Peanuts Every Sunday: 1952-1955
Those of you who have been reading Fantagraphics’ exemplary Complete Peanuts series and think that the Sunday Peanuts strips included there (in black and white, and greatly reduced in size) are enough for you, well, you’re mistaken. If you’re any kind of Peanuts fan, and you get a glance at any page of the new Peanuts Every Sunday: 1952-1955 collection — printed in a huge 12.75” x 10” format, and with the original colors restored — you will want this book immediately.
This is the “Classic Peanuts” period, where Charlie Brown was merely odd and confused (not neurotic or depressed), Snoopy was still a dog, and Schroeder, Lucy, and Linus were still babies. Charlie Brown’s friends were the long-forgotten Violet, Patty (non-Peppermint), and Shermy. The kids don’t play baseball much (yet), and they seem to prefer more childish pastimes, with plastic wading pools, marbles, tree forts, sandboxes, horseshoes, and the occasional game of golf. (Huh?) Although, some classic Peanuts situations are established early, including kite flying, bizarre snowmen, and Snoopy’s love/hate relationships with birds (but no Woodstock yet).
Linus is adorable as a baby, and he only gets wonderfully odder through his pre-school years (something I always forget). You almost don’t want him to grow up any further than this.
There is also a certain light surrealism running though the strip in its early years that’s much more apparent with years’ worth of strips all scrunched together like this. Gags involving Pig-Pen (dirt’s best friend), Schroeder’s almost eerie devotion to the piano (and to Ludwig Van Beethoven), and some early jokes about the forever-unseen interior of Snoopy’s dog house start early and weird, and get even odder.
The presentation is perfect, with the strips laid out in the standard horizontal three-tiered format, with all panels included. These strips didn’t always run this way, with many newspapers opting for a two-tier format, eliminating the first two panels. This book is a totally new reading experience for me, as I grew up reading Peanuts in the Chicago Tribune, where on Sundays it ran vertically (alongside Dick Tracy) — at least during the “classic” 1960s years. This layout would always eliminate the opening panel, which combined the classic hand-drawn Peanuts logo with artwork.
The recoloring is exemplary, going back to the original pattern of warm pastels for the backgrounds with bold, bright, and solid colors for the principal foreground characters, which really makes them pop. Plus, this is the pre-licensing era of the strip, before basic colors were “assigned” to the characters (to make them both more identifiable and trademarkable). So instead of always seeing Charlie Brown in an orange shirt, or Lucy in a blue dress, or Linus with a red shirt, here we see the characters dressed in a rainbow of colors.
For those of you who think that Peanuts had mainly “static” art, never any “action” shots, check out the front and endpapers of this new book. In this super-condensed look at several years of the strip at once, it’s easy to see why the mostly generic and one-note characters of Shermy, Patty, and Violet didn’t survive — they were overpowered by the multileveled, strong personalities of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder, and even Snoopy.
This book is the first of a projected series of ten volumes, each containing five years’ worth of Sunday strips, covering the strip’s entire run. And all “re-mastered” to match the original coloring. I got most of my original Peanuts collections for Christmas presents when I was younger. I’d imagine this new book will be under a lot of trees this holiday season.
NOTE: This book is not to be mistaken for a much earlier Peanuts collection, also called Peanuts Every Sunday. Amazon is already confused by this, mixing customer reviews for both versions of the book together. (The publisher provided a review copy.)