By 1967, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts was grossing over $20 million per year. The comic strip’s ancillary products extended from animated specials to pillows to the bestseller Happiness Is a Warm Puppy. Some of this outsized success shaped the strip in these years — the super-marketable Snoopy took over, and its seasonal rythyms became predictable: in fall, Lucy and the football inexorably yielded to the Great Pumpkin and Beethoven’s birthday. But Schulz was nevertheless still a comic genius in his prime, exploring the topography of his melancholy humor and finding new ways to humiliate Charlie Brown on the baseball mound. (The best: Snoopy takes over as a manager, and proves to have a short fuse, delivering violent kicks to his underperforming players.) This ninth impeccable volume in the Peanuts collection from Fantagraphics also marks the introduction of Franklin, the strip’s first African-American character, whose dad, we soon discover, is in Vietnam. Encumbered with all this baggage, Franklin never really became funny, but he nevertheless lingered in the strip’s ensemble for decades. Franklin did get one great straight line early on, when he encountered Lucy’s psychiatric booth for the first time, initially mistaking it for a lemonade stand. “Are you a real doctor?” he asked her. Lucy’s response: “Was the lemonade ever any good?”
About the Author
Gavin Edwards is a regular contributor to Rolling Stone and Wired, among other publications. His most recent book is Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton's Little John?