Tag Archives: Comic Strips

It’s A New Year, Charlie Brown!

My oldest fandom, and the only thing I would even consider getting tattooed on my body (when I’m y’know, like, 80) is Peanuts. You might have guessed this from my occasional references to my wife as “the little red-haired girl” or the fact that I have at times used Snoopy on his doghouse at the typewriter as my avatar.

I still remember the thrill of finding new Peanuts collections at Half Price Books (a one-time haul of 15 paperback books being a true highlight). I still have all my old collections (in storage for a future gift to our hypothetical children) and a number of digital, hardback and Peanuts miscellany throughout the house. Our tiny 3 foot Christmas tree has plastic Snoopy ornaments from years of Whitman’s chocolate boxes, and even my desk at work has Snoopy the doctor, Snoopy making valentine’s hearts, and Joe Cool Snoopy playing the guitar.

But my most prized Peanuts possession are the collections of complete strips put out by Fantagraphics every year for over a decade. Each Christmas my parents have bought for me another box containing two books with four years worth of strips stretching from 1950 to the last collection released (1995-1998). This year will be the last year for these collections, a body of work of more than 50 years.

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but I got to thinking that it was time to read through all of Peanuts from the beginning. To do this I need to read a little over 50 strips a day, or about two weeks per book (there are 24 on my shelf).

Peanuts has meant a lot of different things to me over the years. It’s always been good for a laugh, and for having someone to relate to in Charlie Brown. Watching some of the specials and reading early strips I’m beginning to wonder if children in the 50’s had a better grasp of the classics than we do now (Charlie Brown has to read War & Peace at 8 years old, something I haven’t managed to do by 30). In the last decade my favorite strips have often involved Snoopy at his typewriter as we both strive to become published authors, but there are always strips that strike me in new ways at different ages.

So far in three days of reading I’ve discovered a few things about early Peanuts:

  • Snoopy doesn’t get his name until about 100 strips in.
  • Shermy, Patty and Violet are the main characters along with Charlie Brown.
  • Charlie Brown is younger or at least smaller than most of the other kids. He doesn’t get the stripe for over 100 strips.
  • Snoopy doesn’t have a clear owner, though Shermy seems to be the one taking care of him. Also, Snoopy still looks very dog-like in appearance and manner.

There’s a lot of what I love about the strip that’s still yet to come, and yet there are still simple moments that I can relate to as someone who owns a beagle:


Image Source: GoComics

This strip could be redrawn with Murphy easily.

I imagine this next year will get me writing and thinking about Peanuts, something I may share with you from time to time.

What have you loved since before you can remember? Do you still go back to it?

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Friday Reviews: Comic Strip Edition

Today we’ve got a couple of comic strip collections, a compilation of classic strips from 50 years of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, and the second volume of Katie Cook’s charming web-comic, Gronk.

Woodstock: Master of Disguise

Writer and Artist: Charles Schulz

WoodstockCoverI’ve been a lifelong fan of Peanuts and have at different times in my life related to Charlie Brown or Snoopy. Every Christmas my parents give me the next volume in Fantagraphics’ wonderful archive of Peanuts comics (which is nearing the end after over a decade of publishing these volumes). And I’ve bought my share of themed collections focusing on Scouting, Writing, Baseball or specific characters.

Perhaps Snoopy’s expression on the cover says it best about this volume. Woodstock may have earned himself a place on Whoopi Goldberg’s chest (weird intersection of Trek and Peanuts trivia), but he’s better in small doses rather than as the main event.

I like the inclusion of the head beagle strips and the scouting strips, but both of these have a lot more to do with Snoopy than they ever do with Woodstock. We also get pieces of strips that would form the basis of Snoopy Come Home and a lot of hockey and football strips where the joke is usually Woodstock being crushed by the football.

Peanuts is a lot about repetition if you think about it. The best running gags are Charlie Brown losing (almost) every Baseball game, missing the football, Snoopy fighting the Red Baron and getting his every literary work rejected. But collections of those strips show the ways in which Schulz changed the gag every time so even though we knew what was going to happen, the joke was still funny. Woodstock jokes, on the other hand, are really all the same.

