Back in 2004, I published a collection of Schulz’s other syndicated feature, “It’s Only a Game”, a fairly short-lived series of single-panel cartoons from the late 1950s. None of these panels had ever appeared in a proper book before; now they all had. Done. Nothing to worry about any longer. Simple, eh? Oh, it was a black-and-white collection, because all About Comics publications were; the costs of publishing in color were just forbidding. It takes thousands of dollars more to print that first copy in color.
Only now it’s 2013, and I’m finally running out of copies of that original print run (yes, I always erred to printing too many of things.) It’s no longer selling rapidly enough to justify a new traditional print run… but ah, print on demand! And while I’m doing that… I might as well do color.
Now that’s easier said than done. I didn’t actually have the best source material for everything. What I had was:
- About a dozen clipped copies from 1950s newspapers. These include:
- Copies that were printed in the standard format and colored with the standard coloring.
- Copies where the panels were rearranged and sometimes trimmed by the publishing paper, apparently recolored by the paper
- Imperfectly-done scans of color printed copies.
- Scans from papers that had published the panels, rearranged and possibly trimmed, in black-and-white.
- Scan of an original production stat.
- Black and white copies from microfilm, which was made by photographing color papers.
So, I went ahead and did the best I could, with what I had, and with my limited talents. It faced a lot of challenges – even where I had physical copies, they were often saddled with the problems of old color newsprint: colors that were out of register, yellowing, staining, and rips. For the old color scans, there was a strong problem of bleed through: seeing the image from the other side of the page. This arises from a mix of bleeding ink and with imperfect scanning causing light to go through the paper and bounce back. And the color was printed using those tiny dots of colors, that, when scanned and reprinted, create odd distortions called moire patterns, so I used a variety of techniques to replace the little dots with solid colors. For things we had only in black and white, I did my best to color them in the style of the standard coloring. For versions which used rearranged panels, I did my best to rebuild the strip into its original Sunday format.
I’m not an expert at doing these things, but the end result I am pretty happy with.
Now, the black-and-white version cost $14.95. Now, you’ve got to allow for 9 years of inflation, and for the higher costs of color printing. So as you might imagine, the price of this new color edition is… $14.95.
The trick is that it’s a lot fewer pages. Where the previous edition broke each panel into its own page, this edition runs the strip in its Sunday format, three full-size cartoons and one mini-cartoon, on each page.
And there’s one other odd thing I’ve done. This book doesn’t open left-to-right like a standard book. Instead, it opens bottom to top, flipping open like a calendar. Why? Simple: the print-on-demand system we’re using to print this on has a size limit of 8.5 inches wide, 11 inches high. If I print in the traditional rotation, I’d have to fit the full Sunday in 7.875 inches. Rotate the strip, and I can make it a full third wider, 10.5 inches. Making it a third wider also means making it a third taller, to maintain ratio… which means that by doing it sideways, we get more than 3/4s more square inches to display the strips.
And yes, this new edition does include most (not quite all) of the commentary by Jim Sasseville, the artist who collaborated with Schulz (generally doing finished drawing from Schulz’s sketches) for most of the feature’s run.
So if you consider yourself a Schulz fan and don’t already have the black-and-white collection of “It’s Only a Game”, you want this book. If you have the black-and-white edition, I guess it’s a trickier decision.