Bill "Calvin and Hobbes" Watterson has a fascinating review of Shulz and Peanuts: A Biography in last weekend's Wall Street Journal. Schulz and Peanuts is a controversial biography of Charles M Schulz, the creator of the ginormously popular strip "Peanuts." The strip's tone veered around over the years, from schmaltzy to dark, antic to pensive, and David Michaelis, Schulz's biographer, suggests that these shifts are suggestive of Schulz's own moods and demons. Waterson's commentary on this is fascinating stuff:
Reading these strips in light of the information Mr. Michaelis unearths, I was struck less by the fact that Schulz drew on his troubled first marriage for material than by the sympathy that he shows for his tormentor and by his ability to poke fun at himself.
Lucy, for all her domineering and insensitivity, is ultimately a tragic, vulnerable figure in her pursuit of Schroeder. Schroeder's commitment to Beethoven makes her love irrelevant to his life. Schroeder is oblivious not only to her attentions but also to the fact that his musical genius is performed on a child's toy (not unlike a serious artist drawing a comic strip). Schroeder's fanaticism is ludicrous, and Lucy's love is wasted. Schulz illustrates the conflict in his life, not in a self-justifying or vengeful manner but with a larger human understanding that implicates himself in the sad comedy. I think that's a wonderfully sane way to process a hurtful world. Of course, his readers connected to precisely this emotional depth in the strip, without ever knowing the intimate sources of certain themes. Whatever his failings as a person, Schulz's cartoons had real heart.