MISS PEACHMedium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: New York Herald-Tribune
First Appeared: 1957
Creator: Mell Lazarus
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Picasso's innovative design work, he did adapt one element of Picasso's style that no other comic strip artist apparently had the nerve to use. When you see a comics character with a "flounder face", i.e., both eyes on the same side of the nose (the one facing the reader), the chances are very good that you're looking at something by Lazarus, from either his first big hit, Miss Peach, or his second, Momma.
Miss Peach was part of a general post-war trend toward more modern art styles in the comics, with less complex shading and linework. This trend was also seen in major strips like B.C. (1957) and Peanuts (1950); minor ones like Mr. Abernathy and Priscilla's Pop; and most other humor comics from that period onward. Lazarus simply went a little farther than most in using an up-to-date style.
Miss Peach came to be when United Feature Syndicate, distributor of Nancy, Ferdnand and Li'l Abner, ran a contest for cartoonists seeking syndication. Lazarus entered, choosing his subject matter the same way Carl Ed chose his for Harold Teen — by observing that the comics page lacked a strip with that focus, in this case an elementary school teacher and the kids in her class. It didn't win the contest, but Lazarus later sold it to The New York Herald-Tribune (where Caspar Milquetoast rose to prominence), which began syndicating it both daily and Sunday on February 4, 1957.
Miss Peach taught at the Kelly School (named after Walt Kelly, creator of Pogo). Her students, Arthur, Ira, Marcia and several others, tended to be hip, wisecracking types rather than typical media kids from before the 1950s. Another frequently seen supporting character was Miss Crystal, who was in her 80s and still teaching at Kelly. The strip was a success from the start, and quickly began generating paperback reprints. There were also a couple of comic books. Dell put out an issue in 1963, written and drawn not by Lazarus, but by Jack Mendelsohn (Jackys Diary). Six years later, Lazarus did a comic book special, Miss Peach Tells You How to Grow.
Lazarus, a staunch supporter of creators' rights, later moved from the Herald-Tribune to Creators Syndicate (Baby Blues, Crankshaft). That was the only notable change, other than to modify the name in the 1990s to the trendier Ms. Peach.
The strip appeared steadily in more than 300 papers, but that wasn't the only indicator of its acceptance. In 1982, Lazarus's fellow members of The National Cartoonists' Society voted him the Reuben Award, naming him Cartoonist of the Year. That same year, the first of several TV specials, Miss Peach of the Kelly School, appeared. Over the next few years, these covered elementary school celebrations of holidays such as Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day. They weren't animated, but filmed in live action, using puppets.
For health reasons, Lazarus folded the daily strip on Saturday, August 31, 2002. The Sunday ended eight days later.