Review: Charlie and Friends

New releases

There is nothing wrong with a cheaply produced paperback of public domain material. It can provice a service. For some material it’s the only way that product will be available. In the case of Charlie and Friends in Tip Top Comics – The Full Series Reader Collection, however, it’s the equivalent of offering a DVD-R with a copy of a movie taken off of an old video tape when another publisher has a restored print out on Blu-Ray for a lower price.

This book takes advantage of the apparent public domain status of the non-Schulz Peanuts stories that ran in Dell’s Tip Top Comics, offering them up in an expensive color collection and a cheaper black-and-white one. I bought myself a black-and-white copy for evaluation purposes.

It’s a 128 page paperback. The color version sells for $24.99, the black-and-white for $11.99. Meanwhile, the Peanuts Dell Archive, a licensed title fro Kaboom, has a list price of $24.99, is in color, and runs about 350 pages in hardcover. Does Charlie and Friends have anything that the PDA doesn’t? Yes, it’s got the covers from the Tip Top issues, and it has one one-page story that the PDA missed. On the other hand, the PDA has one one-pager that C&F missed… plus two pages that C&F was missing from one story… plus the Peanuts stories from two issues of Tip-Top that C&F skipped over. And then, on top of the Tip-Top material, PDA has stories from Nancy comics and Fritzi Ritz comics.

So, did they do a good job of presenting the material? Not particularly. The pages are each a picture of a comics page printed on a larger page, and you can see things like the staples or shadows at the edge of the pages where it was not flat when being photographed or scanned. The black-and-white version is clearly just a basic color scan, then saved as a grayscale image… which gives you weak grayish blacks, gray whites, and evenly grayed out color that lacks contrast. It’s hard to look at sometimes.

There are simple things one can do with a color scan to give a clearer, more contrast-full image. (I do them all the time.) If publishers Gwandanaland are going to continue doing bulk comics, I hope they learn how to do that. Having heard from someone who has the color edition in hand, they’re not handling the color as well as PDA does. Which is understandable, as PDA was a focused effort as a stand-out licensed item, so at least a bit of extra time and care was likely put in.

So no, I do not recommend this book; it’s better than not having these stories, but you have a better option for doing so. (Now if Kaboom doesn’t get to reprinting the rest of the Dell/Gold Key stories and Gwandanaland does, that would be another matter.)

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