Just like its predecessor, there are a lot of Peanuts cartoons collected here that I don’t recall reading in my younger days. How much of that is that the memories of those collections are lost to the ravages of time and how much of it is that these particular cartoons weren’t included in previous collections, I can’t really say. What I can say is that reading the entire creative output of Charles M. Schulz from two years is a fascinating journey.
In this second collection, the characters and characteristics of those characters are starting to come into better shape. Snoopy still acts like a regular dog, only occasionally talking to the audience and rarely having the flights of fancy that will later define him. Lucy comes to the fore a bit more and feels like the showcase star of this collection — from her being a fussbudget to her dissatisfaction with going to nursery school. There are hints of the Lucy that many of us associate with the character developing here, though I’d argue she has a gentler, more human side than we see in later years. (This may be something that I will have to observe as I continue to read these collections).
Over the course of two years, you can see Schultz refining his technique, his humor and his characters. There are some characters who make appearances here that will slowly fade into the background, while others are just emerging. Schroeder has his love of Beethoven and serves as a sounding board for budding cartoon artist Charlie Brown. Pigpen makes his debut toward the later half of the collection, with various observations that you can kick up a cloud of dust everywhere you go and still be happy and well adjusted. One of the more intriguing introductions toward the end of 1954 is Carlotta Brown, who essentially looks like Charlie Brown, drawn in a dress and with curly hair. Her other defining characteristic is that she talks in a loud voice (think Monty Python’s guy who likes to shout). It will be interesting to see how long she stays around and if and how Schultz fazes her out. I’ll be honest that I’ve never come across her in previous collections — and there may be a reason.
The book remains a fascinating look at an iconic comic strip as it develops. It also continues to show that Peanuts is never static.