Tag Archives: Peanuts

From the stone age to the age of Peanuts: graphic novels (#SFWApro)

As I’ve accumulated a lot of these to review, I’ll just skip Saturday’s movie reviews this week so I can catch up.

FLINTSTONES: Bedrock Bedlam by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh (cover by Pugh, all rights to current holder) is the second and final volume in DC’s reboot of the old Hanna-Barbera series. The underlying premise is that humanity has just gone from hunter-gatherer to “modern” civilization in the space of a generation, so everyone’s still awkward in dealing with it. While it doesn’t really have the spirit of the old series (Fred and Barney are a lot smarter, and happily a lot less sexist), it wasn’t bad, particularly involving the interactions among the Flintstones’ living-creature appliances.

NIGHTWING: Nightwing Must Die by Tim Seeley and multiple artists is a real disappointment after the previous volume. Dick’s interactions with Damian Wayne are great, but this ignores most of what Back to Bludhaven set in motion to focus on the unmemorable Bat-foes Pyg and Hurt. Who, unfortunately spend lots and lots of time pontificating on What Makes a Hero — as I’ve said before, villains sharing Deep Thoughts (which are rarely actually deep) never works for me.

BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY: Who Is Oracle? by Julie and Shawna Benson and Claire Roe is noteworthy for establishing yes, Babs Gordon did spend time as super-hacker Oracle in the New 52 continuity (something that was left vague up till now); this has her reunite the Birds of Prey when it turns out a new hacker has adopted Oracle’s ID. Unfortunately the book overall is middling at best, with unsatisfying art (everyone looks rather doughy, and I don’t think it’s because they’re bending body-standard norms or anything like that) and the dialog is way too TV-bantery.

Supergirl’s Rebirth volume 1, SUPERGIRL: Reign of the Cyborg Supermen by Steve Orlando and Brian Ching falls way below middling. I actually thought the previous Supergirl TPB, Crucible, had a good set-up but this ditches that for a remake that borrows as much as possible from the TV show without making it work (as a high-school student Kara is an Outcast Who Doesn’t Fit In! Wow, talk about originality!). On top of which we get one of the hoariest plotlines in the Super-mythos, Krypton attacks Earth (Supergirl’s already done that one recently). Given the New 52 was Kara’s third or fourth version in the 21st century, I wish they’d kept it instead of rebooting yet again.

JUSTICE LEAGUE: Darkseid War Part 2 by Geoff Johns and several artists only confirms that Johns has absolutely no sense of Kirby’s New Gods. In Origins, Darkseid’s a generic alien conqueror; Apokolips itself is equally mundane in Darkseid War Part One. In this TPB, which wrapped up Johns’ JLA run, the Anti-Monitor from Crisis on Infinite Earths is equally unimpressive, possessed by Kirby’s anti-life equation which turns him into a generic genocidal psycho (that the Anti-Life Equation is more about control and order than death and destruction flies over Johns’ head). I’d welcome the Justice League’s Rebirth run if that were any good.

Switching from the Super-stuff, BECOMING UNBECOMING by Una is a mix of the author’s ruminations on sexual violence (I doubt anything in the current crop of exposures would surprise her) with the account of the Yorkshire Ripper who terrified her community when she was growing up, partly because of the epic police fail in dealing with him. Didn’t entirely work for me because a lot of the sexual assault information was old news to me — a personal memoir mixed in with the Ripper stuff would have worked better.

THE COMPLETE PEANUTS: 1965-66 shows Charles Schulz in peak form — even though I’ve read all of these dozens of time, I found myself laughing a lot. And Schulz is still willing to try new stuff, as Snoopy enters his Sopwith Camel for the first time and some girl named “Peppermint” Patty volunteers to coach “Chuck” Brown’s team. Very good, though as I’ve noticed before, even Peanuts isn’t as timeless as some people think (there’s a joke about Hathaway shirts that will baffle lots of people now).

