Golden Boy is an exuberant portrayal of the early, formative years of the object of the Peanuts character, Schroeder’s obsession, the German composer, Ludwig van Beethoven. Originally published in Germany in 2020, it has now been released in North America in an English translation by Nika Knight that well captures the spirit and style of the original German. This attractive, 192 page, full color, hardcover edition comes to us courtesy of Fantagraphics Books. It is by turns fascinating, fun, insightful, entertaining and altogether hugely enjoyable.
Mikael Ross, whose previous work from Fantagraphics, The Thud displayed a highly developed level of empathy along with amazing art chops, here demonstrates an impressive range: blending the expressivity of the likes of Gahan Wilson, Jules Feiffer, Bill Watterson – and, yes, Charles Schulz – with a realism along the lines of Blutch, Posey Simmonds and Paco Roca.
A special highlight of Golden Boy is its cartooned representations of music which are among the finest ever produced. It is notable for its depictions both of the imaginative effect of the subjective listening experience and its renderings of an objective, synæsthetic visual accounting of the music in and of itself.
On the one hand, this work can stand on its own outside of its relationship to Beethoven, as it would be every bit as enjoyable to someone entirely unfamiliar with Beethoven – or indeed if Beethoven were a fictional character entirely of Ross’s invention. On the other, most readers will come away from this work with a heightened empathy for and appreciation of the composer, and will so likely feel impelled to (re)explore his music; an added bonus!