No one needs to hear me speak of the virtues of Charles Schulz’ s Peanuts, one of the greatest comic strips and one of the greatest long-form narrative works of art of any medium. Plenty of much smarter people who can communicate much more clearly and cleverly than I have already done that in plenty of different places.
And the fact that so many newspapers continue to re-run old strips of Schulz’s so long after his death instead of filling that valuable (to cartoonists) space with something—anything—else is about as eloquent expression of the regard Schulz is held in as anything I could pound out in a few sentences here.
Do note that, when Schulz passed away, no descendant of his or hand-picked assistant/apprentice took over the strip for him—Peanuts not produced by Schulz was apparently judged so wrong it wouldn’t even be attempted, better to just have folks re-read older strips than attempt new ones by someone else.
That was a big part of the reason I was so shocked when Boom Studios announced a new ongoing Peanuts comic book series on their Kaboom kids imprint. They had previously produced an original graphic novel based on a new animated special which itself was pieced together from Schulz strips—last spring’s Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown—but this seemed like something pretty different. It wasn’t a media tie-in or a one-off lark project, it was going to be something rather sustained.
We sometimes get so immersed in our little world of words and pictures that it can be difficult at times to remember that comics are part and parcel of the larger pop culture and, as such, could often be referenced in other medium, like films and pop songs.
With that in mind, and since I’m always fascinated by this sort of cross-pollination, I thought I’d make a quick (and by no means definitive) list of some songs based on or about some beloved comic book characters. As a self-imposed caveat, I tried to stay away from theme songs or film contributions, so as much as I love The Ramones’ version of “Spider-Man,” I’m keeping it off the list for that reason.
Oh, and don’t forget to offer you’re own picks in the comments section …
1. Evangeline by Matthew Sweet
Sure, anyone can make up a song about Superman or Wonder Woman, but if you really want to establish your nerd cred, you need to write a song about a comic book character so long-forgotten even serious fans would need ten minutes or so to scratch their heads before saying, “Oh yeah, her.” So it was with Gen X songsmith Matthew Sweet, who penned a rather plaintive paen (“as sung by Johnny Six” the liner notes helpfully tell us) to the “sexy, killer vigilante nun” created by Chuck Dixon and Judith Hunt back in the heady days of the 1980s for Comico Comics. It’s a rather irresistible song — arguably one of Sweet’s best — as the singer looks at the figure he has placed on a pedestal and begs her to forget about all that “marriage to God” nonsense and give him the time of day, at least for a little bit. The fact that it features a really killer hook doesn’t hurt matters much.
Threadless has a fetching new T-shirt aimed at spreading the word about the growing epidemic of dog owners who won’t pick up after their pets. The shirt features various cartoon and comic strip dogs and their owners, um, doing their thing, including Snoopy and Charlie Brown, Scooby Doo and Shaggy, and Homer Simpson and Santa’s Little Helper. If I ever had the urge to wear a shirt featuring dogs dropping a deuce, which I haven’t, this would be the shirt for me.
The California Association of Museums has launched a campaign to have a Snoopy drawing by Charles Schulz appear on a special California license plate. Proceeds from sales of the plates would establish a sustainable grant program to support state museums.
But for that to happen, at least 7,500 California drivers have to register interest in a Snoopy plate. Once there are enough interested Peanuts fans, the state will begin collecting a $50 fee from those who want the plate (more if you want it personalized). Curiously, The Snoopy Plate website doesn’t seem to list a deadline for registration.
The Snoopy plate is being made possible by Jean Schulz, the Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates and United Media Licensing, who are granting royalty-free rights to the California Association of Museums.