THE COMPLETE PEANUTS Volume 2, 1953-1954, hasn’t actually been released yet, but one of the advantages of being the AAUGH.com guy is sometimes you lay hands on things a little early. The book is just what it sets out to be, covering all the strips from those two years, some of which you’ve probably seen before, but many of which have never been in any book before.
Reading the full run like this brings forth some things that reading previous collections didn’t. There are running gags in here, like Charlie Brown working on his own comic strip, where only one or two of the strips made it into previous books, keeping it from seeming like a running gag. There are drawing techniques that are poorly represented in earlier collections, with some of the cartoons showing zonked-out characters with empty pupils, characters making wacky faces, and other odd things. There’s one cartoon (August 31, 1954) where Patty is repeatedly shown straight-on, rather than at the usual side or 3/4s angle that Schulz used, and the effect is weird, as if it’s not Peanuts at all.
There’s even a character who was skipped in the classic books. Yes, this is the book with Charlotte Braun, the loud-mouthed curly-haired character who proved too annoying to ever be seen again.
And then there’s the adults! Not only do we have a number of word balloons from Linus and Lucy’s mom, we actually have a most of the bodies and even obscured distant adult faces! Those show up during another oddity, a series of four Sunday strips where Lucy enters into a women’s golf tournament. (One of these strips showed up in Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz, but this is the first book to have the whole storyline.)
But this is not just a book of weirdness and novelty, but a book full of good Peanuts strips, old friends and new ones. Linus has his savant abilities rolling, blowing up square balloons and building amazing houses of cards. Lucy still has some of that little kid-ness that she has early on, but her forceful personality is coming into bloom. “Pig-Pen” is added to the cast, and his dirty style rubs off on the others. Many mudpies are made.
The strips are mostly timeless, but the ones that aren’t are kind of cool. There are references to H-bomb testing, to the Korean War, to the way movies were released half a century ago. And there’s a nice folksy intro by Walter Cronkite, a long-time fan.
I’m used to writing the AAUGH.com email newsletter, which went out to basically hardcore Peanuts book fans, to whom buying this book is a no-brainer. Of course you hardcore fans should click here and order a copy. But for folks who only have one or two Peanuts books, and are just dangling their feet into it? This isn’t the one to start with. You’d probably be better off ordering yourself a book like Peanuts: A Golden Celebration, which covers basically the entire run of the strip and gives you a sense of what the different eras of Peanuts were like. That way, you can find your favorite era and pick up books with strips from that era.
But there is a special temptation here. If you know you want to start getting The Complete Peanuts, you can order the boxed set of Complete Peanuts Volume 1 and 2 at a substantial savings from even our low prices on buying them separately. A good, affordable, classy gift for Peanuts fans.
(And yes, the box is nice, but no, for you folks who have Volume 1 already, it’s probably not worth buying it all again, particularly since this is a box for 2 volumes of a 25 volume set. But if you really want it, buy the boxed set, then take the extra copy of Volume 1 and give it to someone dear!)