Friday, October 1, 2010

"How I Hate Him!"

Sixty years ago tomorrow...

Ten years after the end of PEANUTS and Charles Schulz' death, the strip is still very much a part of my fannish life, thanks to the ongoing Fantagraphics reprint series. The latest volume (1977-78) currently sits on my dresser, awaiting only the time to read it.

My tribute to Schulz in PASSIONS #19 summed up what I owe to the man as well as anything could; here's an excerpt:

From my earliest days of intellectual self-awareness until the time I entered high school in 1976, PEANUTS was by far the biggest "Toon influence" in my life. It wasn't so much that I chose to guide my life according to the precepts handed down in the strip -- though, in those somewhat troubled years, I frequently identified with the hapless, oft-depressed and despairing Charlie Brown or the sensitive, intellectual Linus -- as much as the simple fact that I devoured all PEANUTS material that I could get my hands on... In the absence of any steady competition -- aside from a few TV cartoons like "The Flintstones" and "Kimba the White Lion" that couldn't be taped in those pre-VCR days -- PEANUTS represented my first real exposure to no-holds-barred, ravening fandom. The fervor only started to cool after I started collecting comic books in 1975, and, more significantly, as I started to glide into puberty and my teen years. PEANUTS was never considered a mere "kids' strip," even in its less intellectually sophisticated first half-decade or so, but, identifying PEANUTS as I did so strongly with childhood activities, it's perhaps not surprising that I counted it among those "childish things" I had best put aside in this brave new world.

My "ultimate fan dream" in those years was a complete collection of PEANUTS, but perhaps it's just as well that I had to wait until my forties to see one. I have much more appreciation now for the full range of Schulz' development of the strip and possess a greater ability to put his works in perspective with those of other favorite creators of mine. Despite the fact that my favorite era of PEANUTS will always be roughly 1955-1975, I'm bound and determined to slog through Fantagraphics' reprinting of the looming "Flashbeagle," "Snoopy Relatives" and "Tapioca Pudding" era of the 1980s and give even that relatively fallow period a fair chance to win me over. (The 1990s were better, thanks in large part to Schulz' decision to stop drawing the strip in that rigid format of four increasingly tiny panels.)

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