Tagged: Peanuts

Box Office Democracy: “The Peanuts Movie”

I was a huge fan of Peanuts when I was a kid. I can vividly remember staying up late in bed reading collections of the comic strip until I could barely keep my eyes open. This should make me the ideal audience for The Peanuts Movie, but instead it just serves as a reminder of how far this franchise has fallen. I have this hipster-esque longing for a time before Peanuts became so damn commercial (a time that never existed in my lifetime, mind you) and back before the Schulz estate seemed locked in a nefarious race with Jim Davis of Garfield to see who can make the most money with the least amount of artistic effort. The Peanuts Movie is a soulless movie stitched together from the corpse of a very soulful comic strip.

The script for The Peanuts Movie feels like it was stitched together from three episodes of an abandoned TV show. There are definite segments (Charlie Brown wants to learn to dance, Charlie Brown is a genius, Charlie Brown prepares for a talent show) and these segments build to a conclusion, are broken up by a Snoopy vignette and are then largely forgotten about by the rest of the movie. It never feels like a story worthy of a feature film, and the story doesn’t feel unique to the Peanuts characters or universe. I also despise how much they’ve sanded down the characters so that they barely feel evocative of the characters from the comic strip. There’s no philosophy or nuance; every character is just the first two adjectives you would use to describe them at the very best. These were characters with a rich history, and to see them basically reduced to catchphrases and rote characterization is sad. (Also, and this is an incredibly nerdy nitpick, having Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Marcy, and Peppermint Patty in the same classroom is a flagrant violation of canon and it makes the world feel smaller. This is not a complaint worth seriously considering.)

I didn’t much care for the visual style either. The 3D models look ok and the characters are unmistakable but the trademark narrow eyes tended to bleed on to the noses and looked weird. The hair was textured a little too realistically for the cartoonish feel of the rest of the world. I don’t know how easy any of these problems are to fix, but they both led to moments where instead of focusing on what was going on in the film I was taken with how disturbing this character or that looked in the moment. Like the script, the animation feels like it would have been good enough for TV and just never got the upscaled treatment for the silver screen— except that’s not the origin of this movie and it just looks cheap for no discernable reason.

Ultimately, I don’t think the goal of The Peanuts Movie is to entertain children so much as it is to appeal to the nostalgia of their parents. Between It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas mid-November is peak awareness of the Peanuts characters, assuming we aren’t getting a blitz of MetLife ads. This is a movie designed to bring up warm fuzzy feelings in parents while pacifying their children for 90 minutes, but there’s no artistry in this film… just a simple boring regurgitation for the sake of a quick buck. This would be antithetical to the comic strip as it was in the 1960s, but seems par for the course for the latter-day commercialism and exploitation of the brand that dominated Schulz’s later life and his heirs. I’m not always fond of Bill Watterson being so inflexible with people wanting to let Calvin and Hobbes branch out in to merchandise or other media, but if it means I’ll never have to watch anything as dreadful as The Peanuts Movie starring those characters I’ll have to accept it.

Jen Krueger: The Little Things

DW & GPK 014A few weeks ago, I was idly browsing a store that carried everything from as-seen-on-TV products to Halloween costumes on deep discount. I didn’t really expect to find anything worth purchasing, but just as a bored salesperson mumbled in my general direction that everything in the store was 30% off, I came upon an aisle with [[[Doctor Who]]] merchandise and figured a quick perusal couldn’t hurt. It was all stuff I’d seen before, mostly TARDIS hats, scarves, lunchboxes, and keychains, but then a rack of random packs of micro figures caught my eye. I already had two such micro figures on my desk at home, a Centurion Rory and a Tenth Doctor that had both been gifts, and I liked the idea of getting an Eleventh Doctor or an Amy Pond to join them. But as I thought about making my first micro figure purchase, I realized that despite my vast love of Doctor Who, I hadn’t actually bought much merchandise related to the show. Wondering how that could possibly be true, I grudgingly admitted to myself that my merch buying experiences haven’t been very good.


