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Charles Schulz and Charlie Brown in the News

Sparky and Peanuts seems to be in the news a lot these days.

Most of it is because of the June 25 debut of a new Schulz documentary.

From the Tales Buzz review:

Apple TV+ is now the home of all-things-“Peanuts” — so it’s the logical place home for a new documentary about Charles Schulz, who created the iconic comic-strip franchise.

Who Are You, Charlie Brown?” premieres Friday (June 25) on the streamer and clocks in at under an hour, short by today’s Ken Burns-style standards but long enough to cover all the bases in recounting both Schulz’s life and the “Peanuts” phenomenon — which conquered that print, TV, movies and, now, the digital arena.

Also in anticipation Jean Schulz talked about the beginning of Peanuts with The Pioneer Press,
where it all began.

“Did you know that the Pioneer Press was the first paper that printed Sparky’s ‘Li’l Folks’?”

In June 1947, [Schulz] landed a regular gig drawing “Li’l Folks” for the Pioneer Press.

In early 1950, Jean Schulz said, he had a meeting with his editor. “He’d been trained by the people who counsel veterans that you need to ask for what you want,” she said. “He said, ‘Could I get more money for the strip, could I get a better position in the paper and could I run it five days a week?’ When they said no to all three, he did what he was trained to do and said, ‘Well, then, I guess I quit.’ “

From Comic Book.com is another look at the documentary:

Who Are You, Charlie Brown? is a little unconventional as documentaries go as it features two stories. One is an animated Peanuts cartoon that follows Charlie Brown as he gets a heavy school assignment to write an essay on the topic of “who are you?” That cartoon follows Charlie Brown worrying and stressing about that deeply existential question and looking to those in his life – his sister, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, Pigpen – to tell him who he is. That story is woven through the more traditional documentary that details Schulz’s life, offering his story and how he first became interested in cartooning and how the various Peanuts characters came to be, revealing interesting and sometimes surprising anecdotes along the way.

It’s an interesting approach to presenting the story, but it’s effective as it drives home the idea that the Peanuts characters were all created from aspects and elements of Schulz’s life.

 

Also being discussed is a new book about the politics of Peanuts.

Most people have come to associate Peanuts with the innocence of childhood, not the social and political turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s. Some have even argued that Peanuts was so beloved because it was apolitical. The truth, according to history professor Blake Scott Ball, is that Peanuts was very political. Whether it was the battles over the Vietnam War, racial integration, feminism, or the future of a nuclear world, Ball argues in his book Charlie Brown’s America: The Popular Politics of Peanuts that the strip was a daily conversation about very real hopes and fears and the political realities of the Cold War world.

Author Blake Scott Ball and comics critic Gary Groth discuss the book in a livestream,
unfortunately going on right now.

At The Aaugh Blog Peanuts pundit Nat Gertler reviews the book:


I’ve been looking forward to Charlie Brown’s America: The Politics of Peanuts for a while now, and while Blake Scott Ball’s look at how Peanuts both reflected and impacted the political and social issues of its day. While the book does not fulfill every hope that I had for it (for I am capable of big hopes), I think it’s a worthwhile addition to Peanuts scholarship and worth reading… and judging by the reaction it is getting in some fairly mainstream outlets, I am not alone in feeling that.

Ball does fall prey to the temptation to attribute intent to Schulz based on an interpretation of a strip (we do have record of Schulz stating intentions for some strips, but far from all) or a quote.

The book is definitely worthwhile. It isn’t, however, something that seems to be the definitive final word.

 

Recently Heritage Auctions finished selling some lots that included Schulz/Peanuts original art.
This is what you missed out  to hang on your wall:

$31,200.00

$40,800.00

$38, 400.00

$4,800.00

$19,200.00

Peanuts © Peanuts Worldwide

Community Comments

#1 George Paczolt
June/22/2021
@ 5:11 am

Read the Wall Street Journal’s review of Ball’s book yesterday. Fairly positive. And, of course, the usual comments afterwards which can be pretty much paraphrased as, “Another book by some college professor, which means it’s crap and not worth reading.”

There were enough of those that I figured the book is worth buying and reading.

#2 Katherine Collins
June/23/2021
@ 12:51 am

I may be the only person in the world to say this, and I have never admitted it in print before, but . . . I don’t care about Peanuts. I don’t hate it or anything like that. It just doesn’t amuse me, or impress me, or anything. It’s like reading a grocery list.

Ever since I first saw it, way back in the 1950s, in the Vancouver (B.C.) Sun, I have felt the same way. I had a friend who was fanatically ga-ga over Peanuts, and I kept trying to share his enthusiasm, but to no avail. (He finally dropped me as a friend, to hang out with somebody who was also a Peanuts fan.)

I can see all the irony and insight in the strip, but so what? Schulz himself seems so straight and un-nuanced. My favourite current strip is Zippy the Pinhead, and my favourite cartoonists of all time are Rudy Dirks and Carl Barks. Does this indicate anything?

Anyway, I’m glad I don’t have to spend my money on all the Peanuts books.

Does everybody hate me now?

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