Review: Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown graphic novel

New releases

There are a lot of amusing things about the new graphic novel Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, based on the third Peanuts film, but I have to admit that the one that gave me the biggest laugh was a review quote on the back cover. According to Comicosity, this graphic novel is “very true to the source material”… and it’s really, really not. This graphic novel is less an adaptation and more a remake. While it keeps the central core concept of the 1977 film – the Peanuts kids go to camp, end up in a camp battle against a bunch of cheating bullies in such events as a tug-of-war, a sack race, and the big payoff, a raft race. But within that and beyond that, there are many changes.

Some of the changes are almost inherent and necessary in bringing the film into the comics medium. Consider the big difference between the animated Snoopy and the Snoopy of the comic strip – the comic strip Snoopy has visible thoughts and conversations, the animated Snoopy just has Bill Melendez’s grunts and giggles. In bringing the film into the comics form, they’ve brought back Snoopy’s ability to converse, with Woodstock and the Beagle Scouts.

If those last few words gave you a moment’s pause, that’s appropriate: the Beagle Scouts did not appear in the original film. And hey, was Peggy Jean in the original film? She couldn’t have been, she didn’t even appear in the strip until over a decade later. Eudora’s in here too, and there’s more minor appearances by a variety of supporting characters. As I said, this is a remake, and they’re remaking it with the cast as it eventually developed.

While Race is probably the best choice of the original four movies for graphic novel adaptation (it has a more active visual sense overall), some of what they did there worked a lot better in animation than it might have in comics. Some of the humor was very motion-based, but by replotting, writer Jason Cooper is able to pick moments that work well in still images and give you text to linger over, making this more of a full read. Moments that were based on music get taken out, more verbal gags put in. If I have a complaint, it’s that there’s a bit too much Good Moral Message added in. Peanuts in the strip was usually far more descriptive of the human condition than proscriptive of it, and while Schulz varied that somewhat for the pieces outside of the strip, I always worry somewhat when the characters head into the Good Role Model territory. That may be considered part of safe children’s entertainment these days, but it’s not hitting Peanuts at its strengths. But that’s just my opinion.

The art is by Robert Pope, whom I’ve worked with both on Peanuts projects and elsewhere, and I like it. He brings a fair portion of Schulz into it, but deals well with the fact that the characters are moving in dimensions that they never did in the strip.

All in all, a recommended, enjoyable read, with about four comic books worth of pages for a list price of $9.99 (and likely cheaper if you go order it from Amazon now.)

I’m wondering whether we’re going to see more graphic novelizations of animated Peanuts along this line. I’d of course like to see a graphic novel of A Charlie Brown Christmas, that’s one format that it hasn’t really been done in… although as that special’s only a third as long as this movie, it would need a lot of pumping up to be a similar number of pages… and I expect that some would view that as sacrilege.

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