“ Genre: Graphic Novels / Comics / Author: Charles M. Schultz „
Peanuts Treasury is a collection of over six hundred Charlie Brown cartoons by Charles M Schulz (not Schultz as it says above) and was first published in 1968. These were personal selections I believe and present a nice capsule history of some of the series - serving as both an overview and an introduction to the world of Charlie Brown and his friends. Peanuts ran to 17,897 strips in the end and had a readership of 355 million in 75 countries. At the heart of it all was Charlie Brown, a walking worry bead with anxieties on his anxieties. He's a loveable loser who always has a horrible feeling that everyone else is having a better time than he is, something most people have probably experienced at some point or other. Schulz used Charlie to express some of his own concerns and infused him with elements of his personality. Schulz was essentially Charlie when he was young and carried that sense of being an outsider and somewhat clumsy and hopeless at everything long into his adult life. Charlie of course though is a decent person always ready to help anyone and although he probably doesn't recognise it himself this quality does make him special. Schulz made Peanuts (he always hated that name by the way, it was foisted on him by the powers that be) a thinking person's cartoon and there is always more going on here than in your average four panel comic strip. I always like in particular how the children use famous quotes from history and have philosophical and theological conversations. "Napoleon talked about 2 O'clock in the morning courage," says an insomnia ridden and worried Charlie tucked up in his bed. "Scott Fitzgerald said in a real dark night of the soul it is always 3 O'clock in the morning. But when you have to get up at seven and you still haven't written the English theme that's due in then six-fifty-nine is the worst time of the day!"
Although the characters were supposed to be about eight-years-old they made sharp observations about philosophy, classical music, and politics like adults. The children express adult concerns - even the odd existential crisis - as they eat their pack lunches at school and ice-skate or whatever. This quality and approach was always very interesting I think. The more introspective panels are really nice when they arrive. I love it when Lucy stands all alone pondering the night sky as she has heard that poets say the secret to life is written in the stars. "The poets are liars!" The book begins with an introduction by the cartoonist Johnny Hart paying tribute to the creator of Charlie Brown and Snoopy. He reminds us just how influential and great Schulz was in the comic book field and talks about how he used his own life and childhood as inspiration for many of the characters. The most important thing about the characters was that we could always relate to them and felt like we might have met a version of some of them ourselves - or even been one of them. It's interesting to note how Snoopy must have gradually changed over the years. In more vintage strips he's slightly more like a real dog and somewhat more of a background character but he soon took on extra personality and panels. I always enjoy the panels of Snoopy sitting on top of his kennel (he prefers sleeping on top of it for some reason!) with thought bubbles projecting his random thoughts - musing on things like the wonder of clouds and how they have different personalities. They are awesome, funny, beautiful and sensitive of course when they decide to open and deluge him and his kennel. Snoopy lives in a world of his own and has a vivid imagination. He represents the fantasist and daydreamer in Schulz.
Snoopy will be on a bus with a pair of goggles on and the speech bubbles will tell us exactly what is going on in that fertile Beagle mind. "Here's the World War I flying ace riding across Northern France on a troop train. The sky above Normandy is very blue at this time of year..." I've often wondered if dogs ever think about anything and maybe the inspiration for Snoopy is Schulz wondering the same thing. When dogs seem to dreaming and make that faint whimpering noise while asleep what are they dreaming about? I always find the relationship between Charlie and Peppermint Patty interesting and enjoyable. Patty loves Charlie and is probably his biggest supporter but Charlie loves the little red-haired girl that neither he nor we ever get to see because he's far too shy to ever talk to her. Although they have different personalities there is always a touching almost unspoken connection between them that makes for some nice panels. When Patty asks him if he thinks she is attractive Charlie replies that she has a "Quiet beauty" - a very diplomatic and clever answer! A strength of the cartoons is that we can relate to them on many levels. We've all felt like Charlie at times, feeling the world is constantly out to thwart our grandiose plans, we've probably all known a tomboy like Patty, had a version of the little red-haired girl that we never spoke to, daydreamed through a rain splattered window, or looked up at the night sky and pondered the mysteries of the universe.
Patty's classroom panels are always wonderful and I love the way she stalls for time when asked to explain something by the teacher. It's interesting that none of the children are very academic at all, even Linus (who is reading The Brothers Karamazov here in his spare time!) gets stressed at the mere thought of examinations. Schulz seems to suggest that one must educate oneself to a certain degree and that real learning occurs outside the classroom too. Lucy is delightfully "crabby" in this collection and her best wisecracks as ever are saved for Charlie Brown. Her brash impatience is always in evidence. If Schroeder doesn't pay her any attention his beloved piano is liable to wind up in the dreaded kite eating tree and she will demand to know what the meaning of life is if the subject comes up as if she has a divine right to know! I like the way Snoopy always infuriates her by kissing her on the nose when she looks especially angry. As ever, Lucy whips the football away from Charlie just as he is about to kick it despite shaking his hand before and assuring him that she won't do it this time. "A handshake is not a binding agreement," is Lucy's explanation afterwards. The drawings are rudimentary but rife with personality and character. They have real charm. Schulz achieves a form of genius with just a few squiggles on a page - the eyebrows and mouth denoting different moods.
Peanuts Treasury is a nice purchase for any fans and has the advantage of being a hefty collection as well at over 200 pages. I would recommend this for any Charlie Brown & Snoopy fan. At the time of writing you can pick up a used copy for under a fiver.