Friday, July 11, 2014

Booknote: Complete Peanuts: 1959-1960 and Complete Peanuts: 1961-1962

Charles M. Schultz, The Complete Peanuts: 1959-1960. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2006. 

Charles M. Schultz, The Complete Peanuts: 1961-1962. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2006.

I continue reading this series published by Fantagraphics as I manage to get my hands on it. In the 1959-1960 volume contains the now famous strip of "Happiness is a warm puppy." We also see Charlie Brown's sister, Sally. In the 1961-1962 volume, Schultz introduces a new character: the very vain Frieda, along with her cat Falon. Also in this volume, Sally continues to grow, and Snoopy gets a bird family who sort of become tenants in his doghouse. The parts with Snoopy and the birds were kind of cute.

One thing that caught my eye, and it seemed more prominent in the 1959-1960 volume is the amount of verbal bullying Charlie Brown gets. Lucy, who also bullies her brother Linus quite a bit, and the other neighborhood girls are clearly prototypes of the mean girl characters that, for reasons I can't fathom, many people seem to like and make popular. In reading these books, there were moments were I just cringed at the amount of cruelty those girls can dish out. As much as I like Peanuts, this was a very negative and dark element indeed. Ray Bradbury, quoted in the 1959-1960 back book cover, called Peanuts "the finest comic in the world." The negative elements in the strip seem to take a lot of the luster away. Now, I know plenty of folks will say, "it's just kids being kids," to which I will say that's part of the problem: parents who basically enable the bad behavior by abdicating their responsibility. Children's world may not be idea, but abuse is simply not acceptable.

Overall, the series does have some nice, warm, and amusing moments. The second volume in this set was better. It is, as a whole, interesting to see how Schultz's art and characters evolve over time. In terms of book quality and value, Fantagraphics continues to do good work, and I'd say these are good editions for fans. This is series is definitely one public libraries, and academic librarians with pop culture or recreational reading collections, need to have.

I'd give the 1959-1960 volume 3 stars.
4 stars for the 1961-1962 volume.

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