Peanuts: A Tribute To Charles M. Schulz (October 2015)

Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz

Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz. “Over 40 artists celebrate the work of Charles M. Schulz.” It says so right on the cover. And Tribute is a fine celebration of Peanuts. There are some great cartoonists who contribute pieces for the collection. It’s 144 pages, which means contributors average less than three and a half pages each.

Collections of Peanuts strips, like the Fantagraphics Complete Peanuts, have three strips a page. So Schulz would have ten or eleven strips in similar page count. It shows just how magical he was with pacing those strips day-to-day.

There are some good strips, some okay strips, some cool strips. The Paul Pope Snoopy and Schroeder strip? Very cool. But given the whole grab is Pope doing these realistic looking Pope characters and them still operating on Peanuts logic. When Schroeder worries Lucy’s going to show up… well, Snoopy’s cute and all but I’d much rather see Pope Lucy. Beautiful art, though. Because Pope’s a lover.

There aren’t any strips non-Peanuts loving strips in the book. There are even strips just about loving Peanuts.

A few strips after Pope is Roger Langridge, who does a Snoopy the flying ace strip from the perspective of enemy pilots. It’s cute. It’s not great. Raina Telegemeier does a one page thing right after. Langridge got four pages. Her’s is cute. It’s not great. But she does it in one.

Stan Sakai and Julie Fujii do one of the best longer strips in the book, Escapade in Tokyo. Charlie Brown gets separated from the class on a school trip and spends the day with a cool Japanese girl. It’s anti-crap on Charlie Brown (most of the book, if not all of it, is anti-crapping on Charlie Brown) and it’s a nice story. Sakai and Fujii give it just the right amount of nostalgia and sentamentality without sacrificing the humor.

Terry Moore does something similar. Lucy vs. Charlie Brown only this time Charlie Brown’s going to kick that football. Moore mimicks Schulz’s style but sort of not enough to get away with the strip. Charlie Brown winning has to be perfect, like Sakai and Fujii did.

Chynna Clugston Flores does a “Why I Love Peanuts” strip. It’s good. It’s just a “Why I Love Peanuts strip”. There are some more in the book and Clugston Flores’s is probably the best but… Tribute is just a tribute. Sometimes the cartoonists interact with the characters, sometimes with the media itself.

Evan Dorkin and Derek Charm do a “Cthulhu comes to Peanuts” long strip and it’s inventive, beautifully illustrated (the style homage ages like Schulz’s did as the strip goes on), and kind of thin. Not many contributors do a riff on Peanuts without staying in Schulz’s constraints.

Except then there’s Melanie Gillman’s beautiful Marcie strip addressing her relationship with Patty. Liz Prince had a nice Patty strip earlier, but nowhere near as ambitious. Shaenon K. Garrity’s long, color strip about Patty taking on Lucy is good. It’s mostly in Peanuts constraints, just with some visual storytelling differences.

Peanuts: A Tribute is a good book for a Peanuts fan. To check out from the library. It’s a great proof of concept for a more ambitious project. I didn’t realize I wanted other cartoonists doing Peanuts until I read it. But I want them doing more, trying harder.

I also wish, given it just being this assortment of homages, Boom! had printed it more coffee table size.

CREDITS

Contributors, Mike Allred, Art Baltazar, Paige Braddock, Megan Brennan, Frank Cammuso, Derek Charm, Colleen Coover, Evan Dorkin, Chynna Clugston Flores, Shaenon K. Garrity, Melanie Gillman, Zac Gorman, Jimmy Gownley, Matt Groening, Dan Hipp, Keith Knight, Mike Kunkel, Roger Langridge, Jeff Lemire, Jonathan Lemon, Patrick McDonnell, Tony Millionaire, Caleb Monroe, Terry Moore, Dustin Nguyen, Molly Ostertag, Lincoln Peirce, Paul Pope, Hilary Price, Liz Prince, Stan Sakai + Julie Fujii, Chris Schweizer, Ryan Sook, Jeremy Sorese, Raina Telgemeier, Richard Thompson, Tom Tomorrow, Lucas Turnbloom, Jen Wang, and Mo Willems; editors, Alex Galer and Shannon Watters; publisher, KaBoom!.

