krpalmer: Charlie Brown and Patty in the rain; Charlie Brown wears a fedora and trench coat (charlie brown)
[personal profile] krpalmer
I always take my time reading through new volumes of The Complete Peanuts; with the new Peanuts Every Sunday volumes reprinting the Sunday pages in colour, I might be even more careful rationing them out. With a Christmas vacation coming up I did change my pace just at the end so I wouldn't have to take the latest yearly oversized volume with me, but wound up also taking my own time getting around to writing down my thoughts on it.

This volume covers the first half of the 1960s. So far as I can tell, in those years the comic strip had become something "people talked about," the solid, philosophical foundation for the pop culture phenomenon of the second half of the decade. It's perhaps the point in the constantly mutable strip where some people didn't want to see anything different afterwards. At the same time, I can wonder if, with everything at this point putting Charlie Brown at his lowest, for me there were compensations to later years as well. The Sunday pages by themselves, self-contained narratives with no codas, might seem even darker than all the strips together.

Of course, everything is in colour here. I do keep wondering just where the colours come from, if the original printing information is all available or if there are "poetic reconstructions" mixed in, but there are things that catch my attention and stand out from the recoloured re-runs of the last decade. In 1965 the ink and paint department of Mendelson-Melendez Productions added their own "graphic blandishment" to A Charlie Brown Christmas and provided a powerful influence to how we think of the characters. It seems well-known even so that Charlie Brown "wears a red shirt" more often than not on the weekends, but the apparent default colour of Lucy's dress being yellow still sort of stands out. Linus often wears a red shirt when he's just with his sister, but when he's just with Charlie Brown he's likely to wear a yellow shirt with the familiar horizontal pinstripes; of course, the "default colours" of the other characters aren't the only colours they wear either.

There are some fleeting concepts of the strip from the early 1960s that stand out all by themselves. One page shows Faron, Frieda's cat; where her "naturally curly hair" is coloured an orange that does sort of stand out from conceptions of the Little Red-Haired Girl, Faron is grey. (An orange cat might have been an uncanny coincidence, given Odie was first drawn with inked-in ears which were changed after a letter got sent regarding black-and-white daily strips...) There's also a whole run of pages that have Linus wearing his glasses, their lenses white even with the dots of his eyes visible in those circles; then, they're gone, only to reappear one week and then vanish for good. There are a few pages with bunnies on them, one a bit later with them looking a bit more "cartoony," but after that they were as offscreen as "the cat next door." However, there are rather more birds showing up. It caught my attention when the recoloured re-runs had them all blue for quite a while until a sudden shift to the familiar Woodstock yellow, but here the first bird to show up is red, followed by orange, blue with a yellow beak, a mixture of red, blue, and yellow, and then a yellow family in one "Sunday continuity" that produces the first hatchlings that can be seen as the more lightly built template for Woodstock himself.

There's a run of "Happiness is" vignettes added to pages as 1964 changes to 1965, and then at the end of 1965 there's a curtain-raiser of sorts in the first two World War I Flying Ace pages. However, the full concept is still waiting for 1966 and the next volume to come, which gives me something to look forward to.

June 2017

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