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Arts

An American treasure: 'The Complete Peanuts'

US President Barack Obama has outed himself as a fan of comic books as he honored Charlie Brown and Snoopy at the release of "The Complete Peanuts," the 25th and final edition of the iconic series.

"Like millions of Americans, I grew up with ‘Peanuts.' But I never outgrew it... For decades, ‘Peanuts' was our own daily security blanket. That's what makes 'Peanuts' an American treasure" - that's what US President Barack Obama wrote in the preface of the 25th volume of the "Complete Peanuts."

The highly popular drawings of Charles M. Schulz (1922-2000) appeared from 1950 to 2000 in numerous newspapers around the world. The 25th and final volume edition, titled "TheComplete Peanuts" was released in the US on May 10, 2016. It covers the period from January 1, 1999, until February 13, 2000 - the day after its creator died of colon cancer. In 2005, the series received two Eisner Awards, the comic book industry's equivalent of an Oscar.

Dragons and security blankets

Among the Peanuts gang, there are no adults. The protagonists Charlie Brown, Linus, Schroeder and co. are suburban American children, accompanied by their animal friends, beagle Snoopy and his best friend, the little bird Woodstock, with whom they go through all kinds of adventures. Through his drawings, Charles M. Schulz makes all the little unimportant details of daily life more visible while creating a literary level focusing on social and even poliltical problems. But Schulz doesn't really take sides. While presenting contemporary critical issues like the Vietnman War, or Rachel Carson and the American environmentalist movement, he lets his readers draw their own conclusions.

Whereas Linus, again and again, cannot do without his security blanket, Charlie Brown gets tangled up in a tree with his dragon, teased and laughed at by other children. Among them is Lucy who loves to oppress Charlie and her brother Linus, while being in love with Beethoven fan Schroeder who prefers playing Beethoven sonatas from morning to evening. Lucy tries her very best to persuade him to get married to her later on - but her efforts are not crowned with success.

Charlie's rather crazy beagle Snoopy cannot speak, but to make up for it, he can type. And he is able to communicate with the children, and the readers, by means of thought bubbles and dance movements. The dog's imagination is amazing. He dreams of bizarre incidents, like for example flying a British plane from the First World War. At times, his dog house serves as an airplane.

Addicted to Peanuts

All these funny little stories, combined with the very obvious character traits of the protagonists, have proven to be potentially addictive. The series "Complete Peanuts" has made the oeuvre of Charles M. Schulz accessible in chronological order as it has been publilshed since 2004 in two volumes per year by Independent-Comicverlag Fantagraphics , securing its economic future. The last edition includes all cartoons that were released from January 1999 until February 13, 2000. Just one day prior, on February 12, 2000, Schulz died from colon cancer at age 77. The much acclaimed member of the Cartoonist Hall of Fame was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award of the US Congress. And 2002 saw the opening of the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa.

Obama wasn't the only one to out himself as a Peanuts fan by writing in the foreword of the last edition of the iconic series. Also celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg, Alec Baldwin, Canadian jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall, as well as Garrison Keillor, Jonathan Franzen, John Waters, BillieJean King and Patton Oswalt joined the chorus. The German version was nonored by literature critic Denis Scheck and actor Oliver Rohrbeck. The Hamburg-based publishing house Carlsen-Verlag is however a bit late: The final edition published in the US on May 10, will be available in Germany in two years' time.

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