By Leroy Douresseaux
October 21, 2007 - 12:50
Editor: Gary Groth
Foreword: Hal Hartley
In his introduction to The Completes Peanuts 1965 to 1966 (Book 8 in the series), acclaimed independent filmmaker Hal Hartley ( Henry Fool) discusses how the sparseness of Peanuts, “the anywhere at anytime simplicity of its universe,” allows the reader to see his own world in the world of Charlie Brown and friends. The characters are practically always both contemporary and universal, and as Hartley puts it, the strip is a “mirror into which we can pour our preoccupations and memories.”
I suspect that this is most true of the Peanuts comic strips from the mid-1960’s which is considered to be at least one of the peaks of the beloved newspaper comic strip, if not its peak period. By this period, creator Charles Schulz had moved away to a degree from the suburban middle American idyll of its first decade towards a place where the strip offered Schulz’s insights on the world and allowed him to exercise his personal issues and investigate interior life. To that end, Schulz continued to worry over the girl that got away from him in his youth, as the years 1965 to 1966 found both Charlie Brown and Snoopy mourning girls neither could have.
But this latest collection isn’t bound by the yearning for love lost, as Schulz was also a master of situation comedy. In an episode of mad surrealism, Lucy finds herself stalked by her brother Linus’ blanket. Snoopy leaves for a family reunion, and Charlie Brown happens upon the idea that if the players on the baseball team he manages grit their teeth, they’ll have successful at-bats. Snoopy becomes Lucy’s assistant at her “Psychiatric Help” booth, and Charlie Brown discovers that his hero Willie Mays is about to screw up his chances at a spelling bee.
Of course, one of the special things about Fantagraphics Books chronological reprinting of Peanuts is rediscovering milestone moments. The Complete Peanuts 1965 to 1966 has two biggies. First, Snoopy dons a helmet and goggles, while his doghouse becomes a “ Sopwith Camel,” and the ebullient beagle pretends to be a World War I fighter pilot. A new character rocks Charlie Brown’s world when he and later Linus meet a boy called Roy at summer camp. It is Roy who brings that red-headed firecracker Peppermint Patty into “Chuck’s” life. And the finest comic strip in the world continues to roll.