Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Volume four of this definitive collection of The Complete Peanuts features every single daily and Sunday Peanuts strip produced by Charles M. Schulz between 1957 and 1958. Many of the strips in this volume had not been seen in sixty years, until they were reprinted in 2005. Snoopy the beagle is the cover star, and his ascendance to greatness continues. He tries to sleep on top of his doghouse roof, but hasn’t got the hang of it yet; he plays the violin; he imitates bears, penguins and vultures – especially vultures; he cools his head in his dog dish, and tries quite violently to separate Linus from his blanket. The young Linus’ wordpower increases in eloquence mainly to defend himself against Snoopy and Lucy, but still he suffers through two whole weeks of blanketlessness.
Charlie Brown’s long slide into loserville accelerates as he loses more kites, and fails so spectacularly at baseball that his entire team turns against him. When they finally win a game, it’s not because of him at all. Schulz can make his frustration and sadness surprisingly funny, but you almost feel bad for laughing, as in this strip from 4 September, 1957 where Charlie Brown and Linus gaze at the night sky. “Doesn’t looking at all these stars make you feel sort of insignificant, Charlie Brown?” asks Linus. “No, I’m so insignificant already it doesn’t bother me,” he replies.
This volume includes an introduction by author Jonathan Frantzen, and the usual short biography of Schulz at the end. It also features the original version of an incomplete strip from volume two. The top tier of the Sunday page for 5 May, 1953 was missing, so series designer Seth drew a couple of placeholder panels and the book went to press with a fill-in top tier substituted. But somebody out there provided a copy of the complete Sunday page and it is now republished here, looking great.