- Posted by Johanna on November 1, 2010 at 9:04 am
- Category: Books and Prose, KC
- CREDITS: written by Nat Gertler; art by Charles M. Schulz
- PUBLISHER: Little, Brown and Company; $35 US
Review by KC Carlson
You’d think that with my almost 50-year, on-again, off-again love affair with comic books, that would be the first thing that I ever seriously collected. By collected, I mean kept to savor and treasure and re-read over subsequent years. Nope, the first thing I ever collected was Peanuts comic strips.
Each day, starting when I was about six, I carefully cut out each four-panelled treasure (seven on Sunday, with that weird vertical format that the Chicago Tribune printed it in), and stored them — in chronological order — in shoeboxes. After doing this for years, I not only gained great proficiency in using scissors, I was also taught a life lesson in patience — I had to wait until both parents were done with the paper, or there would be serious consequences.
Of course, the strips are all gone now. I have vague memories of passing them along to other friends after I started getting the Peanuts strip collections from my Grandma Lil every Christmas — well into my college years, until she passed away. Little did she know that this would begin another collecting obsession — Peanuts peripherals (the books, toys, dolls, records, and other ephemera) — aided and abetted by my entire family once they realized that I was obsessed with Peanuts. Besides, it was much easier — and less embarrassing — for them to get easily attainable Peanuts swag than trying to figure out what superhero comic book stuff I would like (not that there was much of that anyway in those days). There was always new Peanuts stuff — and it all came to me in Peanuts wrapping paper with a Peanuts Christmas card attached.
The Peanuts Collection — written by uber-Peanuts fan Nat Gertler — carries on this tradition in two ways. It’s a nostalgic look back at all things Peanuts — including a lot of nifty “artifact” reproductions of classic collectibles. And it’s also the ultimate Christmas gift for anybody who loves Peanuts and its history.
The book itself is a large format (10 1/2” x 12”) hardcover gift book, packed in a decorative and durable slipcase. Given that it’s an artifact book, the page count is low (64 pages), but they’re packed with information and illustration, beautifully designed to show a lot o’ stuff without making it crowded or sloppy. You’ll easily spend some quality time on each double-page spread. And it’s a great book to share with the kids, including a lot of great “touchables”.
It’s one of those books you’ll pick up and leaf through over and over again, especially if any of the Peanuts merchandise ever passed through your hands. I just spent a wonderful morning flipping through the book going “got it, got it — Wow! What’s that?!” or “Oh man, I used to have that. Whatever happened to that? It was so cool!”
It brought back memories of trying to organize my own Pumpkin Caroling with the cool reproduction of the Peanuts Book of Pumpkin Carols (which I still have: Deck the patch with orange and black, Fa la la la la, la la la la, Take along your goody sack, Fa la la la la, la la la la), Peanuts coloring books (wonderfully reproduced with a half-torn-off price sticker), Snoopy wastebaskets (although I recall mine being baby blue, rather than the yellow in the photograph in the book), and character trading cards, which were originally giveaways in Dolly Madison products. The book also frustratingly made me wonder where all my wonderful View-Master reels disappeared to over the years. And made me wish that I still had two beloved book items: the amazing Peanuts Projects activity book (apparently, I did all the projects) and the Sing Along With Schroeder music book.
At least I still have my vintage Peanuts lunch box, which collectors will be horrified to learn that I use to store all my art and drafting supplies, with the intact matching thermos sitting in the back of one of the kitchen cabinets. And I still have a couple of the very cool 1959 Danish Lego Company bobble-heads (Charlie Brown and Snoopy), although they’ve seen better days, having (just barely) survived dozens of moves. Assuming I got them when they came out, I was 3 years old then.
Five Cents, Please.
I know that Peanuts is occasionally criticized for the overwhelming amount of side merchandise and collectibles over the years. That this dreamstuff is so memorable probably has a lot to do with Schulz keeping an eye on everything he licensed, insisting that all artwork was his (or one of his approved assistants). The earliest licensor, Determined Productions, produced only the highest quality stuff — with amazing and bold up-to-the-minute designs and production standards.
Don’t miss the extras in the big envelope in the inside back cover (which I will keep secret, other than to say — they’re frame-able!). My favorite artifact was the reproduction of a handwritten letter from Schulz to a fan calling for giving the (admittedly unlikable) early character Charlotte Braun “the axe”. Schulz, tongue-in-cheek, responds that he will do what she asks but reminds her, “Remember, however, that you and your friends will have the death of an innocent child on your conscience.” He then thoughtfully provided a cartoon of Charlotte Braun — with an axe in her head. She’s frowning.
Another wonder artifact is a reproduction of a 1968 letter to Schulz, encouraging integration in Peanuts following the assassination of Martin Luther King. The character of Franklin was introduced just three months later.
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night
Although the stars of the book are the artifacts, photos, and artwork, Nat has written a great history of the strip, its characters, and its creator Charles M. Schulz, interspersed with a look at how Peanuts affected us, its fans. His text is breezy, but greatly informative, and just a bit folksy — like Schulz himself (or at least his public persona). The occasional pun or humorous turn of phrase is appreciated in a book like this where all the history and facts could make it a dull read in lesser hands.
If you don’t already know, Nat is quite active in the comics world as both a creator and a publisher. If you haven’t read The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creating a Graphic Novel (co-written with Steve Lieber), you should. And if you’re a Charles Schulz fan, you need to pick up It’s Only a Game (Schulz’s sports and games cartoons) and Schulz’s Youth (his early teenager cartoons which appeared in Christian Youth magazines in the 1950s and 60s), which Nat has published. We have all three.
In his spare time (when not appearing on Peanuts video special features), he’s also the creator and webmaster of AAUGH.com, an incredible resource for Peanuts books, as well as The AAUGH Blog. WARNING: Don’t go to the website unless you have several hours to spare. Seriously. I mean it. You may also want to check out this interview with Nat about how the book was produced.
The secrets of the Peanuts Universe — and some really cool artifacts — are yours to be had with The Peanuts Collection. Best of all, it’s more affordably priced than similar — yet lesser — artifact books. And a lot more fun! Joe Cool says so. (The publisher provided a review copy.)