by Art Chantry:
in case that little kid drawing on the cover of this book looks sorta familiar, that’s because that (yup!) it was drawn by charles m. shulz, himself. we all sort of assume that shulz was ALWAYS the most successful cartoonist of all time and therefore never had to work at anything else other than his legendary ‘peanuts’ strip. but, like all commercial artists, that strip work didn’t pay the rent (especially at the beginning.)
“peanuts’ wasn’t always the hugely hyper-popular comic we all know today. in the beginning, just like everybody else, shulz struggled to make a buck. those deals with king features were never very good. he basically lost control of his rights the moment he signed that contract. it was only later in the sixties that he managed to cash in. that was largely because of all the merchandise he was able to sell outside of the comic. he was able to negotiate (maybe through the lack of potential market exploitation insight that king features had? or maybe he was able to re-negotiate at a perfect moment?) but, whatever it exactly was, shulz managed to control a huge percent of the profits from the merch sales from peanuts. but, the strip belonged to king features – and those deals were not good deals.
so, for instance, shulz illustrated a lot of little “religious advice for kids” type books (always disturbing). he also hooked up with guys like art linkletter as well. this book, based on the hugely successful radio (then television) show by linkletter called “kids say the darndest things.” it was an extremely popular show where art linkletter, that old huckster salesman game show host, used all his enormous charm and manipulative skills to ask just the ‘right’ question to get a slightly outrageous (even downright naughty) response out of the mouths of babes. in hindsight, i see him as a real sleazy exploiter of kids. but america thought it was great entertainment.
linkletter famously went on to become a legendary anti-drugs crusader after the tragic death of his daughter. she (according to mythology) ate some acid and tried to “fly” – right out a 5th story window. the very idea that she may have suicided was beyond the pale in those days. so, ol’ artie went to work to fight the evils of drug culture in all it’s guises for the rest of his very very long life. he became one of the bane’s of the hippie era and was treated by the underground as a top-ten public enemy right up there alongside nixon. nowadays, all we remember him for is that crusade, and his daughter’s death (there was even a underground movie parody of the event made by hipster moviemakers.)
but, in 1957, charles m. shulz illustratred this volume for linkletter (and there’s even an intro written by that old scoundrel, walt disney!). it sort of shows how powerful linkletter was in those days. he was actually able to get the most powerful cartoonists on earth to collaborate with him and thus increase his credibility and increase his enormous pop market reach. this book was a huge bestseller. i sure hope that shuz got paid well. it must have become a bit of an embarrassment in his later years.