Brand Blogging

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Charlie Brown goes emo

The best comics store in Manhattan has to be Forbidden Planet. They have a friendly, knowledgeable staff, a good selection, and always something interesting in their window display. Recently, the display has included the new Peanuts anthology books being put out by Fantagraphics Books. Fantagraphics is perhaps best known as the publisher of Daniel Clowes' work, including Ghost World and Art School Confidential, although they also publish a number of other graphic novels and comics that have names like We All Die Alone, Monologues For The Coming Plague, and Angry Youth Comix. And yet curiously, at the same time Fantagraphics also puts out anthologies of classic comics such as Peanuts. However, the portrayal of the Peanuts gang (at least on the cover) for the books in the anthology could be considered "off-brand," at least in comparison to the treatment they receive at The Official Peanuts Website. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the anthology covers (for the books released so far) to the character portraits on the Peanuts website:

In each case, the Fantagraphics version looks upset, angry, pensive, etc., while the version is smiling and happy, except for Schroeder; but note that Schroeder has pretty much always been characterized as somewhat angsty (his favorite composer is Beethoven).

This is part of a calculated attempt by Fantagraphics to not only appeal to the people who like comics such as Ghost World, but also to add a serious air to Schulz' art for those fans who see it as something more than just a comic strip; as Fantagraphics says on its about page,
Fantagraphics Books has been a leading proponent of comics as a legitimate form of art and literature since it began publishing the critical trade magazine The Comics Journal in 1976. By the early 1980s, Fantagraphics found itself at the forefront of the burgeoning movement to establish comics as a medium as eloquent and expressive as the more established popular arts of film, literature, poetry, et al.
In addition, in the press release for the first volume of the anthology describes the "aesthetic sensibility" of the packaging as
both austere and direct, reflecting the quiet and melancholy of the strip in a package that shows the proper respect due one of America’s greatest artists in any medium.
Overall, I think this is an interesting way of presenting the Peanuts comics in a new (or at least underrepresented) light. Even though the tone of the packaging doesn't dovetail with more popular representations of the characters, the anthology—which is being put out at the rate of two books per year until 2016 for a total of 25 books representing 50 years of strips—is designed to appeal to more serious comic fans who may see themselves more like art collectors than casual readers.


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