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Peter Wheat Spotlight (08.25.2023)

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OtherEric:
https://digitalcomicmuseum.com/images/DCM banner80-Peter-Wheat-WED.gif
Today, August 25, would have been Walt Kelly's 110th birthday.  One of the greatest comic creators of all time, he has long been a particular favorite of ours here at DCM, and we are celebrating the day with a release of several new issues of his classic Peter Wheat giveaways series, both by him and his successors Del Connell and Al Hubbard.

Walt Kelly's career started with some work in the some of the earliest comics put out by DC, even before the debut of Superman.  Kelly soon left comics behind for a few years, though, to work as an animator at Walt Disney Productions in 1935.  He worked on 'Pinocchio' and 'Dumbo' as well as some short features.  He left Disney during the animators strike of 1941 to avoid choosing sides when he had friends on both sides. He went back into comics working for Western, who at the time was best known for producing books for Dell, although they worked for others as well.  At Western he created his earliest version of Pogo for Animal Comics (click to go to them), wrote and drew nearly the entire run of the Our Gang feature, and did several adaptations for Disney, including 'Pinocchio', making him one of the few creators to work on both the animation and comic book versions of the same story. (Note: DCM has several Walt Kelly Collections in our Archives section.  See the end of this intro for direct links to some wonderful Kelly archives)  He was successful enough that when he did books entirely on his own, including several 'Mother Goose' issues of Four Color Comics , he was one of the very few comic creators to get their name featured on the cover of a book.  This would have been an obvious move when he worked on the Pogo comic book in the 50's, but was extraordinary during the 40's when he didn't have a syndicated strip to his name.  Most importantly to our interests today, he also was the artist on a character created as the mascot for a bread company during the late 40's and early 50's, Peter Wheat.

For anyone out there unfamiliar with Peter Wheat bread - "Peter Wheat was a bread brand owned by Bakerís Associates during the late 1940s and early 1950s. The giveaway comic books Adventures of Peter Wheat and Peter Wheat News were produced through Western Publishing and were given out primarily by home delivery drivers, but also available in bakeries. One fan remembers walking by the local Peter Wheat bakery to and from school, when employees would hand out comics to the passersby. Both Adventures and News were issued monthly, beginning in April 1948."
-Steve Thompson/Spring Hollow Books

I first discovered the Peter Wheat books back in 2009, and fell in love with the series almost instantly.  I had no idea how scarce the material was, though:  even now, 15 years after I started collecting, there are over a quarter of the Peter Wheat News issues I've never even seen what the covers look like.  Other items, like the 4-in-1 Fun Packs and the small size Bell Bakery issues, seem to be even rarer.*

*If ANYONE out there owns some Peter Wheat material they might be willing to share with the world PLEASE reply in this topic or use the Contact Us link to reach out.  If you can't scan it we have trusted scanners that can do it for you.  We would dearly love to share more of this charming title with the everyone.

Kelly went above and beyond when he worked on Peter Wheat, turning what could have been a throwaway promotional book into an absolutely extraordinary fantasy book.  I would much rather you just go and read the books rather than me try to explain it, but Kelly provided some exceptional art and storytelling, creating an absolutely incredible run of comics.  Just to mention one aspect, the character development of Dragonel is perhaps one of the most impressive character arcs in all of the golden age of comics.  The four part story in Adventures of Peter Wheat 24-27 is one of the great adventure epics of the era, as well.  There were actually two main Peter Wheat series running concurrently, Adventures of Peter Wheat being a 16 page monthly comic, and Peter Wheat News being an advertising flyer with a four page comic created by taking the back page of the flyer and folding it in half.  The stories in Peter Wheat News were generally three part serials, creating a 12 page story.  Faced with the smaller format and lower page count, Kelly leaned slightly more into the bakery theme, with many of the News stories involving the bakery to lesser or greater degree.  When Kelly left to work on his Pogo strip, the series was turned over to Del Connell and Al Hubbard, who managed to carry on extremely well, even if they didn't have the epic arcs that Kelly manged.

