Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Review; The Complete Peanuts Box Set 1971 - 1974

The problem with reviewing Peanuts is that I might as well be reviewing a mountain or the sky. It’s such a perfectly formed comic strip, a wonder in its own right, that’s it’s hard to imagine many people other than professors being fit enough to analyse it. I suppose all I can do is write about it from a personal view point.

What’s great about encountering Peanuts again is that I never realised what a big part of my comic reading life it had been when I was growing up. In the UK, Peanuts appeared in The Daily Mail, the only newspaper constant in our house. Everyday, I would go through the paper baffled by its criticism of things and people I liked, it’s obsession with the middle classes and Nigel Dempster’s celebrity free gossip column. Balancing all of this negativity out was Charles Schulz’s humanist and often profound comic strip. Now that Charles Schulz has died and Peanuts no longer appears, it’s not hard to envisage the paper going top heavy and disappearing into the fiery abyss. (Please go top heavy and disappear into the fiery abyss.)

What’s surprising about Peanuts is realising what an influence on my own comic work it has had. All those tiny movements and expressions of disbelieve at the reader. When I had to draw the same objects over and over again for There’s No Time Like The Present, I often cheated and did a bit of Photoshop duplication. I wonder how Schulz felt drawing Snoopy’s kennel hundreds of times for fifty years. In one panel in these books, Snoopy rests his head on the edge of Sally’s desk that she’s writing at. Such a simple image but so affecting and, I imagine, very satisfying to draw. That’s another one for me to steal for my repertoire.

I’ve been collecting the Fantagraphics box sets of Peanuts since they begun. For a start, they’re beautifully designed by Seth. Each book’s opening and closing is very affecting. It’s like walking around the abandoned house and surrounding area I grew up in. I just long to be back there again and, suddenly, thanks to the comic strips, I am.

These are a particularly strong pair of volumes collecting together every Peanuts strip from 1971 to 1974. There are lots of Peppermint Patty and Marcie stories, two of my favourite characters. In fact, the normally sympathetic Charley Brown comes across as almost unlikeable once or twice thanks to his indifference to Patty’s feelings for him. There is lots of Woodstock, who is a character I never liked as a kid but have grown fond of since re-encountering him. I mean, just look at the way Schulz draws him flying; Genius. Also, I always used to think that the boy on the back of his mother’s bike was Linus but it turns out that it’s his little brother, Rerun, born during these years.

Anyway, you want to know how much this box set cost me, don’t you? Well, there’s a bit of a story to that. A few months ago, many comic book blogs ran items on how Amazon dot com were offering many of Marvel’s Omnibus books for just $15 each. Being a greedy opportunist, I placed a big order for lots of books just as many other people did. Obviously, Amazon realised their mistake and cancelled them all but because I contacted them to complain, I was given a $25 credit. So I used the credit to order the Peanuts Box Set. Add the shipping and handling but take away the credit means I bought this box set for just $14.47 which translates to an amazing £9.79. This is embarrassing value for money and I would like to say for the record that The Complete Peanuts Box Set 1971 – 1974 is worth every cent of its retail price.

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