What I’m Reading: Complete Peanuts, 1979-80

So this is the second volume of the Complete Peanuts I’ve read in the past few months.  The Complete Peanuts is a project to publish every strip of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, from its inception in 1951 to its final panel in 2000.  It’s a gargantuan undertaking, and a new volume covering two years is issued every six months.  The project is now up to the late 1980s, but I’m a little behind and have only reached 1979-80.  (See here for my review of the 1977-78 volume.)

This volume introduces only one new character, Henrietta, a girl bird who joins Snoopy’s Beagle Scout troop for their hikes.  She figures prominently in the book’s longest sequence, a six-week (!) arc of strips when she and another of the birds get tired of camping with Snoopy one night and go into town, where they get into a fight with some bluejays. Charlie Brown gets a call to come bail Henrietta out of jail.  Walking her back to rejoin the Beagle Scout troop, he gets lost in the woods and Peppermint Patty and Marcie have to go searching for them.  Of course they all manage to find each other, with Snoopy, who in story time has been gone from home just two or three days, only vaguely remembering “that round-headed kid” when he encounters Charlie Brown.

Another lengthy sequence is an unusually somber arc where Charlie Brown feels woozy and checks himself into the emergency room.  The problem may be that he’s been hit on the head with too many fly balls.  During his stay in the hospital, the other characters react to his illness.  Sally moves her stuff into his room, Peppermint Patty and Marcie wait on a bench outside the hospital, and Lucy uncharacteristically grieves that he might not come back.  As Schroeder points out to her, “It’s interesting that you should cry over him when you’re the one who always treated him so mean.”  So distraught is she, that she promises when he gets out, she’ll hold the football and really, truly let him kick it.  The punchline is that when he does get out and she holds the football, he misses entirely and kicks her in the hand, requiring her to get a cast.

Not as solid as the 1977-78 volume, but still pretty good.  Schulz isn’t quite sure what to do with his new character, Eudora (introduced in 1978), and some of the running gags, especially with Peppermint Patty’s poor grades, are getting pretty threadbare.  Still, the two sequences described here, and a couple other long-ish ones, are quite entertaining.  As with the past few volumes, I have to ask myself after this one whether I’ll get the next volume.  The answer this time is yes–I bought this and the 1981-82 volume as a set to save money.  After that, we’ll see.  The strip has started its slow decline–it’s still good at this point, but each new year of strips brings less delight than the last.

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