Silent Peanuts and more

Now shipping: the new, cheaper edition of A Peanuts Christmas, a collection of Christmas-themed strips. We were kind of underwhelmed by the original version of this, but the lower price certainly makes it more palatable.

Coming in February: a cute li’l miniature hardcover adaptation of It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, by the same folks who brought out the cute li’l editions of A Charlie Brown Christmas and the Great Pumpkin special.

For you music fans, 40 Years: A Charlie Brown Christmas features well-respected artists doing covers of tunes from that venerable special.

But the big story for today? It Goes Without Saying. That’s actually the title of the newly-released collection of dialogue-less Peanuts strips. Over the years, there have been many Peanuts collections focusing on individual characters or themes, but this is the first one that I can think of to focus on a storytelling method (arguably, a limitation), and it makes for an interesting mix. This dust-jacketless hardcover collection takes strips from the entire fifty year run, showing them chronologically, with all of the strips in black and white through about 90% of the book then shifting to color (on both dailies and Sundays) for the remainder.

There are a number of themes that Schulz repeatedly used for pantomime strips, such as the Linus/Snoopy battles for the blanket, or snowmen strips. Strips in which musical notation eminating from an instrument is treated as physical objects actually becomes so common in the second half of the book that it overwhelms other things at times. It might actually have made more aesthetic sense to have grouped the book by themes, with a chapter on the music strips, a chapter of Spike in the desert, and so forth, rather than the chronological presentation. That would have encouraged looking at the subtle and rich differences in similar strips, rather than seeing them as being repetitive.

I also wish the book had been laid out differently. The size, about 7.5 inches square, means that the strips are reproduced fairly small on the page, about six inches across apiece. A shorter, wider book would’ve allowed room to run the strips much larger, using up the ample dead space on the pages. That would’ve made a difference, because the silent strips demand that we invest ourselves in it visually to a far greater degree than the more chatty strips. Still, the book is worthwhile, although not optimal.

(I also think it’s kind of odd that they put Joe Cool on the cover. While Joe is, of course, a cool, silent type, he actually doesn’t appear within. And while the strips aren’t all totally textless – they have the “Z” of snoring, for example – the use of text on his shirt goes against the low-text nature of this volume.)

The book has an introduction by Jean Schulz, in which she explains (among other things) that her husband always saw the silent strips as having good potential for introducing Peanuts to foreign speakers and the pre-literate. So in a way, the book was Schulz’s idea (and not, as one person recently suspected, my idea.)

All in all, it’s an interesting book, and since you can now order this hardcover for under $11, it’s at a reasonable price. Because it sticks to one (fine) type of Peanuts strips and away from all the well-crafted dialogue-oriented strips, I wouldn’t suggest this as the best way to introduce an English reader to Peanuts, but it makes an interesting look for the serious Peanuts student, and it may be of interest to those fascinated by visual communication or by folks interested in what some consider “pure” comics. (Not me, though; I never thought of words as a violation of the comics form.)

Well, that’s the news and notes for now! More factoids and reactoids are doubtlessly to come!

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