I'm afraid I don't know much about Del Connell, other than that he was an extraordinarily prolific comic writer, who received the Bill Finger Award for Achievement in Comic Book Writing in 2011, just a few weeks before he passed away.  Al Hubbard, by contrast, is one of the great little-heralded artists of Western.  He never quite got the recognition that Walt Kelly, Carl Barks, or even John Stanley got for their work, but he is very well regarded by a lot of fans for his work on 'Mary Jane & Sniffles' in the Looney Tunes comic book, and his run on 'Scamp' for Disney comics. 

Please enjoy our flood of Peter Wheat books by these three great creators, and we plan to have some more Peter Wheat material coming out on Wednesdays over the next few weeks, hence the "Peter Wheat Wednesdays" in our banner!  I would like to extend a huge thank you to Yoc, Darwination, and Robb K from the CB+ forums for their contributions to releases today!

- OtherEric

Here are direct links to rmdavidson's Walt Kelly collections.  Anyone reading this will want to check them out as well.  They are packed with wonderful Walt Kelly stories!
Walt Kelly in Santa Claus Funnies 1942-1949 - Part 1 (Dell)
Walt Kelly in Santa Claus Funnies 1942-1949 - Part 2
Walt Kelly's Animal Mother Goose Part 1 (Dell)
Walt Kelly's Animal Mother Goose Part 2
Walt Kelly's Animal Mother Goose Part 3
Walt Kelly's The Brownies Collection (now complete)(Dell)

And OtherEric and Yoc have done some other fun collection you might find interesting at these links:
Dell Scribbly Collection! The, (ver2)
Joe Maneely at Charlton
Phantom Lady Archives vol 3 - The Ajax Year
Spacehawk, The Complete Collection -part1 (Novelty)
Spacehawk, The Complete Collection -part2 (Novelty+Centaur)

OtherEric:
One request, for those of you who download both versions of Peter Wheat News #21:  We are generally curious which version of Peter Wheat News you prefer, the one with upscaled paged or the one with the smaller versions.  Please let us know, it will impact how we try to release a few other items in the near future. Thank you!

Yoc:
Hi Gang,
I'd like to thank OtherEric for all his work collecting so many Peter Wheat books over the years.  A quick glance in the PW folder shows just how vital he's been for finding and sharing the vast majority of any PW scans out there.

Here's some things I've found poking around on the net.

I can confirm Kelly, Connell and Hubbard all had a strong Disney background which makes sense.
I found this info on Connell and Hubbard:
https://inducks.org/creator.php?c=AH
https://inducks.org/creator.php?c=DCo

Walt Kelly (August 25, 1913 - October 18, 1973)
OtherEric covered Kelly already in his intro.  I'd just mention he was at Disney around the same era as Hubbard and Connell.  It's not likely they were close, just an interesting fact.  Both Kelly and Hubbard would leave the studio after the 1941 strike.
Kelly entry on Lambiek - https://www.lambiek.net/artists/k/kelly.htm


Del G. Connell (June 7, 1918-August 12, 2011) was a Disney comics author perhaps most noted for creating Goofy's alter ego, 'Super Goof'.

Connell worked as an animator for Disney Studios as a character model and storyboard artist from 1939-1941 (Dumbo, Fantasia, The Reluctant Dragon) and 1945-1953 (Three Caballeros, Alice in Wonderland, Ben and Me a.o.).

From there he served in WW2 and eventually landed at Western in 1950.  He would work there until 1984!  He introduced several new characters such as Super Goof and April, May & June.

In 1956, Connell became the editorial director at Western, a position he held for the next 28 years.  As the Comics Reporter mentions, "A search for Connell's name in the credits of comics on the resource Grand Comics Database yields 128 pages of listings."

