(Merriam-Webster) A single strongly marked capacity or aptitude; extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested in creative activity

Not all comic book fans follow the newspaper comic strips just as many people who read the comics in the paper don’t read comic books.  However, this is my blog and I happen to read both.  Or at least I used to read both until the newspapers began shrinking the comics to the point of making them almost too tiny to read.  For the past decade or so, I have relied on collected works of my favorite comic strips to read them comfortably.

In my youth I read pretty much everything on the comics page, from Beetle Bailey to Dagwood to Wizard of Id to Andy Capp.  Heck, I even read Brenda Starr.  I never quite got into the serial comics as much as the gag strips, though.  I don’t know why, being such an avid fan of the serialized and often protracted stories in comic books.  I guess I just felt more comfortable reading a daily tale in three panels.

Looking back, it’s difficult to remember if I ever had a true “favorite”.  I don’t know if I looked at the comic strips that way.  Maybe that was just a result of not liking the serial strips and looking at the comics as a fun end to reading the newspaper (small digression:  I love reading newspapers.  Hometown, Wall Street Journal, The Sporting News (when it was a newspaper), whatever, I just love reading them).

As the times changed, more “serious” strips began cropping up, like Doonesbury and Shoe, which I enjoyed, though not as much as the gag strips.  Finally, I stopped reading the strips in the newspaper and began the slow accumulation of comic strip collections.

The great thing about comics is that there are many loyal fans of all works and their willingness to pay for collections allowed a variety of publishers to produce various “libraries” of old strips without the need for large press runs.  That has allowed me to pick up some great and hard-to-find strips (like Prince Valiant).  Of course, there are also the wildly popular strips, like The Far Side and Dilbert, which also allow for easy reading.

In the last year or so, a new hardback collection of Charles Schulz’ Peanuts was offered, starting from the strip’s inception over 60 years ago.  Like many comics, the characters’ artistic depiction changed a bit over time, which alone is a wonderful voyage of discovery.  I was more astounded by my own reactions while reading the collected volumes (now currently up to the late 70’s).

I had always read Peanuts.  Seriously, is there anyone who can read who has not read Peanuts?  I even had plenty of those paperback collections (I think in the 70’s, but it could even have been the 60’s).  Over time, I “grew out” of Peanuts and moved on to other strips.  Which just shows you how age and maturity are not the same thing.

As I read through the collections today, I am amazed at how delightful the books are.  Not for the social commentary and deep psychoanalysis that everyone seems to want to apply to the strip.  It may be worthy of that sort of consideration, though I wonder if Mr. Schulz could have cared about that.  No, what makes this such a rewarding re-discovery for me is how human the humor is.

As with the movies I wrote about last post and future media I’ll speak on the rest of the week, that part of humor is what I enjoy most.  The humor that naturally springs out from simply being an everyday person in an everyday world.  This world is rich in humor and we are all its star comedians.  There is a warmth and genuine quality to Mr. Schulz’ humor, regardless of the fantastic elements as fighter-pilot dogs and philosophical blanket holders.  I can almost see a “wink-wink” at the end of many of the strips.

As I said, I was delighted by my enjoyment of the strips, considerably more than I remember enjoying them as a kid.  I laughed out loud at many of the tales and became more aware of the unique and special gift Mr. Schulz had to be able to sustain that humanity over so many decades.

Having read and enjoyed them enough to collect the paperbacks when I was a boy, it is magical to read them now, 40-plus years later and enjoy them even more.


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