Review by Woodrow Phoenix
The Artist’s Editions series of books from IDW present exact reproductions of original comic art pages. Each sheet of bristol board, watercolour paper or other large page of pencilled and inked drawings is photographically scanned in colour at very high resolution and reproduced actual size, on heavyweight paper. This produces the sensation of looking at original drawings exactly as created by the artist with all the pencil marks, corrections and other artefacts visible. These handmade traces are usually hidden when printed at reduced size, so it’s a very different experience to look at comics art in its raw state.
Given this mission of presenting an exact facsimile, the Charles Schulz’s Peanuts: Artist’s Edition falls at the very first hurdle. Schulz drew his art at enormously large size to make it look as crisp as possible when reproduced. This book measures 483mm x 254mm, but that wasn’t large enough to show his original art pages same size, and his drawings have been shrunk to fit these pages. One might justifiably wonder what the point of this book is. As if that bizarre decision isn’t disappointing enough, the art shown here is just from the first ten years of the strip, the majority from just one year, 1954. So you can trace how his style evolved over the first few years but there is no opportunity to view many of his best-known pieces. These early strips are perfectly nice to look at, but it’s frustrating that the selection ends before the classic mid-sixties period which fans would most want to see. There are almost forty years of drawings not represented. Selections from the whole run would have made this an absolutely essential item, but this collection falls far short of that. For the high price it’s an expensive, flawed compromise of a book.
If you are curious about what Schulz’s original art looked like and want to see some varied examples of his pencils, sketches and inked pages there’s Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts by Chip Kidd. This beautifully produced book reproduces many examples of his original art including lots of previously unpublished work, photographed by Geoff Spear so as to capture all the ink impressions, pencil marks and paper grain. It also features all kinds of personal memorabilia from the archives of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, California.