ISSUE #82 – Good Grief!

 

Welcome back to another fresh edition of Cover Tunes, my dear readers. I hope you are like me and the holiday season gets you excited for comics (along with family and lots and lots of caloric intake). Obviously, last month I went a little nuts on monsters and ghosts and horror and vampires for Halloween. Really though, that was the kick off into my favorite time of year which is Autumn. I realize that not all readers here get to experience Autumn quite like those from the Northeast, but suffice it to say, the entire season is an experience. With it brings the smells of fallen leaves and crisp air along with the sounds of friends and family. However, none of that screams Autumn quite like one very important thing… Peanuts.

Beginning with the “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and moving on to “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (where Woodstock ends up eating Turkey in a very cannibalistic manner) and culminating with “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” it was nearly impossible to be a kid growing up in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s without Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang. It is a staple, a right of passage… a necessity (for many) and it resonated with me in a way that will forever make Peanuts synonymous with the holiday season. I mean, if we’re being honest, I still set up a scrawny little second Christmas tree someplace in my house, every year.

To many of us, there are two very distinctly different Peanuts: The first is the Charles M. “Sparky” Schulz comic strips that ran in all of our newspapers for just shy of 50 years (beginning in October of 1950 and ending in February of 2000) while the second are the Bill Melendez (along with Lee Mendelson) cartoon specials of which there were 45 in total (the first being “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in 1965). While Peanuts was drawn by others in many of the comic books and other merchandise, Schulz drew every single newspaper daily comic strip and, for the most part, those strips were the inspiration for the majority of the cartoon special material. Melendez was the only person Schulz trusted to bring his strip to the screen and the relationship between them fostered a franchise that is just as much alive today as it ever was.

The history of Peanuts in comic books is a little bit fuzzy and difficult to track. I won’t attempt to reference every obscure appearance of reprinted daily strips in this article as there are just too many. However, I will highlight the important ones. Thus, in true Cover Tunes fashion, I’m featuring a group of covers that are actually affordable. So much of the early Peanuts material is quite expensive, but there are many gems out there that a Peanuts collector can have cheaply. Here are my favorites along with a crash course in the publication history of Peanuts. I hope you like it. Away we go…

 

Tip-Top #223 (1958 Dell Series)

PUBLISHED: Dell Publishing – January, 1961

ARTIST: Unknown, but after Charles Schulz, et. al

 

The earliest Peanuts strips to appear in comics is actually a tie (although there are folks who are in the camp of one or the other as the ACTUAL first). Those were Tip Top Comics #173 and United Comics [Fritzi Ritz] #21, both published in March/April of 1952. To confuse matters, in April/May of 1952, Peanuts appeared in Tip Topper #16 and continued until it’s cancellation at #28 AND a one-shot actually titled “PEANUTS” in late 1953/early 1954 (often denoted as #nn even though the indicia called it #1). All four books were published by United Feature Syndicate (UFS) and were reprinted material from the Schulz daily strips. Also, all of them are extremely expensive to acquire. Thus, I am skipping them for the sake of Cover Tunes’ “rules”… i.e. inexpensive covers that are cool.

When UFS stopped publishing comics, St. John picked up Fritzi Ritz and Tip-Top which continued to feature Peanuts material. The St. John issues of Tip-Top that have full Peanuts covers are particularly sought after and rather expensive (#185 – #188). These books also feature other strips and, as such, when Dell took over Tip-Top at #211, the covers share real estate for much of the run. While I would normally hate that, they have an amazingly cool mod look to them which I love. Prior to these issues, Peanuts was nowhere to be seen on the covers other than the four mentioned, above. However, all Dell issues of Tip-Top feature either a one-third or a one-quarter Peanuts cover probably by Schulz (although debated). Above is my favorite mostly due to the black border which make the images pop and stand apart, nicely.

 

Peanuts #7 (1960 Series)

PUBLISHED: Dell Publishing – Dec., 1960/Jan., 1961

ARTIST: Charles Schulz

 

As mentioned above, after St. John decided to abandon these titles, they were sold to Dell.  In addition to Fritzi Ritz (for 3 issues, only) and Tip-Top (for 15 issues), Dell went on to publish Peanuts within their four color comics line for three issues (#878, #969 and #1015) until it became its own title for another 10 issues (up through issue #13). All of these and the 3 issues of Fritzi/15 issues of Tip-Top contained Peanuts material and all of the stories were now new rather than reprinted Schulz strips.

