AAUGH.com news: Big book reviews

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In this issue:
* THE COMPLETE PEANUTS VOL. 1: A REVIEW
* LI’L FOLKS, BIG BOOK

No news this time out (well, I’ll sneak in a mention of
Ballantine Book’s upcoming fall book Trick Or Treat: A Peanuts
Halloween here in the intro), just reviews…. and not of some
little minor kiddie board book this time.

THE COMPLETE PEANUTS VOL. 1: A REVIEW

Some days, being the AAUGH.com guy mainly means spending
hours fixing links and figuring out why the tables on
the website look wrong in certain web browsers. And some
days are like today, where it means sitting there for
several hours and reading a thick book of Peanuts
strips, many of which I’ve never read before.

I think you can guess which days I prefer.

The copy of THE COMPLETE PEANUTS: VOLUME 1, 1950 TO
1952 which I got to read was an advance/uncorrected
proof. Not all of the design work is complete, and
there are a number of little details which will need
attending to before the book is released. But that
doesn’t matter: you’re going to want to buy this book.

And the reason you want to buy this book is the
strips. It has every Peanuts newspaper strip from 1950,
1951, and 1952. Many of these have never been in any
book (at least not in English, I cannot vouch for
other languages.) And many others were only in books
which last saw print about 3 decades ago. They are
well reproduced and if they’re a little smaller than
I would ideally like them, they are clear and the art
is displayed well. The strips are run in order, with
the copyright bar and daily PEANUTS title bar removed,
but with the date information intact. The Sundays are
in black and white, and do suffer a little bit for it;
the strips are drawn in a more open style that invites
color to solidify it. But they are run with the full
first panel that was cut out of many collections.

Even if you have read a lot of the earlier strips in
various places, reading them all and in order builds
a much better picture of the development of Peanuts.
You see themes introduced, developed, and then let
fade away. (When Violet first appears in the neighborhood,
the boys are interested in her as the attractive new
gal.) You see Schulz trying different things — different
angles, expressions, putting the zig-zag on Charlie
Brown’s shirt — and keeping the things that work,
letting the ones that don’t fall by the wayside.
You see new character bloom and shift, and even in the
course of the first volume, you see old ones (well,
Shermy) fade away.

You see Schulz realize that he has to introduce his
characters. While Charlie Brown gets named in the
very first strip (and his name is constantly bandied
about by the characters), Patty isn’t named for
more than 3 weeks, Snoopy for more than 5 weeks, and
the other original character, Shermy, goes unnamed
for almost five months! By that point, Violet had
already entered with a proper introduction, and even
the character Olsen had gotten named in the only
strip he appeared in.

And by having the dates on there, you get to do nerd
things. When I saw that on November 5th, 1951,
Charlie Brown was looking at a comic book rack that
included the comics NANCY and TIP TOP, I had to
check. As it turns out, this would have come out
before the real TIP TOP comic book included Peanuts
in its features (and years before NANCY would), so
sadly there was no chance that Charlie Brown would
reach out and read his own adventures. And when I saw
the November 1, 1952 strip, it confirmed for me that
the character in the pumpkin-headed ghost costume in
the 1952 Halloween-themed Sunday strip in PEANUTS: THE
ART OF CHARLES M. SCHULZ couldn’t have been Charlie
Brown. So it’s all great stuff for Peanuts nerds.

And the strips aren’t all that are in there. Each volume
in this series will start with an introduction by some
famous Peanuts fan. In this case, it’s Garrison Keillor,
of the Prarie Home Companion radio show. Keillor writes
an introduction that is much like his radio it work. It
is kind and well-intentioned… and yet, like his tales
of Lake Woebegon, it speaks of something that is never
quite really there. After reading him say “…Peanuts is
more about St. Paul than it is about Santa Rosa, I’d say.
Snow falls on Snoopy’s doghouse. Nobody hits anybody”,
the reader then goes on to read a volume without any
snow on the doghouse and a fair amount of hitting taking
place. (And even more threatened violence; jokesters
generally spend the last panel fleeing from angry justice
at the hands of their joke victims.) And Keillor describes
Schulz as not having lived “to see the rise of graphic
novels but he would have admired them as he admired all
true artists” — while the graphic novel has certainly
continued to grow since Schulz’s death, they had already
been around for him to admire for decades. Schulz
knew a number of graphic novelists; I can’t say for sure
whether he admired the works, but I don’t think it was
entirely accidental that he once invited Maus creator
Art Spiegelman to visit, for example. Keillor’s piece
is focused on ascribing a certain Midwesterness to Peanuts,
which may be accurate but doesn’t seem to hit the mark
in a significant way. Ah, but that’s all more commentary
than this intro, clearly meant to help sell the book to
the mass audience (and more power to it for that) deserves.

