Complete Peanuts: 1950-1952, The: by Charles M. Schultz, 343 pages. By Ben

Jun 05, 2007

                On October 2, 1950, a new comic strip appeared in the funny pages of newspapers all over America. It was called Peanuts, and at first glance, it was a typical four-panel comic strip about some little kids jumping rope and playing jacks and going swimming and stuff. But upon closer inspection, these kids were some pretty serious characters, telling little jokes that spoke volumes about humanity and humility. Peanuts, of course, became world-famous over the next half century, and over time the characters became homogenized parodies of themselves, and now you can’t go anywhere in the world without seeing Snoopy toothbrushes and Charlie Brown Christmas sweaters. But when you go back to the strip’s humble beginnings, you can see what an incredible genius Schultz was. His characters could convey deep, powerful messages often expressed in metaphors, sometimes presented bluntly at face value. Charlie Brown was a lovable anti-hero who always failed at whatever he attempted, and people everywhere could relate and sympathize. In a way, Charles Schultz invented emo kids five years before rock and roll even came along. This book chronicles every Peanuts comic ever drawn during the first two years of its existence, in chronological order. It’s hilarious. It’s heartbreaking. Most importantly, it’s some of the most beautiful, honest art that anyone has ever produced. Ever. The people at Fantagraphics recognize this, and present the strips in this book with a great deal of respect and an understanding that no publisher has ever given to Schultz. The cover alone illustrates this, with a dark, brooding picture of a grumpy Charlie Brown. The layout and graphic choices are excellent, giving the book a much darker feel than the Peanuts collections printed on cheap newsprint that you could get at the drugstore when you were a kid. Also included are a great introduction by Garrison Keillor and a lengthy and informative essay about Schultz’s life by David Michaelis. This book is an absolute necessity for anyone who has a heart and a brain. –Ben Snakepit (Fantagraphics Books, 7563 Lake City Way, Seattle WA 98115)

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