Wednesday, March 9, 2011

While Searching for a Monster

When I was an older teenager, I had two recurring dreams, both of them lucid and with great detail. One was that I would find treasure, jewels and coins, at various times and places, feeling that my money troubles were over. I'm pretty sure that was triggered by my family's near poverty level when I was younger, aided by my constant rereading of Carl Bark's Uncle Scrooge comics.

The other dream was more precious to me—that I would discover new work by Walt Kelly that I had never seen before. By the time I had these dreams, I, bit by bit, had collected what I felt was the entire output of work by Kelly, and I was hungry for more. The dream was delicious, as I remember seeing details of the art and, for even a few moments after waking up, I actually felt that I had something new of Kelly's.

Well, thanks to OtherEric of the Digital Comic Museum, with his fervor for collecting the seemingly long lost ephemera of Kelly's The Adventures of Peter Wheat, a dream has come true for me and hopefully many of you.

OtherEric is on a mission to track down all the elusive chapters of Kelly's epic fairy tale, and has of late assembled some of its finest examples.

I'll let OtherEric take it from here:

The Adventures of Peter Wheat, while decidedly scarce, is not an impossibly rare book to find. I've put together nearly half the run in about two years, and seen somewhere between a third to a half of the issues that I don't have show up for sale, even if I missed them at auction.

But Kelly also did original stories for Peter Wheat News, as I discussed back in the Peter Wheat publishing history post. And THAT series is so rare I honestly wonder if all the issues still exist, at least in complete form. When I started looking for Peter Wheat, I found two issues of News at an online comic shop that could have been there for a day or a decade before I grabbed them—19 and 43. It's worth noting that the two sources that listed the series disagreed on how long the title ran—one said 30 issues, another said 36.

In the past two years, I've seen exactly ONE complete issue come up for sale, #61. I didn't win that one, but the seller kindly sent me good scans of the book, so at least it's available to people. But at this point, the series is so rare that nobody knows exactly how long it ran or how many issues Kelly did! The best guess at this moment is #36, and Hubbard did #43, so it's definitely no later than #42.

I recently won an incomplete issue on eBay—only the comic pages. This is the first time I've seen an incomplete issue show up. Including both complete and incomplete copies, it makes all of four issues I've seen in two years even show up for sale.

What we are showing on this post is the middle part of a story, so it has to be issue 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 23, 26, 29, 32, or 35. Numbers 38 and 41 are theoretically possible, but unlikely. It can't be 20, because it doesn't follow the cliffhanger from 19. Whatever issue it is, it's four pages of exceptionally rare Kelly material. I hope you forgive the lack of a start or end to the story and just enjoy what we do have:

Thom again: In the interest of full disclosure, I edited out some paper creases from these pages that I thought were distracting. We've got more wonderful Peter Wheat stuff coming up. Keep coming back, and please let us know what you think!


  1. A hearty "thanks" to Other ERic and yourself with being so generous and sharing these with us.

    P.S. I'm still (at 47) under the delusion that my retirement will all be handled by my finding a treasure chest in my backyard. I don't dream of it, but it helps me sleep nights.

  2. Hi Thom and OtherEric,
    Thank you so much for searching out as many Peter Wheat's as you can find, writing about them so lovingly, and for doing the hard work of cleaning up the digital scans. I haven't had a chance to read all of the stories yet, but I just spent some time reading most of your articles, going back to the beginning. OtherEric, thank you for providing the history of the series! I enjoy Peter Wheat for the storytelling aspects, the art work, and the characterization. Your work is appreciated, preserving them.

  3. I've also had recurring dreams of finding Kelly books I was unaware of in used book stores.

    Sometimes, if I do see a Kelly book in a used book store and the price is right, I buy it even though I have a copy. It's the closest I can get to fulfilling the dream.

    I am extremely grateful for the work you're doing in reprinting Peter Wheat.

  4. I love the spider character. He's deliciously evil. Kelly rarely gets credit for creating some great comic villains in Pogo too.

  5. I very much admire this effort to recover and to restore Kelly's forgotten or nearly forgotten work.

  6. This blog is simply wonderful. I love the brilliant work of Walt Kelly, your animations in classic films from Disney and his incredible work with Pogo.
    Thanks Thomas.