Is Charlie Brown over the little red-headed girl? As we join him in this original graphic novel he’s thrilled to bits to have received a letter from his latest pen pal.
Our hero becomes a little obsessed by the idea of visiting Edinburgh Festival and, despite initial teasing from the rest of the Peanuts gang – well, outright cynicism from Lucy – they’re infected by his enthusiasm.
To fund a trip to Scotland, they hold their own neighbourhood festival, and soon, after a typically eventful plane ride, they arrive in the United Kingdom.
Before the Festival – at which Schroeder plans to show off his piano skills, and Charlie Brown will share a poem – there are trips around the country. Lucy tries golf at St Andrews, the kids enjoy a romantic rail journey and Linus leads a quest for the Loch Ness Monster (you did spot him on the cover?).
Inspired by an unproduced television special, Scotland Bound, Charlie Brown is a delight from start to finish. Writer Jason Cooper and artist Robert Pope update and expand Charles M Schulz’ and Bill Melendez’ original storyboards, and produce an instant classic. The narrative flows wonderfully, with a nice balance between timeless gags and specific moments, such as the visit to Edinburgh’s living history exhibit, Mary King’s Close. Mind, the ickiness of gardyloo is, understandably, dodged!
There’s also a touch of that melancholy that defines Good Ol’ Charlie Brown, used by Cooper as part of a mini-character arc.
As a local, I can confirm that Cooper does right by Scotland, and while there’s a gag about how loud our colonial friends can be, the Peanuts gang are anything but Ugly Americans. They retain the charm imbued by Schulz, causing cartoon chaos while treating the Scots they meet with respect. Chief among these is Nell, whose family is acting as hosts for the visit. She indulges the quirks of Linus, Lucy and co without judgment, and I dearly hope she visits them back home one day.
The jokes come thick and fast and they’re brought to vibrant life by Pope. I’ve seen some artists who have followed Schulz almost, but not quite, get Peanuts right – the faces and bodies are great, but the kids are placed at angles or in relative positions you’d never see in a newspaper cartoon or TV special. Pope, though, nails it every time; I especially like the way the neighbourhood festival pays tribute to A Charlie Brown Christmas with its distance shot of cavorting kids.
Scotland, too, looks authentic, from the streets of the Old Town to Nell’s croft, which the family shares with some of the country’s most iconic beasties.
Hannah White, assisted by Jewel Jackson, gives the visuals extra life with lovely colour work; the Peanuts gang are in their regular outfits, but the Scottish setting offers the opportunity to tap into real world tones. And while I’m sure it’s a computer font by now, those friendly Schulz letterforms look great, so well done to Donna Almendrala and Bryan Stone for laying them down.
So how do the performances go? Does Linus find Nessie? And how about that pen pal Morag? I heartily recommend you download this treat, or wait until June when it’s published in book form, and find out.
Just don’t ask what’s in a haggis…