 

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Sex, Peanuts and Propaganda: movies watched

The Spanish film SEX AND LUCIA (2001) has a waitress visit her supposedly dead boyfriend’s former island home and thereby stumble into his tangled erotic history. Although I kept watching to the end, I can’t say why as nothing really engaged me. Plus I got hopelessly confused about who was sleeping with whom when. “You shouldn’t have to live with the shit I have inside me.”

THE PEANUTS MOVIE (2015) has Charles Schulz’ characters going through their classic routines while Charlie Brown struggles to find the courage to introduce himself to the Little Red-Headed Girl. This isn’t bad — it uses lots of the strip’s material and jokes—but it does have some missteps, such as actually showing us the Red Baron and a too-conventional upbeat ending (Charlie Brown learns success was inside him all along). A bigger problem is that other than length and animation style, it’s no different from any of the old TV specials, and I’ve seen more than enough of those. “The greatest book of all time is uh, LEO’S TOYSTORE, written by some guy named Warren Peace.”

MV5BMjEyZmRkNGYtYjEyOC00NmE5LWIxNzQtZjFjZDU1YWVjZjM5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDgxMDU4NTU@._V1_UY268_CR3,0,182,268_AL_CHUCK NORRIS VS. COMMUNISM (2015) is an excellent documentary (though relying too much on dramatized scenes for my taste) about how VHS made it possible for Rumanians during the Ceausescu dictatorship to see Western films for the first time (in apartments turned into theaters for the evening), and the various key players who made the bootleg trade possible (including Irina Nastor, who provided the dubbing for well over 3,000 films, giving her “the most well-known voice in Rumania after Ceausescu’s.”). The reactions to the films includes fascination at Western wealth (“So much food in the stores.”), embarrassed shock (“The first film I saw was LAST TANGO IN PARIS—I couldn’t believe such a thing existed.”) or simple joy at doing something officially banned (the main distributor made sure to have spare cassettes for buying off the authorities). Well worth catching; all rights to poster reside with current rights holder. “The dirty words were translated as “go to hell” no matter what crap they were saying.”

CARTOONS FOR VICTORY is a collection of World War II cartoons from both sides, such as “Private Snafu” (an inept bungler whose missteps show GIs how not to screw up), calls to buy bonds, a chameleon teaching pilots how to camouflage themselves, a snowman determined to stay alive until summer (one completely propaganda-free, and very charming) and in the most bizarre from a US perspective, an Axis cartoon showing Minnie Mouse, Popeye and other cartoon characters making bombing raids on peaceful French families. Interesting stuff.

 

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Graphic Novels and a Book (#SFWApro)

THE COMPLETE PEANUTS: 1963 to 1964 shows like the previous collection that Charles Schulz had found his voice. There are no new characters other than the short-lived Five and off-stage Joe Shlabotnik (Charlie Brown’s favorite baseball player) whose disastrous career would be a running joke for several years. Lucy’s starting to become more of a bully to Linus here, but most of the interactions are familiar—Charlie Brown trying to fly a kite, Lucy pining for Schroeder—though still very entertaining. And Snoopy’s world begins to build, as we get increasing emphasis on what a fantastic place he has inside the dog-house. But despite the description of this strip as “timeless” some of the jokes do indeed lose with time, such as one about prayer in school—and what’s with Schulz’s fascination with golfer Sam Snead?]

THE DEATH RAY is my first exposure to Daniel Clowes, best known for Ghost World and I can’t say the story—teen gets super-powers from smoking, uses them to rid the world of jerks—worked for me at all.

I’ve been disappointed with the past couple of Fables volumes and in a way the big finish, FABLES: Farewell makes them retroactively worse: a lot of the build-up to the final tragic clash turns out to be for nothing (basically everyone decides not to clash), but then again that’s better than having the clash. A nice wrap-up of everyone’s fate, leading to a better finish than most long-running series manage.

