krpalmer: Charlie Brown and Patty in the rain; Charlie Brown wears a fedora and trench coat (charlie brown)
[personal profile] krpalmer
For the unexpected twenty-sixth volume of The Complete Peanuts, I pondered over just how to get a copy of it and wound up ordering one online, almost "for old time's sake" remembering how I'd got a certain number of volumes that way over the years. There was something a little "Charlie Brown-like" about that, though, when I received the book in the mail and found its hardcover boards were warped. I had it anyway, though, and could contemplate seeing what had been selected to go in it. Hearing what would be in it a little while before it was published did get me realising that, for all that I seldom suppose myself "an assiduous collector," I'd lucked into getting a good number of the stories promised to be in it back when they were still generally for sale. Even with that, though, there did turn out to be surprises.

"Now, I can go back to worrying about soil erosion!"

When the final regular volume had filled itself out including "Li'l Folks," I was a bit selfish in my comments and said in effect that, having already managed to get the limited-release volume of several years back that had reprinted those pre-Peanuts comics panels, it would be nice to see the cartoons Charles M. Schulz had also had published in The Saturday Evening Post at the same time. "The Peanuts FAQ" gave the dates and page numbers of the seventeen cartoons with the suggestion they'd be easier to track down than Li'l Folks itself, but I suppose I've never gone looking for a library with bound copies of the magazine. However, it turned out the special volume would reprint all of those cartoons. I'd seen a few of them reprinted as examples before, and had supposed from those sight gags of tiny kids in a big world they'd all be more or less like Li'l Folks cartoons. There were some real surprises among the seventeen, however, if big enough that I don't want to give the surprise away myself.

From there it was on into the era of Peanuts itself. Chip Kidd's cluttered photographic precursor to The Complete Peanuts, "Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz," had reprinted a long story from a Peanuts comic book of the late 1950s, establishing that it was drawn by someone else as if to present it as subtly skewed from "the real thing." This volume identified seven stories from those comic books as being by Schulz himself; some of them did look a bit more polished and easy to see as his own work than others. As I read through them, I was also taking note of a lengthy one-page comic from about the same time on the back of the dust jacket, which turned out not to be duplicated in the book itself.

Advertising work followed next, with some full-fledged comic strips from the mid-1950s on Kodak Brownie picture-taking, a great deal of somewhat more loosely composed strips from the early 1960s shilling pretty hard for the Ford Falcon (the animated commercials also made on the subject were groundwork for the TV specials to follow), and some tall, thin cartoons for "Butternut Bread." With that, it's on to Christmas (and background-coloured pages), with a specially drawn lead-in to a regular Sunday page and two drawn-for-magazine tales from the 1960s I did happen to pick up a little book reprinting a few years ago. Four "storybooks" follow, and it happened I'd managed to get three of them while they were still being reprinted as Fawcett Crest paperbacks and find the fourth in a used book sale not that long afterwards. Two feature the World War One Flying Ace (the title of one of them played a small role in skewing my youthful creativity in an odd direction) and two the World-Famous Author.

While I'd managed to buy recent reprints of eight small art-and-meditations volumes from the 1960s, two follow-ups from the 1980s are reprinted in this volume, most their gags familiar enough from the comic strip but their drawings original. A selection of golf cartoons had me thinking some of them looked to have been drawn decades later than the 1970s book the introduction said they'd come from, but I later saw an explanation the introduction hadn't been completely accurate. Then, just as I was getting to think I actually had something that hadn't been reprinted in this book, the section of tennis cartoons got to the original pieces for "Snoopy's Tennis Book" (although in the copy I'd got years before, "Snoopy at Wimbledon" was in colour; here, it's just line art).

Things close out with Snoopy-focused "spot art," and then there's a lengthy afterword (illustrated with pictures of Charlie Brown I knew to have been taken from a "twentieth anniversary" book that had first used those pictures in a short biography of his creator) from Jean Schulz, Charles M. Schulz's second wife and an important figure in getting this series under way. She offers plenty of positive insights about "Sparky," mentioning that he could identify a bit of "Lucy" in himself (which seems at least a counterpoint to the theories of some she amounted to an adaptation of problems with his first wife). There's a gentle sort of response to the apparent focus of David Michaelis's biography on Schulz's "depression" (I have to admit I still haven't read that biography), and a somehow more pointed comment about "The Gospel According to Peanuts" beginning the process of using the strip to "push an agenda." In talking a bit about people settling on a particular era of the strip as "what it ought to be" and not being able to accept changes from that (which does of course affect other extended works as well), Jean Schulz does bring up how her husband "bridled against" comments that he ought to retire for the good of his reputation, and advances some later strips as well worth taking another look at.

"Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia."

With the book concluded (with a group shot that at least catches my attention for capturing a transitional era for the cast), I did get to contemplating a bit that by "selecting" particular pieces of art from outside the strip, "The Complete Peanuts" allowed itself to become "incomplete" in a sense. So far, I haven't quite resolved to go out and get looking for more art, but then I could also get past the prompting of online and "page-a-day" reprints and go back to any one of the twenty-five volumes of Peanuts comic strips.
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