Nostalgia and Charm Come Together in the Iconic “Complete Peanuts:1950-1952″

Nostalgia and Charm Come Together in the Iconic “Complete Peanuts:1950-1952″

The last of my Fantagraphics reviews is a bit of a departure from my usual recommendations.  While I tend to focus on webcomics, small press, and lesser known artists, I couldn’t resist this gem of a book.  The Complete Peanuts: 1950 – 1952 is the first of several compilations of the work of the inimitable Charles Schultz.

You are undoubtedly familiar with Schultz’s characters: Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, and the rest of their elementary school compatriots. But what you are undoubtedly picturing right now are the characters and designs that were already established and popular in 1965 (the year that A Charlie Brown Christmas came out).  You will not find those characters in this book.

Instead you will find the origins and steady evolution of what would eventually become a paragon of cartooning.  This Charlie Brown is self-admittedly four years old, an only child with a rounder head and more naive disposition. Lucy van Pelt is not his bossy and outspoken classmate but an infant, still in a crib and barely speaking when she makes her first appearance in 1952, a full two years after the comic first premiered.  The plots follow the same thread that all Peanuts cartoons are known for, namely the interactions, arguments, disappointments, and small victories of a group of children.  But the whole of it feels very fresh, as if by reading it you are glimpsing into the mind of a 28-year-old Schultz as he penned those first strips, delving into his humor and wry contemplation of childhood.

Amid the fun visual gags and adorable children’s games the comic surprises with moments of outspoken feminism, startling self-awareness, and insightful clarity into the cruelties and kindnesses of children.  It makes for not only an entertaining read, but also a deeply personal look back into our own history.  You may know all about Charlie Brown’s long-standing struggle with a certain football, but there is something deeply satisfying in reading the very first strip where he took that running leap.

The Complete Peanuts: 1950-1952 is available for purchase from Fantagraphics Books, along with the rest of Charlie Brown’s compiled adventures.

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