Thursday, February 26, 2015

Schulz's Youth

You love Charles Schulz's cartoon kids. Now it's time to meet his teens!

“Using the same wit and empathy that made his Peanuts cartoons popular worldwide. Charles Schulz turns his sights on the lives of teenagers. He finds the humor in teen attitudes toward spirituality, family, dating, and life. All their youthful enthusiasm, exuberence, passion, flaws, and faibles are on display with the hilarious drawings and sharp insights that made Schulz the most influential cartoonist ever."

"During the 1950s and 60s, while his work was exploding in popularity, Schulz created hundreds of these cartoons for Youth magazine and other publications. Here they are, including ones never before collected and unseen in decades. It’s a treasure trove for any true Schulz fan.” [ Text from the back cover ]

WARNING: May contains trace of “spoilers”! People allergic to any discussions of a plot element before having themselves become aware of it are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.

For as long as I remember I have been a great fan of Charles Schulz's Peanuts cartoons and wasn't aware that he did anything else. So I was rather surprised when I stumble upon this book at the library. I borrowed it immediately and quickly ran through it with an avid curiosity. It made for an easy reading since it's made of single-panel cartoons. I found the same irreverent wit as in the Charlie Brown series, but this time with teenagers as main characters. I guess that american teenagers haven't changed much in the last five decades because it feels somewhat similar to modern cartoons like Zits. The drawings are very simple and, although accompanied by a caption, are able to convey complex ideas. In a way, it is much more difficult to do this successfully with a single-panel story than a four-panel one like for Charlie Brown. [opposite: page 89]

While reading the Peanuts cartoons I had already noticed that it often had religious themes, which I thought normal considering that the average american is much more outspoken and devout about his religion than the people I know and keep company with here in Quebec. I don't know anyone who quotes scriptures in a conversation or an argument! However, this religious thematic is totally omnipresent in Young Pillars. I was annoyed by this at first, thinking that Schulz must have been quite a devout american. But I quickly realized that he was often putting a slightly cynical twist in his story, gently pointing out how excessive the religious belief can be in the average american daily life. And THAT I liked.

But this religious tone is no coincidence since the Young Pillars cartoon series was published in Youth magazine, which was a Warner Press publication aimed at teens in the Church of God, a Holiness religious movement headquartered in Anderson, Indiana (There are so many different sects, a.k.a denominations, in the Christian faith that it's almost ridiculous!). The single panel series ran, first bi-weekly and later weekly, from January 1st 1956 until early 1965. This book also includes illustrations that Schulz did for the 22nd International Youth Fellowship convention, for Two-by-Fours (a short book by Kenneth F. Hall about the place of preschool-aged kids in the church published in 1965 by Warner Press) and for the monthly magazine Reach (1969). The book concludes with an article about Schulz's Warner Press work. The Young Pillars cartoons were often reprinted in Youth magazine and syndicated to other publications. There were also compiled in various books: Young Pillars, Teen-Ager is Not a Disease, What Was Bugging Ol' Pharaoh, Teen-agers Unite, I Take my Religion Seriously and, of course, Schulz's Youth.

I enjoyed a lot this funny book and learned a lot more about Charles Monroe Schulz. So should you (particularly if you are a Peanuts' fan).

My other nine favourite cartoons (click to enlarge):
Pages 87, 113 & 126

Pages 129, 139 & 157

Pages 178, 185 & 242

Schulz's Youth: The Creator of Peanuts Takes a Look at Teens, by Charles M. Schulz (Forword by Jerry Scott, writer of Zits). Thousand Oaks CA, About Comics, First printing May 2007. 6 x 6 x 5/8 in, 296 pg., $14,95 USD / $17.99 CAN. ISBN: 978-0-9753958-9-9. Suggested for readers of all ages.

For more information you can check the following websites:

Schulz's Youth © 2007 About Comics. All cartoons © Warner Press, Anderson, IN. All rights reserved.

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