Book Review: The Complete Peanuts 1987-1988: A Lovingly Curated Collection of Charles M. Schulz’ Brilliant Strips

For nearly 50 years, Charles M. Schulz captured the hearts and imaginations of readers with his beloved Peanuts characters. Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Sally, Snoopy, Woodstock, and countless others offered good humor and keen observations of the ever-changing world around them. Schulz created nearly 18,000 Peanuts strips during his lifetime, both as dailies and Sunday editions. Fantagraphics’ The Complete Peanuts 1987-1988, lovingly collects, in chronological order, every strip from those years and there is much good reading to be had.

The volume begins with an introduction from Doonesbury creator and Schulz aficionado Garry Trudeau before getting right to the strips. The months and years are labeled unobtrusively on the bottoms of the pages. Right away, we see the playful relationship between Snoopy and Woodstock when Woodstock gives Snoopy a calendar with birds on it and Snoopy returns the favor, giving Woodstock a calendar with beagles, only to find Woodstock has thrown it in his trash to test out his new garbage can. We also see some of the absurdist humor that was often a staple of Peanuts when Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Woodstock go around shoveling snow. Charlie Brown does the hard work, Snoopy the edges, and Woodstock the snow crumbs.

Sally’s materialism comes into play when she writes a letter to her grandparents saying how she was reading that grandparents like to spoil their grandchildren and that she is “ready when they are.” We also see the strange relationship between Peppermint Patty and Marcie when Peppermint Patty says that Marcie keeps her socks in alphabetical order, only to have Marcie tell her, “You’re weird, sir.”

Charlie Brown’s luck with girls continues to be nonexistent. His attempt to wink at the Little Red-Haired Girl finds him getting sent to the school nurse because the teacher thought something was wrong with his eye. Similarly, Linus strikes out with Lydia, who gives him different names every time he sees her. Their bad luck with the ladies doesn’t stop them from trying, however, which is something many school-aged boys can relate to.

We see Snoopy communicating with his brother Spike, who lives in Needles, CA, and we also see Snoopy leading his Beagle Scouts (birds who all look like Woodstock) through the sand traps of a golf course thinking they are the Sahara Desert and that the clubhouse is Fort Zinderneuf. Charlie Brown ends up having to rake every one of the sand traps. Snoopy also attempts to pen his autobiography and, in a humorous exchange, waits in the mailbox for Valentine’s Day cards while Charlie Brown waits outside the mailbox for the same reason. After Charlie Brown kicks Snoopy out, he himself waits in the mailbox, only to get stuck and get rained on. Charlie Brown’s luck is consistently horrid throughout the Peanuts series and it is no different in these strips. For instance, he has a run-in with the Kite-eating Tree, his baseball hat and glove hide in the closet to avoid having to endure another season with him, and he gets pelted with snowballs when attempting to get his baseball team to practice during the winter.

The book closes out with some winter-themed strips for December 1988. Peppermint Patty and Marcie perform in a Christmas play, with Marcie as a shepherd and Patty as a sheep. Patty can never remember her lines, however, saying, “Woof! Meow! Moo! Whatever!” and gets laughed off the stage. Woodstock and his fellow birds all attempt to play ice hockey on Snoopy’s frozen water dish and then fly away for the winter using a hot air balloon instead of their wings. It is this sort of silly, absurd humor in Peanuts that never fails to put a smile on readers’ faces. Why wouldn’t they take a hot air balloon, after all?

More than two decades after his death, Schulz remains sorely missed. The good-natured, often-absurd humor offers plenty for children to enjoy, while the worldly observations and pop culture references make the strips a joy for adults, as well. The Complete Peanuts: 1987-1988 is a must-read for fans of the characters or of the genre.

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