The Peanuts gang, an American treasure, is being immortalized in a series of hardcover books, The Complete Peanuts, that began in 2004. This year, its 25th volume will begin with an introduction written by the United States President, Barack Obama.
Peanuts, according to President Obama, was a staple for the American public.
“For decades, Peanuts was our own daily security blanket. That’s what makes Peanuts an American treasure.”
— Comicosity (@comicosity) March 8, 2016
This issue will cover strips from January 1, 1999 to February 13, 2000. The final strip is dated the day after Peanuts creator Charles Schulz died in his sleep.
An article in the New York Times tells how Gary Groth, the president and co-founder of Fantagraphics Books, had the innovation to begin the series. He approached Schulz back in 1997. At the time, Groth was interviewing the iconic cartoonist for an article in the Comics Journal, a trade magazine.
“Previously Peanuts had been collected only in sporadic volumes: thematically or randomly. Maybe someone should publish a uniform series. And that someone could be me.”
Schulz initially resisted the idea. Eventually, though, he gave his consent. After his death from colon cancer, Schulz’s wife, Jeannie, helped Groth cut through the red tape of getting permission to reprint the strips.
Groth said that despite the popularity of the Peanuts characters, it was bound to be a hard sell.
“There was no market for newspaper strip reprints. You were really targeting the hard-core comics and cartoon aficionados.”
He cited experiences with Pogo, Popeye, and others as examples. But when the first Peanuts collection came out, it was a huge hit. It couldn’t have happened at a better time.
“We’re an independent publisher: We have no backers, no investors. We have only the books we publish and our wits to fall back on. We found ourselves in periodic financial crises. We published the Peanuts right in the nick of time. It changed the fortunes of the company by allowing the company to continue to exist.”
The series has won a number of Eisner Awards, the comics’ version of an Oscar. And the sales have been very successful, with two volumes a year each selling around 15,000 to 20,000 copies. The number is repeated during the holiday season, when a specially boxed volume is released.
— GoComics (@gocomics) March 8, 2016
It was a hugely formidable project. As Fantagraphics describes, it is 50 years of art in 25 books: Two books per year for 12 1/2 years, and easily, “the most ambitious project in the history of the American comic strip.”
“Peanuts is a towering achievement in the history of comics. I can’t think of a better way to honor Schulz’s artistic legacy than to make his oeuvre available to the public in a beautifully designed format that reflects the integrity of the work itself.”
President Obama’s introduction joins other notables in past issues. They include Garrison Keillor, Jonathan Franzen, Diana Krall, John Waters, Billie Jean King, Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg, and Patton Oswalt. One of these narrators was CNN’s Jake Tapper, who put the publisher in touch with the White House. In what seems true to form for him, Groth decided to go for it.
“Obama was inevitably at the top of the list. Let’s just reach for the stars. All he can do is say no. It was a great day when we got the word that he agreed do it.”
As Slate points out, Obama’s foreword has not been released in its entirety. But it may echo his introduction to the Peanuts ABC Christmas Special.
Obama’s foreword will echo the sentiments of the masses.
“Like millions of Americans, I grew up with Peanuts. But I never outgrew it.”
The volume is scheduled for release in May.
[Image via catwalker/Shutterstock]