My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Growing up, I loved checking collections of Peanuts comic strips out of the library. During my younger years, there were two size to the Peanuts collections — the smaller, standard size paperbacks, which rarely included the Sunday strips and the larger trade paperbacks that included more comics per page and the Sunday strips. I have found memories of reading those collections over and over again and always heading to that section of the library with the hope that a new collection was on the shelf today — or at least one I’d only read a dozen or so times before.
Part of this love stemmed from the animated Peanuts specials and the feature length movies. And part of it came from the collection of Charlie Brown records, where dialogue from the animated specials was put onto vinyl and I could listen them over and over again. Like the books, there were two sizes — the shorter play records that ran from eight to fifteen minutes and the LP that included pretty much the entire special in audio form. In the days before we had VHS (yes, there were such dark days. We also walked to school, against the wind both ways through snow drifts, even in the middle of summer or when I lived in climates that didn’t have snow), those records helped me to enjoy the stories of Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and Snoopy over and over and over again.
It was always fascinating to see the strips that became some of the source material and inspiration for those various animated specials (and records).
And while I knew I wasn’t reading all of the published Peanuts strips simply because my local library didn’t have them all, I still felt like I was getting as much as there was available from the entire run of the classic comic strip. Turns out that isn’t the case. Those collections were selected strips from the run of the Peanuts and not every strip that Charles M. Schultz ever produced during his long run.
But now I’ve got the chance to read all the strips thanks to this new collecting of The Complete Peanuts. And I’ve got admit that after one volume, it’s fascinating. Yes, I’d seen the first ever Peanuts strip (I saw it in a biography I read of Schultz), but I doubt I’ve seen many of the other strips in this volume that covers the series run from late 1950 to the end of 1952. Watching Schultz develop his voice, style and characters over the run of these strips is fascinating. Even more fascinating is how there are certain characters who feature prominently in these early strips who later fade into the background or vanish entirely from Peanuts (I’m looking at you Shermy).
Even little details like the stripe on Charlie Brown’s shirt take time to become a recurring feature and it’s interesting to see Schroeder and Linus introduced as babies in the strip. Of course, one of the biggest changes is in Snoopy, who Schulz initially didn’t want to give a “voice.” Seeing Snoopy behave as a “normal” dog and only allowed to speak in terms of barking and body language is interesting in light of how he later becomes and it’s fascinating to watch the transition in the strip. It’s not fully complete by the end of this set of strips and it leaves me curious to the next installment in this series to watch it develop further (though Snoopy has begun talking on an infrequent basis by the time this volume concludes).
There are some recurring bits of Schultz’s Peanuts run that are on display here. One of the biggest is Lucy’s pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. But there’s also some things here that don’t make like an adult who is given dialogue to interact with one of the kids.
It’s all fascinating but it wouldn’t be so if the strips themselves didn’t hold up. And they do. While this isn’t exactly the Peanuts most of us think of when we hear the name of the strip, there’s enough of what makes the strip great on display here. It’s a chance to meet some old friends again and maybe get to know them in a different way than we know them now.
And on some level, it took me back to my younger days and my thrill at reading a collection of comic strips from my local library. That nostalgic trip down memory lane alone is worth the price of admission.