Review – Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz HC (BOOM! Studios)

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Publisher: BOOM! Studios (KaBOOM! Imprint)
Writers/Artists: Mike Allred, Art Baltazar, Paige Braddock, Megan Brennan, Frank Cammuso, Derek Charm, Colleen Coover, Evan Dorkin, Chynna Clugston Flores, Julie Fujii, Shaenon K. Garrity, Melanie Gillman, Zac Gorman, Jimmy Gownley, Matt Groening, Dan Hipp, Keith Knight, Mike Kunkel, Roger Langridge, Jeff Lemire, Jonathan Lemon, Patrick McDonnell, Tony Millionaire, Caleb Monroe, Terry Moore, Dustin Nguyen, Molly Ostertag, Lincoln Peirce, Paul Pope, Hilary Price, Liz Prince, Stan Sakai, Chris Schweizer, Ryan Sook, Jeremy Sorese, Raina Telgemeier, Richard Thompson, Tom Tomorrow, Lucas Turnbloom, and Jen Wang
Release Date: 14th October, 2016

Like most people my age (or, y’know, any age really), Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts is heavily imprinted on my childhood. From Snoopy cups to Woodstock toys to those beloved Christmas and Halloween specials, the adventures of Charlie Brown and pals played a huge role in my early years, and the strips themselves – along with Jim Davis’ Garfield – served as my first tentative steps into the world of comicbooks.

This hardcover tribute, released by KaBOOM! to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Peanuts, serves as a gushing love letter from a wide assortment of comic creators to the wonderful world that Schulz – or “Sparky”, as he preferred to be known – created.  The contributors include some of the best-known names from the world of children’s books, comics, webcomics and cartoons, and each creator has chosen their own unique way of showing their love for Schulz; from single-page interpretations of the iconic characters to homages of strips in classic Peanuts style to several genuinely moving recollections of the impact that these stories had on them growing up.

It’s truly fascinating to watch all these talented creators with their own distinctive styles paying tribute to such a familiar universe, and in spite of the different approaches, the results are singularly wonderful, serving as a glowing testament to the sheer influence of these characters and stories.

Now while I’m not going to break down every strip and illustration individually, I have cherry-picked some of my personal highlights for a little extra praise.  So here goes…

Evan Dorkin and Derek Charm’s “It’s The Great Old Ones, Charlie Brown” takes a wonderfully unconventional look at some of the more troubling aspects of the Peanuts world; the unnerving lack of adults, the existential ennui of the main character and the worryingly human-acting animals, to name but a few.  Probably my favourite strip of the whole collection, Dorkin and Charm fully embrace the darkness of Schulz’s world (and it is a dark world at times, regardless of the cartoony aesthetic), taking a gloriously Lovecraftian approach to the creeping dread of Charlie Brown.  It sounds odd, and yes, it probably is, but it just flat-out works.

Stan Sakai’s “Escapade in Tokyo” is a more traditional tribute, a strip that could almost have been lifted from the pages of Schulz himself which sees Charlie Brown separated from his friends during a trip to Japan, but actually having a great time with a local girl who shows him the sights.  Wonderfully heartwarming with a faint hint of sadness, the strip also features perhaps the most faithful recreation of Schulz’s distinctive artistic style in the whole collection.

Jeremy Sorese takes a more unique approach with “The Orchestra”, examining the world of Peanuts and its lack of adults and transferring those experiences into his own life.  His own childhood memories, as I’m sure is the case with a great many of us, are all about sensations, objects, moments – not adults, and Sorese’s moving recollection of his time spent with his grandparents underpins the mastery of Schulz as a creator in the way his work was able to connect with children (and adults) on such a deeply profound level.

Finally, Melanie Gillman’s “Weird” provides a touching look at the relationship between Peppermint Patty and Marcie, and the way the word ‘friend’ is used by a lot of people as a way to deflect from a relationship that is clearly – to all of us reading the strips, too – a lot more than just friendship.  As Patty herself muses, “I wish we were allowed to make our own words“, a sentiment that I’m sure a lot of young girls and boys would wholeheartedly agree with.

I could go on endlessly here, but to summarise, this is nothing less than an utterly wonderful collection of stories, drawings and memories inspired by the tireless work of a single man.  The creations of Charles M. Schulz helped to inspire a generation of creators, and seeing such an outpouring of affection and respect for his work is difficult not to be inspired and moved by.  While it may be, superficially at least, the story of an unlucky kid and his pet dog, the reality of Peanuts – as can be seen here – is about so much more.  Essential reading for fans of Schulz, fans of comics, and anyone who has ever been a child.

Rating: 5/5.

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The writer of this piece was: 576682_510764502303144_947146289_nCraig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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