Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Charlie Brown

One of my favorite Peanuts strips.

I am subscribing to the Complete Peanuts collections (I have eight so far). It's a top-quality hard-cover publication collecting every strip from the fifty years of Peanuts, two years per book. Warmly recommended for fans of Peanuts.

I should note that if you start with the first book, don't judge it too harshly. It's good, but not yet great. The strip gets better and better as the fifties go along, until it hits its surrealistic stride in the sixties.

The only strip, to my mind, which came even close to Peanuts was Calvin And Hobbes, what years we got of it before his breakdown (I think it was). But great as that was, I find now that nothing is as re-readable as Peanuts is. My favorite Peanuts collection (a big hardcover omnibus collection sampling strips from a wide spectrum of years) I have read half a dozen times.

Open letter to Gary Groth, owner of Fantagraphics and editor of The Complete Peanuts:

Dear Gary Groth,
Permit me to express my great admiration and gratitude for your publication of The Complete Peanuts.
Both the ambition itself and the execution are of the highest caliber. And I'm certain that this high profile hard-cover publication will be invaluable in presenting and preserving Mr. Schulz's oeuvre, the greatest comic strip ever made, for current and future generations.
Sincerely yours, Eolake Stobblehouse

In 1954 there's a strip where Charlie Brown makes a comic strip featuring a man riding across the US on a power mower. (For some reason he considers this to be "science fiction".) I wonder if that strip gave David Lynch the idea for The Straight Story?


Anonymous said...

I judged it harshly based on what he was doing toward the end when he'd run out of ideas. Things started to go downhill in the 70's.

Alex said...

Must be pretty cool having an airport named after you, even if your early drawings were "scratch" and your later ones ran out of ideas.

Alex said...

I meant "Scratchy".

Very few things hit the ground running.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I'll have to say that even at worst, Peanuts was always in the top five of comic strips. And what he did in the nineties was very good.

And at best, it was the best strip ever, period.

Anonymous said...

Schulz was a good as they get. Peanuts wasn't the only great comic strip. It's only the greatest.

Anonymous said...

"And what he did in the nineties was very good."

You're wrong about that. But then you're used to being wrong. I hope you know that comic strips are supposed to be funny.

Anonymous said...

Peanuts wasn't the only great comic strip. It's only the greatest.

Only if you like your comic strips lacking humor. I'll take Calvin and Hobbes or The Far Side any day over Peanuts (Watterson and Larson knew when to quit, and were funny from start to finish). But, then, I have taste.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, suffered any kind of breakdown. He just got tired, and retired.

Pogo, by Walt Kelly, was another comic strip in the same league as Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes. Will Eisner's Spirit was great, though it was very different. Al Capp's Li'l Abner might belong in this lofty company -- I don't know, because Capp's politics blinded me to his talent.

I once got a chance to talk with Bill Watterson. I asked him about the strips that had influenced him. He named Peanuts and Pogo and a few other less familiar strips. (I believe one of them was Percy Crosby's Skippy, which I have never seen.) He also mentioned George Herriman's Krazy Kat, which is revered among hard-core comics fans. It remains pretty esoteric to me. I've read two books of old Krazy Kat strips, and I think it might just be starting to reach me.

Not all great art reaches out and grabs its audience. Some great art requires a little effort -- requires that we reach out to get it.

Anonymous said...

"I once got a chance to talk with Bill Watterson."

Sure you did. The guy who rarely ever gives interviews decided to talk to you. It's funny the information you got out of him is the same stuff available in the Calvin & Hobbes 10th Anniversary book. Life is full of these funny little coincidences.