cover image The Complete Peanuts: 1957–1958

The Complete Peanuts: 1957–1958

Charles M. Schulz, . . Fantagraphics, $28.95 (344pp) ISBN 978-1-56097-686-8

In this fourth volume of Fantagraphics' wildly successful chronological reprinting of Peanuts , the comic strip begins to slide into its most popular form. In these pages, Snoopy is becoming most Snoopy-like, with a wondrously funny vulture sequence; Charlie Brown is hapless and often hopeless while his war with Lucy moves into high gear, and of course Pig-Pen, Patty, and Schroeder are all kicking around. Schulz evolved his characters from week to week, letting their idiosyncratic musings, pratfalls and jokes accumulate. It's possible to flip back a few dozen pages and understand Charlie Brown's emotional evolution. The humanity of both the characters and their creator is the subject of Jonathan Franzen's insightful introduction—certainly the best yet published in the series. Deftly putting to rest the rather trendy theory that Schulz's inner torment gave vent to the psychological dramas in Peanuts , Franzen convincingly makes the case that Schulz was able to accomplish what he did because of a surfeit of love and family. After one has read these pages, full of well-rounded, humane characters, Franzen's theory seems just about right: to create characters so essential and so loveable, Schulz could only have emerged from just such a milieu. (Oct.)