article below originally appeared in the November 28, 1997 issue (#1254) of the
COMICS BUYERS GUIDE on the occasion of Charles M. Schulz's 75th birthday. It was
fandom's first known attempt to collate all the information together about the
comic book appearances of Schulz's Peanuts characters and I've left it as it was
originally published except for the updated material which is highlighted in red."
-Dr. Michael J. Vassallo
M. Schulz's comic strip "Li'l Folks" was finally accepted by United Features Syndicate,
re-christened "Peanuts" and debuted in seven newspapers on October 2, 1950, little
did he realize that from such humble beginnings would mushroom worldwide popularity
and prominence over the next 50 years. Peaking in the 1960's, this wonderfully
endearing slice of Americana has become an institution continuing to delight us
to this date. "Peanuts" can honestly claim the title of the worlds most successful
comic strip, producing characters that will remain on the American landscape quite
Much has been written about this strip: Precocious children interacting in a world where adults are never seen, the underlying level of pathos of its main hero Charlie Brown, and most phenomenally, the growth from a minor role to eventual stardom by his dog Snoopy. "Peanuts" is the template for all modern child-star comic strips that followed, up to and including today's precocious wonderkid, the almost equally phenomenal strip, the late and terribly missed, "Calvin and Hobbes".
With all that said, and all that has been written about its place in comic strip history, I've seen little or no mention about "Peanuts" appearances in comic books.
A period of research has produced the following information. The earliest comic book appearances of "Peanuts" have a somewhat cloudy chronology and there has long been some question to its origins as I've found many factual data errors and omissions in the annual Overstreet Price Guide. Based on this fact, Overstreet mentioned appearances will be accepted but confirmation will await further discovery as I continue to locate a few remaining books. The information that follows is as up-to-date as possible.
"Peanuts" has been published in 4 major comic book waves summarized below :
1) United Feature Syndicate (U.F.S.) (1952-1954), which published a line of comics including TIP TOP, TIP TOPPER, UNITED COMICS, FRITZI RITZ and PEANUTS (a Comics On Parade one-shot). These were United Feature Syndicate newspaper strip reprints of early 1950's newspaper comic strips.
2) St. John (1955-1957), after a 7 month hiatus, followed when U.F.S. ceased publishing and continued with TIP TOP and FRITZI RITZ. These appear to be "Fritzi Ritz" and "Nancy & Sluggo" reprints from earlier U.F.S. issues.
3) Western, under its Dell imprint (1957-1962), after another hiatus, began the third wave with NANCY (Sept/57), then continued with TIP TOP (Nov/57), FRITZI RITZ (Dec/57), FOUR COLOR (1958), and finally PEANUTS (1960 ).
4) The final wave was published by Western under its Gold Key imprint (1962-1964), which continued the numbering from the Dell title NANCY & SLUGGO and a new, re-numbered PEANUTS. Notable of these issues is the fact that they are primarily re-packaged Dell reprints.
Now to begin at
the beginning :
"Peanuts" characters quietly made their comic book debut simultaneously in the Mar/Apr, 1952 issues of TIP TOP COMICS #173 and UNITED COMICS #21. These appearances are not mentioned in Overstreet and only recently discovered by myself. Overstreet does mention TIP TOP COMICS #177 (Nov/Dec, 1952) as a possible debut along with FRITZI RITZ #31 (Nov/Dec, 1953) but these are obviously incorrect. Timeline research has placed TIP TOP COMICS #173 and UNITED COMICS #21 as the earliest "Peanuts" appearances, chronologically pre-dating all other appearances as you will see.
TIP TOP COMICS was a long running title stretching back to 1936 and lasting 225 issues to 1961. United Feature Syndicate published #1 -188 (Overstreet incorrectly lists #187), St John published #189-210, and the last 15 issues 211-225, (1958-61) were published by Dell, featuring new story art "not" by Charles Schulz. I will explain this shortly. This title over its history featured Hal Foster's "Tarzan", "Li'l Abner", "Fritzi Ritz" , "Nancy", "The Captain and the Kids", "Peanuts", and historically speaking, the first published art of Jack Davis (#32, Dec/38, a Buffalo Bob's Cartoon Contest winner, age 12) and first comic work by Harvey Kurtzman (#36, Apr/39 ).
