Peter and his friend Beetle have fun on a frozen pond. Artist: Walt Kelly.

PETER WHEAT

Original Medium: Comic books
Published by: Bakers Associates
First Appeared: 1948
Creator: Walt Kelly
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Cartoonist Walt Kelly (Fairy Tale Parade, Gremlin Gus) is most famous as the creator of Pogo. It was about the time he was engaged in turning that property, which started out at Dell Comics, into a daily newspaper comic that he became involved with an attempt to commercialize a previously-nonexistent …

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… cartoon character. The character "Peter Wheat" was created by Kelly at the behest of Bakers Associates, which created the national brand "Peter Wheat Bread", coordinating actual production of the bread by many local bakeries.

The plan was for Kelly to produce a 16-page comic book, which was printed and then distributed to participating bakeries. The bakeries would then have their own names printed on the cover, as if they were actual producers of the comic. They'd distribute the comic with the bread (which had drawings by Kelly on the wrapper), and give it away for promotion. The comic book was produced on approximately a bimonthly schedule, starting in 1948.

Peter was human in appearance, but approximately an inch tall, about the same height as The Teenie Weenies, Walt Scott's Little People or Kelly's own Brownies. But little effort was made to exploit the inherent charm of such characters, their use of ordinary items, huge to them, in their daily lives, as in Bucky Bug's where "people" lived in shoes, hats, etc. He and his people used mice to pull wagons and had friends among local insects, but didn't make much use of inanimate objects in that way.

Peter enjoyed a good time, like any kid, but was always ready for serious adventuring. In fact, he was the go-to guy when trouble was afoot. His adventures just about filled the comic book, including the cover, which was printed on the same grade of paper and in the same run of the press as the insides. The cover didn't consist of a large splash-like scene, but simply used the top tier for the logo and name of the sponsoring bakery, then got on with the story.

Kelly did 35 issues, taking the series into the early-to-middle 1950s. Then it was taken over by Al Hubbard (Jiminy Cricket, Scamp). It lasted a total of 66 issues, ending in 1956.

The bread soon followed the comic book into oblivion.

— DDM

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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Walt Kelly estate.