Following the strips we get a biography written by
David Michaelis, which nicely keeps the focus on the
emotional underpinnings of Schulz’s life. (Michaelis
is working on a full-length Schulz biography, slated
for a 2006 release.) After that is one of the more
substantial interviews with Schulz, this one having
originally run in a 1992 issue of the comics arts
magazine Nemo.

And in the very back is, yes, yay, an index! If
you want to find all the strips in which Beethoven
appeared, check out Von Beethoven, Ludwig, read
where it says “see Beethoven, Ludwig Von”, then
go find the list of all the pages with Beethoven.
They do a good job of anticipating what characters
and what themes people will want to look up
(although poor Olsen doesn’t get an entry. Ah, Olsen,
we hardly knew ye.)

This book is gonna be a thick one. It was already a
substantial book in the proof edition I read, and the
full edition will have some more pages, thicker paper,
and the hard covers themselves. I heard a few people
whining just a bit at the pricing of this book, but
you will get a substantial book for that price.

And, of course, you can save by ordering through
AAUGH.com. At the moment, it’s more than 8 bucks
off the cover price if you preorder it now:
http://AAUGH.com/to.htm?156097589X

And for the curious, here’s an interview with
the book’s designer and with a rep from the publisher:
http://www.comicbookbin.com/charlie.html
==========================================================
LI’L FOLKS, BIG BOOK

I got a good look at a preview of CHARLES M. SCHULZ: LI’L
BEGINNINGS, the new book coming in February from the
Charles M. Schulz Museum. This is a book you’re going to
want. It collects all of Sparky’s pre-Peanuts Li’l Folks
cartoons, plus cartoons from the Saturday Evening Post
and Topix. Everything is reproduced from printed copies,
without a lot of digital enhancement, but the cartoons
are printed very large and are clear to read.

Each installment of Li’l Folks, made up usually of
four gag panels, is given a full page, with another
page just for annotations about that installment.
These annotations are by Derrick Bang, who was the
driving force behind the 50 YEARS OF HAPPINESS: A
TRIBUTE TO CHARLES M. SCHULZ anniversary book, and they
comment on recurring themes in Li’l Folks, on gags
that were reused in Peanuts (with the Peanuts strips
reproduced), and other items of interest. Derrick
also provides significant introductory text, with
a foreword by Schulz’s widow Jean. There’s even a
handy index to characters and themes.

But with all the good stuff that’s in the foreword
and the introduction and the annotations and such,
I’m going to suggest that you skip them… on the
first pass. Buy the book (of course) and read it
through once just reading the cartoons. Schulz was
already a very good cartoonist when he did this work,
and there’s a lot of entertaining material to be
found here. Then, once you’ve done that, read the
book -again-, this time reading all of the text as
well. There’s a lot of interesting stuff there for
folks with an interest in Schulz and Peanuts. It’s
a good book to read with a scholarly eye… but it’s also
a good book to read for some pure comics entertainment.
If you want to take a peek at some Li’l Folks comics
to see if they’re to your liking, head on over to:
http://www.indyworld.com/indy/preview_schulz/index.html

The book, a hardcover about 300 pages long, will be
available only through the museum and its website.
They’re launching the book February 21st and 22nd with
Derrick talking at the museum and signing copies, so if
you want to be there for the event, start making plans now!
============================================================
Well, that’s it for now. It may be a bit of a while
before the next newsletter — I’ve gotten quite busy not
only with my writing and publishing, but with spearheading
24 Hour Comics Day, a day for cartoonists pro and amateur
to try creating a complete 24 page comic book story in
just 24 hours. If that sounds interesting to you, check out
http://www.24HourComics.com/

–Nat
proprietor
http://AAUGH.com

General
Peanuts as bird droppings

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General
there is erroneous information on the Internet

I was doing a little research, looking up forgotten hotelier the Reverend Caleb Nimmo for an utterly unPeanuts-related project. One of the genaeology websites, Ancient Faces, had a rather barebones listingĀ for him. The only data they really had for him was birth date, death date, and one location where he …

General
More North Korean football references

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