Typical episode of 'It's Only a Game'. Artist: Jim Sasseville.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: United Feature Syndicate
First Appeared: 1957
Creator: Charles M. Schulz
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It's Only a Game, the "other" cartoon feature associated with Charles M. Schulz (whose name will always be virtually synonymous with Peanuts), has been widely documented as being his sports-oriented comic strip, but it was both more than that and, in another …

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… sense, less. Less, because it was a single panel, rarely divided into two or more sequential pictures, and therefore didn't have all the attributes necessary to be called a comic strip.

But it was also more than a sports-oriented comic strip, in that it covered more than just sports. It was about games in general. Bridge, of which Schulz was an avid player, was the focus of a great many episodes — each Friday's, as a matter of fact. Other non-sports games, such as checkers, Monopoly, and canasta were also part of the mix. There were even recreational activities that may, depending on your definition, not even have qualified as games, such as camping, fishing and tooling around town in sports cars.

It's Only a Game was created by Schulz, but he did it by himself only for about a month and a half. After that, he brought in Jim Sasseville, his friend and sometimes ghost on the Peanuts comic books published by Dell and Gold Key, to collaborate. Schulz supplied most (but not all) of the gags, in the form of rough pencil sketches, and wrote most of the dialog. Sasseville did some of the gags and dialog, and nearly all of the finished art, closely following Schulz's style. Schulz, having the more salable name, continued to get the byline. United Feature Syndicate (Dilbert, Grin & Bear It) distributed it, starting Monday, October 28, 1957.

The panel appeared on an unusual schedule. Papers had the option of running it on either weekdays or Sundays. The "daily" came out only three times a week, while the Sunday collected all three, adding a fourth, long and narrow, as a bonus. This may have been a factor in its lack of popularity among newspaper features editors, who may have had a little trouble placing it. In any case, when Schulz found his Peanuts work crowding it out of his schedule, the syndicate, instead of passing it on to Sasseville, dropped it. The last of it appeared on Sunday, January 11, 1959.

It's Only a Game had no merchandising, very nearly no media spin-offs (just an obscure and apparently poorly circulated booklet reprinting seven panels), and little notice among Schulz's and Sasseville's peers in the cartooning community. It would be virtually forgotten today, if not for comic book writer and Peanuts fan extraordinaire Nat Gertler (Elfquest, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), whose publishing company, About Comics (DNAgents, The Liberty Project) brought out a collected edition in 2004.


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Text ©2007 Donald D. Markstein. Art © estate of Charles M. Schulz.