Thursday, July 01, 2010

Book Review: THE COMPLETE PEANUTS 1975-1976

The 13th Volume in Fantagraphics republishing of the complete Peanuts, THE COMPLETE PEANUTS 1975-1976 could also be subtitled “The Peanuts of the Absurd”. In the past Schulz had toyed with some absurdist plotlines, e.g. the talking school building. However, between 1975-1976, Schulz took those ideas to a whole new level. The talking school returns but ends up falling apart because of depression, Charlie Brown’s pitcher mound floats away during a major rainstorm, and Snoopy’s stomach (and later feet) has conversations that Snoopy sometimes hears and sometimes doesn’t.

The longest sequence in this volume is where Snoopy breaks his leg. There’s about six to eight weeks worth of consecutive strips (including some Sunday strips) dealing with the saga of Snoopy breaking his leg and trying to recuperate. I’m not sure, but I have a feeling that either Schulz or someone in his family must have broken a leg sometime not too distant from this storyline.

Besides Snoopy breaking his leg, this volume introduces us to one of Snoopy’s brothers, Spike, and a sister, Belle. I never knew about Belle until I saw the SNOOPY’S REUNION special. However, Spike was one of my favorite Peanuts characters. I’m not sure what it was, but there was something about Spike’s lonely existence in the Arizona desert that particularly appealed to me. Snoopy goes to visit Spike and Spike comes to visit him for Thanksgiving which leads to a memorable holiday for both dogs.

Peppermint Patty is featured in a majority of strips in this volume. There’s a storyline where Peppermint Patty spends Halloween in a pumpkin patch with Linus. There’s the storyline where Charlie Brown’s school building collapses and he ends up having to share a desk with Patty at her school for several weeks. There’s a story where Peppermint Patty and Marcie try to fly Snoopy’s doghouse to a Powder Puff competition in Michigan and there’s an incredibly long storyline where Peppermint Patty leaves regular school to attend a private school recommended to her by Snoopy, the Ace Obedience School. She graduates near the top of her class and thinks she’s done with school for life until she is shown the truth.

It seems that Schulz thought about introducing a new character to the strip, a girl named Truffles back in 1975. Linus and Snoopy get lost in the woods and are rescued by Truffles. They both fall head over heels for her, but Snoopy is more quick in the ways of love that poor Linus. After a few weeks of strips about Truffles, she leaves to return home and other than a Christmas card at the end of the year she’s never heard from again in this volume. Truffles has an appearance completely different than any previous Peanuts character.

Towards the end of this volume I came across a strip that is featured in the revival edition of the musical YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN. It features Charlie Brown and Linus talking about Linus’s grandfather and how old he is. It should also be noted that it is in this volume of strips that the Cat Next Door’s name is revealed. The vicious cat that Snoopy is frightened of, yet still teases is named World War II.

The introduction to THE COMPLETE PEANUTS 1975-1976 is written by Robert Smigel.Like some of the other introduction writers, it’s fitting that a person of Smigel’s humor write the introduction for this absurdist collection of “Peanuts” comics. His introduction is one of the best in the series so far and touches not only how “Peanuts” influenced his own life, but how the strip interacted with and reflected parts of history. This isn't the best collection of "Peanuts", but it does capture the evolution of the strip into a new era. It's a must for any "Peanuts" fan or anyone who is a serious fan of comic strips.

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