Review by Woodrow Phoenix
The Complete Peanuts 1999-2000 is the final volume of 25 collecting nearly 18,000 newspaper comic strips written and drawn by Charles M. Schulz. His record-breaking run lasted an incredible fifty years, publishing a new strip every day, without ever missing a deadline from 1950 until 2000. Schulz announced his retirement in December, 1999 as a result of illness, and died at home just two months later on February 12, 2000. The last Peanuts strip which had been drawn many weeks earlier was published the very next day, on Sunday, February 13.
This book presents the last fourteen months of Peanuts daily and Sunday comics. As with the previous two volumes, there’s an underwhelming quality to a lot of the material collected, with situations that end blankly or don’t resolve themselves. Among the more complete storylines Peppermint Patty discovers that Marcie doesn’t actually know everything, Snoopy’s brothers Olaf and Andy still haven’t found their way to the desert where Spike is waiting for them, returning one last time to Snoopy’s doghouse, and Charlie Brown continues the dancing lessons he started in Volume 23. Most of the genuinely funny exchanges feature Rerun who takes up drawing and decides to become a ‘Basement’ cartoonist. “Underground,” his drawing partner corrects him. He also lives up to his nickname in one particularly inspired sequence when Lucy is called in for lunch just as Charlie Brown is about to kick the football she is holding. “Rerun can take my place,” she says, handing the ball over to her little brother. Charlie Brown is convinced his luck has changed: “This time I’ll do it! This time I’ll kick it.. Rerun will never pull it away.. He just wouldn’t..” But is his faith misplaced?
To round out this volume, a surprise inclusion is the complete run of single-panel cartoons that Charles Schulz produced weekly between June 22, 1947, and January 22, 1950, called Li’l Folks. This series was where Schulz began to develop the ideas and situations that would evolve into Peanuts, one week at a time. Both the looser drawing style and the gags show the influence of James Thurber, as in a panel where two boys sit on the kerb as a girl walks past with a proto-Snoopy pet dog: “Girls and dogs… undoubtedly two of mankind’s greatest mysteries!” It’s a joke he returns to several times (“A dog and a girl… man’s best friend and man’s biggest problem”), along with repeated gags about children performing Beethoven compositions very badly. Fans will be fascinated by the opportunity to finally get to see these legendary panels, never before reprinted.
There is one other coup for Fantagraphics in this volume: the introduction is written by none other than US President Barack Obama, which is a first in quite a few ways. He doesn’t deliver any particularly memorable observations (which would be impossible when 24 other people have introduced books before him), but his summing up the most successful newspaper strip of all time leaves nothing else to be said. “In his final strip, Charles Schulz wondered how he could ever forget the Peanuts gang,” he writes. “Thanks to this groundbreaking series of books… the rest of us never will.”