The Complete Peanuts 1957 to 1958 Hardcover – Nov 10 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this fourth volume of Fantagraphics' wildly successful chronological reprinting of Peanuts, the comic strip begins to slide into its most popular form. In these pages, Snoopy is becoming most Snoopy-like, with a wondrously funny vulture sequence; Charlie Brown is hapless and often hopeless while his war with Lucy moves into high gear, and of course Pig-Pen, Patty, and Schroeder are all kicking around. Schulz evolved his characters from week to week, letting their idiosyncratic musings, pratfalls and jokes accumulate. It's possible to flip back a few dozen pages and understand Charlie Brown's emotional evolution. The humanity of both the characters and their creator is the subject of Jonathan Franzen's insightful introduction—certainly the best yet published in the series. Deftly putting to rest the rather trendy theory that Schulz's inner torment gave vent to the psychological dramas in Peanuts, Franzen convincingly makes the case that Schulz was able to accomplish what he did because of a surfeit of love and family. After one has read these pages, full of well-rounded, humane characters, Franzen's theory seems just about right: to create characters so essential and so loveable, Schulz could only have emerged from just such a milieu. (Oct.)
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The best-known, most-beloved "kid strip" is, of course, Peanuts, which graced newspaper comics sections for 50 years until artist Charles Schulz's death in 2000. This volume in Fantagraphics' series reprinting the strip's entire run covers 1957 and 1958, by which time its essentials were well established. The characters are what they would continue to be for four more decades: Lucy, bossy and selfish; Linus, quiet and grave; Snoopy, humbly whimsical; and, most important, Charlie Brown, utterly Charlie Brownish. Take that back a bit about Snoopy, who, as novelist Jonathan Franzen points out in the introduction, here begins his transition from recognizably canine ball fetcher and people licker to a near anthropomorph that impersonates other species and plays the violin atop Schroeder's piano ("Little by little," Charlie Brown observes, "that dog seems to be losing his mind"). Schulz's drawing style here is solider than it would be in later years, when the strip grew visually sparer yet even more expressive. Even these early strips, though, put to shame anything in the funny pages today.
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Snoopy completely comes into his own here, and his image on the cover couldn't be more appropriate. He appears with startingly more frequency throughout 1957 and 1958. By the end of this volume his top spot gets nearly set in stone. And it's not hard to see why. Here the long transformation from the "real" pet dog of the early 1950s to an almost surreal fantasm of a dog nears fruition (he still hasn't put on his WWI goggles or quaffed root beer yet, though). The imitations that began in the last volume continue inexorably here. He becomes a polar bear, a pouncing wild animal, a sea monster, he imitates Lucy, he gets called "ol' Dime a Dozen" and "Fuzzy Face", he imitates a penguin, and, best of all, a vulture. He also begins to really appreciate classical music (he even accompanies Schroeder on violin), sleeps with his head in his dog dish, and violently whips Linus around by his blanket. The extent of his transformation shows on the January 7th, 1958 strip where Charlie Brown says "The teacher told us to make a drawing of a real dog." Snoopy has truly come into his own. And later on, he became the most recognizable character of the Twentieth Century apart from Mickey Mouse.
Charlie Brown continues his quest for something meaningful and positive. But, as usual, some snags occur. He singlehandedly loses the baseball championship, is absent for his team's first win, gets tangled up in a truss of kite strings, and says "rats!" an awful lot. The strip on September 4th, 1957 shows Charlie Brown acquiesing in the very depths of his misery. Linus asks him "Doesn't looking at all these stars make you feel sort of insignificant, Charlie Brown?" He answers, "No, I'm so insignificant already it doesn't bother me." Like most of Peanuts, Schulz brilliantly mixes the sad with the funny.
Some of Schulz's legacy also shows in this volume. At least two cartoons appear here that must have provided some inspiration for Bill Watterson, creator of the incredible "Calvin And Hobbes". A Sunday strip from Jaunary 26, 1958 shows Linus vengefully sculpting a hideous snow monster to devour Lucy's "snow bunnies".
And, on January 18th, 1958 Linus and Charlie Brown wax historical while wiping out on a snowsled. These remind us that Schulz had great influence on more or less all late twentieth century comic strip art. No one yet has emerged from the enormous shadow that "Peanuts" cast on the medium.
One of the volume's absolute highlights is the Feburary 23rd, 1959 Sunday strip. Charlie Brown walks through the neighborhood while the other children scorn, mock, and laugh at him. when he finally arrives home he switches on a radio to hear "...and what, in this world, is more delightful than the gay wonderful laughter of little children?" He gives the radio a good boot. This masterpiece of a strip encapsulates the entire story of Charlie Brown. And this volume helps encapsulate the legacy left by one of the greatest comic strips ever created. Not only that, "Peanuts" not only influenced its own medium, but in the 1960s it influenced television, music, Broadway, and humor in general (especially of the self-deprecating sort). As each volume of this great series by Fantagraphics appears, that influence becomes easier and easier to appreciate.
Charlie Brown has now evolved into the chronically depressed loser we all love, Lucy is the sometimes sadistic fussbudget, Linus the budding philosopher, Schroeder the Beethoven fanatic, and Snoopy is . . . Snoopy. Familiar themes show up for the first time: Snoopy climbs atop his doghouse (in three-quarter view),Charlie Brown crashes kite after kite and loses one ballgame after another (except when he's home sick!), and Lucy pines away for Schroeder, who's obliviously pounding away at his toy piano.
There are some tremendously hilarious sequences, such as Snoopy pretending to be a vulture, and some intriguing reminders of the late 1950s in which these strips were created: hula hoops, hi-fis, fears of fall-out and bombs from space. These volumes are appearing six months apart, which is far too long to wait, especially since this one promises that the Great Pumpkin will appear in the next installment. Buy this one now and hope that April will come soon!
It was also nice to see that the publishers have kept their word where they said that if they found better or more complete strips that they would republish them in future books. In this book, they republish a strip from the second volume where they didn't have a complete strip (they actually had to have an artist draw the missing panels). But somebody out there had the complete strip and it has been republished here and is fully documented.
My only complaint about the books is that 2 books a year just isn't fast enough! The year 2016 is a long time to wait for the entire 25 volumes to be complete!
What I most noticed in this volume is how Snoopy is really coming into himself. More and more, he's becoming an amazing character, with his great reactions. The "fuzzy face" strips I still remember from reading them as a kid. (And you know, adults still speak a couple times over the course of these two years. I'd forgotten.)
Anyway, I'm so happy I started collecting these volumes right away with volume one and I intend to continue collecting them to the end.
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