by Don Allen
I love comic strips. Have since I was a kid. Opening up the Sunday newspaper and getting out the 4 page, colored comic section. My favorite of all time is Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson. Garfield, by Jim Davis, comes in a close second, and those were the two that I read the most growing up. I must own about 5 Calvin and Hobbes collections and about the same number for Garfield.
I didn’t read Peanuts, by Charles Schulz, much when I was a kid. It always seemed a bit old, a bit simple, so I never really looked at it. As the years have gone by however I looked at it more and more, and realized that it’s actually a really good strip with some very funny jokes. So when I ran across The Bumper Book of Peanuts here in the Library I decided to go through it.
The book is very conveniently separated by topic, such as “Baseball”, “The Great Pumpkin”, “Thanksgiving” etc. My personal favorite is, given my love of sports, “Baseball”. Somehow Charlie Brown is the manager of the team, and always makes himself the pitcher, even though he’s terrible. In one strip, he pitches the ball, which immediately gets hit right back to him so hard that he ends up losing his clothes. His friend/rival, Lucy, is then shown giving him back his clothes, telling him that “…and we found your cap over two blocks away, and one of your shoes three blocks away, and one of your socks two blocks away, and…” to which Charlie Brown yells “ALL RIGHT!” in exasperation. Made me laugh.
Reading these strips now I can appreciate what a genius Charles Schulz was, so I started researching the strip. He created a strip where there’s nary an adult in site, yet we have a Beethoven playing youth in Schroeder, an “ace-fighter pilot” dog and worldwide icon Snoopy, and a bevy of strong female characters such as Marcie, Lucy, and Peppermint Patty. In 1968, Schulz introduced Franklin, an African-American kid, into the strip. Tellingly, Schulz specifically made sure that Franklin was seen as going to the same school as the other (white) kids, which in 1968 was a very divisive subject. Schulz said that someone had once written him saying “I don’t mind you having a black character, but please don’t show them in school together.” Schulz didn’t respond.
While Schulz died in 2000, his work is incredible and continues to run in newspapers in re-runs. The Bumper Book of Peanuts is a lot of fun to read, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read a piece of American comic-strip history. It’s available here.