I finally laid hands on a copy of Dial P for Peanuts, the parody that places adult versions of the Peanuts characters into the scenario of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (to use the least offensive of the names that novel has gone under.) These older characters, each hideous in their own way, meet gruesome deaths that befit the horrors they’ve become in life, as we are left to wonder who the murderer is, whether it is one amongst them or an outside force. (This is very much an exercise in process of elimination.)
There have been a number of attempts at parody through the adulting of Peanuts characters, and it’s not something that inherently works well. There have been ones that creatively succeeded (such as Brendan Hunt’s play Absolutely Filthy), but most just like to layer the tawdry on these characters.
This is, alas, not one of the standouts. The ways in which these characters are matured is a practice in making them tawdry, often without any emotional/practical grounding in the original character. The murder mystery pastiche fails in its murder mystery logic. It seems more like the folks who wrote this originally as a play were to convinced by the cleverness of the basic idea but didn’t have much to say with it. (I do suspect it worked better as a play, as a play didn’t give you time to linger on something, wondering what the point of it was.) I dunno, maybe I would’ve gotten more out of it had I read the novel it was parodying, rather than just knowing it by reputation. But it’s audacity was not interesting, and wasn’t particularly funny, and at times it was just annoying (notability a bit of unneeded transphobia.)
I will give points to the art for not trying to look like Schulz and failing (the cover is misleading in that; it’s by a different artist than the interior, and I will give it points for the clever use of the foreground fence.) The interior art is not particularly appealing, and the decision to use a strict six-panel grid hurts the storytelling when there is an action silently played across several panels.
Getting this book was a bit tricky for me. My local comic shop did not receive the copy they had ordered for me, and eventually the distributor let them know that it would not come through. (For a while, I thought the book may have been kept from the market altogether; including “Peanuts” in the title raised the possibility that trademark concerns had been raised. But obviously, that’s not the case. Although they could’ve just titled the book Hollow #3, as that’s the title listed on the inside front cover…. as a publisher, I too have made the mistake of basing the copyright information on a previous publication, and forgetting to fully adapt it, so I recognize the pain.) Amazon is out of copies, though they think they can get one in a few weeks. If I liked digital comics, I could’ve gotten it cheaper and more quickly. I ended up ordering directly from the publisher, who still has copies on hand.
The graphic novel field has opened up, some of the barriers to distribution have been lowered, and it’s good that someone can put a non-vital, non-obvious graphic novel like this out there. This one just didn’t happen to work for me.