My pal Mark Evanier is reporting the death of comics creator Al Plastino. Al was a talented creator with long runs in both comic books and comic strips (he did strips ranging from “Batman” to “Nancy”), and curious assignments in each realm. In comic books, his best known odd assignment was to redraw the heads of Superman in the comic books the great Jack Kirby was drawing, but the thing that lands him on this blog is his odd comic strip assignment: he was the guy who would’ve taken over Peanuts. Sources differ on just when he was lined up to do so, but the most likely time was during hte 1970s, when Schulz’s contract was up for renegotiation. Schulz did not own Peanuts; the strip was owned by United Features Syndicate, and if Schulz had left, they could have had someone continue the series. Plastino drew a batch of strips, ready to be dropped in in if negotiations failed… but, of course, the syndicate ironed everything out with Schulz, so there was no need for the Plastino strips to see the light of day.
I’ve seen a couple of the Plastino strips. The drawing isn’t bad – it wouldn’t pass as being Schulz, but it was a reasonable look for a substitute artist that was not jarring with what had gone before. As for the writing, it didn’t feel like Peanuts. The characters were off there, the texture of the humor was wrong. (Edited to add: I should note that Plastino did have substantial runs on two other long-running humor strips, “Ferd’nand” and “Nancy”.)
I’m glad Mr. Plastino was around and contributed as much as he did to the field of comics… but I’m also glad that Peanuts did not end up being part of that contribution.