Monday, May 18, 2015
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
My birthday passed by a few weeks ago, and one of the nicest presents was Peanuts Every Sunday by Charles Schulz; vol.2: 1956-1960, from Fantagraphics. A confessed Peanuts freak, I immediately dove into the book at the neglect of everything else. This isn't so unusual, except I own the collected Peanuts volumes that span these years, and having read these strips many times over, you'd think I'd not be so eager to re-read such familiar material. But, of course, that's not the case with Peanuts. One of the wonders of the strip is that with multiple readings, it just gets better. And with Peanuts Every Sunday, the focus on the Sunday strips( in color) allows for a different rhythm than that of the complete collections.
The Sunday strips, read alone, are somehow altogether lighter, not in tone, per se--but in execution. Schulz has room to breathe in the Sundays. The luxury of added space allows for his exquisitely understated cartooning to come to the fore-particularly in extended sequences of wonderfully realized slapstick comedy.
Whether it's Linus and Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the Kite eating tree, or Snoopy and Lucy dancing, Schulz's cartooning is filled with life revealed through antic, comic movement. The situations are simplicity itself, and the laughs are in the renderings as much as in the characters responses.
The years covered by this volume(1956-60) show Schulz just hitting his stride; you can literally see him climb to the lofty peak of comic strip greatness in these pages. It's an enthralling journey.
The weekend my wife gave me this book, I happened to have hit a bit of a roadblock in my writing for "Jetpack Jr." Something in the strips I'd done that weekend wasn't working. I took a break and read a few strips from this book. A comic strip master class, Schulz's deft hand instantly opened my eyes to what was wrong with what I'd been writing--and illuminated a different pathway. The next day, fueled by the Sunday strips herein, I set about re-writing with a much clearer mind.
I've read these strips countless times, yet they never cease to reveal something new to me, both as a reader and as a cartoonist. That such unstudied(yet exquisite) simplicity might mask a well of thought and feeling so deep as to seem infinite is its miracle; Charles Schulz' legacy, his gift to us; a gift that forever keeps on giving.
*thanks, honey-for this wonderful book!