The Complete Peanuts

1950 to 1952 (Volume 1)
by Charles Schulz
ISBN: 9781560975892

For most of my childhood, Peanuts was at the top of the comics page in the local paper. Garfield might have supplanted them in the number one spot for a time. This dates me, I realize. That’s okay, my being dated is why I’m writing about Charlie Brown and Snoopy: I decided to read all of Peanuts in my forties. I turned forty in December, so time to start.

This project is possible because Fantagraphics is republishing all fifty years of Peanuts. No wonder it seemed that Peanuts was always there (and always would be) — it started twenty years before I was born, and continued on the funny pages after I moved away from home and stopped reading the local paper. Charles Schulz published the comic strip from 1950 to shortly before his death in 2000. It was his life’s work.

The editions Fantagraphics are publishing aim to be worthy of a life’s work. I’ve decided to go for the two issues together in a box set configuration, so I get four years of the strip side by side, protected by a sturdy, well-designed slipcase. (They are up to 1978 now, and and at the rate they are going, will hit fifty years before I do.) The books are designed by Seth and include essays and interviews. This volume includes an introduction by Garrison Keilor, an essay by David Michaelis, and an interview with Schulz. The library geek part of me was happy to see an index.

Most importantly, this first volume collects the strips from Peanuts debut toward the end of 1950 through December 1952. Despite the popularity of Peanuts collections over the years, some of these strips have never been republished. They are printed three strips per page, with a whole page for Sunday’s comic, but not in color. I imagine the cost of color would have been prohibitive, and the choice works: adding color to the collection would have felt gaudy. Even the color on the cases and dust jackets is understated — the focus is on the lines, on what Schulz created in black and white.

What he created was funny little stories, sometimes about melancholy, depression, and quiet desperation, though we don’t often think of them that way. These strips can be a comfort, an amusement, can provide a moment to stop and think. Here you see Charlie Brown before his shirt gets the zig-zaggy stripe; how Linus was introduced as a baby as was Schroeder. You see the small common things that set the groundwork for what would become a life’s work.

I’m looking forward to collecting and reading all the volumes, seeing what changes and what doesn’t. Charlie Brown will always be Charlie Brown.

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