Waiting for the Great Pumpkin


By Charles M. Schulz (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-772-7 (HB)

Peanuts is 70 years old today and not even death can stop it. Many happy returns Chuck…

Peanuts is unequivocally the most important comics strip in the history of graphic narrative. It is also the most broadly accepted, since – after the characters made the jump to television – the little nippers become an integral part of the American mass cultural experience.

Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz crafted his moodily hilarious, hysterically introspective, shockingly philosophical epic for fifty years. He published 17,897 strips from October 2nd 1950 to February 13th 2000 and died from the complications of cancer the day before his last strip was published…

At its height, the strip ran in 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries, translated into 21 languages. Many of those venues are still running perpetual reprints, as they have ever since his departure. Attendant book collections, a merchandising mountain and TV spin-offs made the publicity-shy artist a billionaire. That profitable sideline – one Schulz devoted barely any time to over the decades – is where this little gem originates from…

Peanuts – a title Schulz loathed, but one the syndicate forced upon him – changed the way comics strips were received and perceived by showing that cartoon comedy could have edges and nuance as well as pratfalls and punchlines.

The usual focus of the feature (we just can’t call him “star” or “hero”) is everyman loser Charlie Brown who, with high-maintenance, fanciful mutt Snoopy, endures a bombastic and mercurial supporting cast who hang out doing kid things in a most introspective, self-absorbed manner.

The daily gags centred on playing (pranks, sports, musical instruments), teasing each other, making ill-informed observations and occasionally acting a bit too much like grown-ups. The consistently expanding cast also includes mean girl Violet, infant prodigy Schroeder, “world’s greatest fussbudget” Lucy Van Pelt, her other-worldly baby brother Linus and dirt-magnet “Pig-Pen”: each with a signature twist to the overall mirth quotient and sufficiently fleshed out and personified to generate jokes and sequences around their own foibles. As a whole, the kids tackled every aspect of human existence in a charming and witty manner, acting as cartoon therapists and graphic philosophical guides to the world that watched them.

Charlie Brown is settled into his existential angst and resigned to his role as eternal loser as if singled out by a gleeful Fate. It’s a set-up that remains timelessly funny and infinitely enduring…

This outing – available in a child-friendly hardback and the usual digital formats – celebrates the whimsy at the feature’s core and spotlights Lucy’s weird little brother Linus and a peculiar belief system all his own…

Waiting for the Great Pumpkin offers a quartet of vintage seasonal sequences dedicated to the kid’s attempts displace Santa Claus as the benevolent bestower of largesse to the good little boys and girls and promote a far earthier patron: one who comes to good children from a gourd plantation somewhere in America…

Like all zealots, Linus never ceases to proselytise, and Charlie Brown and Snoopy are happy to go along and see for themselves in ‘You Believe in Santa Claus and I’ll Believe in the Great Pumpkin’, but there’s a time limit to their willingness to convert…

Another year and the kids are back in fraught contention for ‘Santa Claus vs. the Great Pumpkin’, but how long can even the most devout devote last in the face of perpetual disappointment? According to ‘Oh, Great Pumpkin, You’re Going to Drive Me Crazy!’, not forever, but the year Linus convinces Charlie’s little sister Sally to wait with him is painfully revelatory as seen in ‘True Love Revealed in the Pumpkin Patch’

The tales are told in a series of monochrome panels (generally four to a page) that never fail to delight, recapturing the hilarious seriousness of childhood in a manner nobody else can match. Since you and yours are almost certainly not going out for “tricks or treats” this year, why not ameliorate your own existentialist family travails with online sweets deliveries and this handy gem?
Waiting for the Great Pumpkin © 2014 Peanuts Worldwide, LLC. All rights reserved.