Marc Alan Fishman: Boom! Is! Doing! It! Right!

fishman-art-130921-150x195-4690831It wasn’t too long ago that I heard Mike Gold exclaim “I’m really liking what you’re doing there.” He was talking to Ross Ritchie about Boom! Studios. It got me thinking. From one publisher to another, true respect shared between gentlemen. No snide jabs. No undercurrent of jealousy or malice. Just respect. And it’s that respect that made me realize that Boom! Studios is a shining example of what is going right with our industry.

A cursory glance at their site shows a publisher pushing boundaries in every conceivable direction. Where the brand was once known for either being Mark Waid’s playground or Stan Lee’s litter box, today they are producing comics in every genre under the yellow sun. They once clung to licenses from Disney in order to pay the bills. Without Mickey’s teets to suckle from, instead they’ve smartly chosen popular brands like Adventure Time, and the biker-beloved Sons of Anarchy in order to draw in more ‘non-comics’ fans to the shelves.

Boom! also has broken its brand into smarter sub-brands in order to focus efforts on different emerging markets. KaBoom!, its kid-centric brand, is of course anchored by the aforementioned Adventures of Finn and Jake. But they’re also branching out with other recognizable brands like Peanuts, Garfield, and the Adventure-esque Bravest Warriors. The fact that Boom! recognizes the kids market and pushes their line in order to draw the wee ones into a comic shop should be commended. And while a licensed kids book is nothing new in the marketplace… the fact that their books are not chained lock-in-step to their source material means kids will be able to see the comic medium as a place to explore the vastness of the worlds they may only know in cartoon form. It’s a small thing, that means huge ramifications as the li’l readers grow up.

Beyond that, Boom! recently realized its creative teams had more to say and show. So much so that they’ve chosen to branch out even further, with the newly dubbed BOOM! Box imprint made for experimental comics. Not happy to place these potentially “indie for indies’ sake” titles into Boom! Town, or its newly acquired Archaia lines… the box will house the weirdest of the weird. The idea being of course that comic creators who would otherwise choose to self-publish short runs of books that might be too crazy for even a “B” or “C” publisher like Boom! to consider… are given the carte blanch to actually give it a go anyways.

As an indie publisher myself, I’m of two minds on that. One mind says “kudos to Ritchie, Gagnon, and Watters for having balls!” The other mind morbidly declares “Yay! One more sub-publisher with money behind them to tell Unshaven Comics they’re cute for trying!”

These days a cursory glance over my newsfeed on Facebook shows normally at least several daily references to what DC or Marvel is messing up. DC way more than Marvel, if you’re tallying. It’s a bit hilarious to me, given my recent rekindled love of professional wrestling. Because when one steps back to see the forest for the trees, they’ll eventually see the cyclical nature of the continual soap opera that is male-fiction. With Boom! taking the role of the babyface… We crave a heel, and DC is glad to play the role right now. Can’t stand Villains Month? Keep blogging about it! Think Man of Steel crossed a line? Put it on a tee-shirt! Think Dan DiDio is secretly behind it all, and should be fired? Make a god-damned hashtag, and tag him in every post you write for a month! Guess what? There’s no such thing as bad press. Case in point? I’m DVR’ing Dads tonight on Fox. Do the math. I’ll wait for you to catch up. But I digress.

Boom! is doing it right. They’ve branched out beyond the capes (while still putting out some decent-if-not-mind-blowing cape comics) to compete with Image for the Comics With Original Ideas the Big Two Won’t Touch (and face it, Vertigo isn’t near what it used to be, and Marvel never even tried to compete there). They’ve made kids comics that matter again, and in doing so, have ignited passion for our media in the next generation… buying us soon-to-be-old-farts at least another few years to do what we love. The old adage is true; big risks equal big rewards. Boom! for the time being is reaping plenty of rewards.