The thing that is most interesting about these books is that while the covers ARE by Schulz, the interior stories and art are decidedly not. They are instead by a pair of Schulz’s good friends from the Art Instruction School of Minneapolis, Jim Sasseville and Dale Hale. Both were adept at mimicking Schulz’s style even the stories themselves were a bit “off” from what Schulz would have written. Regardless, many of these sport amazing covers and the one above is my favorite. It embodies everything that speaks to Peanuts being an integral part of the Winter holidays. If one is diligent, this one (and the rest of the Dells other than #1) can be had for $25-$35.

 

Peanuts #1 (1963 Series)

PUBLISHED: Gold Key – May, 1963

ARTIST: Charles Schulz

 

As mentioned in the above entry, Peanuts #1 from Dell has become a very pricey book. However, Gold Key took over the reins for Dell in 1962 and a year later, they reprinted Peanuts #1. This version, while still sought after by Peanuts collectors can be had pretty cheaply… usually $25-ish for a decent copy. It is a classic cover and being able to snag such an early Peanuts book so inexpensively may be the best entry point for many collectors on a “Cover Tunes Budget.” While the title is blocked in red, the rest of the cover remains intact from its Dell version.

 

More Peanuts (1954)

PUBLISHED: Rinehart & Co. – 1954

ARTIST: Charles Schulz

and/or

Wonderful World of Peanuts #875b

(1962 2nd Edition and onward)

PUBLISHED: Fawcett Books – 1962

ARTIST: Charles Schulz

 

Simultaneously, during this time almost all of the daily strips were also being published in digest comics by Rinehart & Co. (in the 1950’s) and Fawcett/Crest books (in the 1960’s and 1970’s). Many of these also have incredible Schulz covers. I’ve chosen the above example for this feature mostly because it is in the initial Schulz style prior to his changing the look of the characters in their second decade to the more “rounded” versions we are accustomed to, now.

It is, perhaps, the best Peanuts cover short of UFS Peanuts #1. The 1954 First Edition by Rinehart & Co. was titled “More Peanuts” and then renamed for its second edition by Fawcett as “Wonderful World of Peanuts.” These are VERY MUCH comic books and should be treated as such (rather than as novels).      

 

Peanuts #26 (2012 Series)

PUBLISHED: Boom! Studios [Kaboom!] – March, 2015

ARTIST: Charles Schulz

In 2011, Kaboom! (an imprint of Boom! Studios) took over for a volume 2 of peanuts. It was split in two series, actually: a #0 – #4 and a #1 – #32. Most of the covers and interiors were by Vicki Scott or were reprinted work from Schulz. Almost all issues had amazing incentive covers with early or classic depictions of the Peanuts gang by Schulz on solid color backgrounds. Being that they are incentives, I’d normally skip them as in almost all cases they can’t be had for less than $10-$20. HOWEVER, a couple of them weren’t incentives but were instead Boom! Exclusives most of which can be had for cover price. I chose to put one of these in the “Quick Hits” section, below.

Toward the end of the run, however, Boom! Started to use the Schulz covers as “A” covers. The one above is one such cover and it may be my favorite. Pigpen gets a bad rap, but I love him. This cover shows him in all of his filthy splendor.

 

 

*****

QUICK HIT

*****

 

 

Peanuts #21b (2012 Series)

PUBLISHED: Boom Studios [Kaboom] – September, 2014

ARTIST: Charles Schulz

 

As stated above, I couldn’t resist featuring one of these Boom! Exclusive Schulz covers. Most can be had for cover, so I’m not really breaking my rules, here. The classic kite eating tree! A recurring story much like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie, this story arc has become synonymous with Charlie’s bad luck coupled with his unending optimism. Charlie is the everyman and his plights are our plights (at least metaphorically) and it is why we love him so dearly.

 

*****

 

With that, I leave you all for yet another week. I really hope these brought out the nostalgia for all of you like it does for me. I always equated myself with Charlie Brown and his never-ending string of misfortune and sadness combined with his unending optimism. That’s me. Maybe it’s you, too. Either way, let me know your thoughts in the comments and until next time, be well, thanks for reading and happy hunting.

 

 

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