26067680NANJING: The Burning City by Ethan Young is a grim war story about a pair of Chinese soldiers trying to escape Nanjing during the Japanese occupation so that they can fight again. Effective (all rights to cover to current holder)

And now, the book—THE THOUGHT READER CRAZE: Victorian Science at the Enchanted Boundary by Barry H. Wiley looks at the late Victorian interest in telepathy, ranging from spiritualist “thought readers” to those who claimed scientifically explicable psychic powers to an assortment of stage performers and skeptics who showed they could get the same results by trickery or impressive muscle-reading skills. This is more focused on the performers and their critics than on the general public reaction or perceptions, which makes it more specialized than I was looking for. Within that limitation, though, good and the level of skill some of the fakes exhibited is impressive showmanship indeed. Surprisingly, although the author is a stage magician and skeptic, he does believe in telepathy, even if he thinks the actual times it happens were at best few and far between.

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Recent reading material (#SFWApro)

THE COMPLETE SORCERESS OF THE STRAND by L.T. Meade and Robert Eustace collects the full serialized story of the formidable villain Madame Sara (who plays a prominent supporting role in my upcoming steampunk novel Questionable Minds). By day, a  turn-of-the-20th century beauty consultant with a store in the Strand and customers in the highest social level, by night she’s a schemer, blackmailer, murderer and thief. Her motives are never explained beyond an itch to collect valuable gems, and as typical for the era, she pays for her crimes at the end. Still, I was delighted to finally read this (I’ve read parts of it before).

THE COMPLETE PEANUTS, 1961 to 1962 by Charles Schulz (of course) shows the strip settling into a steady state: the only new character here is Frieda (of the Naturally Curly Hair) who would eventually fade away again (though having a bit part in A Charlie Brown Christmas ensures her, like Pig Pen, of immortality) but gets quite a bit of play in this period. And while Woodstock was years in the future, several strips show Schulz seemed to find Snoopy paired with birds as a natural combination. Charming as always.

24722426UNWRITTEN: Apocalypse by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (cover by Gross, rights with current holder) wraps up the series as Tom goes on a Grail Quest, Madame Rausch plays her own game and Pullman struggles to bring about the end of everything. This has its flaws: the apocalypse when it comes is pretty familiar, Rausch’s agenda feels murky and although they give Wilson Taylor a goal (to give individual humans more mastery of the world of story), Carey and Gross bring it up only to ignore it. Overall, though a satisfactory finish to a good series.

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Books and Comic Books (#SFWApro)

Despite the title, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ LLANA OF GATHOL—John Carter’s granddaughter—is primarily an adventure of John Carter himself. Once again wandering anonymously, he and the survivor of a lost city of ancient Barsoomians discover Llana has been kidnapped by an aspiring conqueror. Rescuing her leads them to a machine that can kill with the touch of a button, an ancient city of mummies and a land of invisible warriors, none of which is terribly fresh (Burroughs already had an invisible race in Swords of Mars). The original structure (four novellas published separately) doesn’t help as Burroughs repeats information and shticks over and over, such as Carter fighting yet another duel with a supposed master swordsman. Minor, the equivalent of Tarzan’s endless wandering into Lost Cities.
incognegrohc INCOGNEGRO by Matt Johnson and Warren Pleece is a striking graphic novel about Zane Pinchback, a light-skinned black man in 1930s Harlem who goes undercover in the South reporting on lynchings and naming the people who lynch. With the Klan close to identifying him, Zane’s sworn off going undercover again, but when his brother gets arrested for murder, he has to make one more trip South to clear his name and save him from a lynch mob. Very good, with an interesting backstory (the author says it reflects his own fantasies growing up as a light-skinned black). Cover by Stephen John Phillips, all rights to current holder.
HELLBLAZER: The Devil’s Trenchcoat is a weak John Constantine collection by Peter Milligan and multiple artists. In one story arc, John’s trenchcoat takes on a life of its own; in the other, John’s desperate efforts to free his sister from hell put his wife Epiphany’s soul at risk (I had no idea he was married BTW). The first tale is fair, the other has too much idiot plot: I can agree John might risk Eppy in the confidence he can cheat Satan, but he’d put more thought into it than he does here.
BATMAN: Earth One by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank was apparently written in the faith you can’t retell Batman’s origin too many times. This revisionist take has Bruce, much to Alfred’s disapproval, donning his costume to expose the political conspiracy he believes led to his parents’ death—but all the added twists and turns just feel like needless additions to a solid core story.
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ABE SAPIENS: Dark and Terrible and the New Race of Man by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie, John Arcudi, Sebastian Fiumara (he did the cover, rights to current holder) and Max Fiumara collects the first two story arcs of Abe’s ongoing series. Increasingly mutated, Abe sets out into the new, chaotic world where he uncovers hints that his transformation is tied directly into the ongoing wave of new monsters (I’m guessing just as Liz proved a key player in the last apocalypse, so will Abe). The first part is very good, the second is readable but slow-paced.
THE COMPLETE PEANUTS, 1959-1960 shows Charles Schulz continuing to experiment as he brings in Sally Brown and her perpetual crush on Linus and Linus for the first time tells the legend of the Great Pumpkin. Meanwhile the Little League team continues to lose, Linus and Snoopy battle over his blanket and Lucy continues mooning over Schroeder. Meanwhile earlier characters such as Patty, Pig Pen and Shermy are fading or gone. I’ve got to give Schulz credit for continuing to change such a successful strip (adding Peppermint Patty and Woodstock later, for instance)—and in general for just creating a classic.
I didn’t care for Jason Lute’s first Berlin TPB but BERLIN: City of Smoke worked better for me. Germany moves into the 1930s as fascists and Communists both try to build a following, a black jazz quartet plays Berlin and various characters shift and change their relationships. Well done.

