Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

October 20, 2004


The extremely popular "overrated/underrated" issue of American Heritage talks comics again, this time with a piece on comic strips by historian Ron Goulart.

Goulart's take on Peanuts proves disappointing not because anyone should avoid crossing the great Charles Schulz but because the perspective is so perfunctory and represents very conventional wisdom -- the "it was great once, but got tired in the last decade" view. It would have been nice to read something more insightful. My own reading of the strip, since reinforced by observations in a great piece by the critic Jesse Fuchs from about two years ago, is that Peanuts may have sagged in the middle but it improved greatly towards the end. In the last 30 months even the much-maligned character of Rerun fell into place as one of Schulz's great strips within his strip, as an observant artist who found the behavior of the older kids in the neighborhood as odd as we sometimes did.

imageAlso, while "underrated" strip Barnaby is a fine choice, and a flat-out great strip, being unknown to the extent most strips are doesn't really make it underrated. There are few as-praised strips during its lifetime or after. Goulart's essay thus fails to provide the real discovery that Art Spiegelman gave AH readers in a previous year making the case for The Bungle Family, a truly forgotten and under-appreciated work, and that's too bad.
posted 6:55 am PST | Permalink

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