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SCHULZ AND PEANUTS

David Michaelis’s penultimate draft of his controversial biography, Schulz and Peanuts, was 1,800 single-spaced typewritten pages long. A two-volume opus being out of the question, he pruned the text to 900 pages — partly by excising every non-essential word or phrase, partly by pulling out whole storylines. Among the casualties, I suspect, was an examination of how Schulz’s second wife, now his widow Jeannie, appeared in the strip. Schulz’s first wife was pretty clearly reflected in the bossy Lucy; Jeannie, however, apparently inspired Charlie Brown’s gentle little sister, Sally. Michaelis’s cuts short-changed the last 20 or so years of Schulz’s life: fewer than 100 of the volume’s 566 narrative pages are devoted to Sparky’s second marriage and his subsequent career. That abbreviation accounts for some of the Schulz family’s objections to the book, but they have others, focused on factual inaccuracies and on what they regard as a skewed portrait of the cartoonist.

Wiley MillerCharles devoted the Non Sequitur releases of October 30-November 3 to ridiculing Michaelis’s apparent strategy in the book. In this sequence, the little girl Danae takes notes for a biography she plans to write about her father if he ever becomes “a beloved public figure,” transforming the commonplaces of his life into tragic or uncomplimentary terms. When her father deftly catches a housefly in mid-flight, exclaiming, “Gotcha! Ha! I’ve still got it — king of the fly snatchers!”, Danae jots down: “He had a lifelong penchant for killing small creatures.” I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but Michaelis has given Wiley plenty of grounds for precisely this kind of satire. My 9,000-word review of the book and reviews by several others, including a critique by Schulz’s oldest son, Monte, will appear in a forthcoming issue of The Comics Journal. The originals of Wiley’s satirical sequence he has donated to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California.

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