Saturday, July 16, 2016

What I'm Reading: Roundup

Complete Peanuts, 1985-86 The Complete Peanuts is a noble 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 nearly finished, having reached the late 1990s, but I'm a little behind and have only reached 1985-86. I've reviewed four previous volumes of the Complete Peanuts: the 1977-78 volume herethe 1979-80 volume here, the 1981-82 volume here, and the 1983-84 volume here.

Definitely starting to lose its sharpness here. Lots and lots of strips with Spike in the desert or Snoopy leading the Beagle Scouts on hikes. My personal favorite strip is up above. Don't worry, Lucy, we all feel the same way! (Notice also the first panel, where we get a rarely-seen three-quarters view of the classroom.)

Another highlight was the annual visit to summer camp, which in 1986 took the gang to a wilderness survival camp where they had to dress in camouflage and learn to eat grass. I also liked a week-long arc from 1985 where Peppermint Patty and Marcie decide they'll be "mallies," hanging around the mall and looking fashionable. Schulz would have been 63 and 64 at the times these strips were published, but he remained admirably up to date on societal trends. Yet, though still capable of quality, Peanuts was clearly in its long, slow decline by this point.

Conan the Slayer New Conan series from the Dark Horse comics company. I wrote about a previous Conan series Dark Horse put out in 2012, Conan the Avenger, here. Conan's one of those characters I don't have to follow all the time, but I do like to check in on him every once in a while. The first issue of this new series was one of the most brutal Conan comics I've ever read. I mean, he was really in a bad mood. I like it, and I think I'll stick with this new one for a while.

Hip Hop Family Tree A comic series written, drawn, inked, and colored by Ed Piskor, and a real work of love. Follows the history of hip hip and rap music from its early days in the mid-1970s. The latest issue, #11, has reached the mid-1980s and the second-generation of rap artists, the first ones to gain nation-wide attention: Run DMC, LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys.

Oddly, these issues are expanded versions of comics that have already appeared in hardcover form (usually the floppies appear first, only to be collected later). At the end of a couple of issues, Piskor has included all his sources for the information and visuals. He's really done an astounding amount of work to get everything just right--the faces, the cityscapes, the clothes. One thing I like is that he also imitates the look of comics from the time period--the art and page layout styles, the washed-out colors created by the cheaper paper and printing processes of the time.

I'm not sure this would be of much interest to somebody who didn't like hip hop, yet it's so well-done I feel like anybody would like it if they gave it a chance. Let's say it would help to be a rap fan, but only a low threshold of fandom is necessary to enjoy it.

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