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Books

THE WATCH: Being the Unauthorized Sequel to Peter A. Kropotkin’s MEMOIRS OF A REVOLUTIONIST as imparted to Dennis Danvers is a novel that works better in synopsis than execution: A time-traveler transports dying Russian anarchist Kropotkin to 1999 where in addition to adapting to modern life and helping a couple of travelers dragged along in his wake, he finds himself slowly getting involved in politics … First person narration was not the best choice for this, as Kropotkin makes a very stiff narrator; whether that’s his real voice or just Danvers’ limits as a writer, I know not (but Dream Years did much better with the idea of time-traveling revolutionaries).
THE NOIR STYLE by Alain Silver (author of the excellent Film Noir)and James Ursini attempts to define the noir visual style by collecting and analyzing photos in categories including femmes fatale, city nightscapes, reflections, prison bars and cars. Interesting, and the photos are memorable, though the neo-noir section is weak (I don’t think Silence of the Lambs, for example, qualifies as neo-noir).
THE COMPLETE PEANUTS: 1957 to 1958 (previous volumes reviewed here and here) shows Charles Schultz developing the running gags that would run for years—Lucy pulling away the football is now an annual event, Lucy moons over Schroeder, Linus and Snoopy grapple over his blanket and we get the first reference to Joe Shlabotnik (as a piano player—Schultz later used the same name for Charlie Brown’s baseball idol). This also has Snoopy becoming increasingly flamboyant and human (very groundbreaking, even though I didn’t realize it at the time). Great fun, though some jokes will be lost on current readers (“How can a bracelet be hi-fi?”). There’s also a good introductory essay by Jonathan Frantzen (“Charles Schultz’ genius wasn’t the result of depression, it’s that he had the artistic ability to turn depression into genius!”).
ACTION: Superman and the Men of Steel by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales looks at the early days of the post-reboot DC Universe as Luthor’s efforts to stop the alien vigilante Superman result in the creation of the cyborg killer Metallo and Brainiac stealing Metropolis while Clark Kent struggles to make a home in Metropolis. One of the better entries in DC’s New 52.
IT’S A BIRD … by Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen shows Seagle fretting about his new assignment to write the Man of Steel, worrying about how he can identify with him (“They say he’s an inspiration for all of us—but how can he be when his powers make everything so easy?”), coping with writer’s block and tackling personal issues. Competent, but not that interesting—for one thing, too many clichés about the writing life.
GREEN LANTERN CHRONICLES Volume IV by John Broome and Gil Kane has Hal Jordan once again matching wits with Sinestro (more than once), holding a rematch with the European patriot Sonar, teaming up again with the Flash and encountering a mysterious woman called Star Sapphire (it would be a long time before he learned it was his girlfriend, Carol). As always, enjoyable.
PLASTIC MAN: Rubber Bandits by Kyle Baker has the shapeshifting superhero, sidekick Woozy and girlfriend Morgan battling a time traveling Abraham Lincoln (“No—under the mask it’s a time-traveling John Wilkes Booth!”), a vampire, a mouse, helping out President Luthor and acquiring a teenage Goth daughter. Great fun, though more geeky than the first volume)—the opening time travel story, for instance, includes Metron, the Time Trapper, Martian Manhunter and Poison Ivy (and I’m not sure a non-comics fan would find that as funny as I do).

