Review: Warm Blanket graphic novel

I‘ve just read (from a publisher-supplied PDF – the book hits comic book shops tomorrow and has a bookstore release date in two weeks) the graphic novel adaptation of Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown, and let me tell you – it works.

It works largely because they treat the special as what it was, a series of connected comic strips that tell a larger story among them. Most of the 80 pages of story in the book are single gag to the page, like a single daily strip a few are two gags, some bring a gag across two pages, but the rhythm is often like reading a good strip collection rather than reading a single narrative. By treating this as comics, they can actually convey humor through pacing and reaction. That puts this heads-and-shoulders above the typical prose-and-picture adaptation of animated works. And unlike some of the 1970s book adaptations of Peanuts, where they would have a series of panels but were simply recreating the visuals of the special, the people behind this clearly understand the difference between comics capturing a moment and animation capturing an action. They were clearly not tightly bound to the animated version, and cast aside animated moments for ones that work on the page. You could give this book to someone who has never seen the special, and have the book entertain on its own, something which is not true of most of the adaptations which have been done. And they didn’t make the mistake of trying to squeeze every moment of the special in, and thus allowed the gags the space they needed (mostly; there are a couple places where they tried to squeeze in one more than they should; the toss-away-the-blanket-but-it’s-on-a-string moment, for example, flops for a lack of timing on the page, but that is notable as the exception here.)

Artists Vicki Scott, Bob Scott, and Ron Zorman do a reasonable job copying a Schulz look with some of the visual touches of the screen version. It doesn’t all pass for exactly Schulz, but it’s not all supposed too, and there’s only a few moments where it’s jarring. Again, it works.

There are various ways of adapting a screenwork into comics, and various ways of crediting it. I’m not sure how much of the credit for “script”to  Stephan Pastis and Craig Schulz and for “art direction” to Paige Braddock and Andy Beall apply to the video version rather than the graphic novel, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they had a strong hand in this print version. Pastis and Braddock in particular are quite respectable cartoonist (Pastis for his strip Pearls Before Swine, and Braddock for Jane’s World, which has been both a strip and a comic book.)

In addition to the 80 page adaptations, there are several-pages of behind-the-scenes material at the end of the book, mostly character design materials.

All in all: far better than most comics adaptations of screen material, far better than most print adaptations of Peanuts animation, and well worth your perusal.  Click on through to Amazon and you’ll be able to Look Inside to see the first few pages of the story.

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