Review by Woodrow Phoenix
The second paperback volume of the Complete Peanuts series features a total redesign, which gives the new reprintings a much fresher and brighter look. The Complete Peanuts 1953-1954 covers the third and fourth full years of Charles M Schulz’s comic universe and features a main cast of nine: Charlie Brown, Shermy, Patty, Violet, Schroeder, Lucy, Linus, Pig Pen and Snoopy. Charlie Brown is still a wisecracking and brash protagonist but beginning to succumb to inner doubts more and more often. Shermy, Patty, and Violet have their own interests, but Schroeder is the most preoccupied, rarely seen without his piano. They form a rotating group of friends and sometimes foes depending on the situation. The most changed character in this volume is Lucy, who grows more confident and troublemaking as the “Fussbudget” begins to emerge. Her brother Linus is beginning to talk and defy her. The famous security blanket appears for the first time. Other debuts in this volume include Pig-Pen, whose defining characteristic is dirt (he is always covered in it), and Charlotte Braun, the opposite of Charlie Brown in one very obvious way: she talks EXTREMELY LOUD ALL THE TIME. She only has one gimmick, but Snoopy becomes more interesting as the book goes on. Many of the great strips shown here are silent slapstick or commentary moments, but as his personality begins to expand and he begins to think and talk, he gets funnier day by day. The volume opens with an introduction by newsreader Walter Cronkite and closes with a short biography of Schultz.
One surprising omission spoils this collection, however. In the hardcover 1953-1954 edition there was one incomplete strip: the Sunday page for 5 May, 1953. The top tier was missing, so series designer Seth drew a couple of placeholder panels and the book went to press with this fill-in strip. The missing Sunday page was eventually located and the complete original version published in the fourth volume, The Complete Peanuts 1957-1958. The publishers promised to replace the fill-in with the correct version when volume two was reprinted. Unfortunately, someone has forgotten to update the files, and this new paperback edition contains the same fill-in strip as the previous hardcover edition. There’s no acknowledgement of the mistake because evidently nobody caught it. So if you were thinking of purchasing this volume for the sake of completeness, you’ll have to wait until the next reprinting.
This softcover volume is also available in a slipcased edition along with volume one, The Complete Peanuts Paperback Edition 1950-1952.