By Leroy Douresseaux
July 21, 2006 - 11:11
The Complete Peanuts 1959-1960 is the fifth volume in Fantagraphics Books’ chronological reprinting of Charles M. Schulz masterpiece, the daily newspaper comic strip, Peanuts. This volume finds the strip ending its first decade with a two-year span of strips that introduce some of the strip’s most enduring elements and a new character.
Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally is born in the Spring 1959, and by the end of 1960, she already has a crush on Linus. The first hint of the blessed arrival is the episode for May 25, 1959 when Charlie Brown informs Lucy that he is going over to stay with his grandmother, and Lucy speculates… The next day, Charlie Brown is running around the neighborhood screaming, “I’m a father!” The neighborhood kids are visiting the newborn in the May 29th episode, and we first learn her name the next week (June 2) when Charlie Brown tells Linus that “Sally” is the name of his baby sister.
Charlie Brown shows pictures of Sally in the strip for June 22nd, and the next day Snoopy is wearing a bonnet and pretending to be Lucy’s baby (a sequence that only lasts four days). Sally actually appears to the readers for the first time in the last panel of the Sunday page for August 23rd. She thinks her first word balloon a few days later (August 25th), and she kisses Linus for the first time in the Sunday episode (October 25, 1959). But I’ve spoiled enough for you, dear reader, and there are many more Sally surprises.
In this volume, there is the first “ Great Pumpkin” sequence, which finds Linus waiting in a pumpkin patch on Halloween night for the Great Pumpkin. Described by Linus as something like a Santa Claus for Halloween, GP flies all over the world dropping toys to good little boys and girls on Halloween night. We also see Lucy’s psychiatrist booth for the first time (a nickel per session with the young Miss Psychiatrist). The years 1959-60 also saw two of the most famous Peanuts strips – the “clouds” Sunday and the “Happiness is a warm puppy” strip.
For all the landmarks that this volume introduces, the best thing about The Complete Peanuts 1959 to 1960 (Volume 5) may be the introduction to the volume. It consists of an interview of Oscar-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg conducted by series editor and Fantagraphics co-publisher Gary Groth in July 2005. Goldberg had a short-lived talk show back in the 1990’s, and she used it to interview her heroes – people who fascinated her or who were an influence on her life and career. Charles Schulz was one of her guests. We learn that Goldberg bared her breast to Schulz to show him a tattoo of Woodstock she had on it. He even apparently offered to color it in…
Goldberg and Groth are, of course, big fans of the strip, and, judging from the interview, both have given much thought to not only the work, but also to the man who created it. They are able to discuss Peanuts as it relates to Goldberg’s own life, which allows for a little deeper look into how Goldberg’s experiences as a youth shaped her personally and professionally. The two discuss truth, self-identity, and character in a fluid way that weaves in and out of Whoopi’s life and Schulz’s comic strips. It’s good stuff, and if the classic comics in the fifth collection of Peanuts just aren’t quite enough to get you to buy it, the wonderful introduction and its insights should tip the scale in favor of a purchase.
The Complete Peanuts is available directly from the publisher at their website, fantagraphics.com, and from comic shops and bookstores.
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