Peanuts was and arguably still is a key piece of the history of sequential art. Charles Schulz’ work of more than fifty years proved exceptional and is remembered to this day. The Peanuts Papers is editor Andrew Blauner’s attempt to coordinate as many thoughtful and interesting perspectives on the strip as possible into one volume, and it succeeds well. Over 30 contributors to this collection, varying from academics to comic artists, get a chance to say their piece, and prove most entertaining and informative in doing so.
Ivan Brunetti’s “Yesterday Will Get Better” ruminates upon change, life, and how Peanuts is an excellent microcosm of these things. The change in characters, particularly visually, is touched upon and discussed in comparison to aging. Many comparisons come into play, such as a fascinating discussion of short comic strips individually connecting to the whole body of work and moments in a life. This is a clever and memorable essay, and far from the only one to occur.
Bruce Handy’s “It’s Once Upon a Time” features a fascinating examination of the works of Schulz in comparison to a variety of other works, with a focus upon comparison to children’s literature, but a spread as far as a slightly inaccurate comparison to Raymond Chandler’s Double Indemnity. I say slightly inaccurate because Handy claims that both feature six of the seven deadly sins; however both Sally and Lucy show obvious representations of Lust throughout the run of Peanuts and as a result the two include the full set.
Other essays feature other subjects, each individual speaking of their experience or their area of expertise in turn. In addition to the essays are the comics included, which each manage to explain the influence of Shulz while being strongly individual. “Bar Nuts” is a rather large entry by Leslie Stein which focuses on one person’s relationship with peanuts and the phenomena of favorite characters. It is funny, and touching and colorful, and fits the mood of the collection quite well.
There are sections in this volume on the characters and the comic strips, there is poetry and personal experience. Sections for true experiences and the history of the television specials. It’s a fascinating and sometimes esoteric combination of documents with only one true common aspect.
I was a little disappointed at the lack of certain entries, such as John Kovalik’s “A Boy Named Charles Shulz” which helped illustrate a very personal story by a cartoonist obviously influenced by the man. There are many similar pieces however, and not all of them could be included. I found much in the way of knowledgeable writers here and also those who were influenced substantially.
The Peanuts Papers is an absolute must-have for a scholar of the work of Charles Shulz, and not to be missed. Containing essays and articles from disparate sources, one cannot help but be educated by the subject matter. For those interested in literary analysis or in the history of sequential art, the book is again quite valuable. Ironically the only group who might find themselves avoiding this book are those who want a collection of Schulz’s strips.
(Library of America, 2019)