Scott Nickel reviews Schulz and Peanuts

Scott Nickel, of Triple Take, His & Hers and Eek fame, has started reading the new Schulz and Peanuts biography and isn’t all that impressed.

I received my copy of Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography from Amazon today. I stopped at page 31 feeling utterly despondent. Author David Michaelis paints such a morose and relentlessly depressing portrayal of Schulz and his family (at least his mother and her relatives), that it’s hard to slog through.

One gets the feeling the author is chronicling the early life of a serial killer rather than one of Americaâ??s most beloved cartoonists.

I now understand the Schulz familyâ??s dismay. It’s rather obvious that Michaelis has a central thesis that he’s painstakingly constructing: the artist as melancholy misfit, unable to achieve or appreciate real happiness, material to the contrary be damned.

9 thoughts on “Scott Nickel reviews Schulz and Peanuts

  1. I read 3 bios this year , Charles Addams, Walt Disney, and Chuck Jones (a re-read ).
    The Charles Addams book was definately in the “tell-all” category and I doubt I would have read it had I realized that ahead of time. The Disney bio was a long slog and I really came away not liking “Uncle Walt” at all and seriously questioning his sanity. Very much a “so you thought you liked this man and his work here’s all his warts so you can decide how screwed up he was” type of book.

    Thank goodness for “Chuck Amok” a fabulous and entertaining look behind the scenes of Chuck Jones and Warner Brothers. Probably as good as it was because it was an autobiography – nothing like getting the info from the horse’s mouth.

    I also read “the Art of Pat McDonnell” this year and became a big fan of his work. My paper hasn’t carried his strip in a long time and after finding this book at my local library, I immediately added Mutts to my daily ink. The book also has a tremendous amount of behind the scenes info and doodles by McDonnell.

    So I am definately skipping the Schulz book. Between everything I’ve seen written here by those who knew him and others who have simply read the book, it sounds as though it falls firmly in the same category with the Walt Disney Bio. From now on it’s only an artists’ own work and words that I plan to have any interest in.

  2. I’m not surprised that the Schulz book has such a slant to it. It’s definitely going to sell to a larger audience by attempting to bring about Sparky’s “dark side.” It’s the Jerry Springer mentality of America that seems to be a sure-fire way of selling products.

    But it’s been said before on this page…Schulz, while being the Big Daddy of the comic world, was human. It sure makes it understandable why there are so many “reclusive” artists out there.

  3. Anne, I completely agree with your take on “Chuck Amok”. It’s a very fun read, punctuated by some wonderful sketches that really show Jones’ talent. I also recommend to everyone the autobiography of Bill Peet, which has a similar structure to Chuck Amok.

    I haven’t read the Schulz biography so I can’t weigh in on it, but just from reading Peanuts I doubt he was a happy-go-lucky guy. Maybe his family could put together a book of interviews and Schulz’s own writings, like the Edward Gorey book that came out after Gorey’s death. Just to give the topic a bit of balance.

  4. I have the new Disney bio — by Neal Gabler — but haven’t read it. Several years ago I read the “dark prince” Disney bio, which was rather ludicrous, depicting an elderly Walt dunking his morning donut in Scotch.

    Whatever his personal faults, Disney was brilliant; his impact on American and world culture undeniable.

  5. That Neal Gabler bio is the one I was referring to Scott. The Disney he portrays is no picnic. If the book is to be believed, the genius of the films was due to all the people who worked for him and put up with his many changes of mood and direction. In some cases, the higher his level of involvement, the longer and more convoluted the project. I would discount these stories except there were so many of them and so many of his employees started rival concerns.

  6. Ya’ll (that’s like saying “you all” if you’re a Yankee) should read Bob Harvey’s wonderful bio of Milton Caniff. I stated in another blog comment that it should be required reading for anyone writing a biography of a cartoonist. I also think it’s about time Mort Walker wrote the sequel to his great Backstage At The Strips (from ’75).

  7. I love the new Walt Disney bio. To me, it reads very neutral, yet very insightful into the man that I wanted to be as a youngster drawing cartoons.

    I forgot I pre-ordered the Schulz biography before all of the hoopla so I was surprised when it showed up a few days ago. So far, I’ve only enjoyed the pictures.

  8. For some good perspective on the Schulz bio and Michaelis’ gloomy take on his subject, you all may like “You’re a Good Prop, Cruel Muse,” by Randy Kennedy in The New York Times ideas & trends section for Oct. 14.
    And, yes, hooray for “Chuck Amuck” and for Patrick McDonnell and Mooch and Earl and Ozzie and Millie!! It’s not surprising that Schulz admired “Mutts” and that he and Patrick were friends.


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