The children of Charles Schulz this week lashed out at the author of a new biography that depicts their father—the late cartoonist who created Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang—as a depressive, distant man. Schulz’s son, Monte Schulz, says the book, Schulz and Peanuts, is unfair and inaccurate, and he wishes he never agreed to let David Michaelis write it.
What the commentators said
Michaelis’s depiction of Schulz really isn’t that hard to believe, said David Menconi in the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer’s blog. “Anyone who actually read” Peanuts “won’t be surprised to learn that Schulz may have had a real-life dark side.” His famous comic strip “always had lots of dark, depressive undercurrents not too far beneath its seemingly placid surface.” Schulz’s personal life is irrelevant, though: Whatever he was “off the page, on the page” he was the “greatest.”
What seems to be getting overlooked by all this talk about Schulz-the-depressive, said Bill Watterson in The Wall Street Journal Online, is the brighter side of his personality. He had a remarkable “ability to poke fun at himself” and to sympathize with those who caused him pain. And Michaelis “largely glossed over the later years of the strip,” when Peanuts “abandoned much of its earlier harshness.”
For the most part, said Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times, Michaelis offers a balanced look at Schulz’s life. “At times the author’s prodigious research may overwhelm the casual reader, who may well wonder if we really need to know about all of Schulz’s unrequited crushes, all his panic attacks and spasms of self-doubt.” But Michaelis does a good job of giving the reader “a shrewd appreciation of Schulz’s minimalist art and a sympathetic understanding of Schulz the man.”