It was morbid curiosity that led me to pick up Peanuts #1 yesterday. Published by the Kaboom kids comics imprint of Boom Studios, the book features what is apparently artwork by Charles Schulz on the cover (it has his signature, anyway), new material by people you’ve never heard of, and a sprinkling of classic Schulz Sunday strips marred by modern colouring techniques.
The new comics blow it on a number of levels, the worst of which is that there’s just no central, guiding philosophy subtly holding it all together, as there was in every single strip Schulz created in the 50 years he wrote and drew Peanuts. The artists capture Schulz’s style here or there, in this panel or that, but it feels random and wrong, as do character motivations and actions. The varying panel shapes also seem out of sync with what we think of as Peanuts. A half-century of consistency and clean design won’t be shoved aside by the sub-par attempts to do something new, here.
Speaking of wrong, the “How to Draw Charlie Brown” feature — the idea of which is kicky and fun — is made of wrong. Told from Lucy’s perspective, it’s mean and negative to a degree that shows a complete inability to appreciate — never mind emulate — Schulz’s judgment and creative discipline. He always knew exactly how much was enough, and where the line was, and this petty, shitty approach doesn’t know either.
We all know Lucy thinks Charlie Brown is fat and stupid. We don’t need her telling us that relentlessly for page after page, going on about his sausage fingers and stupid, round head. This one feature would keep me from sharing the book with a child, and sent me to the credits to look for any evidence that Schulz’s widow or estate had a hand in this. There’s no indication that they were consulted or had any approval, and I have to guess that they did not, and that therefore the book should be avoided not only for reasons of quality, but out of respect for the memory and wishes of Charles M. Schulz.
As I mentioned, there’s a few pages of badly coloured classic Schulz Sunday strips thrown in, in-between the lousy new material. It fails to distract from the deficiencies in the new work, although that surely was the intention. It’s nice that Kaboom wants to introduce new readers to the great life’s work of Charles Schulz. They could do far better than they’ve done in Peanuts #1. They could, for instance, recommend a volume of The Complete Peanuts from Fantagraphics Books. They’ve been doing Peanuts right for years, and it’s a shame that Kaboom doesn’t seem to have absorbed a whit of inspiration from the classy, engaging volumes Fantagraphics issues twice a year. I understand the wish to bring Peanuts more into the modern era. That is to say, I understand that this is what they were trying to do. They have failed. This is a book that fails to honour the memory of one of the greatest cartoonists of all time, that fails to provide quality comics for kids, and that is best avoided by readers old and new.
— Alan David Doane