In 2015, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy and the rest of the “Peanuts” gang celebrate not one but two anniversaries as Charles Schulz‘ iconic characters turn 65 — and BOOM! Studios’ kid imprint KaBOOM! celebrates two years of its “Peanuts” comic book.
In February, “Peanuts” #25 arrives in stores, a special, oversized anniversary issue which jettisons the series’ anthology approach in order to tell one original, long-form story.
Written by EVP and Creative Director of Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates Paige Braddock and writer Vicki Scott, who also provides the art, the issue sends Charlie Brown and Snoopy to summer camp for a forty-eight page adventure. Scott is one of the many writer/artists who contributes regularly to the ongoing series, and the woman behind original “Peanuts” graphic novels such as “It’s Tokyo, Charlie Brown.” Braddock’s involvement with the property dates all the way back to her time working directly for Schulz in the late ’90s, overseeing direction for Schulz licensed products. The two have also been involved the “Peanuts” ongoing series since the launch of the ongoing comic, which blends new stories with reprints of Schulz’ classic “Peanuts” strips.
Created by Schulz in 1950, “Peanuts” is one of the longest running and most recognizable syndicated American comic strips. Though Schulz passed away in 2000, his characters have remained in the limelight thanks to their over forty TV specials, multiple newspaper reprints, the KaBOOM! series, original graphic novels and an upcoming, all-new CG-animated feature film, also due out in 2015, from Blue Sky and Fox Family Entertainment.
In an exclusive first conversation about, and look at the oversized anniversary issue, CBR News spoke with Braddock and Scott about the special anniversary plans they have in store for “Peanuts” fans. The duo also addresses the challenge in crafting original “Peanuts” stories which live up to the strip’s legacy, and their remembrances of the man who created Charlie Brown.
CBR News: “Peanuts” is having its 65 Anniversary next year, and as part you two collaborated on kaBOOM!’s first non-anthology issue of “Peanuts.” What inspired you to create an original story in “Peanuts” #25 to commemorate the anniversary?
Paige Braddock: This story pulls heavily on all the summer camp themed comics that Schulz wrote over the years. It’s almost like a “best of” compilation based on our favorite moments, but obviously blended into a single narrative. Adult fans will likely recognize “moments” from the comic strip. For kids unfamiliar with the comic strip, this will likely be an entirely new story.
I think one of my fondest memories as a kid was watching the TV special “It Was A Short Summer, Charlie Brown” at the actual summer camp I went to. How did the two of you decide on a summer camp story for “Peanuts” #25? What interested you in the place Charlie Brown dreads to go each year for this issue?
Braddock: I personally had been wanting to do a summer camp story for quite some time, but a story long enough to carry a 150-page graphic novel didn’t really come to mind, and a regular monthly format was too short. This length is just right, I think. As a highly functioning introvert (like Schulz), I really can’t think of anything worse than having to go to summer camp as a kid. So, you might even call this a horror story — a horror story with comic relief!
Without giving too much away, what can you say about issue #25? What should readers expect from this long-form story?
Braddock: One of the things I wanted to incorporate in this was a B-story thread that focuses on the antics of Snoopy and his Beagle Scouts. We heavily based the “environmental” elements in those segments of the story on Schulz drawings. Schulz was the master at minimalist design for rocks, trees, canyons and snow. Plus, the birds as scouts are hilarious.
As creatives working on the ongoing series, to your minds what is the biggest challenge in generating new “Peanuts” stories?
Vicki Scott: For me, there are two major challenges. The first challenge, and hardest, is to not deviate from Mr. Schulz’ work. The doctors’ motto comes to mind: “Do no harm.” The Peanuts universe is fully realized, so my task is to not drive the characters in directions they weren’t intended to go. I strive to make stories Sparky [Charles Schulz] might like and draw the characters as exactly like he did as much as possible. The second challenge is to introduce these wonderful characters to new fans, particularly kids. I know the world of Peanuts seems very different than today’s world — there are no computers or cell phones, and the kids hang out on the sidewalk alone all day, but under all the differences, I think the characters’ core stories are still relevant for today’s kids. Just like in Sparky’s era, kids just want to feel liked and worthwhile.
Vicki and Paige, you two also worked on “It’s Tokyo, Charlie Brown.” Do you find writing and drawing this long-form issue of “Peanuts” was similar to working on the original graphic novel?
Scott: It was a breeze! Over the last 3 years, we have done 3 graphic novels of 90 to 100 pages each, so this 32-page story felt short! But seriously, I do like working with the long form stories. The longer stories get to have sub stories and wider story arcs. The shorter stories are always aiming at one good joke at the end. But with the long stories, we get to spend so much more time with the kids as they muddle along. We have the space for a panorama panel here and there. It’s nice to have the space and time in the long stories.
Take us through your process — as the two of you are both artists and writers, do you bounce ideas and pages off each other? Or at this point, has writing and drawing the gang become second nature?
Scott: Paige and I prefer to write separately — it’s just how our creativity works. I would say that we work “solo,” but Sparky is the root of everything we write, so we’re really collaborating with him. Once we have a story scripted, we pass it around and get notes from the staff at the Schulz Studio. The people on staff are very sharp, and their notes are very good for the stories. The drawing is done by one-person, solo, and the inking is also a solo activity. Logistically, this process just makes the most sense for us.
Braddock: Vicki has definitely written more stories than I have for the BOOM! series. She has a great voice when she writes for “Peanuts.” Her tone is usually spot on. You’ve probably heard good and bad stories about creative collaboration on comics projects — this is a good one. Vicki is incredibly collaborative and generous with her time, talent and insights. I really love working with Vicki, and I’m so happy that we got to do this story together. I think we both wanted to see it in print.
In terms of the back and forth, Vicki and I offer each other a good system of checks and balances. When you work on a project like this, basically ghosting someone else’s characters, you need people on your team who aren’t afraid to be honest when things get off model. Vicki is great for that. So is Lex Fajardo, Donna Almendrala, Nomi Kane, Art Roche, Jason Cooper — I mean, Vicki is right when she says we have a great story team here at the Schulz Studio.
Paige, as someone who knew and worked with Charles Schulz, what do you remember best about him as a friend and a creator? Are there any stories from your time working with him that really stick in your mind?
Braddock: It’s always with some trepidation that we meet our heroes. I like to say that Schulz was one of mine, and when I met him I was relieved to discover that he was everything I would want the creator of “Peanuts” to be. He was kind, thoughtful, funny, introspective and generous with his time. He was especially supportive of female cartoonists, which given the time he came of age, is really saying something. Back when he launched “Peanuts” in the ’50s, comics were a man’s world almost entirely.
When I first started working at the studio, I had expected him to be more of a control freak about things. Like, for example, using a computer for digital coloring, which had never been done until I came to work at the studio. But he was very open to new things and loved being able to experiment with textures and other things digitally for the Sunday comics. Even with the new technologies, he was old school in terms of the tools he used for inking. As a cartoonist, I admired him for that.
“Peanuts” issue #25 hits stores February 18, 2015.