Here is a nice Connell remembrance by Mark Evanier on his blog -
https://www.newsfromme.com/?s=Del+Connell+&submit=Search

Comics Reproter obit - https://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/del_connell_1918_2011/

---
Al Hubbard (May 26, 1913 - May 1984)
Worked for the Disney animation department in 1937 (Pinocchio, Bambi, Dumbo) then left in 1941 to become a full-time comics artist.  He's best known for his work as a "funny animal" artist.  He worked through the Sangor Shop doing funny animal art for Better Publications, Rural Home and ACG, and was also an artist for ACG's 'Spencer Spook' and 'Bungle of the Jungle' stories.

By 1950 he joined Dell and he remained with this company throughout the 1960s and 1970s working with many licensed characters.   Especially remembered for his Disney stories starring 'Chip 'n' Dale', 'Bambi' and especially 'Scamp'.  He was also known for adaptations of Disney films, such as 'Jungle Book', 'The Lady and the Tramp', 'The Aristocats' and 'Peter Pan'.

He would also draw licensed characters from MGM (Hanna-Barbera's 'Tom & Jerry', 'Spike & Tyke', 'Andy Hardy') and Walter Lantz ('Andy Panda'). He was the main artist of the Warner Bros feature 'Mary Jane and Sniffles'.  Al also did illustrations for Disney colouring books and children's books.

Hubbard entry on Lambiek - https://www.lambiek.net/artists/h/hubbard_al.htm

+++

Here's a gallery of various pictures collected from the net on the artists and Peter Wheat.  Thanks to their original creators.

http://digitalcomicmuseum.com/images/forum message pictures/PeterWheat/KellyPic1.jpghttp://digitalcomicmuseum.com/images/forum message pictures/PeterWheat/kelly_retrospectivemagSM.jpghttp://digitalcomicmuseum.com/images/forum message pictures/PeterWheat/Connell.jpghttp://digitalcomicmuseum.com/images/forum message pictures/PeterWheat/Del Connell by Joe Grant at Disney 1947_sm.jpghttp://digitalcomicmuseum.com/images/forum message pictures/PeterWheat/Hubbardsm.jpghttp://digitalcomicmuseum.com/images/forum message pictures/PeterWheat/Hubbard_FourColor474_BackCover_sm.jpg
           1                        2                        3                        4                      5                      6

#1 - Walt Kelly

#2 - Kelly self portrait
From 'A Retrospective of Walt Kelly and Pogo'
Published by The Museum of Cartoon Art (1977)

#3 - A young Del Connell from the 1940s

#4 - Del at Disney
Del Connell portrait by Joe Grant at Disney 1947

#5 - Al Hubbard photo

#6 - Al Hubbard's Mary Jane & Sniffles
A pin-up from the back cover to Dell Four Color #474.  We can see why Al was picked to continue the Peter Wheat giveaways one Kelly left.

http://digitalcomicmuseum.com/images/forum message pictures/PeterWheat/PW badge shared by Mark Byzewski on FBsm.jpghttp://digitalcomicmuseum.com/images/forum message pictures/PeterWheat/PW toy car shared by Mark Byzewski on FBsm.jpghttp://digitalcomicmuseum.com/images/forum message pictures/PeterWheat/PW-Bread-Truck.jpghttp://digitalcomicmuseum.com/images/forum message pictures/PeterWheat/PWwrapper_sm.jpghttp://digitalcomicmuseum.com/images/forum message pictures/PeterWheat/PW_Puzzle_book_sm.jpg           7                      8                        9                        10                      11

#7 - Peter Wheat badge
Shared by Mark Byzewski on Facebook.

#8 - Peter Wheat badge and toy delivery van
Shared by Mark Byzewski on Facebook.

#9 - Another Peter Wheat toy delivery van

#10 - Peter Wheat wrapping paper

#11 - Peter Wheat Puzzle book
Will be debuted as part of this Peter Wheat spotlight.

darwination:
Fantastic information, gentlemen.  (And scans!)

OtherEric:
Thank you!

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