Issue: Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown! (Hardcover)
Release Date: April 6, 2011
Based On: The Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz
Script: Stephan Pastis and Craig Schulz
Art Direction: Paige Braddock and Andy Beall
Layouts: Vicki Scott
Pencils: Bob Scott and Vicki Scott
Inks: Ron Zorman
Colors: Brian Miller, Hi-Fi Colour Design
Cover: Bob Scott
When I heard that there was a new Peanuts story coming out I was worried. After seeing my childhood favorites like Indiana Jones and Darth Vader ruined by pointless updates I was worried what a new Peanuts story would bring. Snoopy typing his book out on an iPad? Woodstock being renamed the more relevant Coachella? In the end I didn’t have to worry. Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown! may be an all new story but it is based on material that Charles M. Schulz wrote through the history of the Peanuts strip. Schulz’s son Craig and Stephan Pastis (creator of the great comic strip Pearls Before Swine) have done an amazing job selecting the strips and using them to create a book that is both familiar and new.
As you can probably guess from the title, Happiness is a Warm Blanket follows Linus as he deals with the pressure to abandon his trusty blue blanket. There is plenty of subtle allusions to addiction and withdrawal as Linus attempts to go cold turkey. Those connections will probably fly over the heads of the kids reading, but that was always part of the joy about Schulz’s work. It was family friendly without being strictly for kids. It was also nice that the story didn’t go exactly where I was expecting. In a typical kids comic we’d see Linus give up his blanket. He’d realize that he doesn’t need it anymore and he never really did. We’d all learn an important lesson and then have cake. Instead, Happiness is a Warm Blanket makes the case that everyone needs something to cling to in order to get through the night. We shouldn’t judge people for their blankets because we probably have something of our own that we use to deal with everyday life. In between that message we get all the standard Peanuts set pieces: Lucy dispensing psychiatric advice, Charlie Brown failing to fly a kite, Sally calling Linus her “Sweet Babboo.” It’s like a sitcom reunion where everyone gets to come out and say their catch phrase to the applause of the crowd. And you know what? That’s fine. As much as I enjoy Christopher Nolan’s Batman series there is no need for every single pop culture icon to get a makeover. Sometimes it’s enough to just see your favorite characters doing their thing.
This is the first Peanuts graphic novel and it’s sort of an odd medium. On one hand, the Peanuts style has always been about minimalism. There were no complicated backgrounds or artistic marvels in the standard Peanuts strip. In the graphic novel, however, the pages utilize gorgeous layouts that take full advantage of the white space. This early page, featuring Linus furiously digging for the blanket that Lucy has buried, manages to convey a cinematic feeling of action.
It is a fun read, especially considering that it is more of a edit than a new story. The fact it’s able to transcend the standard “best of” story is a testament to the fine work of the writers and artists. It isn’t perfect though, and the stuff featuring Lucy’s obsession with getting married seems ridiculous to a modern eye. Wouldn’t she be more likely to want to work on her personal brand and developing some career than catching Schroeder’s attention? It almost makes me wonder what would happen if we simply allowed Schulz and Pastis to write the next one on their own. They’ve shown that they have the stuff to come up with a good script by re-purposing the old stuff. Enough that they might just be able to make something new work. Don’t you want to see Charlie Brown having to face the mortification of having a dog with more Facebook friends than him? Good Grief.