The phrase “Good ol’ Charlie Brown” instantly brings to mind the boy who always fails to kick the football, yet – forever hopeful – tries and tries again.
The latest (13th) volume of Fantagraphics Books The Complete Peanuts: 1975 to 1976 is a delightful visit with that “round headed kid” and his friends. By this time (1975), Charles Schulz has firmly established his cast of characters to include Peppermint Patty, Marcie, and Snoopy’s pal Woodstock. In this volume we are also introduced to some of the beagle’s family, including his brother, Spike, and his sister, Belle, and her son.
The cartoons Schulz produced in 1975 and 1976 feature more lighthearted and sillier touches than usual; we are even privy to the thoughts of inanimate objects such as the school building and the pitcher’s mound. Some highlights include Charlie Brown meeting his idol, Joe Shlabotnik; sister Sally’s trials in the classroom; Peppermint Patty enrolling in a private school (not knowing it’s a dog obedience school); and the gang’s continuing efforts to play a baseball game.
Many of Schulz’s comic strips have been collected in other books, but Fantagraphics is publishing them all sequentially from the first from 1950 to the last from 2000. There will be 25 volumes in total. The book design by illustrator Seth utilizes limited color for a bold, eye-catching appearance.
The volumes are compact (about 6-3/4 inches high by 8-1/2 inches wide) but all the strips are a nice size for easy reading. The reproduction is excellent with nice crisp blacks. Each book contains two years of daily and Sunday strips (all in black and white). My favorite feature is the index, which allows you to look up any strip by subject – such as “football” – and turn right to that page.
Fantagraphics has won numerous awards for this series and they deserve them all for creating such a wonderful archive of this American treasure. This series is a must have for any “Peanuts” fan and can be enjoyed by the whole family. I wouldn’t miss a volume.
Rich Clabaugh is a staff artist at the Monitor.