The Complete Peanuts
by Charles M. Schulz
Edited by Gary Groth
As mentioned previously, I've had a long relationship with Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts. If you're only familiar with later era strips (1980s on, when Schulz switched to a 3-panel format and dropped any sort of social commentary), you've missed a lot of great comic strips that were insightful, witty, wise beyond the years of the characters, and often just downright strange.
The Complete Peanuts is an 12-year project from Fantagraphics Books to republish all the Peanuts daily and Sunday strips in chronological order, two years per volume, two volumes per year. The books are designed by Canadian artist Seth, printed on heavy paper, with introductory essays provided by authors, artists, and cultural icons such as Matt Groening, Jonathan Franzen, Walter Cronkite, and John Waters. It's a huge project, and I'm actually quite far behind in purchasing the available volumes (ten are out, but only four are on my shelf right now). If you even have a passing interest in comics history, pick up one of the pre-1970 volumes now available. You will be surprised (and sometimes shocked) at the erudite dialogue that comes out of these characters (kids!) mouths.
If you want a sampling of topics covered in The Complete Peanuts, just check out the index to any of the volumes. The content of the strips has been indexed in excruciating detail, often to amusing, puzzling, and shocking effect. Here's just a sample of index entries from the first four volumes of The Complete Peanuts:
- beat generation
- Charlie Brown (insults to, in general)
- Charlie Brown (insults to, re size & shape of head)
- contour sheet
- draft (military)
- electric chair
- "Five hundred years from now, who'll know the difference?"
- income tax day
- security blanket (see blanket, security)
- Snoopy (clothes, depicted in, to disturbing effect)
- Snoopy (dog reference, offended by)
- stereophonic fussing
- Violet (violence toward boys)