cover image Funny Things: A Comic Strip Biography of Charles M. Schulz

Funny Things: A Comic Strip Biography of Charles M. Schulz

Luca Debus and Francesco Matteuzzi. Top Shelf, $39.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-603095-26-6

Italian artists Debus (The Importance of Being Earnest) and Matteuzzi (Banksy) imitate the style of Charles M. Schulz (1922–2000) in this clever reconsideration of the cartoonist and his particular genius. Structured like the newspaper funnies that inspired Schulz as a child—six black-and-white strips punctuated by full-page color spreads—the narrative achieves the comical downbeat rhythm that made Peanuts a surprise hit. Narrating from his usual table at the California skating rink he built after achieving fame and fortune, Schulz relates a shy, neurotic boyhood in St. Paul, Minn. Unsure what to do after serving in WWII, Schulz plugged away as a working artist until finally getting a syndicated strip in his late 20s. Considered meek and immature, he surprised his friends and family by marrying a brassy divorced woman with a daughter and then setting out for California. Debus and Matteuzzi avoid retreading familiar analysis of Peanuts (a name Schulz hated) and cover lesser-known aspects of Schulz’s life, such as his Christian faith, though they drop in biographical details that inspired the strip (for instance, the family dog who served as a model for Snoopy). The creators hew largely to Schulz’s self-deprecating spirit until the final frames, which deliver a surprisingly emotional conclusion to such a mild-mannered life. It’s an affectionate yet bracing portrait of an artist who never overcame self-doubt, workaholism, and insecurities to appreciate his own greatness. Even readers only passingly familiar with Snoopy and the gang will be charmed. (Aug.)