thrift store finds: what was bugging ol’ pharaoh?

(Thrift Store Finds is a mostly-weekly “column” of sorts where I discuss some of the cool books I’ve happened upon in my neighborhood St. Vincent DePaul store. Please don’t mistake me for an expert on any of the books I am writing about… I’m just a fan of a bargain.)

Charles Schultz is the most famous American cartoonist outside of Walt Disney. His commitment to his craft is legendary. His creations are internationally known and celebrated. There is hardly a man, woman, or child alive who hasn’t, at some point in their lives, experienced Charlie Brown and Snoopy in some way or another.

This is why I was so happy to discover today’s Thrift Store Find:

What’s Was Bugging Ol’ Pharaoh? by Charles M. Schutz, published by Pyramid Publications for Successful Living in January of 1972. I love the tagline at the time of of the book, awkwardly reminding everyone they should “feel good again with that Peanuts man!”

I had NO idea until I came across this paperback that Charles Schultz had, concurrently with Peanuts, drawn an additional comic strip!

The comics collected in What’s Been Bugging Ol’ Pharaoh? are collected from a strip titled Young Pillars that Schutz drew for a Christian magazine throughout the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Schultz has always been very open about his spirituality and religion (think Linus quoting the Gospel according to Luke at the end of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”). The majority of these strips are far more overt than Schultz ever allowed Peanuts to become. Young Pillars was recently collected in a nice volume titled Schultz’s Youth, but I had never heard of it before a few weeks ago. Compact that surprise with another truly shocking aspect of these strips…

ADULTS! CHARLES SCHULTZ DREW ADULTS! 

…or at least he draws teenagers, for the most part. I suppose it’s not too strange when you think about it. Schultz was a consummate cartoonist and of course he could draw people older than five years if he chose. It’s just… he didn’t. The vast majority of his output were not only comics of children, but comics which happened within a world where adults only existed off-panel. To see Schultz draw older boys and girls is decidedly weird, especially since as Young Pillars is drawn in the same style as Peanuts.

The comics collected her are single panel strips with a deeply religious bent. Schultz assumed (quite rightly, I’m sure) that the audience for these comics would be well-versed in the doings of their church and their Bible readings. Case in point:

I mean, who doesn’t love a good Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego gag, amiright folks?

That being said, for every church related gag in the book, Schultz does counter with a joke or observation that wouldn’t have been out of place in a non-religious magazine.

I don’t know why, but I was pleasantly surprised to find after reading a handful of these strips that there is a recurring character. The fellow hanging his head of of the tree in the above strip is Harold, a floppy-haired teenager who puts me in mind of a grown up Linus Van Pelt. Harold in about half of the strips in What Was Bugging Ol’ Pharaoh. He engages in all sorts of wholesome teenage activities

like going to choir practice

and handing out religious pamphlets on the street.

You know… teenager stuff.

Schultz carries over one of his great themes to Young Pillars with Harold’s luckless love life. So many of the best relationships in Peanuts were about unrequited love unreturned. Lucy loves Schroder but he’s uninterested. Sally and Linus. Charlie Brown pines for the little redhead girl who he can never have. Heck, even CB’s relationship with Snoopy is something of a miss- Charles often wishes for a dog who acts like a man’s best friend, while Snoopy is firmly secluded in his own fantasy world. Harold of Young Pillars continues this tradition. Every third Harold strip is about how girls don’t want to date him

and how girls who are dating him are breaking up with him.

…and hey look, Snoopy (arguably) puts in an appearance!

All in all, a solid, delightful find. I can’t say I particularly relate to the strips here… but as they were not written for a mainstream audience, I’m not surprised. I’m glad I found out ol’ Sparky drew these though!

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