Good Grief, Charlie Brown!
Anxiety, despair, dread, depression, fear, misery, alienation: a pretty standard Friday night, but an unusual recipe for a kids’ comic strip. ‘Peanuts’ is special, though. Over his tens of thousands of strips – syndicated the world over and read by millions of adoring fans – Charles M Schulz combined simple line drawings and emotional non-sequiturs into little bundles of pure, heart-wrenching modern truth. This show, looking at the history of ‘Peanuts’ and the art it inspired, starts with the development of Charlie Brown and Snoopy, based on Schulz himself and his childhood dog Spike. From the start, Schulz’s characters are forlorn, sad little things – always downtrodden, always caught on the worst possible day, but always with a bit of hope in their hearts. Then along comes Lucy, Woodstock and the gang and you start to see the birth of the world’s most popular comic strip. It’s almost shocking to be confronted with the emotional vulnerability of ‘Peanuts’ on such a scale. Charlie Brown is a loser, a sad sack. His mouth is a shaky line that seems moments away from quivering with sorrow. So raw, so vulnerable. Snoopy is a gentle, necessary foil, Lucy is a hotheaded mess, Linus is a needy wreck. It’s all too real for me, an overtired slightly hungover 33-year-old. How the hell do kids hack this? But that’s the point. Schulz made the emotional vulnerability that we all feel acceptable. These original panels are so honest and close to the bone that you want to reach out and hug