The "Peanuts" appearance history in TIP TOP COMICS begins haphazardly. I've established #173 as co-debut. From here Overstreet mentions #180, but this is incorrect. I have confirmed that #174, 175, 176-183 do "NOT" have appearances. Since #184 does have an appearance, we can state that the total TIP TOP COMICS appearances are : #173, #184-225. Issue #173 consisted of two 4-panel, half-page daily strip gags, but by #185 "Peanuts" was occasionally featured on the entire cover and inside received four full pages of daily and/or Sunday strip reprints.
UNITED COMICS (starring Fritzi Ritz) and FRITZI RITZ were two intertwined titles that presented comic strip characters owned by United Feature Syndicate, most notably Ernie Bushmiller's "Fritzi Ritz", a leggy "good-girl art" humor character who happened to be the aunt of "Nancy" of "Nancy and Sluggo" fame. UNITED COMICS was published in its entirety by United Feature Syndicate while FRITZI RITZ had #1-36 published by UFS, #37-55 by St. John, and # 56-59 by Dell. The exact publishing chronology of these two titles, with their "Peanuts" appearances, is the following:
FRITZI RITZ 1-7 (1948-49) Pre-dates "Peanuts"
UNITED COMICS 8-26 (1950-53)"Peanuts" in #21-23,25,26
FRITZI RITZ 27-59 (1953-58) "Peanuts" in #27-33, 37-49, 51-59
Overstreet Guide mentions UNITED COMICS "Peanuts"
appearances in issues #22 & #25
only, but I have found and confirmed
the rest. FRITZI RITZ "Peanuts" appearances are noted
in Overstreet as #31,43,58 & 59, but again
I have found and confirmed all the rest . As Can be seen, "Peanuts" appeared haphazardly
without any real pattern or sequence. The Dell issues #57,58,&
59, contrary to all the earlier issues, and similar to the Dell TIP
TOP issues, have new material exclusively created for comic books. Again,
story art is not by Charles Schulz. Each of these issues have a single 4-page
story. Also note that #56 is the only Dell issue
without "Peanuts", another Overstreet omission.
Fritzi Ritz #57 (March-May, 1958)
Our next title where "Peanuts" appeared followed in the #17 June/July, 1952 issue of TIP TOPPER COMICS . TIP TOPPER, published by United Feature Syndicate, ran 28 issues from 1949-54, comprising more United Feature Syndicate newspaper comic strip characters including "Li'l Abner", Abbie & Slats", "Fritzi Ritz", "Curley Kayoe" and Peanuts" in issues #17-22, 24-28. The "Peanuts" are newspaper strip reprints and are 4-panel dailys and/or Sundays over two pages.
Tip Topper #18, page (Aug/ Sept, 1952)
It is interesting to note that these very early "Peanuts" appearances are slightly different looking than the characters we know from the mid-1950's to the present. They are much more innocently childlike in appearance, have larger heads and eyes, and are drawn more simply.
It's incredibly facinating how these characters have evolved and developed over the lifetime of this strip. An interesting book worth mentioning now was a one-shot comic from 1953-54 titled PEANUTS which also contained strip reprints such as "Willie", "Ferdinand", and "Strange As It Seems", as well as the earliest "Peanuts" strip reprints I've ever seen in a comic book. From the dawn of the strip, perhaps as early as late 1950 or early 1951, these characters as previously mentioned, appear very primative, almost prototypes of the characters they would very shortly evolve to. In some panels Charlie Brown even appears without his trademark black zig-zag on his shirt! This book is very hard to find despite its photo-journal listing as "average scarcity", and higher grade copies are probably almost non-existent. It sports a delightful cover (the first all "Peanuts" cover) depicting the Peanuts gang playing baseball indoors and has taken me five years to finally locate a copy. I'm not exactly sure where this book fits into the earliest "Peanuts" chronology. The indicia simply states "Peanuts No. 1, Comics on Parade" without a month or year designation. The material is copyrighted up to 1953 by United Feature Syndicate. My guess is that it just pre-dated TIP TOP #184 and FRITZI RITZ #32 (both Jan/Feb, 1954) and followed TIP TOPPER #26 Dec/Jan, 1953, the final TIP TOPPER appearance. Any other suggestions are welcome.