The one thing this collection brings out is that while Snoopy loves Woodstock, he doesn’t always like him very much. Play a drinking game with this book and take a drink every time Snoopy says “stupid bird.” You’ll enjoy the book all the more.

The activity section might be okay for kids, but doesn’t add much. This is also a bit nit-picky, but I actually prefer the strips in their original black and white form over any recoloring. The Sunday color is fine, but I like the plain presentation Fantagraphics has chosen over this re-colored collection.

(3 stars | There are a lot of great Peanuts collections out there, but this one is just okay)

Gronk: A Monster’s Story Volume 2

Writer and Artist – Katie Cook

GronkVol2It’s probably best to look at Gronk less as comic strip and more as a poster book with a cute loveable character. There are lot of pages here that would make great posters, coffee mugs, mousepads, etc. There are visual gags of movies, art, and even other comic strips like The Family Circus.

We do get a nice prequel story involving an early intersection between Gronk, Dale and kitteh and there are some recurring gags with Gronk discovering the joys and perils of the iPad that are decently funny.

Again this is cute, funny, geeky and a little sweet book and most pages would be great printed on the side of a coffee mug or as a background. It’s just a shame we get so few of these both on-line and in these collections (less than 60 strips here).

I will say that here re-coloring brings a lot of vibrancy to the art. The web-comic is in black and white and often has a half-finished quality. These collections really make these characters come to life and while this book isn’t very long, you’ll still enjoy it.

(3 stars | Probably more of a 3.5 because of the art and geek parodies)

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Keeping Books For The Future

One of my recent purchases through the Humble Bundle was the complete Bloom County (which also included the complete Outland and Opus). I first learned about this series from my high-school history teacher Mr. Jordan after I’d expressed an interest in other things like Doonesbury. Over 2-3 years in college I managed to buy all of the original collections, and in later years I even picked up the first hardback of the complete Bloom County (which had some early material I hadn’t read before).

opusNow that I own literally every strip in digital form I’ve been reading from the very beginning. Oddly, 8-10 years after I first read these, I think these strips from the 80’s are surprisingly relevant. Even though I wasn’t born until about halfway through the strip’s run, a child of the 90’s has a lot in common with a child of the 80’s, especially characters like Oliver Wendell Jones and the rise of the hackers. But will my kid find these strips amusing or just boring?

See I’ve been doing the same thing with the complete Peanuts. I have a ton of individual collections I’m saving so I can give them to potential future offspring, while still maintaining my complete hardback collection until they’re old enough to treat them with the proper care. But I’ve also been practising the mantra of getting rid of a lot of things physically that I own digitally (even some things I don’t have digitally like most of my old Doonesbury books).

Should I get rid of my Bloom County books, which let’s face it, will be talking about events and people from 35-40 years in the past by the time these theoretical kids read them? Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes are timeless, no question, and I like the oddness of Bloom County. But I’m weird.

Realistically I applied the rule I do with a lot of uncertain things. If I don’t know I want to get rid of it for sure, I keep it. Selling these collections won’t get me five bucks I’d expect, and even with the digital sometimes it’s still fun to page through the original. And there’s probably a few old forwards that aren’t available elsewhere unless I scan them.

For that matter, will kids even read the funnies in the same way I did? Most of the relevant comics these days are online, things like XKCD, SMBC and Dinosaur Comics (though calling some of these ground-breaking is a bit pushing it). None of them are winning Eisner awards for cartooning. Maybe Sandra and Woo has picked up the torch a little bit, being of the same peculiar breed as Bloom County which has animals talking to humans like nothing strange is happening.

Who knows, in the meantime I’ll be keeping my Bloom County next to Calvin and Hobbes and just below Pogo (“we have seen the enemy and he is us”).

BTW, on a further reading, despite loving some of the innocent naivete Opus brings to the strip, Oliver Wendell Jones is my favourite, particularly the strips where is so overwhelmed by the infinite vastness of the cosmos that he must wallow in the banality of a chocolate chip cookie. Same goes for me and contemplating are eventual technological future.

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