We fans, bored of the Big Two are now seeing a true third leg of the market arise. Small(er) presses are proving profitable. Hollywood is even catching wind of it. And when big money backs small(ish) companies, it seems that the money may be headed not only into the coffers of secret investors… but back into the comic medium itself. It’s a grand day to be a comic fan, kiddos.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


Martha Thomases: Stripping for Summer

dondiHow was your holiday weekend last week? Mine was great. I spent Sunday sitting in the sun by a lake, talking about graphic storytelling.

There were six of us, plus a pre-teen who just wanted to play video games, a form of graphic storytelling perhaps but not one we are going to discuss. At least four of us had a jones for newspaper strips. Four of us liked comic books. And at least five of us liked gag panels. It’s also possible that all of us liked all forms, but I’m not sure, nor does it really matter.

I was especially intrigued by the love given to newspaper strips. When I was a girl, they were my favorite part of the newspaper. I read everything, even Mary Worth and Dondi. I loved Li’l Abner even when Al Capp went right-wing crazy.

But I loved the funny strips more. Peanuts, Blondie, and later Calvin & Hobbes My parents had a subscription to The New Yorker, and a book that collected New Yorker cartoons from 1925 to 1955, and it is from these that I learned what funny drawings looked like.

When I was old enough to appreciate the skills involved in graphic storytelling, I enjoyed Milton Caniff. And I wanted to like Little Orphan Annie and Dick Tracy, but they never grabbed me on an emotional level. I never had to read the next day’s strip.

By this time, I was rabidly into comic books. Instead of waiting weeks to read a whole story, as required by newspaper strips, I got the whole thing between two covers. I liked this better.

In modern times, there aren’t very many comic books that tell a complete story in a single issue. There are fewer and fewer newspapers comic strips (and fewer and fewer newspapers), and serial dramas seem much less popular than humor strips. And there are fewer and fewer markets for gag panels.

Each of these forms combine words and pictures. Each needs to communicate story and character quickly, in a small space. And yet, each is completely different, one from the other.

I personally don’t enjoy collections of newspaper story strips. I find that the form requires a grey deal of repetition, and it hurts my head after a while.

I frequently don’t enjoy collections of comic book stories for the same reason. The passing of time between individual episodes requires something that will jog the reader’s memory, but it is less effective in a collection. A graphic novel should stand by itself, and so should individual issues.

I love gag panel collections, and feel that is the best reason to have bookshelves in the bathroom.

Is there is any title that works best in all three genres?


SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


REVIEW: The Halloween Tree

When a literary giant dies, there’s a rush to rediscover the author’s works, delighting in old favorites or finally reading a work you have somehow missed. The passing of Ray Bradbury has prompted such a journey in print and in other media. Warner Archive, to their credit, has just released The Halloween Tree, the 1993 animated adaptation of his 1972 fantasy.

The 90-minute feature was adapted by Bradbury and directed by Mario Piluso, featuring the voices of Leonard Nimoy, Annie Barker, Darleen Carr, Lindsay Crouse, Alex Greenwald, and Bradbury himself as the narrator.

A small group of four children are out trick-or-treating one Halloween when one of them, Pip, goes missing. Checking his house, they learn he has been rushed off for an emergency appendectomy. Instead of  making their rounds without him, they determine to visit him instead at the hospital. Instead, they wander off their intended path and get lost. They then encounter Mr. Moundshroud (Nimoy) who explains he’s after Pip’s ghost and refuses to help the children since they are woefully ignorant of the true meaning behind Halloween. If they can keep up with him and his giant kite, they can accompany him and suddenly, they are taken 4000 years into the past. The bulk of the tale explores the Egyptian Book of the Dead, stop by Notre Dame Cathedral and its gargoyles followed by a trip to Mexico and their Day of the Dead, which is also where they finally catch up to Pip.