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The Fall of the House of West (2015)

The Fall of the House of West

The Fall of the House of West is heavy stuff. There’s a little bit of comic relief with Aurora’s friend Hoke having a crush on her, but it doesn’t get much attention. Writers Paul Pope and J.T. Petty don’t want to let up on the reader, which is a little surprising.

Maybe the big character development for Aurora at the end of the comic sways things, but–by the end of the book–the reader knows Aurora less well than at the beginning of the comic. Her character arc is huge and Pope and Petty don’t deal with the full ramifications here. There isn’t time for it. Her journey is the point, the reader’s experience of that journey is the point. Plot twists aren’t the point.

Similarly, Pope and Petty leave the MacGuffin unresolved as well. They’re able to get incredible emotional response from the reader only to belay any resolution. It keeps the reader invested. There’s a definite commercial quality to the comic–and Aurora West as a character–but they aren’t chasing a movie deal. They’re chasing the reader. They’re trying to get their readership invested.

David Rubín’s art is decent. Most of the comic takes place at night, which is fine, but Rubín’s got a lot more personality on well-lit subjects. The panel composition is fantastic, though; it really helps the comic be so welcoming.

West demands the reader’s attention, in a very entertaining way. It’s excellent.

CREDITS

Writers, J.T. Petty and Paul Pope; artist, David Rubín; letterer, John Martz; publisher, First Second.

The Rise of Aurora West (2014)

The Rise of Aurora West

The Rise of Aurora West is simultaneously original and not. Paul Pope and J.T. Petty have a derivative adventure for an entirely original character, even though her back story is derivative. Sort of. The details are derivative.

Aurora West is the teenage daughter and sidekick to Haggard West. He’s a science hero. Just like Tom Strong. Except he fights monsters in a way quite similar to Bruce Wayne. So some of Aurora West is really just Batman and his teenage daughter hunting down criminals. Except they’re monsters.

But with a lot of science and Aurora growing up in a world with monsters, there’s just enough difference to let her not be Robin or anything like a Robin. So then some of Aurora West has nothing to do with Batman and his teenage daughter. There’s too much comedy for it to just be a riff. Pope and Petty maneuver Aurora very carefully through the book–the comedy relieves pressure, keeps the pace set, gives the reader a chance to reflect. It’s beautifully constructed.

David Rubín’s art is nice. He’s not as good as Pope but does a decent imitation, with the black and white lending to some of the more Eisner-like imagery.

It’s an extremely ambitious narrative presented easily. Neat comics, as usual, from Pope.

CREDITS

Writers, J.T. Petty and Paul Pope; artist, David Rubín; letterer, John Martz; publisher, First Second.

100% 5 (July 2003)

100% #5

Wow.

I remembered this issue being amazing, just because Pope has such a fantastic closing moment. But he's also got a lot going on throughout the issue with how he handles the narration.

Daisy gets close third, close second, with Pope juxtaposing it against her gastro dancing. She hasn't been a mystery to this point, but she's definitely been closed off. Opening her up in narration comes at just the right time, same with Eloy getting close second person narration. Instead of the established characters getting narration–John and Kimberly–Pope flips it. He flips it and opens up the comic.

Because 100% isn't about the future or the gastro dancing or the international boxing circuit or the hinted at world wars, it's about these people. And Pope figures out an amazing way to tell their story amid all the hubbub and noise. And he visualizes noise this time.

It's peerless comics.

A 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Paul Pope; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, John Workman; editors, Mariah Huehner and Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

100% 4 (October 2002)

100% #4

Pope tries so much different stuff with this issue–he's got one scene in here where he seems to be homaging Charles Schulz. Everything he tries is successful; some of it is more wildly successful than the rest, but it all works.

He has his cast set. He has lovers, John and Daisy; he's serious about them, she's not. He has potential lovers, Kim and Eloy–she won't compromise and he needs to decide whether or not he's going to compromise his artwork. Very little thing but Pope makes it hugely consequential, even as he skims over the future society details.

Then there's Strel, who gets a bunch of pages again since her husband is back. The backstory is both confusing and not–Pope has a great way of getting in the exposition.

