Thursday, April 14, 2011

Peanuts (Pogo):

Our local newspaper runs the “Classic Peanuts” comic strip, cartoons that Charles Schultz penned during his lifetime. Occasionally I read the Peanuts, and sometimes I laugh; but I try as hard as I can to avoid the strip altogether.

Charles Schultz and I have a long, uneasy history. In my teens, in the 1950’s, there was one hip, delicious, aware, political and genuinely arty comic strip: Walt Kelly’s Pogo. I loved it, and I still have all my Pogo books. My friends loved it, too, and we used to discuss the random, crazy, finer points of Pogo. But then, in the mid fifties, I discovered that my friends were abandoning Pogo for some other comic strip, a poorly drawn one (in comparison): Peanuts.

I looked Peanuts over and found it terribly wanting. But to stay au courant with my friends, I had to follow it.

I parted company with Schultz when he was still alive, after reading what he believed was the essence of cartooning. He said, “The job of a cartoonist is to say the same thing, over and over, without anybody noticing.” That’s when I tried to go off Peanuts altogether.

It’s a pity that there is no “Classic Pogo”. Although the comic strip is long dead (Kelly died in 1973), its observations about politics, art and human nature are as vibrant and in-your-face as ever. Walt Kelly was a weird, random, and thoughtful kind of guy. The people who worked at his newspaper got used to him, as illustrated by this brief anecdote: Kelly called the office. The receptionist who picked up the phone recognized his voice. She said, “Hello, Mr. Kelly. Is it about anything?”

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