Friday, October 5, 2007
Happiness is...the Complete Peanuts
I just completed the second volume in the two volume slipcase of the Complete Peanuts 1950-1954. These books actually came out four years ago by Fantagraphics, one debuting in the spring and the other in the fall (with the slipcase also collected in the fall). The idea is to publish, chronologically, all the Peanuts daily and Sunday cartoons in a hardcover, black and white format. They are four years into the project (the fourth slipcase set came out just last month) with another eight years left to go to cover the full run of this classic comic strip.
Now, I have been a big Peanuts fan ever since I was a kid first learning to read in the late 60's. I recall enjoying the most current comic strips each evening in the newspaper, and I had a number of paperback collections as well that reprinted some of the early strips. And, naturally, I'd watch each year the Halloween and Christmas specials when they came on the local CBS station.
What I find really enjoyable about this new set is the fact that they are all here, in order. Back when I was a kid, the collections would jump around and be missing whole chunks of strips. So, quite a few of these I had never seen before - a couple hundred strips easily. Turns out, a lot of these earlier strips from these first two volumes were actually missing for a time. Fantagraphics has found them, cleaned them up, and presented them in wonderful keep-sake books that look great on the bookshelves of any fans of the series. And when I do run across ones I had seen previously, that wonderful nostalgia feel hits me; it takes me back to my days of carefree youth and sitting at a picnic table enjoying these funny drawings.
Watching the character development, especially in these two earliest of volumes, is interesting as well. You can see Charlie Brown evolve from a smart-aleck practical joker to the everyman type of character he became. You see Schroeder, Lucy and Linus go from toddlers into the age similar to the other kids. Some characters who were prominent up front like Shermy and Patty slide back into more secondary roles as others develop and grow popular. The 1953-1954 volume also includes the introduction of Pig-Pen, and we start to see where 'story lines' begin to run across multiple days of the week.
I find this to be light but enjoyable reading. I usually keep the volume I am working by the nightstand so I can read a couple dozen pages (a month or so worth of comics) just before going to sleep. With the first two volumes down and six more waiting in the wings, I'll be good to go for awhile. My only question now is: how far will I collect these? I just got the set that includes the most recently released book 1965-1966. This volume covers the strips of the year I was born. I will likely continue to get these through the strips that run into the late 70's or early 80's, but from there will I decide to stay on board until the end of the line? We'll see. The collector in me says "yes, of course". Having the full run in 25 volumes would be rather nice. The beautiful thing is that these strips are pretty timeless, so they can be enjoyed for decades and generations to come.