When Dell took over publishing NANCY COMICS in 1957 from St. John, "Peanuts" appeared in the entire run from #146-187 (1957-62), with Gold Key publishing the last five issues #188-192 (1962-63). These Dell issues again, with a single exception, were not drawn by Charles Schulz. All consisted of four-page, self- contained gag stories.
NANCY COMICS began as SPARKLER COMICS, which ran 120 issues from 1941-55. It featured the first appearance of "Sparkman" as well as more United Feature Syndicate characters such as Burne Hogarth's "Tarzan", "The Captain and the Kids", "Ella Cinders", "Danny Dingle", "Frankie Doodle", "Abbie and Slats", "Broncho Bill", "Li'l Abner", "Fearless Fosdick" and "Nancy" by Ernie Bushmiller. The title became NANCY with issue #121 in 1955, occasionally titled NANCY & SLUGGO throughout the run.
Closing out the Dell appearances of "Peanuts" are the three delightful issues of FOUR COLOR: #878, 969 & 1015 (1958-59), which continued as Dell's PEANUTS #4-13 (1960-62). All these issues have beautiful covers (signed by Schulz), characterized by deep, rich colors and contrasted to oversized bold , yet simple drawings. They are extremely appealing to the eye and just stunning when found in high-grade condition (Dell File Copies). These books should be sought by "Peanuts" lovers everywhere.
Four Color #1015 (Aug.- Oct., 1959)
The stories vary in length , some being up to 8 pages long!! A peculiar anomoly should be noted about PEANUTS issues #4-13. The back covers exist in two variants. One is simply a full page advertisement for candy, breakfast cereal or children's toy, but the other is a full page "Peanuts" gag strip similar to those found on the inside front or back covers. Both variants are of the same printing. This was a common occurrence in all Dell issues published from mid 1956 on. I feel that the "Peanuts" back cover would be more desirable since it contains essentially an extra page of comics not found in the other variant. As wonderful as these books are, again note that except for the covers, they are not by Schulz. It is even possible that the "signed" covers may not be Schulz either.
Peanuts #5 (May- July, 1960)
The final "Peanuts" comic book appearances are the 4-issue Gold Key run titled PEANUTS (1963-64) which overlaps and outlasts the last 5 issues of NANCY & SLUGGO #188- 192 (1962-63). The Gold Key PEANUTS issues are nothing more than reprints of the first four issues published by Dell (FOUR COLOR #'s 878, 969 & 1015 and PEANUTS #4) minus the "Nancy & Sluggo" story.
One nice feature of the Gold Key PEANUTS (1-4) and NANCY & SLUGGO (188-192) issues are the fact that the back covers are pin-ups of the front covers minus the title and copy, which gives these books a very neat "wrap-around cover" appearance.
Peanuts #4 (Feb., 1964)
Researching this article made it obvious, as mentioned, that the long multi-paged "Peanuts" stories found in the DELL issues of FOUR COLOR, PEANUTS, NANCY, TIP TOP & FRITZI RITZ (as well as the reprinted Gold Key stories) had been drawn by someone other than "ol Sparky" himself, "Peanuts" creater Charles M. Schulz. Upon reviewing these stories one could see this, as some stories have backgrounds that don't appear as if drawn by Schulz. Also, occasionally actions and dialogue in these extended stories appear slightly "out of character" if you will, compared to their newspaper counterparts.
I've always been under the impression that Charles M. Schulz always drew and directly supervised all aspects of his strip and characters, so this was something of a surprise. From a variety of sources, I learned that these DELL issues were produced by a crew of artists working for Schulz and who did advertising artwork for him. The main artist was Dale Hale. This information has been confirmed for me by the late comic strip art collector/historian/agent Mark J. Cohen, who was gracious enough to ask Charles M. Schulz over dinner about his contribution to those Dell issues. Mr. Schulz enumerated that he did the very first one himself with Jim Sasseville doing the next few and Dale Hale doing all the rest.
