Review by Woodrow Phoenix
In 2004, Fantagraphics began systematically reprinting the entire run of Charles M. Schulz’s classic newspaper strip Peanuts in a series of 25 volumes, The Complete Peanuts, containing every single strip, dailies and Sundays, spanning the fifty years of its production from 1952 to 2000. The Sunday pages, printed consecutively alongside the dailies, are of course in black and white, but when originally printed in the Sunday newspapers, these strips were in colour.
Peanuts Every Sunday 1952-1955 is the first in a series of ten big books, each containing a half-decade’s worth of Peanuts Sunday strips from the same archival sources as The Complete Peanuts series. The line art has been carefully restored to the usual high standards, and then “re-mastered” to match the original published versions. The new colouring is by Joanne Bagge, based on original tear sheets from the Schulz archives. The slightly muted tones are supposed to duplicate the feel of the strips as originally printed on newsprint – no bright or glaring hues, but everything subtly greyed and yellowed for a mellow, golden appearance.
Peanuts changed hugely over the first few years of its life as Schulz introduced characters and developed his drawing from a thick-lined, almost geometric style, to very detailed, illustrative backgrounds and then to the looser, minimal style he eventually settled on. By only showing weekly snapshots through the Sunday pages, Peanuts Every Sunday: 1952-1955 presents this evolution very quickly, and we see the rapid development of the cast, as Charlie Brown evolves from a prankster and smart-aleck into a self-depreciating neurotic; Lucy becomes the bossy fussbudget and Snoopy begins his gradual process of anthropomorphisation.
The large size of these volumes, over twice as large as the Complete Peanuts books, really showcases the art beautifully, and fans of Peanuts will find these completely delightful to spend hours poring over. This first volume features an introduction by Jonathan Rosenblum, and a short biography of Schulz by Gary Groth.
This volume is also available bundled with the second Peanuts Every Sunday:1956–1960 in a big slipcased edition as the Peanuts Every Sunday: The 1950s Gift Box Set. There is no additional material, purely a packaging of two books into one box – but it’s a great way to get both books if you don’t have them, in one very nicely designed, very sturdy box.