Sunday, November 28, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 298 (11/28) -- The Complete Peanuts: 1975-1976 by Charles M. Schulz

Peanuts wasn't in its first flowering in the mid-70s -- perhaps time and success had worked off some of the sharp edges, perhaps Charles Schulz's recent divorce had freed him from some of the deeper emotions that had fueled the strip through the '60s, perhaps it had just been twenty-five years of the same thing -- but it was still a smart, perceptive, deeply funny and humanistic strip. Schulz also stretched his continuities to lengths not typically seen in gag-a-day strips; there are several storylines in these two years that took up five or more weeks each.

The Complete Peanuts: 1975-1976 is the lucky thirteenth volume in Fantagraphics' reprinting of the entirely of Schulz's great strip; it's also the halfway point between 1950 and 2000. And the more interesting question about Peanuts circa 1975 isn't "How come it wasn't as good then as in 1952 or 1967", but instead "How come Peanuts was still this good after twenty-five years?" [1]

Because these two years are still excellent work, with those long sequences (Peppermint Patty's stint at an obedience school, Snoopy's attempted trip to Wimbledon, the intertwined story of Charlie Brown going to see a team Joe Shlabotnik is managing and Peppermint Patty's flying in the Powderpuff Derby on Snoopy's doghouse, and several others of two weeks or longer) bringing an almost adventure-strip scope and energy to Peanuts. Schulz doesn't rely on his old standards as much during this period, either: the Great Pumpkin is mentioned, but not much more, and the Joe This-and-that of a few years before has entirely disappeared. But he can still turn those standards into something new and exciting, as with this pointed strip from the fall of 1976 (click for a larger view)
The man who could still do a Sunday like that -- following a "formula" he'd created two decades before, on a strip-a-day schedule (plus all of the other ancillaries Peanuts was throwing off by the mid-70s) -- is still a creative force to be reckoned with. Yes, mid-70s Peanuts wasn't as good as the very best years of the strip's part -- but it was still one of the very best things (if not the best) on the comics page those years. And we shouldn't forget that.

[1] For one man's biased view at how good earlier years of Peanuts were, see my posts on the subject.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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