by Charles M. Schulz and Jim Sasseville
About Comics, 2004
Paperback, 6.5″ x 5.5″, 240 pages, $14.95
Considering the never-ending reprinting of Schulz’s Peanuts strip, it’s surprising that it took over 40 years for someone to run with the idea of reprinting Sparky’s other syndicated feature, the Sunday panel feature It’s Only a Game.Granted, the feature was a flop in newspapers, and Schulz farmed out a lot of the work on it to collaborator Jim Sasseville, but still, we’re still talking Schulz here.
I’ve seen a partial run of these Sunday cartoons before, and I confess I wasn’t all that crazy about them. The first and strongest reaction is that it seems weird for Schulz to be drawing adults. I mean Really Weird. Many of his adult characters look like grown-up, paunchy, worse-for-wear versions of Linus and Charlie Brown. It’s a melancholy reminder of our own lost youth, even if our youth was as angst-ridden as Schulz’s characters.
The cartoons, as the title implies, are about games — everything from football and baseball to cards, chess and horseshoes. Each Sunday featured one cartoon about bridge (a Schulz obsession) and two additional cartoons on other subjects. Schulz puts his own personal spin on these well-mined subjects resulting in worn gags spun in slightly different and interesting directions.
Jim Sasseville, who assisted Schulz on It’s Only a Game, provides interesting and informative commentary on individual cartoons, his relationship with Sparky and the experience of working on the ultimately unsuccessful feature.
This book reprints the entire run of the newspaper strip with one panel per book page. Even the dingbats from the feature’s title header are dutifully included. It’s a small format book but the panels are printed at a nice large size, probably as least as big if not even slightly larger than they originally appeared in newspapers. The reproduction quality varies; obviously some of the panels are scanned from tearsheets and the reduction of colors to greyscale is sometimes not all that attractively handled. However, the majority of the cartoons seem to be from old black and white proofs (or more deftly restored) because they are gorgeously crisp.