Writers: Luca Debus & Francesco Matteuzzi
Artist: Luca Debus
Release Date: August 30, 2023
You’ve read his newspaper strips. We’ve all watched TV shows based on his characters. Perhaps you’ve even visited Camp Snoopy at Knott’s Berry Farm. But how much do we know about Charlie Brown’s creator? Let’s dive into my review of Funny Things: A Comic Strip Biography of Charles M. Schultz and find out!
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Even before he could read, Charles loved the funny pages. He’d study the newspaper strips, and the characters made him laugh. Even in kindergarten, he knew what he wanted to do with his life. His teachers recognized his talents, and his parents paid for correspondence courses in cartooning. Still, after graduation, he found it difficult to make his mark. Then Schultz got drafted, joined the U.S. Army, and fought in World War II.
Funny Things: A Comic Strip Biography of Charles M. Schultz covers Charles’ uphill battle for recognition as a writer and artist and his even greater fight to sell his creations to the syndicates. But it also delves into his personal life: his introverted nature, his love for his family, his devotion to God, and his relationships with his co-creators.
After studying this four-hundred-page tome over the weekend, I wish Debus and Matteuzzi had covered his parents’ deaths, his marital difficulties, his first heart operation, his decision to stop attending church, and the dissolution of his sports and religious strips in greater depth. I’d especially like to understand his religious views regarding his children, as they differ from the norm. Still, it’s an absorbing work that encompasses his home life, his fears of travel, and the extraordinary way he and his wife gave back to the community.
Debus and Matteuzzi never mention Camp Snoopy. But then, they didn’t spend their childhoods in Southern California. Like their hero, they read his newspaper strips, and their love for the form prompted their careers in comics. Did they emulate their hero and redraw strips of the creators they admired as children? The fact that they grew up in Italy, surrounded by Italian and European comics, and found Peanuts influential speaks volumes about Schultz’s worldwide appeal.
Luca Debus fills pages in Funny Things: A Comic Strip Biography of Charles M. Schultz with two horizontal strips. Each contains three to four panels, and the last packs a humorous conclusion. The next strip picks up the story thread and develops it until it weaves other topics into the narrative. Larger Sunday-style color strips, comprising three or four rows, break up the pages of Black And White dailies.
Charles’ uncle called him Sparky, and the childhood nickname stuck. Debus honors this Schultz family tradition by titling the Sunday pages Funny Things Featuring “Good Ol’ Sparky.” While the writers explain the origins of Franklin, Schultz’s first black character, they suggest how Charles drew upon life in his stories. Childhood baseball scenes invoke the Peanuts characters, young Charles often yells “Good grief,” and an uncredited collaborator resembles one of Charlie Brown’s friends.
Before people bought Charles’ comics, they recognized his talent as a letterer. Large uppercase letters inhabit dialogue balloons and thought bubbles in Funny Things: A Comic Strip Biography of Charles M. Schultz. The strips are easy on the eyes and a delight to read.
A driven introvert navigates the obstacles life sets against him as he pursues his ambition and finds a way to speak to the entire world in Funny Things: A Comic Strip Biography of Charles M. Schultz.