. . . Charles Schulz

. . .

Last year, the Comics Journal split its double-sized hundredth issue between Chris Ware (proprietor of the well-griefed Acme Novelty Library) and Charles Schulz (still the sole artist on Peanuts). Critical wisdom, repeated several times in the course of the magazine, is that this provocative pairing works for only the first half of Schulz's career, and that by the mid-1970s the final sparks of viciousness and bitterness were leached from Peanuts, leaving it a thin collection of very soft gags.

Well, it's true that Schulz doesn't kick Charlie Brown around much any more. But there's still plenty of crummy mood left in the old guy, and for the last couple of decades, it's been channeled through a character left unmentioned by the Comics Journal: Spike, the beagle hermit who looks a little like Dashiell Hammett.

Only a week or two ago, he featured in a downright Warean moment: a single-panel strip of a desert thunderstorm, with Spike, small and centered, braced against a cactus and accompanied only by the thought-balloon "Mom!" (Or, as Ware would've put it, "M-m-mom?")

And my favoritest Peanuts of all time ever was a 1980s Sunday Spike -- I paraphrase from memory so's not to stir up the lawyers:

(Spike looks at cactus) "Did you ever hear how it was that I moved to the desert? When I was very young, almost a puppy, I lived in a house with a family. One day the family had a birthday party in their yard. A guest saw a rabbit and told me to chase it. And then everyone was shouting for me to chase it. I was excited and wanted to do the right thing, and so I chased the rabbit. The rabbit ran into the street and was run over. And so I came here, where I can never hurt anyone again." (Pause) "I've never told anyone that story." (Looks at cactus) "I guess I still haven't."
I think of that punchline a lot... it seems like it's hit something essential about fiction, and criticism, and autobiography -- maybe about all writing for publication.... "I've never told anyone that story. I guess I still haven't."

. . .

Movie Comment: I didn't expect to think much about Camille Claudel after 1990. Then Charles Schulz used it as an example of his non-comics intellectual interests. And last week it snagged the angora-sweater-like attention of that Sweetheart of the Internet, metascene.

But the weird thing is -- well, maybe not that weird. For years now, the only decent original feature in the East Bay Express has been a little four or five line piece of filler called "Overheard," which reports audience comments during and after a movie.

Anyway, all I remember about Camille Claudel are two overheard comments:

. . .


Page 27 was dropped:

    SHERMY: Well! There goes ol' Charlie Brown!
    SHERMY: Good ol' Charlie Brown.... Yes, sir!
    SHERMY: Good ol' Charlie Brown...
  4. SHERMY: May he rot in Hell!
We regret any inconvenience.


Jesus, what a downer. What next, Pogo beanie babies?
Another satisfied customer assures us:
there is no inconvenience only banality

Lawrence White:

What surprised me was the odd appropriateness of the tone. Yes, it was unceasingly morbid. But the original is often morose. We got a video of one of the specials when our oldest was around two & were very surprised. Neither my wife nor I remembered it being so mean. That is, it's mean by the standards of contemporary children's fare. But for the Midwestern Weltanschauung, it's just another day.

The tribute's art was awful but its script was dead-on. Most of the strip's wordier fans (including me) prefer its nasty and depressive side. But there's no arguing that the Snoopy and Woodstock show was more lucrative, and I remember Schulz himself talking about how he began to feel less mean-spirited with success. At least he gave us Spike as a bitter digestif.


Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.