Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Really Good (with no Grief!)

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was able to get some reading in (and help clear away the pile of "books to read" on my night stand). One I was looking forward to, and really enjoyed, was Volume 4 of The Complete Peanuts, covering the strips of 1957-1958.

I've mentioned before how great this reprint series by Fantagraphics has been, from the book designs by Seth, through the clean reproduction of strips that haven't been seen in over 50 years.

By this volume, Schulz has set upon a visual look for the characters that will stand through the next 40 plus years. Gone are the large "bobble-head-like" heads for the kids, they're now more proportioned and streamlined. As for the kids ages, both Lucy and Linus were introduced as tots but have now caught up to the rest of the gang. (well except Linus though, who will always remain a year behind, retaining his little brother status to Lucy).

Through the seventh and eight years the cast has settled with four dominating, main characters. Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and Snoopy (who' s begun to establish the hind-leg walking, highly imaginative character taking on forms of a vulture, polar bear and a penguin, that will make him the star of the strip.)

The supporting cast consists of Schroeder (seen mainly with Lucy at the piano and as the catcher on the ball team), Pig Pen (when a "dirt" joke is needed) Violet & Patty (who are virtually interchangeable by now, used only to taunt Charlie Brown) and finally Shermy. Shermy, who in the first year was a main character, second only to Charlie Brown, is seen now only in the background and in a non speaking role.

While these are great reads and are highly recommended (and I'll definitely continue to pre-order from Fantagraphics so as to get them when they come hot off the press) I'm still a bit skeptical of whether they'll finish the job, by reprinting the entire 50 year run of the strip. Fantagraphics no doubt does quality work but they have left us hanging before, by beginning classic comic strip reprint runs (Pogo and Little Orphan Annie) only to stop without warning.

Until then though, I'm looking forward to Volume 5 (1959-1960) which includes, among other things, the first Great Pumpkin story.

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