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Yeah, I know, whatever you think of Charles Schultz, having Peanuts reruns take up space in the newspaper where some other strip being drawn by a living person could be bites.

However, it's worth checking out the new Fantagraphics The Complete Peanuts. The first four volumes (through 1958) are available.

Think about it.

Peanuts when the jokes were new. Peanuts when Schultz was still taking chances.

Peanuts when Snoopy was pretty much an ordinary dog, not Walter Mitty with a bulbous nose.

Charles Schultz was never a hack, even if he did fall back on formula after a few decades of doing his strip. Most syndicated comic artists fall back on formula much sooner (Jim Davis, anyone?).

But newspapers aren't running these strips, they're running 1970's reruns. I suppose they think starting over from the beginning would confuse too many people (and it probably would; many cast members are unfamiliar to current readers).

They're brilliant, though.

There's much more pre-school to these wise-beyond-their-years pre-schoolers. Snoopy is an ordinary dog, no thought balloons, and has a much more beagle-shaped nose.

I know you're not going to believe what follows, though.

They're surreal.

Not all of them, but many of them. Early Peanuts was much more subtle in its philosophical bent. That's not to say the jokes were more subtle. Early Peanuts was very absurd.

Most interesting, though, is watching the introduction of new characters, often very different from their current incarnations. Schroeder playing the piano before he could talk. Lucy, fuss-budget of the year, in footy pajamas and eating in a high-chair. Linus without a blanket. And, of course, Snoopy as an ordinary dog.

Can you tell I like the early Snoopy?

There are also the failures. Charlotte Braun, the frizzy-haired loudmouth (and visual model for the later and longer-lasting "Frida") didn't last a year, and for good reason.

I also love the characters that lasted, but eventually still disappeared. Patty (not "Pepperment Patty"), Shermy and Violet were early central characters who have faded into supporting roles or even disappeared. For years Patty and Violet's mud pies were a staple joke, but Patty isn't even present in later strips.

So the simple answer?

Buy it. At least the first two volumes.

Read it. At least the first two volumes.

Find out what the newspapers have been keeping from you for over 50 years.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 14th, 2005 03:16 pm (UTC)
I grew up w/books of those early strips, right alongside the 60s/70s versions. The older ones made me miss Snoopy's fantasyland w/the Red Baron, Joe Cool, etc., plus his interaction w/Woodstock. I also didn't like how mean all the other kids were to Charlie Brown in the early strips -- viciously mean, like real childhood, & I sure didn't need more of that!

The dialog can be sharper in the early strips, & they're certainly better than the final decade or so of strips. But I still love the classic 60s/70s years of Peanuts the best.
Dec. 14th, 2005 03:17 pm (UTC)
Can you tell I like the early Snoopy?

Yeah, Peanuts jumped the shark when Snoopy started walking on only two legs.
Dec. 14th, 2005 09:49 pm (UTC)
The early strips are always fun to read, and yes, they're far more sublime and devious. Love 'em!
Dec. 15th, 2005 01:34 pm (UTC)
The early Peanuts were wonderful.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )