One book I’ve read: Complete Peanuts, Volume I

As someone who started reading Peanuts back in 1969, it’s fascinating to read this collection of the strip’s beginning, from 1950 through 1952 (the first volume of Fantagraphics’ complete run of the series, which is now up to the seventies).
When the strip began, it was Charlie Brown, Shermie, Patty (not Peppermint Patty but an earlier character) and Snoopy. It was light years removed from the strip I knew: A lot of the plots involved the two boys competing for Patty’s attentions, Charlie Brown was a mischievous smart aleck and Snoopy didn’t speak (it was also unclear whose dog he was supposed to be).
Then came Violet, whose passion was making mud pies, and who yanked the first football away from Charlie Brown in an early strip. Then Schroeder, initially presented as just a baby (Charles Schulz seemed to like the idea of baby humor since he did it with Linus, Lucy and Sally later), but Schroeder coalesced very quickly into the musical prodigy we all know (it’s the first element of the strip that looks familiar to me). Then came Lucy, another baby but a much more annoying one (I can’t help wondering if Schulz had a toddler around that time—it seems the kind of humor you’d think of when dealing with the real article).
Over the course of the book, you can see Schulz trying to figure things out: A number of strips involve Charlie Brown and Shermie playing golf, for instance, so he obviously thought this had comic potential. Just as obviously, it didn’t last as a shtick.
By the end of the book, the characters and the humor are much closer to the strip I knew and loved. Lucy has pulled away her first football; Snoopy has thought balloons; Lucy is developing her fuss-budget persona; and Charlie Brown has had his first disastrous kite flight. A lot of jokes I recognize from later strips have been tried out. It’s still far below what it would become (though it is funny), but Peanuts is definitely heading onward and upward.

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One response to “One book I’ve read: Complete Peanuts, Volume I

  1. Pingback: Culture Quest! | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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