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Not the best start to a week

Two stories—Love That Moves the Sun and Leave the World to Darkness—came back on Saturday (at least the former story had positive comments).
Then yesterday, I got snowed under by various projects, wedding and other, and felt quite wiped by the end. Fortunately, my work days are fun enough that’s not the disaster I might have felt it a few years earlier.
And I still have enough to do that I’m just lumping several things into this post, starting with graphic novels I’ve been reading recently:
Batman: Death and the City, was the second collection of Paul Dini’s run on the title, including more of the Riddler, a terrific battle between Batman, the Joker and Zatanna and the return of the 1950s foes the Terrible Trio (I find this amusing since Dini once cited them as among the most forgettable of Batman’s 1950s adversaries). A shame he didn’t turn out more, though I am enjoying his work on Zatanna (his wife’s a magician, so it’s not surprising he has an affinity for the character)
•From an earlier era we have Batman Chronicles, Volume Seven, which tracks the Darknight Detective through late 1942. The most significant stories here are the first two appearances of Two-Face, both outstanding; the efforts of later writers to make Harvey Dent’s transition into Two-Face more plausible (usually by asserting he was always crazy) completely miss the tragic power of the original. There’s also the excellent crime drama “The Story of the Seventeen Stones” and “Around the Clock With the Batman,” one of the first of many stories over the years focusing on the Batman’s methods and skills.
The Complete Peanuts: 1955-56, shows Charles Schulz fully in control of his fictional world: This is basically the strip I grew to know 15 years later—in fact, many of these were in the paperbacks I owned way back when (and I’m happy to say a lot of them still make me laugh out loud). Where a lot of the shticks in the first two volumes felt like Schulz trying to figure out what would work, here they feel more like character bits he played with for a while, then moved on—Snoopy’s impersonations of other animals, for example, or Linus’ fondness for announcing “In five hundred years, what difference will it make.” Thanks again to Fantagraphics for reprinting these.
Switching to politics, Digby links to an interesting analysis of why Republicans can keep their coalition of moneyed interests and religious conservatives together. The answer: The Repubs never sell their people out or compromise on core issues.
I think there’s much truth to this. Dems in Congress always seem willing to compromise on government funding for abortion, access to birth control, conscience clauses, etc. We never see Repubs offering greater access on abortion in return for getting a deal on debt (how much of this is shrewd calculation and how much sincere political belief, I don’t know). It’s a big advantage in building loyalty.
•Yet another Republican warns us how women’s job is to stand behind their man, and women who get out in front will enfeeble Real Masculinity. Issues much?

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Movies and books

Wow, it’s been a while since I did one of these, isn’t it?
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART ONE (2010) has, of course, Voldemort assuming Power Absolute (“That statue shows the Muggles—in their appropriate place.”), Harry, Ron and Hermione hunting for horcruxes and Dobby playing the hero’s part. Good, though the endless wandering through the wilderness is, well, kind of endless. “Just keep talking about that ball of light in your heart guiding her back to you—she won’t stay mad.”
UNDERMIND (2003) is a decent drama in which two parallel world counterparts (musician turned petty hood and dissipated rich kid) find themselves stuck in each others’ lives with the effect of putting right what their counterpart was doing wrong (standing up to the rich kid’s mother and catching the hood’s father’s killer, for example). Enjoyable, though I’m surprised there’s no explanation for why this happened (not even a deus ex machina). “That’s why we’re partners—you understand my sick and twisted mind.”
MORNING GLORY (2010) is a fun comedy in which bouncy morning show producer Rachel McAdams recruits dour anchorman Harrison Ford to cohost her floundering show alongside Diane Keaton only to find Ford balking point blank at doing anything that would sully his Hard News credentials (“He objects to using the word ‘fluffy.’”). Ford does a wonderful stoneface here, and I give the film extra points for actually taking McAdams’ job seriously (rather than the stock She Has A Guy, She Doesn’t Need A Career approach so many romantic comedies take) “It’s bran and it’s a donut—it’s a bran donut!”

