Like many cartoonists, I have a complicated relationship with Charles Schultz and Peanuts. I loved it as a child in the sixties and early 70s, both in the newspaper and in the book collections that were everywhere at the time. It’s certainly the first comic I ever understood as a comic and the first “real” literature I remember reading. (It’s a big step, moving out of dedicated children’s books into the stuff that everyone reads.)
In my “sophisticated” teens I lost interest, and by the time I was thinking seriously about comics as an art form, it was pretty clear that the strip had lost more than a few steps. At the same time I discovered/rediscovered the Peanuts that I loved, first the comics from the mid 60s through the early 70s that I had read as a kid, but then, with shock and delight, the strips from the 50s and early 60s that I had never seen before. As a child I’d been vaguely aware that there were “old fashioned” versions of the strip where some of the kids were younger, everybody looked different, and Snoopy was really a dog, but I’d never had a chance to really read the material. I ended up a great lover of the old Peanuts, which I saw as stronger, both in writing and in art, than the late material I was reading in the papers at the time. But I liked that too, and not just for nostalgic reasons. His output was much more uneven, but Schultz was still turning out the occasional excellent comic right up until the end.
This is a long winded leadup saying that I read with great interest a long essay by Kevin Wong, “How Snoopy Killed Peanuts“, published today on Kotaku. I’d even say I agreed with many, though no all, of Wong’s opinions and conclusions. Regardless of your position on the history of Peanuts, and pehaps even more if you’ve never really thought about it, this essay is a cracking good read, as are some of the more thoughtful comments. Highly recommended.