, a religious movement in Anderson Indiana.
"Why should there be so many different churches?" its challenging pioneer, Daniel Sidney Warner, had asked himself and some thirty other Christians in the village of Beaver Dam, Indiana, in 1881. "Why must we divide ourselves into Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, and all the others? Why can we not live together as brothers and sisters in one great church family under God?" (From Schulz and Peanuts by David Michaelis)
Placing no restriction on membership, it embraced all Christians and resisted being called a religious denomination, instead it called itself a movement. Schulz became a member and supporter of the group, giving the proceeds of Young Pillars to the church to set up a scholarship fund.

The cartoons were not originally published using the name Young Pillars, but, eventually, that became the name the series was known as. In 1958 a collection of these cartoons, “Young Pillars” was published. It would be the first of many books featuring teen-agers and their relationship with religion and growing up.
The foreword reads:
An active Christian layman, Mr. Schulz in this book turns his attention to church young people. The editors believe you will be entertained by these pages. At the same time, as Mr. Schulz has pointed out, no artist goes before the public without communicating some kind of message. We believe these cartoons speak both to youth and to older readers on behalf of a well-rounded Christian philosophy of life. Many of these cartoons have been published widely in church youth periodicals where their enthusiastic reception has led to the preparation of this book.”
Mr. Schulz has prepared these cartoons with a sense of stewardship and as a contribution to the life of the church.

The next books were entitled “Teen-Ager is Not a Disease,” “Teen- Agers Unite” and “What Was Bugging ol’ Pharoah?” These books were published between 1961-1964, with cartoons originally published in “Youth” from 1958 on. There were duplicate cartoons printed in the various books, but they were still interesting and fun to look at.

Teen-Ager is Not a Disease:

“Teen-Agers Unite

What Was Bugging ol’ Pharoah:

Published in 1989 “I Take My Religion Seriously” again featured cartoons that originally appeared in “Youth” magazine, most of which we had seen before. They were joined by a few cartoons that appeared in “Reach” magazine for Warner publishing. This was the last of these books.

Nat Gertler produced two more books featuring Schulz's religious themes:



In 1964, Bill Adler collected real letters from children (we hope!) that were sent to the incumbent President, Lyndon Johnson in Dear President Johnson.  Unlike his work in “Kids Say the Dardest things” Shultz's artwork is throughout the entire book, matching up with what was written.

     In 1965, Schulz and Kenneth F. Hall published “two-by-fours” a book that labelled itself as “a sort of serious book about small children.” The small book contains text explaining to parents what to expect as their child grows up.  It features many of Schulz cartoons, in color, with funny captions.

In 2007, Nat Gertler published the black and white “Schulz’s Youth” which is a pun. It refers to the teen-agers Schulz drew and to the name of the  publication in which they appeared. In a very nice and easy to read edition featuring the cartoons that were published in the early 1960s. While it featured the images from "two-by-fours" it does not include the text.

Many of the Pre-Peanuts cartoons and even more from Peanuts appear in the last two editions of the Complete Peanuts.

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