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The Complete Peanuts, 1983-1984
posted July 5, 2012
Charles M. Schulz, Leonard Maltin (Introduction)
Fantagraphics, hardcover, 320 pages, 2012, $28.99
When a volume in a series like The Complete Peanuts
offers what this one does -- comfortable, confident cartooning but relatively little material that matches the strip's extended glory period or has the kind of forgotten sideways jaunts that a series collection foists back into memory -- you really notice the sturdier qualities of the overall editorial approach. Here we get a solid introduction from animation historian and television entertainment reporter Leonard Maltin, the always-divine index, a lovely Franklin-centric cover and those Seth-designed endpapers that make you take a sharp intake of breath each time you realize how potent and pretty Schulz's drawn world could be. I hope it's not unkind to think that the work here isn't of the same potency of the strip's best periods; comparing anyone to the best Schulz moments is to employ an impossibly brutal standard. Still, I think there a slackness to two of the extended narratives in this volume -- Marcie's crush on Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty's sleep disorder -- that you don't see in the most acclaimed sequences. Both stories lack the confident can-you-top-this energy of Schulz's best moments. Again: no tougher room.
If there's a star character in this volume, it's Sally Brown, whose belligerent confrontation of the kind of fecklessness that defeats her brother every time out provides reliable fun. She's a nice chaser character. Unlike the top half-dozen or so members of the Peanuts
gang, Sally would be hard to take as a lead in her own strip. But when Sally is cut into the more benevolent sequences, her stories provide an edge that the strip sorely requires. The great advantage to these later books, of course, is that those of us with a lifelong relationship with the strip are much less likely to have read them in collected form than some of the earlier, near-omnipresent material. Schulz is still working the four-panel sequences here in a way that if the strip were two years in everyone would have been freaking out about the new guy.