Review by Woodrow Phoenix
The Complete Peanuts 1963-1964 is the seventh volume of strips by Charles M Schulz reprinting every single daily and Sunday page for the entire run of Peanuts. This volume features over 150 strips that have not been seen since since their original appearance 50 years ago. Of special interest to fans is the introduction by Bill Melendez, director of all the Peanuts TV specials. Melendez discusses his long association with Schulz which started with a car commercial and led to them winning a Peabody Award for A Charlie Brown Christmas.
One of many fascinating bits of information about the Peanuts shows he directed is that he also voiced the characters of Snoopy and Woodstock on most of them! Melendez’s reminiscences could probably fill a book of their own, and it’s surprising nobody’s jumped on that yet. It’s definitely the most interesting and relevant introduction so far. It showcases lots of unknown strips including a sequence where Linus’ obsession with The Great Pumpkin ruins his chances of becoming class president, and Snoopy’s involvement with a group of fanatical birds. He chases them off his doghouse at one point, thinking “I don’t trust birds since I saw that movie!” In another previously-unprinted sequence, Snoopy gets ill and has to go to veterinarian hospital.
Schulz is improving year by year at this point, with new characters the 95472 siblings coming into the strip for a while, Snoopy’s doghouse undergoes its mysterious tardis-like internal expansion (apparently he owns a Van Gogh and Linus paints a mural on the ceiling) and there are classic strips almost weekly, such as the Sunday page for October 20, 1963. Sally says to Charlie Brown “Guess what?” After making absolutely sure there’s nobody in the house to hear her, they sneak behind the sofa and she whispers to a shocked Charlie Brown: “We prayed in school today!” The amazing thing about this page is how open to interpretation it is while still remaining funny. Atheists and fundamentalist Christians both think it’s talking to them. Schulz is a master, totally in command of his material and this is the best volume yet.