There is good news today, boys and girls--Fantagraphics has announced that it will be publishing the complete Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz. Peanuts debuted on October 2, 1950 and soon became a mainstay of the comic section of most major newspapers for its 50-year run, which ended with Schulz's death in 2000. Fantagraphics will reprint the complete 50-year Peanuts cycle in chronological order, with each reprint volume containing two years worth of daily and Sunday strips. The first of the 25 volumes will come out in April 2004. Fantagraphics plans on publishing two volumes per year -- so the entire project will take 12 and one-half years. The Canadian artist Seth (Palooka-Ville) will be designing the volumes, which is a definite coup for Fantagraphics. Anyone familiar with Seth's work will agree that he is the perfect choice to design what should be the strip reprint event of the decade. Each 8' x 6.5' hardcover volume will have approximately 320 pages and a cover price of $28.95.
Schulz's classic comic strip will be reprinted in precise chronological order, with two pages of dailies (three to a page) followed by the Sunday strip on one page. At the request of the Schulz family, Fantagraphics is reprinting the Sunday pages in black-and-white (reportedly Schulz was never happy with the coloring of his work). All the strips will be reprinted including the early ones in which the characters and motifs of the comic were just beginning to take shape. Over 50% of the first volume will consist of material that has never been reprinted. Eric Reynolds of Fantagraphics told ICv2 that sifting through the early strips was like a form of archaeology as the reader uncovers the foundations of an edifice that is still in its formative stages. The strange image of a bipedal Snoopy, dressed in a business suit, appears in Volume One, and readers will shocked to see that it's not Lucy who pulls the football away from Charlie Brown the first time the strip's hapless hero attempts a place kick.
While newspaper comic strips are undoubtedly one of America's greatest pop culture creations, many great strips, in spite of their aesthetic and historical importance, can no longer command a large enough audience to warrant reprinting. Peanuts is a brilliant exception -- this is one strip reprint series that has the potential to reach a huge audience (by comic book or comic strip standards), and with any luck, demonstrate the medium's ability to create archetypal characters who rarely fail to delight.