I don’t remember a time when I did love Charles Schulz’s brilliant comic strip Peanuts, first encountering Charlie Brown and friends through their holiday TV specials – it isn’t Halloween until you’ve sat in that pumpkin patch with Linus anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Great Pumpkin, and you know it is Christmas when the gang starts singing around the once sad, lonely little tree. Once I learned to read, one of my favorite things was poring over the Sunday funnies. The simplicity of those three or four panels makes comic strips appealing to young readers. I’ve never lost that joy.
It wasn’t until I re-read some of my favorites, particularly Peanuts, that I realized that they aren’t written for children. As a child, I thought that the funny page was a section specifically for children but there are ideas and jokes in the comics that you only understand with age. So now, while I still read the daily comics, I also go back to the books of comic strip collections I’ve been collecting since childhood and get more out of them than ever. Peanuts, in particular, has more to offer as the reader experiences more of life.
The latest addition to my collection is The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 1: 1950-1952. These earliest strips are not the Peanuts I know and love but it is fascinating to watch the strip evolve from its somewhat meanspirited beginnings to something more recognizable as Schulz added characters and they came into their own. What is really great about this particular collection, is the biography and the lengthy interview with Schulz that appears at the end of the book. These sections are entertaining and informative about the great cartoonist and the art of comic strip creation.
While Peanuts is considered to be the gold standard of modern comics, here are a few of my other favorites:
Garfield by Jim Davis (mostly for nostalgic reasons)
For Better or For Worse by Lynn Johnston (the chronological story is like watching a soap opera but with better writing and a better sense of humor)
The Far Side by Gary Larson (that twisted sense of humor)
Baby Blues by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott (Hammie is a direct descendant of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes and if I had a daughter, I feel like she would be a lot like Zoe)
Arlo and Janis by Jimmy Johnson (it’s almost like the creators have cameras on my parents)
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (in my opinion this is the pinnacle of comic strip artistry and humor).