'Peanuts' from Nancy #157.

Jim Sasseville was an American cartoonist who published a few newspaper cartoons in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Despite several attempts he was never able to launch a syndicated comic strip of his own, but did work as a ghost artist for Charles M. Schulz between 1957 and 1959. He was the first of several assistants hired by the legendary 'Peanuts' creator, paving the way for Dale Hale and Frank Hill.

Early life and career
James Frederick Sasseville was born in 1927 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. During his youth he loved George Herriman's 'Krazy Kat' and in seventh grade he drew an illustrated history about Napoleon Bonaparte, for which he was graded an "A" in art class. He initially worked at the Kaiser shipyards in Portland, Oregon, after which he joined the U.S. Navy and served his country during World War II. Back in civilian life, he entered the Minneapolis School of Art, where he graduated in 1948. He then joined the Art Instruction School, where he met Charles M. Schulz. Sasseville and Schulz became good friends, but while Schulz pursued a career as a cartoonist, Sasseville was more interested in painting.

Joe Cipher by Jim Sasseville
Sample of the unpublished 'Joe Cipher' strip.

In 1952 Sasseville was drafted again to fight during the Korean War, since he only served 11 months in the military before. He was sent to the Philippines, where he worked for an Irish Catholic chaplain and drew a weekly newspaper cartoon for the U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 9. After the war Sasseville returned to the United States and resumed his job at the Art Instruction School. Some of his gag cartoons were published in the men's magazine Gent. Throughout his entire career, Sasseville tried to launch his own newspaper comic, 'Joe Cipher', whom he created in 1949. Unfortunately no syndicate ever showed interest and therefore he never finished the couple of episodes he'd created. Even with some assistance of Charles M. Schulz it never got accepted. Many of his other concepts for comics series, such as 'Aunty Climax', 'Confessions of a French Poodle', 'Friends and Foes', 'Alpha-Betty', 'Blackboard' and 'On this day in history...' all suffered the same fate.


The Trip, the first 'Peanuts' story drawn by Jim Sasseville (Four Color Comics #878).

Peanuts
Yet Sasseville's comics did see print in the second half of the 1950s, albeit under Schulz' name. He basically wrote, drew and inked the majority of the 'Peanuts' comic books by Dell Publishing, but never the 'Peanuts' newspaper comic itself. Between 1952 and 1957, 'Peanuts' had appeared as back-ups in comic books by United Features and St. John, such as Tip Top Comics, United Media/Fritzi Ritz and Tip Topper Comics, which featured Ernie Bushmiller's creations 'Nancy' and 'Fritzi Ritz'. When Dell Publishing took over these titles in 1957, they contained original and longer stories created especially for the comic books. Jim Sasseville was assigned with both the writing and art duties. He contributed back-up stories to issues #55, 57, 58 and 59 of Fritzi Ritz (1958), issues #211 through #215 of Tip Top Comics (November 1958-January 1959), as well as issues #149 to #168 of Nancy (December 1957-July 1969) and two comic books devoted entirely to 'Peanuts' in the Four Color Comics series (#878 and #969).

It's Only A Game
Sasseville also designed some covers for these comic books and assisted Schulz with his short-lived sports comic 'It's Only a Game' (1957-1959), which was syndicated on Sundays by United Features from November 1957 to January 1959. From 1958 on he was basically the sole creator of 'It's Only a Game'. Sasseville never received credit for his contributions, but was still paid better than at his actual job at the Art Instruction School. However, in 1959 Schulz decided to leave Dell Comics because of financial disagreements and dropped 'It's Only a Game' too since it was never a big hit, difficult to combine with 'Peanuts' and because he had nothing to do with it anymore. This decision caught Sasseville completely by surprise and caused such friction that Schulz hired another assistant, Dale Hale. Neither Schulz nor Sasseville ever spoke to one another again. A complete collection of 'It's Only a Game' was edited and published by Derrick Bang in 2004. A new edition called 'It's Only a Game: The Complete Color Collection' was released in 2013, with Sasseville receiving cover credit.

Final years and death
Sasseville found a new job as a graphic designer with radar company Varian in San Francisco, where he worked from 1960 to 1990. Later in life he suffered from Parkinson and had a stroke in early 2002. Coincidentally Schulz also suffered from Parkinson during his final years. Schulz passed away in 2000. Sasseville died in 2005 in Los Altos, California, at age 78.


'It's Only A Game'.

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