The animation design is adequate if uninspired but it does convey a nice sense of atmosphere, aided by the vocal cast, which does a nice job. Overall, this is something that should be in regular rotation alongside the annual Peanuts special so people can delight in Bradbury’s work and learn a little something, too. Rather than hope it gets rerun on the Cartoon Network, you might want to get this for your home collection.

You should seek out the 2005 edition of the book which has the “author’s preferred text” along with the screen adaptation script.

Preview: Peanuts #0

peanuts_0_rev_cvr-292x450-8980152PEANUTS #0
Written by Charles Schulz, Ron Zorman, Vicki Scott
Drawn by Paige Braddock, Vicki Scott, Ron Zorman, Lisa Moore
SC, 24pgs, FC, SRP: $1.00
Diamond Code: SEP110913

Happiness is a monthly comic book series, Charlie Brown! PEANUTS came to KABOOM! last spring in their first graphic novel HAPPINESS IS A WARM BLANKET, CHARLIE BROWN. Now Snoopy and the gang are back in monthly comic books! The series kicks off with a special #0 featuring a new original story and supplementary material that will provide a sneak peek at the series launching in January! This is a line drive that’s sure to knock your socks off (along with your shoes, hat, shirt, and mitt)! Don’t miss Charles Schulz’s timeless characters at KABOOM! every month!

Peanuts Happiness is a warm blanket, Charlie Brown

Kaboom! announces new Peanuts graphic novel

Peanuts Happiness is a warm blanket, Charlie BrownThis March, join Charlie Brown, Linus, Snoopy and all your favorite Peanuts characters as Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown, the very first Peanuts graphic novel ever published, is released by newly-launched all-ages imprint kaboom! Based on the work by Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz himself, this graphic novel is sure to delight a whole new generation of Peanuts fans!

“We’re honored to publish such a beloved property,” BOOM! Studios Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Ross Richie said. “I can think of no better way to kick-off our new all-ages imprint kaboom! than with the first Peanuts graphic novel ever published!”

Adapted from the brand new animated special from Warner Home Video, Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown features Charlie Brown’s kite-flying woes, Linus’ insecurities, Lucy’s unrequited love for Schroeder and everyone’s favorite beagle, Snoopy, in a lively and colorful spin through Charles Schulz’s imagination. The 80 page, 7×10, hardcover graphic novel ships this March at the suggested retail price of $19.99 in conjunction with the all-new Peanuts animated feature of the same name available on DVD from Warner Home Video March 29, 2011.

Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown is written by original creator Charles M. Schulz and adapted by Craig Schulz and Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) with art by Bob Scott, Vicki Scott and Ron Zorman.

“New original Peanuts comic book content is a tradition that goes pretty far back in comic book publishing,” said BOOM! Studios Editor-in-Chief, Matt Gagnon. “Dell Comics published ‘Tip Top Comics’ which featured new Peanuts comic book content created under the guidance of Charles Schulz. ‘Tip Top’ ran from 1936 until 1961, creating well over 40 original Peanuts stories and countless covers. It’s exciting to be a part of the return of Peanuts to the comic book format.”

The Happiness is a Warm Blanket graphic novel and DVD dovetails into a larger campaign launched in January when Peanuts proclaimed 2011 as “The Year of ‘Happiness Is…”. Throughout the year, the classic Peanuts concept, which cartoonist Charles M. Schulz coined in 1960 with “Happiness is a Warm Puppy,” will be celebrated with special-themed products, cross-branding partnerships, social media campaigns and nationwide activities.

Launched last week, KABOOM! is the brand new name for BOOM! Studios’ three year old all-ages imprint previously known as BOOM Kids!

ComicMix Quick Picks (in Six) for September 24, 2009

ComicMix Quick Picks (in Six) for September 24, 2009

There was a lot going on today, so let’s see if we can get these Quick Picks done in ComicMix Six words or less.

What was missed? Comments are open.