In all my years of reading Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts, since I was six-years-old, I never really thought about the landscape of Peanuts, taking it more for granted than anything else. Thanks to Seth, who designs the exquisite Complete Peanuts series published by Fantagraphics Books, I have developed a deep appreciation for the scenery that surrounds the Peanuts children as they go about their daily escapades. At the beginning of each Complete Peanuts volume, right before the start of two consecutive years of brilliant strips, and at the end, immediately following the strips and just before the entertaining index, are two-page spreads depicting various landscapes of the Peanuts‘ neighborhood.
At the beginning of Volume One Charlie Brown’s backyard is depicted, with Snoopy’s doghouse in one of its earliest incarnations. With the television antenna on the roof, Snoopy wasn’t sleeping on top of his home just yet.
At the end of Volume One is an illustration of a curving sidewalk, leading to the school bus stop, or the baseball field, or the pumpkin patch. In the background is a solitary house, possibly Violet’s, as her place appeared separate from the others in It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
Volume Two opens in a room in Schroeder’s house. Atop an unattended toy piano rests a bust of a scowling Beethoven, so imposing I could see it scaring small children away.
At the end of Volume Two, clouds hover over the Peanuts neighborhood, although not quite the variety in the classic strip where Linus imagined a map of British Honduras, a profile of sculptor Thomas Eakins, and the stoning of Stephen. After that observation, Charlie Brown dejectedly admitted to seeing a puffy white ducky and a horsie.
Volume Three opens with the brick wall where Charlie Brown and Linus would often plant their elbows and discuss trying events in their lives, ranging from Charlie Brown’s despair over another lost ball game to Linus reluctantly having to, again, give up his security blanket. At this location you could often hear Lucy howl with laughter after ridiculing Charlie Brown.
At the end of Volume Three is a field covered with snow. I can see Linus on his way here to construct a great fort and bombard everyone in sight with snowballs. Over the rise could be a frozen pond, where Snoopy skates effortlessly on two paws while Charlie Brown lies flat on his back, weighted down from wearing too much winter apparel.
The baseball field graces the beginning of Volume Four with an exaggeratingly shaped pitcher’s mound and scattered bats and gloves. So determined was Charlie Brown to win a game that often he would make a pitch and then chase after the fly ball, only to drop it every time. And Lucy made her best catches when she wasn’t paying attention.
At the end of Volume Four a pile of raked leaves is in a backyard, calmly anticipating Linus’ enthusiastic leap into it with a wet sucker.
The pumpkin patch appears at the beginning of Volume Five, where on Halloween night year after year Linus performed a diligent, almost religious vigil, waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear, only to have morning bring disappointment and the chills.
Volume Five ends with a sandlot on the outskirts of town, where a massive, detailed castle has been formed, most likely by Linus working off some depression.
Volume Six opens with Lucy’s psychiatric booth, placed casually by the sidewalk and fit for one 5-cent paying customer at a time.
Backyards with snowmen sentries are portrayed at the end of Volume Six. In the background is Snoopy’s doghouse. It was here that the imaginative beagle made friends with a snowman, only to watch it melt under the sun’s unforgiving rays. Visibly crushed, Snoopy still ate the carrot used as the snowman’s nose.
It’s hard to say where the yard at the beginning of Volume Seven is located. It could be a park or a backyard or a school playground. From one lone tree a single leaf drops, and I can visualize Snoopy watching it, Lucy studying it, and Linus pondering it. Only Charlie Brown would wonder if that same tree would eat his kite.
A field of trees is showcased at the end of Volume Seven, possibly a field of kite-eating trees. One lone kite dangles from one of the trees, certainly apprehended from the world’s most failed kite-flyer, Charlie Brown.
There are no children in these pictures. Only my imagination includes them, and I’m of two opposing feelings when contemplating these illustrations.
On a good day in my mind, these scenes are set at dusk, and the children have all gone home for the day: Charlie Brown and Sally to their never seen parents, and Snoopy to the top of his doghouse; Lucy and Linus to a television show selection debacle; Schroeder to play his toy piano; and Peppermint Patty and Marcie, who often visited their friends, to their neighborhood. They and others will return to fill the landscape tomorrow, except maybe Shermy, who, as the years went on — in our time, not the strip’s — seemed to never leave home.
Yet on the saddest, most melancholy of my days, the Peanuts characters have grown up and moved on, and this is all that’s left for me to see, abandoned playgrounds of childhood, hauntingly surreal, because I’ve never imagined it this way. I don’t believe Seth intended the scenes to be interpreted like this, and it’s not the kind of state I wish to remain in. So I listen for the strains of a toy piano performing Beethoven. I hear Charlie Brown wailing “Why? Why?” before forcing himself to sleep. Snoopy howls at the stars. I turn back to the beginning of the Peanuts volume at hand and begin to reread the strips, settling in comfortably, once again happily immersed in a fully realized world of adult-like children drawn in indelible India ink that will forever exude so much wondrous color.