What I’m Reading: Charles M. Schulz – The Complete Peanuts 1950-1952

Everybody, and I do mean everybody, loves Peanuts (and if there really should be a some poor souls out there who do not, they should be pitied and are anyway far too few to be in any way relevant).

It really is quite astonishing when you think about it – kids and grown-ups, men and women, the uneducated and the academics – no matter what people’s age, gender, level of education, no matter whether they love reading or hate it, whether they love comics or despise them – they all, almost without exception love Peanuts. Many better minds than I have attempted to explore what lies at the heart of that enduring popularity, with varying degrees of success, so I’m not even going to attempt that here; I just want to marvel for a moment at just how awesome this is. I mean, everybody loves Peanuts. Just think about it – you could stand up from your computer now, walk out on the street and address the first stranger you come across with “Aren’t Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts just great?” True, he or she would probably look at you somewhat strangely but they’d know what you’re talking about, and – assuming you could get them to overcome their suspicions at this weird stranger – will almost certainly agree with you, too. And this is true for almost every country, and over sixty years after the first Peanuts strip was published. Is there any other work of art, literary or graphical, high-brow or low-brow, of which one could say that? Mickey Mouse is probably as popular, but hardly as well liked, Alice in Wonderland is probably as  well-beloved but hardly as well-known.

Peanuts, then, quite obviously strikes a chord, and maybe the most astonishing as well as the most enduring thing about the comic is that it shows that there is such a chord to be struck, that across all differences in age, gender and cultural background there is something so essentially human in all of us that we all love the adventures of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy and their friends. But then, this might just be an indication of how far the worldwide Americanization of everything already has progressed…

The Complete Peanuts 1950-1952 is the first instalment in what is going to be a complete collection of all Peanuts daily and Sunday strips. I am struggling on how to read  this – I am thinking that the best way to go about it would be to read them like they were published, one strip a day – but seeing as the comic was running for fifty years this is not an option, as at that rate, I’m not likely to live long enough to read the final volume. I can’t really see myself reading a volume in one sitting either, so I went for reading a few weeks of strips whenever I felt like it – and ended up taking over two years to finish the volume. This means I’ll have to think of another way to tackle the remaining volumes, and it means also that I after starting it that long ago, don’t really have any substantial to say on this particular volume.

The early strips are really quite different, and the main interest of this first volume is really to see how the comic settles into its groove, how the familiar characters pop up one after the other and how the characters gradually assume their familiar look, and how the strips slowly begin to take on that particular world-wise melancholy that is maybe the series main characteristic. This is a beautifully made book, and apart from the strips it contains a lengthy and very interesting interview with Charles M. Schulz – who, I was rather surprised to find out, did not like the title Peanuts at all because he did not think it was appropriate for his “dignified” comic. I find his emphasis on a category like dignity quite intriguing, and it might be worthwhile to keep that in mind while reading the series. I might even return to the subject in my post on the next volume – which hopefully it won’t take me another two years to read.


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