The new Hallmark fit book Good Grief! Peanuts Pick-Me-Ups for When You Need ‘Em Most is filled with two-page spreads mixing Peanuts illustrations with pithy “buck up!” advice, telling you how to deal with life’s struggles. Thrown in through the book are nine daily strips, with spot coloring. Everything is printed on grey paper with faint images of Sunday strips on them, like they are reusing faded old paper rescued from the papier mâché pile. It’s not exactly much of a read for the price, but it should make a decorative shelf piece. It’s a reasonable piece of bric-a-brac.
A Happy Birthday Is… is a new Hallmark book that follows the basic Happiness is a Warm Puppy design of two-page spreads with text on the left, Peanuts image (panels from the strip) on the right. Really, with the larger size and the color images, it looks more like the 1980s rework of the Happiness is a Warm Puppy books than the 1960s originals. The book comes with a slip case.
The theme is, of course, listing all the things a birthday is. It’s “…even better than a good hair day”, or “…playing your song all day long”, or “…hearing from your favorite people.” This is a book for one day of the year. Not being my birthday, perhaps I’m not in position to review it.
One thing that I found surprising was that a few of the panels reproduced are using notably weak source. Disappearing lines, blobby lines showing signs of being reproduces from old newspapers where the ink has spread, and this shows up particularly given that the panels are enlarged so much. It seems odd; I realize that in this world sometimes you can’t find good source for a piece of art and you have to make do… but given that they got to pick and choose panels for this project from the tens of thousands that Schulz drew over the years, I don’t know why they didn’t just say “oh well, can’t use this panel, let’s get another one.”
The latest in the AMP series of strip collections for kids, Snoopy to the Rescue!, is not a Snoopy-specific collection, but rather a collection of circa-1969 strips, ones that were fairly recently reprinted in the papers. It keeps most of the features of the previous AMP collections – everything’s in color, in the back there are articles and activities (this time, on the Peanuts/NASA connection), and there’s a fold-out poster of the book’s cover in the back. One thing that’s been dropped from the format is the flip-book aspect; earlier volumes had little animations at the edges of the pages, so you could riffle the page ends and watch some motion. I think it’s just as well that those are gone. I hope that in later volumes, they take advantage of their absence to move the strips a little more toward the outside edge of the page, so less of the art is sloping into toward the binding.
As for how good it is, hey, it’s late-1960s Peanuts strips. That’s good stuff! If this was for me, I’d prefer that the daily strips were in black-and-white, but these are aimed at a younger audience, who have never seen a black-and-white anything in their lives.
It does give me a chance to fall into my teacher-of-comics tendencies, however. Looking closely at my copies, some of the items (particularly those in red) have white halos around the black lines. Now, there are a couple of reasons why that might be – it’s probable that the red printing was just a little bit out of line, but it may be that the area was not properly filled in… but really proper color handling would have avoided it. When you have black lines around a red area, you want to actually overlap the red and black printing so slightly out-of-alignment printing doesn’t leave unintended white areas. And that’s the coloring lesson for today!
I went to see the film Kong: Skull Island last night, and in addition to noticing that it was a beautifully shot, and very much the film it should be (a well-made piece of fluff), I noticed that it’s the latest film for the Peanuts crew to make a sneak appearance in. Near the beginning, there’s some shots of American servicemen’s quarters in Vietnam (the film is set at the end of the Vietnam War) with a batch of Peanuts strips on the wall. It’s not even a sly background thing, it’s central to an admittedly brief shot.
When the DVD comes out, I’ll have to freeze-frame it and see if I can identify the particular strips, and whether they have any particular relevance.