Peanuts: The Art of Charles Schulz

Reviewed: January 31, 2005
By: edited and designed by Chip Kidd
Publisher: Pantheon Books
unpaged, $44.95

Charles Schulz died almost five years ago now, on February 12, just over a month after announcing his retirement from nearly 50 years of producing "Peanuts", his daily cartoon strip. His retirement had been due to declining health, but no one really expected him to go that fast.

You've probably all noticed that the strip continues to run daily in the Star. There aren't many cartoon strips timeless enough to get away with that. Schulz and his family had no intention of handing the strip off to a new creative team, something which has happened to many another syndicate controlled property. From what I've read, the demand was so high that the syndicate simply agreed to pick a year which corresponded to 2000 and begin re-running material from that point.

The strips we read in January were originally published in 1969 according to the official website at "http://www.snoopy.com".

This book is not exactly a complete retrospective of Schulz's career. The first 50 pages or so (the pages aren't numbered, which is a flaw) deal with the man's life and how he moved towards what became his life's work. The selection of material is weighted towards the first couple of decades of the strip as far as I can tell, but I can't be certain because the cartoons aren't dated.

On the plus side, there are over 500 comic strips reproduced in this volume, and you can certainly get a good idea of the range of themes that "Peanuts" covered. It's also rather neat that much of the artwork seems to have been photgraphed from a massive scrapbook collection a lot like one I kept for a year or two when I was in high school. You can actually see the cellophane tape fastening them to the book.

On the negative side, there are pages and pages with up two 15 strips on a page, at a size so small it's hard to read them.

There are also reproductions of letters, photos of many of the toys and collectables that have been spin-offs from the strip, and some insightful commentary on various aspects of its development. Some of this comes from Schulz's writing, some if it from others. One of the real gems is the reproduction of the sketchbook containing the doodles which eventually matured into Schulz's book I Need All the Friends I Can Get.

On the whole this is an enjoyable look at one of the great cartoon strips of the 20th century. I've had hours of pleasure from the book.