Although news that "
" was getting the ax had readers of the funny pages lamenting the loss of another classic comic strip this week, it is ironic that the most irreverent take on arguably the most popular comic strip ever has hit shelves.
"Weapon Brown: Blockhead's War" No. 3 is actually the fourth installment featuring Jason Yungbluth's twisted take on the "Peanuts" characters.
Regarding the main character, Yungbluth - who writes and draws every panel of every issue - never has the other players in the deadly game call "Weapon" by his first name. Yet a very round head and giveaway yellow shirt with a mountainous black stripe is all we need to know that this is indeed Charlie Brown.
Only he's a Charlie Brown for whom the cruelty and jeers over the years have planted the seeds for revenge against those who have wronged him. This serves him well in a postapocalyptic world in which he now has a cybernetic arm, a big gun and an attitude that's a cross between the Terminator and a primary character in "Sin City."
No longer a blockhead, Weapon Brown thinks nothing of punching a defenseless bum, roughing up someone for information, slapping a whore, cursing like a sailor or threatening to feed someone's fingers to his dog Snoopy and giving him their tongue for desert.
In this world, Lucy is known as the diabolical "Dr. Van Pelt"; Peppermint Patty runs a whorehouse and puts on a show with Marcy in front of Weapon Brown to show how much she cares for him; Schroeder is a broken-down piano player; and Linus is the man behind a cult that makes Jim Jones' Jonestown look like a family picnic.
What about Sally and the Little Red-Headed Girl? Ah, that would be telling.
Despite the adult themes and violence, Yungbluth keeps the book witty. Perhaps the funniest commentary on a character's stature - or lack thereof - is when Weapon asks who the "muscle" is outside of Patty's office and she responds, "Franklin? He's a 'Negro.' Don't ask. I've never seen another one around here."
"Peanuts" fans should also enjoy warped takes on Linus' blanket, Charlie Brown kicking the football, the kite-eating tree and the "Great Pumpkin."
As jarring as these takes may be, there is something familiar and fitting in their portrayals. Whether it's a bisexual Peppermint Patty, Lucy as a mad psychiatrist or Linus as a silver-tongued cult leader, Yungbluth makes these characters recognizable not just for their physical appearance but for the paths they have taken in life.
Instead of desecrating the strip, he shows an odd reverence for it.
Toss in parodies of other classic strips like "Garfield" that intersect with the main story line and you have a fresh take on a classic that gets Comics Guy's highest possible recommendation.
If local comic shops don't have "Weapon Brown" issues in stock, you can order them directly at whatisdeepfried.com/product.html.
Yungbluth says he doesn't actually have "permission" to do the Peanuts gang, but considers himself protected since he defines what he is doing as a parody.
"I don't actually use the names or distinctive likenesses of any of the characters I am lampooning," he told Comics Guy. "The story revolves around exploiting the running gags of dozens of comic strips and revealing the answers to unanswered questions, like how Charlie Brown wound up bald or why Orphan Annie has those messed up eyes."
Yungbluth says hard-core Schulz enthusiasts seem to get the joke and aren't offended.
"My Weapon Brown comics are actually in the Schulz Museum," he said. "They like to collect the innumerable homages to Schulz's work. I hope they are flattered."
"The story is based off a cartoon I drew as a child, a sort of heavy-metal version of Charlie Brown," he continued. "Really, the inspiration was the cathartic need I think the entire country has always felt for Charlie Brown to take revenge on Lucy."
Yungbluth said the issues have sold so well that "Blockhead's War," which started out as a two-issue story, has now been extended to at least five.
"Then," he said, "all the existing Weapon Brown material will be collected into one omnibus."