The legacy of “Peanuts” creator Charles M. Schulz carries on again this November, when BOOM! Studios publishes the original graphic novel “It’s Tokyo, Charlie Brown!” written and penciled by Vicki Scott, with inks by Paige Braddock, “It’s Tokyo” features the baseball team led by Charlie Brown being handpicked by the President of the United States to represent America for a baseball tournament in Japan. “When I first started working here at the Schulz studio, our licensing partners in Japan requested a Japan-specific graphic novel like [2011’s] ‘Happiness is a Warm Blanket,'” Scott told CBR News. “There are many reasons why taking the kids to Japan would be impossible — the main problem is that we cannot invent new characters, either kids or adults, so who would they meet in Japan? Of course it would be impossible, everyone agreed. But that got me thinking. I do love solving impossible puzzles.”
Scott eventually came up with the story for “It’s Tokyo,” which, as promised, will “absolutely not” contain any new characters. “My process for writing for ‘Peanuts’ is always the same,” she said. “I sort of set the kids down in a location or with a problem and just see what they say. It’s like a ‘Peanuts’ stream-of-consciousness writing exercise. Once I start predetermining what the kids have to say to make the story work, they start to sound pretty insincere, and I have to back up and let them lead again. So I am pretty lucky that they wanted to go to Japan.”
Not only does “It’s Tokyo” take the “Peanuts” characters to a new location, but it also presents them in a fairly rare format: a long-form graphic novel. “The long form is more like the animated specials,” Scott explained. “There can be an ambitious story with many intersecting storylines. There can be wider mood swings that don’t need to wrap up in three panels or six strips. Also, visually the long form affords me space for full-page panels to showcase a nice character moment or a special location. Japan is filled with beautiful views; in this graphic novel I had big panels to frame them in.”
Scott is also very aware of the legacy she’s carrying on. “Mr. Schulz’s comic strips are like haiku, really,” she said. “Each strip is distilled down to the one perfect word and the clearest, most minimal mark on the page. His ability to do that every day with such ease and brilliance shows what a genius he was. With the long form, I have the luxury of breathing room, so I can spend two pages to make the same point he could make in three panels.” For Scott, it’s important to capture the essence of what Schulz did with his work. “I try my hardest to follow Mr. Schulz’s lead both in art and in voicing the characters truly, although I know I can’t get there 100 percent,” she said. “My own work is much different than my ‘Peanuts’ work. I am not trying to leave my mark anywhere on ‘Peanuts’; I am trying to not leave my mark.”
That reverence not only comes from her time working at the Schulz studio and her previous work on “Peanuts” comic books, but also goes back to her early childhood. “I grew up with ‘Peanuts’ delivered every day in the newspaper,” she explained. “My parents enjoyed the comics right along with my brother and I, so we often talked about the strips throughout the day. Once I was in elementary school, I checked the compilation books out of the library as often as possible. The ‘Peanuts’ gang was part of my family. They still are part of my family — I still read the strip every day, and my husband and kids do, too!”
With “It’s Tokyo,” Scott gets the chance to share her love for “Peanuts” and respect for Charles Schulz with the world. “I was making this book with the main goal of pleasing Mr. Schulz,” she said. “While I have never met him, he was always at the front of my mind. I strove to be so careful with his ‘kids’; he has poured a lifetime of love and labor into them, and I didn’t want to harm any of that.”
“It’s Tokyo, Charie Brown!” hits stores in November from BOOM! Studios.