(Timely artist David Gantz has related in a recent interview that he wrote one Dell issue for Schulz (see ALTER EGO #13, Mar/02). Gantz's memory is spotty here as he incorrectly mentions Schulz doing all the rest himself. Additionally, continued research by Derrick Bang has revealed that Jim Sasseville was actually the first artist to follow Schulz on the DELL issues, and drew the PEANUTS stories in NANCY #149-168, FRITZI RITZ #57-59, TIP TOP #211-215 as well as FOUR COLOR #878 and parts of #969 (see the Feb 8, 2002 issue of CBG for full details). Bang also postulates Tony Pocrnick, a Schulz associate, possibly following Dale Hale on a handful of late Dell issues. Note also that Dale Hale, who did the bulk of the Dell run, was interviewed by Nat Gertler in HOGAN'S ALLEY #8 (Fall/2000) where he relates even more details about his contributions to the Dell Peanuts appearances : http://www.aaugh. com/guide/ldale.htm
Finally, new data on the early Peanuts appearances have been uncovered and tallied at Nat Gertler's wonderful AAUGH.com website on our PEANUTS STORIES IN COMIC BOOKS page : http://www.aaugh.com/guide/pcb.htm (with the addition to the list of NANCY #142 and SPARKLE COMICS # 33 and SPARKLER #115 and 120).
As you can see, the full scope and picture of the Peanuts comic book appearances is "finally" coming into focus. Since this article's original publication in 1997additional info and data has been turned up. There are likely still a handful of early United Feature Syndicate issue appearances to be uncovered, likely in SPARKLE COMICS and SPARKLER. Further research will soon complete the picture.)
Schulz's claim to have drawn the first issue was not clear to me. Chronologically, NANCY #146 (Sept/57) is the first Dell appearance of Peanuts. The first FOUR COLOR Peanuts issue, #878, appeared cover dated in 1958. Going back to examine all these issues one at a time has led me to believe that Schulz was right on the money. NANCY #146 really looks like Schulz's work. #147 definitely is not Schulz but #148 may be . Nothing else . FOUR COLOR #878 (1958) likewise is not, nor are any other Dell or Gold Key issues.
Nancy #146 (Sept., 1957)
I would suggest anyone with an interest in Peanuts to go make the comparisons yourself. For all intents and purposes, these Dell issues are the only "non"- Schulz Peanuts there are. He had total control over his Daily and Sunday strips for 50 years , and these comic books are a real exception.
Any other information that can shed any further historical light on this "Peanuts" anomoly is extremely welcomed. And that's it!! A total of 151 issues (unofficially, for now). The toughest issue to find is the United Feature PEANUTS one-shot, although the Gold Key PEANUTS (1-4) run also seems to be a tough find (has anyone else noticed this?). The rest can be located with patience as demand for these books are low in comparison to other genres from the same time period. As we get to the end here, I'll ask interested collectors to note the confirmed revisions and additions to the Overstreet Guide:
1) UNITED COMICS #21,23, & 26 "DO" contain "Peanuts"
2) FRITZI RITZ #27,28,30,32,33,37,44,45,47 & 57 "DO" contain "Peanuts"
3) TIP TOP COMICS #173 "DOES" contain "Peanuts"
4) TIP TOP COMICS # 177 & 180 "DO NOT" have a "Peanuts" appearance
5) TIP TOPPER #25, 27 & 28 "DO" contain "Peanuts"
Remember, "Peanuts" is too important a comic strip to not have its complete comic book history fully documented. We'll soon have this accomplished. Please send any additions and/or corrections to me at DocV@prodigy.net. The following tables should help readers and collectors keep track of "Peanuts" appearances:
TOTAL PEANUTS COMIC BOOK APPEARANCES
(1952-64) 151 issues
About the author:
Dr. Michael J. Vassallo presents a fascinating in-depth study of the comic book version of the all-time favorite Peanuts strip by Charles Schulz. Dr. Vassallo has updated the text of this article, which originally appeared in the Comics Buyers Guide, with new information. The article is supplemented by a gallery of Peanuts comics covers which can be accessed by clicking this logo: