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Review: A Valentine for Charlie Brown

A Valentine for Charlie Brown
By Charles M. Schulz
Fantagraphics; $9.99

The latest holiday-themed Peanuts gift book from Fantagraphics focuses on the least Charlie Brown-iest of the holidays: Valentine’s Day. An entire day—preceded by a short but expanding marketing season—devoted to expressions of love between couples, it’s a rather weird holiday in that it is one for adults and children, albeit celebrated differently by each group. This puts it perfectly positioned for Schulz subject matter, as his all-kid cast celebrate the holiday as kids would, but they are here, as ever, freighted symbols for adulthood that allow older readers to see their interior lives played out in the panels of the comic strips.

Designer Tony Ong’s valentine-colored cover demonstrates this nicely, with part of the title looking carefully-written in cursive on the back of a classroom valentine, while a depressed Charlie Brown—his yellow, black, brown and peach figure in sharp releif from all the red, pink and white—sighing deeply and staring sadly off into space.

This isn’t the first Valentine-themed Peanuts collection or book—Ballantine published a nice 100-page, fifty-strip collection back in 2003—but it’s the one that looks most like a Valentine. Small and slim, it’s no bigger than a card…but much, much thicker.

The strips inside are divided into three sections: “Valentine’s Vigil at the Mailbox,” “The Little Red-Haired Girl,” and “My Sweet Babboo.”

The first, and longest, section features strips from various eras of the strip’s long existence—as is evidenced in the slight alterations in the character designs and Schulz’s lines—about Charlie Brown’s annual wait for valentines that never come. It’s an experience made all the more frustrating by the fact that while no one ever sends him a valentine, his dog Snoopy gets armfuls of them.

In the second, Charlie Brown attempts to give the never-seen object of his affection—The Little Red-Haired Girl—a valentine, but he never really gets past the practice phase, as he tries to psyche himself up for the task.

And in the third the focus switches from Charlie Brown to his little sister Sally, and her attempts to woo Linus, whose romantic feelings for her range from complete apathy to angry, off-panel denial. (One running gag has her referring to him as her Sweet Baboo in conversation, and a huge dialogue bubble will appear, protesting “I’m not your Sweet Babboo,” or whatever might be appropriate to the moment.)

Charlie Brown does appear off and on in this section, but more so to react to Sally’s problems, or to serve as a messenger between his little sister and his friend Linus. While the Brown family might not agree, it is nice to see that disappointment in Valentine’s Day runs in the family.

After all, misery loves company. And if the thought of Valentine’s Day makes you miserable, there’s no better company than Schulz’s Valentine’s Day-themed strips.

As for the kids in the reading audience, they should be more than happy with the comedy of the strips—like Charlie Brown getting his big, round head stuck in the mailbox—even if they aren’t as well-versed in loneliness, heart-break and rejection as grown-ups are. But don’t worry, kids; you’ll be learning all about those before you know it!

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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