Given my dislike of most super-hero novels, I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE by Austin Grossman. The story concerns a battle between the world’s greatest super-hero team and arch-villain Dr. Impossible, told from the viewpoints of Impossible himself and Fatale, a cyborg black-ops agent newly joined the team. Grossman uses this mostly to set up a character study for the two leads, but the backdrop feels believable (i.e., I could see everyone showing up in a real comic book—much more so than in From the Notebook of Dr. Brain.
PIGEONS: The Fascinating Saga of the Wrld’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird by Andrew D. Blechman ponders how a bird that was favored as a delicacy for centuries, a vital form of long-distance communication and military messaging for almost as long and for at least a couple of centuries a popular racing bird has now become identified as a “rat with wings” that should just be stamped out. While not as fascinating as the title makes out (the subculture of pigeon racers comes off as generically eccentric, if that makes any sense), the story of pigeon breeders, wildlife activists and military historians does make for entertaining reading.
THE LAST MAGICIANS is a good non-Brak fantasy by John Jakes in which the last survivor of an order of evil mages is reluctantly agrees to help save the world from the undead armies of his former deity and the god’s high priest. Enjoyably gritty and dour, though rather deus ex in the finish; while I doubt Jakes would ever have given Robert E. Howard a run for his money, it does make me wonder what he’d have written if he’s stayed in-genre.
INTO THE VOLCANO: A Mallory & Morse Novel of Espionage by Forrest DeVoe Jr. is an extremely unsuccessful 1962-set Bond pastiche as the assassination of a Turkish agent of “the Consultancy” leads the title agents (Tough Redneck and a female Bostonian martial artist) into an encounter with a megalomaniac building an earthquake-maker. Part of my problem with this was that it’s quite lacking in period detail or attitudes (in fact, it wouldn’t take much tweaking to have it in the present) and it doesn’t mesh the realistic and glamorous spy schools as well as Fleming did.
THE COMPLETE PEANUTS: 1953-1954 shows the strip as we know it starting to take form—by the end of ‘54, Lucy is a confirmed fussbudget (along with short-lived traits such as compulsive stargazing), Charlie Brown is showing flashes of his unloved loser persona (with baseball and kite-flying becoming running themes) Schroeder has gone from just musical to a Beethoven fanatic and Linus is occasionally shown with a security blanket. We also get two new additions to the cast, the unsuccessful Charlotte Braun (though it’s quite possible Schulz only intended her as a short-lived guest-star) and Pig-Pen, here rather a Dennis the Menace type (i.e., more deliberately dirty than the magnetic power that seemed to manifest later). Still a long way from what it would become, but it’s getting there.
SHARPE’S SIEGE: Richard Sharpe and the Winter Campaign, 1814 is an excellent entry in Bernard Cornwell’s series as Wellington’s subterfuge, Ducos’ scheming and a few ambitious naval men result in Sharpe and Harper holding an impossible and indefensible position against the might of the French Army (points to Cornwell for the fact Sharpe doesn’t pull it off and only his subterfuge with the privateer saved him from capture).
THE ESSENTIAL CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL I makes me wonder if Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had the same problem so many movie adaptations have faced of fitting a World War II legend into the present: After a few stories, they shift Cap back to a World War II setting and admit they only returned him to the present in response to fan requests. And of course, his greatest foe in this period is his World War II adversary the Red Skull (plus Baron Zemo, the Exiles and the Nazi Sleeper robots). Entertaining, but far from my favorite the Marvels essentials—interesting to study though (it strikes me the couple of issues Lee did with Spider-Man collaborator John Buscema were a lot more Spidey-style melodramatic than when he worked with Kirby).

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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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