12.23.2010

The 12 Days of Comics: 2010 - Day 11


“The Complete Peanuts” Collections (Fantagraphics)
Demographic: Comics Traditionalist Production-Junkie
Selected by: Ryan Claytor
Subsequent Interview by: Justin Giampaoli

Ryan: Even though we are restricting our “12 Days of Comics” list to comics published this year, I’m going to “take it back to the old-school” (as the hep-cats say) with a reprinted collection of “Peanuts” from Fantagraphics Books. These beautifully designed 300-some-odd-page books have been published twice a year since 2004. The publishing project’s aim is to reprint EVERY ONE of Charles Schulz’s 17,897 strips from his 50-year run on “Peanuts.” Each edition is lovingly wrapped with star-studded introductions and (more importantly) immaculate book design from the incomparable Seth, a masterful cartoonist in his own right and long-time “Peanuts” fan. At the end of each year, Fantagraphics packages the two “Peanuts” compilations published that year as a boxed set, which is littered with more Seth-designed “Peanuts”-inspired art.

Like almost every human alive today, I grew up reading “Peanuts” in those forgotten relics called newspapers. These collected editions have given me a chance to experience “Peanuts” in a new light; chronologically as they were printed. They’ve also allowed me to see the progression of character design, both in terms of aesthetics and personality. But in addition to experiencing some of these early strips for the first time and re-experiencing the later strips from a different perspective, those of us interested in comics history now have a product that is not quite so ephemeral as “Peanuts‘” initial printing. These hardback books are printed on gleaming-white, thick, paper stock which showcases the pen and ink line work gorgeously and is designed to stand the test of time. The boxed sets have been a perennial favorite gift of mine, and maybe they will be for the right person on your list too.

Justin: This is a great choice that just *feels* appropriate for the Holiday Season because of the luscious packaging. I own just the first 3 of these or so, and then fell out of the habit of purchasing them for some reason. This is a good reminder to potentially start up again. I wanted to hone in on something you touched on, which is the progression of the characters. Something I was unaware of previously, but loved about the first couple installments, was that a character named “Shermy” was intended to be the anchor of the four original cast members, but you can slowly see Charlie Brown steal the spotlight based on audience feedback. It’s also a treat to see the design of the characters morph over time as Schulz’s style settled, and then even as his health began to slip in later years and the line work became jittery. Please tell me you’ve been to the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa?!

Ryan: YES! On my first tour in the summer of 2007, I made a point to stop there as I drove down from the Pacific Northwest back to my (then) home in Southern California. It’s a pretty amazing place. I’ve even made a subsequent stop or two after that. Over the course of my half-a-dozen years of conventioneering, I’ve met a creator or two who work behind the scenes in the licensing offices. One trip, I even got a tour of these offices, saw Sparky’s ORIGINAL DRAWING ROOM, and MET JEAN SCHULZ BRIEFLY! It was pretty amazing. But, yes, even if you don’t get a behind the scenes tour, it’s still well worth the trip to Santa Rosa.

And I love the story of Schulz’s line work in later years. I’ve heard that Schulz was really distraught about this wavering line quality in his later years. I think Art Spiegelman talks about it in his “Comics 101” presentation. Anyhow, as a creator it’s easy to see how a development like that in one’s work could really shake the artist’s confidence. But it really became a signature of his artwork and celebrated by his worldwide audience. Just do a quick Google-search for “Charles Schulz wobbly line” and you’ll see a lot of reviewers fawning over its charming and inimitable quality.

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