[Editor’s Note: click on photos/illustrations for larger versions]
It’s difficult to explain the shock I felt when I first discovered the type of books and comics Stan and Jan Berenstain wrote before they came up with The Berenstain Bears.
I suspect most fans of the Berenstain Bears have had the same feeling: it’s quite the eye-opening experience to pick up a copy of “Bedside Lover Boy” or “Be Good Or I’ll Belt Ya.”
[Pause] Yes… “Bedside Lover Boy” is a title of a Stan and Jan Berenstain book!
Ok. Just wanted to give you a moment to process that.
These stories and illustrations cover everything from office politics to domestic relationships…
with hilarious, irreverent, and slightly off-color drawings and expressions.
These aren’t bedtime stories — at least, not for the kids!
The Berenstains had their second son, Mike, in 1951 (Leo had been born in 1948) and decided to write a funny book about pregnancy and child rearing for others going through the same experience: “The Berenstains’ Baby Book.” The book was very successful and the duo went on to write two other primers for parents in the coming years, “How to Teach Your Children About Sex Without Making a Complete Fool of Yourself” and “Have a Baby, My Wife Just Had a Cigar!”
Stan and Jan also gained fame in the early 1950s for a comic strip entitled “Sister,” which ran in Collier’s magazine for many years. Highlights from the comic strip were published in book form: “Sister: A Funhouse of Sister Comics from Collier’s” (Schuman, 1952)
In 1956, the two started writing a comic strip called “It’s All in the Family.” It was published in McCall’s magazine for many years, then appeared in Good Housekeeping. The success of the Berenstain Bears children’s books never kept the Berenstains from continuing with their adult-oriented comic strip; it ran until 1989.
It was always the goal of Stan and Jan to remind parents not to take life, work, or parenting too seriously. Don’t be afraid to laugh at the crazy day-to-day events at home and at work. It was like the print version of the famous tv show, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”
Of course Dad is painted as a bit of a buffoon… so it’s maybe not so hard to see how the family members in their comics morphed – at least a little bit – into the Bear Family. Just imagine Papa Bear in this situation:
If you don’t have any of these books, be sure to pick up one or two. They were issued in huge quantities in the 1960s and 70s and are easy to find on sites like Amazon, the Advanced Book Exchange, and eBay.
It’s fun to read them and be reminded of how things have changed in the past 30 or 40 years … and how many things stay very much the same!
Note: All books by Stan and Jan Berenstain – including non-Bear books – are cataloged on my Complete List of Books.
Stan and Jan Berenstain Books and Comics (Non-Berenstain Bears)
Berenstains’ Baby Book, the (MacMillan, 1951)
Sister: A Funhouse of Sister Cartoons from Collier’s (Schuman, 1952)
Tax-Wise (Schuman, 1952)
Marital Blitz (Dutton, 1954)
Baby Makes Four (MacMillan, 1956)
It’s All in the Family [McCall’s cartoons] (Dutton, 1958)
Lover Boy (MacMillan, 1958)
And Beat Him When He Sneezes, McGraw Hill, 1960) reprinted as Have a Baby, My Wife Just Had a Cigar (Dell, 1960)
Bedside Lover Boy (Dell, 1960)
Call Me Mrs. (MacMillan, 1961) [also published as “I Love You Kid, But Oh My Wife”]
It’s Still in the Family (Dutton, 1961)
Office Lover Boy (Dell, 1962)
The Facts of Life for Grown-ups (Dell, 1963) [also published as “What Dr. Freud Didn’t Tell You (Dell, 1971)]
Flipsville-Squareville (Delacorte, 1965)
Mr. Dirty vs. Mrs. Clean (Dell, 1967)
You Could Diet Laughing (Dell 1969)
Be Good or I’ll Belt You (Dell, 1970)
Education Impossible (Dell, 1970)
How to Teach Your Children about Sex without Making a Complete Fool of Yourself (Dutton, 1970)
Never Trust Anyone over 13 (Bantam, 1970)
How to Teach Your Children about God without Actually Scaring Them out of Their Wits (Dutton, 1971)
Are Parents for Real? (Bantam, 1972)
It’s All in the Family [Good Housekeeping cartoons] (Ballantine, 1985)
I Love Colors – the Berenstain Kids (Random House, 1987) [see also First Time Readers]
Day of the Dinosaur, the (Random House, 1987) [see also First Time Readers]
After the Dinosaurs (Random House, 1988) [see also First Time Readers]
What Your Parents Never Told You about Being a Mom or Dad (Crown, 1995)
Down a Sunny Dirt Road (Random House, 2002) [autobiography]
The Bear Essentials: Everything Today’s Hard-Pressed Parent Needs to Know About Bringing Up Happy, Healthy Kids (Random House, 2005)
Nothing Ever Happens at the South Pole (HaperCollins, 2012) [published posthumously]
(assumed to be incomplete; other items likely exist)
How to Be a Carefree Cook (Hallmark Spectacular Guidebooks, c. 1965)
How to Have a Fun-Filled Vacation (Hallmark Spectacular Guidebooks, c. 1965)
Considerably Fewer Than 1000 Fabulous Fishing Facts (Hallmark Spectacular Guidebooks, c. 1965)
Etiquette and Other Stuff for Newlyweds (Hallmark Spectacular Guidebooks, c. 1965)
How to Be Perfectly Yummy: Fabulous Fashion and Beauty Tips (For You on Mother’s Day) (Hallmark Spectacular Guidebooks, c. 1965)
How to Have a Happy Anniversary and Other Myths About Marriage (Hallmark Spectacular Guidebooks, c. 1965)
How to Have a Happy Birthday (Hallmark Spectacular Guidebooks, c. 1965)
Slightly Better Bowling by Lofter T. Gutterball as Told to the Berenstains (Hallmark Spectacular Guidebooks, c. 1965)
Our Honeymoon: A Photo Album with a Humorous Commentary by the Berenstains (Hallmark, 1967)
MORE: Visit the Official Berenstain Bears Blog for more about Stan and Jan’s early work, including illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post.
One thought on “Before “The “Berenstain Bears” – Classic Stan and Jan adult comics”
I have found this page that is glued to a plank, it looks like newspaper.. it’s called “back to school” by Stanley and Janice Berenstain…
If anyone can please reach out and tell me more about this piece I’d be much appreciated! I can’t find anything about it anywhere.