A couple of beautiful new coffee-table books arrived here at COMICS 101 HQ in recent weeks, both certainly worth a closer look at, especially with Christmas so close and many of you undoubtedly searching for some gifts for the nerdy among your shopping list.
First up is Celebrating Snoopy, a gorgeous slipcased deluxe hardcover from Andrews McMeel Publishing marking the five decades of Snoopy’s appearances in Charles Schulz’ beloved daily newspaper comic strip Peanuts.
Curating many of the best and most memorable Snoopycentric moments from the strip, and organizing them by decade, allows you to really appreciate how Charlie Brown’s beagle made the journey from being a strictly doglike dog to a completely anthropomorphized character prone to walking around upright and capable of just about anything.
My two favorite Snoopy periods are well represented here: his early ‘50s debut years where he is still very much “just a dog” and is illustrated in Schulz’s rather sparse, still developing style; and his mid-‘70s period, where he frequently shifts from persona to persona, from Joe Cool to the World War I Flying Ace, and even as Snoopy lives a wildly extravagant lifestyle inside his doghouse, which is described as having not just a rumpus room and an indoor pool, but a Van Gogh.
As much as I love the full Fantagraphics collection of Peanuts hardcovers, it’s admittedly an unwieldy set of books to have in your home library. If you’re looking for a single volume to encapsulate much of the humor, whimsy and emotion of Schulz’s work, Celebrating Snoopy is the perfect way to go.
Also in bookstores now is The Art of Harley Quinn from Insight Editions, by noted comics historian Andrew Farago, a gigantic hardcover artbook tracking the complete history of one of the most beloved of Batman’s rogues’ gallery, through all of her animated and comics appearances, and accompanied by scores of pieces of art from all of Harley’s 26 years’ of existence.
The text here is excellent, the kind of quality work you can always expect from Farago, the curator of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco – Farago knows his stuff and communicates it in a smart and engaging way. But the real draw here is the artwork, pages and pages of it from all of the artists who have been instrumental in Harley’s popularity, folks like her co-creator Bruce Timm, Mike Parobeck, Rick Burchett, Terry Dodson, Joe Quinones and Harley’s most recent resident artist, Amanda Conner.
Though I wasn’t a fan of the initial New 52 redesign for Harley, always preferring the classic look of the Paul Dini/Bruce Timm original, Amanda Conner’s take on the character has completely won me over, and the brand-new cover for this book by Conner, at least for me, was worth the price of admission all by itself.
Both books highly recommended.