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SDCC: Abrams Announces New ‘Peanuts’ Book, “My Friend Dahmer” Follow-Up & More

by  in Comic News Comment
SDCC: Abrams Announces New ‘Peanuts’ Book, “My Friend Dahmer” Follow-Up & More

A new book that looks at the work of “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz as an artist is the centerpiece of the Spring 2015 line announced by Abrams ComicArts at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

The book, “Only What Is Necessary,” will be written and designed by Chip Kidd, the author of the 2001 book “Peanuts: The Art of Charles Schulz.” “This has been one of the books I have wanted to do forever,” Kochman said. “When Chip did the first Peanuts book, it was the best book–if you are a ‘Peanuts’ fan, there can be no other–and then I was thinking, ‘Why don’t we do what we do at Abrams, which is focus on him as an artist?'”

So Kidd and Kochman went to the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, CA to see what was available. “We went through the entire archive, and we found a lot of incredible stuff that had not been previously published or seen, and then a lot of stuff that you think you have seen but will be seeing really for the first time,” Kidd said. The book will be entirely original art. “There is not going to be the focus on the printed strips that I put in the last book, and there is also going to be very little overlap with the last book,” Kidd said. Instead, the book will include Schulz’s original art for “Peanuts” and his earlier strip, “Little Folks,” as well as some strips that Kidd calls “the missing link” between the two, and such miscellaneous pieces as a painting of Snoopy that Schulz did for a local hockey rink and a drawing of Beethoven he did for a child’s T-shirt. Some of the works were literally rescued from the trash: Schulz used to work out his ideas on a yellow legal pad and then crumple up the paper and throw it away when the strip was done, Kidd explained. His secretary and assistants would wait until he left the office, then retrieve the paper and iron it out. Some of those sketches will be in the book alongside the finished strips.

The title of the book came from a conversation Kochman and Kidd had on the trip to the museum. “Charlie started talking about an interview with Schulz where he said cartooning was distilling everything down to its basic essence and using only what is necessary to tell your story,” said Kidd, “and it was one of those bazinga! moments where–that was the title!”

The book will be about 300 pages, in a 9″ x 12″ horizontal format, with an introduction by “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” author Jeff Kinney. It will be released in September 2015, in time for the 65th anniversary of the strip; a new Peanuts movie will be out that November.

The fall 2015 lineup will also include “Trashed,” by Derf Backderf, the creator of “My Friend Dahmer.” “This is the story after ‘Dahmer,’ after Derf graduated,” said Kochman. Backderf and his friend Mike, who is also a character in “My Friend Dahmer,” worked as garbagemen for a few years, and the book is both a story about having “the crap job of all crap jobs,” as Kochman described it, and a nonfiction account of the history of garbage and the economic and environmental challenges of disposing of it. “He’s a journalist,” Kochman said, “and he really researches his subjects and gets into detail. This is really a remarkable book and we are excited to have it on the list.”

Another book that follows on a previous Abrams title is “The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality, and the Financial Crisis,” by Darryl Cunningham, the creator of “How to Fake a Moon Landing.” Cunningham started out by researching the economic crisis of 2008, Kochman said, and he traced the roots of it back to Ayn Rand. The book is broken into three acts: A straight biography of Ayn Rand, a section about her followers, who include former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, and a final section that ties everything together and shows how the policies put in place by Rand’s disciples led directly to the financial collapse. “He doesn’t editorialize, although she’s a polarizing figure,” said Kochman. “He presents the facts very clearly, and you can draw your own conclusions.”

Editor Carol Burrell introduced the next new book, Fumio Obata’s “Just So Happens,” the story of a woman who grew up in Japan and lives in London, whose life is shaken up when her father dies suddenly and she has to return to Japan. “Soon she is immersed back in her culture,” said Burrell. “She is immersed the rituals of death but also in the rituals of life, so there’s fish bars and bullet trains and going to stores, but there’s also well meaning undertakers and other rituals.” Yumiko, the lead character, is negotiating not only two cultures but also her identity and her relationship with her family. “It deals both gently and powerfully with grief, with who you are, with this pressure not to disappoint your parents even after they are dead,” said Burrell. “It may not sum it up with a bow at the end, but it is a real, true look at what’s going on with this person as she walks the line between life, death, family, and culture.”

Kochman also had three children’s titles to announce. “Hereville: Mirka Catches a Fish” is the third volume in Barry Deutsch’s award-winning fantasy tale of a young Orthodox Jewish girl.

“Rutabaga the Adventure Chef” is a middle-grade book by Eric Colossal, the webcomic “Red’s Planet,” by Eddie Pittman. “I think of it as an animated cartoon in comic form,” said Pittman, who has a background in animation and worked on the Disney cartoon “Phineas and Ferb.” The comic is the story of Red, a ten-year-old girl who is unhappy in foster care. “One night she finds herself abducted mistakenly by a UFO,” Pittman said, “and soon she is whisked across the galaxy into a fantastic world of spaceships and aliens and nothing she has ever seen before. Through a series of events she is marooned on a deserted planet with a group of misfit aliens and finds herself in a contest of wills with the planet’s grumpy custodian, and Red begins to realize that living with these aliens is not that different from living with her foster family.”

In addition to the new title announcements, the panel highlighted several books from Abrams’s fall list. Historian Mark Evanier spoke of “The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio,” which he is editing. Evanier was Jack Kirby’s assistant for a time and later a historian of his work, and in the course of this he met Kirby’s collaborator, Joe Simon. “Simon saved a lot of stuff, and he was good at archiving things that people at the time threw away,” Evanier said. That archive forms the core of the book, which is a 340-page compilation of comics done at the Kirby and Simon studios. All the stories are complete, Kochman said, so this is more of an art book than a reading book. And it concludes with a remarkable piece, a cover pencilled by Kirby and later inked by Simon. The cover was never used, but, Evanier said, it is their last collaboration, and this will be the first time it has ever been printed.

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