Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #149: The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 1 by Charles M. Schulz

Try as I might, I cannot think of what to say about the The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 1. There’s a great deal I want to say, but putting it all together is presenting me with quite the challenge. Having been a writer in some form for most of my life, I’m used to staring at a blinking cursor surrounded by white space, yet I cannot recall ever being this stumped. So unsure of how to proceed that my only recourse is to ramble on about that in the hopes that it’ll knock me out of my funk. I can’t say it’s working so far, as I still am unsure how to approach this review.

Do I spend it beating myself up over not “discovering” these comics sooner, Peanuts just one of many Sunday comic strips, the movies watched yet only vaguely recollected? Do I whine about this being the only volume available from my local libraries, my luck once more giving me the literary cockblock, much like when the University of Pittsburgh Book Center was missing The Drawing of the Three, yet had every other book in The Dark Tower series in stock? Do I marvel at how prolific Schulz was, The Complete Peanuts up to 19 volumes and counting, each one over 300 pages with three strips per page? Or maybe I remark on how comparatively adorable these early strips were, with Charlie Brown and company the cutest group of misfits you’re ever bound to come across, at least in the world of comic strips?

No, I think instead of all that I’ll talk about how broad these comics are. What I mean by that is Schulz doesn’t limit himself comedically; in The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 1, there is literally something for everyone. You have visual humor:

Metafictional humor:

Bad puns:

And a wealth of humor that resonates with us on a far more personal level, giving voice to thoughts and insecurities we tend to keep hidden, and finding the humor or truth within them:

But, of all the strips I liked enough to personally photograph for the sake of this review, the following strip was easily the most relatable for me. My apologies for the picture quality; I’m not sure what made that one so crappy compared to the rest, and I don’t have the book for a reshoot:

For my 22nd birthday, I threw myself a birthday party. Archer was set to premier on my birthday and I never got to watch my favorite shows with an audience, let alone have a proper birthday party with cake and everything, so I used that as an excuse to throw this shindig together. I knew no one was going to take the initiative to organize a birthday party for me of their own accord, like I had organized a surprise birthday party for my first real girlfriend, and that this was the only way I was guaranteed to be invited, so to speak.

My friends do occasionally invite me to things, but oftentimes I don’t feel invited. More like the guy they invited just because they didn’t want to exclude me. But, when it’s your own birthday party, you sort of have to be invited and, well, wanted. Unless your birthday party is snow-stormed out, no one able to make it through the elements to get to your party, which happened once when I was much younger. It’s the curse of having a birthday during the wintertime (January 19th). The positive is, since it usually falls on or around Martin Luther King day, I practically always got a day off for my birthday, sometimes even a three-day weekend. You have to take the good with the bad, I guess.

So I know all too well the fear this strip is getting at, of not being included, as well as many of the others Schulz shed a light on in the span of his career. He was the Pixar of the comic strip world; similar to Up, his strips could be heart-wrenching, like the opening montage, or heart-warming, like the closing photographs of Carl and Russell together. Continuing with that comparison, there are also flights of fancy akin to the dogfights with actual dogs in the planes. Snoopy, as the Red Baron, could easily have been the inspiration for that bit, for all we know. Pixar does at least owe him a debt of gratitude for showing that, just because your characters are children, that doesn’t mean you can’t get at very adult ideas and themes, all while still appealing to kids. Schulz, like Pixar, was ahead of his time, and I doubt anyone will ever take up his mantle.

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