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I Guess It'll Have To Do...
on May 11, 2004
My rating, which will anger some, is an average of two things: five stars for Charles Schulz' classic work, and one star for the presentation. "Peanuts" is an American masterpiece, and at long last we have the earliest stuff here, in the dawn of its development, with real graphic beauty, a groundbreaking and highly influential look, and just a hint of the eccentric individuality that would impact popular culture so much in the sixties. And the rest is on the way!
It's just a shame that since we had to wait so long for this great, essential material they couldn't get it right, and this nice-looking little hardcover misses on at least two counts.
I know the argument about "Peanuts" having been designed to be printed small, but that's a spurious, specious, and convenient justification for the tiny presentation here. Exhibit A: Schulz himself did not approve of the shrinking of the comics and said so often; can anyone really believe he would rather have his classic drawings seen and his lettering read at this size than in the more generous space afforded his colleagues, including Walt Kelly ("Pogo") and Al Capp ("Li'l Abner") in recent reprint series? Exhibit B: I can't swear to this, but it's a good bet that these strips are actually printed SMALLER here than they were in 1950! If not, it's probably pretty close. At any rate, there's always only one reason the comics are printed this small, and it's the same this time: it's cheaper.
The other blunder is both aesthetic and economic: the Sundays should have gotten separate volumes, and IN COLOR. Those books would have sold very well, the absence of the black and white Sundays would not have hurt sales of the dailies volumes any more than the size-blunder will, and the Sundays do not need to be read in continuity. As a matter of fact, they will interrupt the flow of the stories in later volumes.
Will I buy all of these books anyway? Of course, and without hesitation. At this size, it's kind of like being able to take the library microfilm home, and they're in hardcover, and they have nice (though decidedly un-Schulz-like) cover designs. And it's great that this wonderful, indispensable, historic material from a great genius of the comics page is finally available, much of it here for the first time in more than fifty years. But that's why it deserved to be done exactly right.
Buy it, because you have to.