by Matt Groening
A masterpiece of joy and heartbreak
No one needs any formal introduction to Peanuts. From our infancies we've had our chins wiped with official Snoopy bibs and been swaddled in unofficial security blankets. Over the decades we've bought, received, worn, played with and stared at an endless series of Peanuts books, greeting cards, sweatshirts, shoestrings, coin banks, figurines, adverts and TV shows. (Lest you think this is a knock, remember I'm the Simpsons guy, and we've allowed Bart asthma inhaler holders and Duff Beer fishing lures.) But clear away the insurance commercials, billboards, dolls, apparel, stickers, soap dishes and the rest, and we're left with the real thing: the Peanuts comic strip itself, Charles Schulz's brilliant, angst-ridden, truly funny, 50-year-long masterpiece of joy and heartbreak.
I dug Peanuts from the time I could read, and as a kid spent way too many nights under the covers with a torch, poring through such nifty anthologies as You're Out Of Your Mind, Charlie Brown!, Who Do You Think You Are, Charlie Brown? and You Can't Win, Charlie Brown.
I was excited by the casual cruelty and offhand humiliations at the heart of the strip. Peanuts seemed emotionally real (and unlike anything else). Occasional sadness comes up (such as Charlie Brown's complaints that no one likes him, and Patty's un-sympathetic explanations of why this is so), but this is offset by a friendly drawing style, great jokes and a sense of childhood exuberance that makes the discouragements of life seem a worthy price to pay.