Comic Legends: How Peanuts Was Marketed to Newspapers as a Gimmick

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and seventy-third week where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

Click here for Part 1 of this week's legends. Click here for Part 2 of this week's legends.

NOTE: I noticed that the the CSBG Twitter page was nearing 10,000 followers. If we hit 10,050 followers on the the CSBG Twitter page then I'll do a BONUS edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed during the week that we hit 10,050. So three more legends! Sounds like a great deal, right?


Peanuts was originally sold as a "space saver" strip.



One of the things that has been true even back in the days when daily comic strips were one of the most popular pieces of media in the popular culture is that newspapers have never really given a whole lot of thought to how they lay out the comic strip pages. It really is a matter of "Get as much of them on to the page as possible!"

Here's a Los Angeles newspaper's daily comic strip page from 1949...

As you might imagine, there was a benefit, then, to strips that could fit into the layout that they already had set up for them.

That, there, was where Peanuts stepped in. When Charles Schulz pitched the strip that would become Peanuts, it wasn't exactly a smash hit right out of the gate. It only sold to seven newspapers when it launched in 1950 and of the original seven newspapers that bought it, two of them dropped it pretty early on.

So since it was a hard sell based on the content (even Schulz would later look back and be highly critical of the early years of Peanuts. Plus, of course, he hated the name), the syndicate sold it in a different way. They sold it as a "Space saver" cartoon.

You might be thinking, "What, pray tell, is a space saver cartoon?" Well, settle down. That's what this column is here for. It'd be weird if I didn't explain it to you.

A space saver cartoon is a cartoon made up of four equally sized panels, so that the comic strip could be presented in one of three different ways - horizontally (like most comic strips), vertically or, in case you only had a square space available on the comic strip page, then the first two could stack up on top of each other.

Schulz later recalled, "All of this was used as a sales gimmick for a feature in which, looking back, I believe the people at the syndicate really didn't have much confidence. "

Amusingly enough, if you look around the web for the very first Peanuts strip, you will find it in ALL three formats, so various newspapers must have used it in various configurations!

Schulz hated being stuck doing four equal-sized panels, but that was the contract. He was stuck with that format for nearly FORTY YEARS before he finally was able to work out a new deal where he had more freedom. On Leap Day, 1988, the first three-panel strip debuted...

Schulz quickly went to two panels and even one panel, on occasion, but the most common format for the last dozen years of the strip was the three-panel set-up.

Fascinating how one of the greatest comic strips of all-time was stuck in a format that the strip's creator didn't like for almost four decades.

Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed - Did a TV singing competition trick their live audience into thinking that the contestants were DYING?!

OK, that's it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week's covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo, which I don't even actually use on the CBR editions of this column, but I do use them when I collect them all on legendsrevealed.com!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

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See you all next week!

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