Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Two Comics Collections: A Twosday Twofer
The Wizard of Id: 1972 Daily and Sunday Strips, by Brant Parker and Johnny Hart, Titan Books.
I think everyone likes to remember certain periods of the past by the best products of the time. When I recall what it was actually like to live in the 1970's, I think of ubiquitous cigarette smoke, awful synthetic fabric, and social and political unrest everywhere. One of the best things that came out of the Seventies (and one of the few things that made them bearable to live through) was the humor. And I find that some of the best humor is now preserved in these yearly collections of The Wizard of Id.
Created by Brant Parker and Johnny Hart, punched up by gag writers Jack Caprio and Dick Boland, the comic is set in the pseudo-medieval Kingdom of Id, ruled over by a short and short-tempered King. His main advisers are the Wizard (an incompetent magician) and Rodney (a cowardly knight). The concept of the strip allows for a broad spectrum of humor, from full-out jokes on human nature, to jabs at the social problems of the day, to fantasy-specific gags about magic and fairy tales (these last I particularly enjoy). Because of the Cloud-Cuckoo-Land setting the humor seems less of a period piece and more perpetually applicable.
The Complete Peanuts: 1985 to 1986, by Charles Schulz, Fantagraphic Books. Foreword by Patton Oswalt.
Few people reverence the art and achievement of Charles Schulz or love his creation, Peanuts, more than I do, but I have to admit (which I think few connected to the project of publishing the complete strips would) that by the mid-Eighties the comic was definitely on the downswing. Much of the humor seems to be Schulz saying "Look at these wacky trends! Aren't they funny?" rather than making any real gags. It's kind of like seeing your grandfather, if he been an elegant champion-grade ballroom dancer, trying to stay relevant by attempting to break dance. Patton Oswalt in his introduction points out how much of the comic during these years are "shadow autobiography," dealing with lawyers and product licencing; other parts seem recursive, the characters and established themes feeding in on themselves instead of blossoming outward.
But there are occasional nuggets of silver in the silt, if little gold, and I intend to keep collecting this series to the end, which should come in seven more volumes. As I said, I love Peanuts, and this complete collection will make obsolete a ton of the old Fawcett-Crest paperbacks I've been collecting since I was in second grade. With this volume I finally noticed a design feature of this set. On the spine of each cover is a little oval cartouche with a different Peanuts character. On the books from 1950 to 1974 the characters are walking to the left; on the 1975-1976 volume Charlie Brown stares straight ahead; after that, the characters are headed to the right. They seem to be headed to the future. I am going that way with them.
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