The new Comics Journal is out. The bulk of the issue is devoted to a roundtable on David Michaelis’ Schulz biography, including an enormous essay by Schulz’s son Monte. I haven’t waded through the whole thing yet, but the consensus seems to confirm the general impression I gleaned from the media firestorm around it, viz. — Michaelis is an idiot. Basically, the biographer decided that Schulz and Charlie Brown were the same person and went about cherry-picking facts to show how depressed and oppressed Schulz was. Can I just say, barf? (I did say just that about the Schulz-as-tortured-artist meme in this essay, for those who are interested.)
Anyway,while I’m all for giving Michaelis what-for, I think R. C. Harvey in his review is maybe freaking out a little too much. He worries:
Michaelis’ biography will serve hereafter to perpetuate its author’s jaundiced opinion: A sad and lonely Schulz is only part of what Michaelis sees, but the fragment, by virtue of its sensation, is getting all the notice, and it is shaping popular opinion in a way profoundly at variance with the man Schulz was.
Harvey then goes on to suggest that the Schulz family maybe/possibly should sue Michaelis for revenue that will be lost when people no longer want to read Peanuts because they think Schulz wasn’t likable.
I understand the outrage but…really, just take deep breaths, or read a Snoopy cartoon or something. Nobody’s going to sue anyone; both because we’ve got the first amendment here, and because Michaelis’ book resulted in a humongous, gigantic, media feeding-frenzy, which undoubtedly resulted in a huge mega-bonanza of wealth for the Schulz family — which, in any case, is not exactly hard up to begin with. I guess they could try to get him for pain and suffering (though Monte seems too level-headed to bother with such nonsense) but I can’t imagine that Michaelis actually cost them any money.
Most importantly, the suggestion that Michaelis can somehow permanently damage Charles Schulz is, I think, misguided. Critics can sometimes make or break reputations, it’s true. But Michaelis is not that critic, and Schulz is not that reputation. What Schulz is is one of the two or three greatest artists of the twentieth century, who also happens to be one of the most popular creators of the last fifty years. His work is going to be around for generations. There are going to be lots more biographies over the years, and lots more poetasters who’ll hitch their wagon to his star by saying dumb things about him. You might as well let them; it’s not going to hurt Schulz any. If you’re going to have faith in any art at all, Peanuts is the thing to have faith in. It’s indestructible. Ultimately, Michaelis just made an ass of himself; Schulz and his work will be fine.
And speaking of poetasters — if you manage to get past the Schulz stuff in TCJ, you’ll find a short review by me of Jack Cole’s Betsy and Me. And this Saturday from 7-8 at Quimby’s I’ll be reading from a new zine excerpting some of the essays from the gay utopia website I edited. They’ll also be some dirty cartoons shown by Alexander Stewart, a banner designed by Dewayne Slightweight, an ode to Robert Mitchum’s genitals by Paul Nudd, an essay about invertebrate-on-ungulate action read by an emissary of the Giant Squid, and more. Plus you can purchase a shiny new zine with a gorgeous cover by Lilli Carre.
So come by if you’re in Chicago. You can find more info here.