I grew up on “Peanuts”, the much beloved comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, arguably the most influential and successful American cartoonist of all time. Thus, I look forward to a new authorized biography of Schulz by David Michaelis, “Schulz and Peanuts,” to be released HarperCollins.
I identified with the main character, Charlie Brown (as did millions of others, including U.S. President Ronald Regan), who was later to be eclipsed by his swashbuckling and debonair dog, Snoopy. To a jaded MTV generation used to the admittedly visually stunning SFX of today’s multimedia, it may be hard to fathom the impact a simple, daily black-and-white (except for Sundays) comic strip had on our generation.
As explained by Charles McGrath in a review published in the New York Times :
“He transformed the newspaper cartoon strip, busy and cluttered by the time he turned up in the late ’40s, by flooding it with white space, and by reducing his childish characters to near abstraction — huge circular heads balanced on tiny bodies — he rendered them far more expressive than their cartoon peers. The strip was able to register grown-up emotions, like anxiety, depression, yearning, disillusionment, that had never been in cartoons before. Instead of the “Slam!” “Bam!” “Pow!” sound effects that were the lingua franca of the comics, it employed a quieter, more eloquent vocabulary: “Aaugh!” and “Sigh.”
“Peanuts” was beloved by everyone: by hipsters and college kids (in the ’60s especially); by presidents (Ronald Reagan once wrote Schulz a fan note, saying he identified with Charlie Brown); by the Apollo 10 astronauts, who named their orbiter and landing vehicle after Charlie and Snoopy; by ministers and pastors, who read moral and theological lessons into the strip; by the suits in Detroit, who paid Charlie and the gang a small fortune to shill for the Ford Falcon. At its peak the strip reached 300 million readers in 75 countries; 2,600 papers and 21 languages every day.” Read the rest of this entry »