He's also doing things with narration–flipping flopping who gets first and third–and ambitious panel pacing for scenes.

It's brilliant stuff.

A 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Paul Pope; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, John Workman; editors, Mariah Huehner and Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

100% 3 (October 2002)

100% #3

This issue has three things going on. First is the boxer who's Strel's ex-boyfriend. He gets a couple chapters–Pope splits 100% into chapters and there are a lot of them in this issue. Anyway, the boxer gets a couple chapters. They're mostly for mood and exposition.

But then John and Daisy get to go on their date (after some flirtation earlier on) and John has managed to swipe Daisy's panties from work. Quite innocently, of course. Between this problem and Kimberly's date with Strel's cousin to get sushi, the comic feels like Love and Rockets. Not in the art, but in how Pope presents the little adventures of the cast.

It's sort of meandering. There's a lot of personality and mood, but Pope's muted. And then, out of nowhere, he executes the exceptional sex scene and all of a sudden the issue's the best in the series.

Just crazy good.

A 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Paul Pope; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, John Workman; editors, Mariah Huehner and Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

100% 2 (September 2002)

100% #2

Pope introduces a few new characters this issue, including a couple fairly substantial ones. He opens the issue on some guy who's calling Strel; she doesn't want to talk to him. Later on, Pope introduces Strel's cousin, who's interested in Kim. Kim doesn't exactly narrate her scenes–Pope uses close third person, which really brings the character into focus.

For focusing on Strel, on the other hand, Pope uses her home-life. Strel in the club or even hanging out with Kimberly isn't as vibrant as her at home with her family.

But this issue also has Daisy and John and their blossoming mutual interest. John's the other lead–narrating in the first person, explaining gastro dancing to the reader. There's a wonderful disconnect in John's queasy explanation and the beautiful Pope visualization.

Pope plays the medium too–he's especially focused on sound. How to create sound in the comic book panel.

It's awesome.

A 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Paul Pope; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, John Workman; editors, Mariah Huehner and Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

100% 1 (August 2002)

100% #1

What's 100% about? It's about this club–the Cat Shack. One of the characters is a dancer there, another is a manager, another is a busboy, another is a prospective dancer. Writer and artist Paul Pope uses the club–which also has a dancer get murdered at the start of the story–as a central location; it's the embodiment of the setting. But Pope gets away from it enough throughout, it never feels forced.

Maybe because the opening scene is away from it. Pope's panel composition and flow are so intricately executed, it would be no surprise if he made sure he kept away from the club just as carefully.

The issue, which introduces the four main characters, has a couple narrators. One is busboy John, the other is dancer Kimberly. They don't intersect, except glancingly. Pope starts the characters deep, then just fills them out to show how deep.

It's phenomenal work.

A 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Paul Pope; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, John Workman; editors, Mariah Huehner and Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

Battling Boy (2013)

Battling boy cover

Battling Boy appears to be Paul Pope’s answer to all the young adult Joseph Campbell stuff coming out in the last ten years. Only, of course, since it’s Paul Pope, it’s so much better.

The big thing Pope plays with in Boy, right from the start, is the fear of the unknown. He’s not dealing with these frightening monsters in prose, where he can hint at their hideousness; he’s drawing them, he’s visualizing them for the reader, but still has to make them terrifying in the imagination. The book opens with the Ghoul Gang, who are half dressed as mummies, have with these face covering rag cloaks. They kidnap kids.

Why?

Pope doesn’t go into it. Better left unsaid, especially in a book targeted for the youth market. It also allows Pope to play the monsters for laughs sometimes. There’s a monster bar where they all hang out and it’s a glorious mix of disgusting and hilarious.

The titular Battling Boy is a kid from another universe, sent to Earth to save the world from monsters… kind of like high school. When these kids hit puberty, off they go to some world or another.

There’s a lot of action, a little bit of character development (mostly on a female supporting cast member) and just wonderful artwork. Pope’s so strong, his full page panels showing simple events are still awesome. Boy is another fantastic Pope pairing of storytelling and artwork. They drive one another beautifully.

I’m already impatient for the sequel.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Paul Pope; colorist, Hilary Sycamore; publisher, First Second.

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