Comics / Comic Reviews / Comic Strips

The Complete Peanuts – 1957 to 1958 (Volume 4)

By Leroy Douresseaux
September 1, 2005 - 11:26

Editor: Gary Groth
Designer: Seth
Introduction by Jonathan Franzen

( Mr. Charlie #66 notes that) Having said it once, this bears repeating: if you consider yourself a serious collector or reader of comic strips and/or even comic books, you must have Fantagraphics Books THE COMPLETE PEANUTS as part of your comics collection.

The Complete Peanuts: 1957-1958 is scheduled to be published on October 18, 2005. Fantagraphics graciously sent me an advance, uncorrected proof of the new book, the fourth in this series. In addition to a year’s worth of strips (January 1, 1957 to December 31, 1957), the book also includes an introduction by Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections and the writer who dissed Oprah Winfrey and her choice of The Corrections as an Oprah’s Book Club selection. Franzen doesn’t diss Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz, rather his introduction connects the suffering of Schulz and how it guided his work on the strip.

In this fourth volume of the series, the character of Snoopy (perhaps the world’s most famous fictional dog), asserts himself. Two classic Snoopy traits or habits become prominent – his assault on Linus Van Pelt’s (Lucy’s brother) security blanket and his ability to do imitations and impersonations. Concerning the latter, this book contains 30 strips (at least two or three are Sunday pages) in which Snoopy imitates or impersonates an animal, his best impersonations being that of a vulture and a bald eagle. Endowing his character with that trait was a great move of Schulz’s part, as it put the dog on equal footing with human characters. He was no longer just a pet; he was a fully functioning player in this little drama. He also joins the baseball team (April 12, 1957), and as one of the better players, he cements his new position as an equal.

As for Snoopy’s assaults on Linus’ blanket: the first really good attack included in this volume is the Sunday page for September 15, 1957. The sequence is as a close to depicting a supersonic attack as a comic strip that relies on lettering for its sound effects can get. Snoop’s blanket strikes aren’t always so fast and furious; sometimes Snoopy uses smooth tricks to get Linus away from his blanket, as in a second Sunday page exactly two weeks later (9/29). The blanket battles are further evidence of both Snoopy’s independence, and also his ability to pretty much do what he wants without fear of punishment – at least no more than what the human children would get for doing wrong.

One of my personal favorite storylines in his volume is the series of dailies (Jan 7 – 12, 1957), in which Lucy and Linus show Charlie Brown their ability to fuss (whine) in stereo, which usually gets their parents (unseen) to give them their way. Two small children whining and complaining in unison is not a novel concept, but the fact that these children deliberately plot this unique approach emphasizes that in the context of Peanuts’ drama, the children are intellectually akin to adults.

This volume certainly shows that Peanuts was gradually getting better as the strip got older. It was no longer a simple comedy about kids a la “The Little Rascals.” The strip was a fully functioning drama in which these characters explored both their own inner and outer worlds and that of their friends, but did so with comedy, both heartfelt and raucous.

The Complete Peanuts is available in retail outlets and directly from the publisher’s website, Fantagraphics Books

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Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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