March 15, 2004
The Complete Peanuts

As you may know, Fantagraphics is releasing the first entry in The Complete Peanuts, a 12.5-year, 25-volume oddyssey that will cover the entire body of Charles Schultz' work in the dailies. Mark Evanier has been all over this from the beginning (just click on his Search link and enter "Peanuts" to see his posts on the subject), and I think I need to get in on this. I used to have some Peanuts collections which for the most part haven't survived to this day, but there's a lot of stuff in these books that's not been seen since their original publication:

Scores of Peanuts compilations have been previously issued in 25 languages, but Schulz's earliest strips have never been reproduced in book form. Fantagraphics began discussing the compilation with Schulz in 1997.

"Schulz's initial reaction was: 'Who wants to read that crap?' " [Fantagraphics editor Eric] Reynolds says. "He was an incredibly modest guy who kept the early strips out of collections because they didn't conform with the strip after it hit its stride."

Amazing, huh? You'd think after the megamillions he made, he'd know that people would want just about anything from him that they hadn't seen before.

Even die-hard Peanuts fans may be surprised by the first book. Shermy, who eventually faded into obscurity, is the prime character. Charlie Brown appears in early strips. But like most of the beloved characters, he possesses little of his later existential angst. Chief antagonist Lucy is a toddler, not the mean-spirited, football-grabbing nemesis she evolved into. And Snoopy is just a small, affectionate puppy without his later fantasy life.

Pop quiz: What position did Shermy play on Charlie Brown's baseball team? Answer beneath the More link.

Shermy played first base. Linus was the second baseman and Snoopy was the shortstop, forming what Charlie Brown called "the most unique double-play combination in baseball". I can't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure Pigpen played third. Schroeder was the catcher, of course, and to the best of my knowledge the outfield consisted of Lucy, Violet, and Patty (not Peppermint Patty, the blonde Patty).

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 15, 2004 to Books | TrackBack

OK, this question is going to bother me for a while: every so often, Charlie Brown misses a game. So Linus pitches - right? Who plays second? Schlabotnik?

Posted by: Danil on March 15, 2004 1:21 PM

Damn, now you've got me wondering. To my knowledge, that was never addressed. However, I do recall Woodstock and some of his feathered friends filling in when the outfield went on strike, so who knows? Maybe they backed up Linus at second, too.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on March 15, 2004 2:08 PM

The baseball team's complement tended to drift as the cast's emphasis drifted. In latter days, for example, Rerun played outfield on occasion. Shermy wasn't seen after the 1950s, at least not to any great extent. Pigpen was also de-emphasized after the strip peaked in the late 1960s.

Posted by: Greg Morrow on March 15, 2004 4:32 PM