Sunday Services

Although Peanuts wasn’t on the cover of the first issue of Charlie Hebdo, it had a place of honor inside. As George Wolinski, one of the murdered cartoonists, recalled in Liberation in 2000, “For the first issue, which we had prepared in a hurry during the night, we insisted on a Peanuts strip.”

Like no strip before, Peanuts quietly questioned the consensus culture. [Charles Schulz biographer David] Michaelis charliepoints to a single, telling utterance of Charlie Brown’s—“I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel”—as defying the feel-good mentality of the day and laying bare the sadness of existence. “Charlie Brown reminded people of what it was to be vulnerable, to be small and alone in the universe, to be human—both little and big at the same time,” writes Michaelis. And that caught the attention of the founders of Charlie Hebdo.

While readers could laugh at other comic strip characters, in Charlie Brown they saw themselves. Back in 1969, that was radical and new. And even after Schulz died in 2000, the pranksters at Charlie Hebdo knew it was radical. Wolinski explained what attracted the cartoonists of Hara-Kiri and Charlie Hebdo to Charlie Brown thirty years before: “A discreet humor, a little melancholy.” In Peanuts, he noted, the “heroes are characters that nothing happens to, or not much. Peanuts shows that living and existing are not the same thing. The mediocrity of our existence is unbearable. That’s what Peanuts is about.”

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