Only What's Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts
by Chip Kidd (author) and Geoff Spear (photographer)
Harry N. Abrams
2015, 304 pages, 12 x 9 x 1 inches
Here’s a quick list of everything to be found in Chip Kidd's Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and Peanuts:
Intro by Jeff Kinney
Foreword by Jean Schulz
“Behind the Door” by Karen Johnson (Director of the Schulz Museum in California)
Preface by Chip Kidd
Brief biography of Sparky Schulz, including pictures of his first published drawing in Ripley’s Believe it or Not
Photos & drawings of and from Schulz’s WWII Sketchbook
Early cartoons Schulz drew for the Saturday Evening Post
Schulz’s first printed comic strips (1947)
Li’l Folks strips
Process of drawing Peanuts
Rare, unfinished strips
Subscriber promotions for newspaper editors
Ads for Peanuts coloring books, viewmaster collections, color by numbers kits, candy bars, etc.
Pictures of the Peanuts board game
Covers from the first collections
Advertisements featuring Peanuts characters
Correspondence with Harriet Glickman resulting in the creation of Franklin
Unpublished watercolors & other art
Intros and backstories for other characters (Spike, Woodstock)
"The Last Strip" by Paige Braddock (Creative Director at the Schulz Studio in California)
There is, in other words, a whole lot of stuff packed into this one single volume of ephemera. And it’s a heck of a package. Heavy, glossy pages bring out the differences in color between hand-drawn strips and their pasted-on title cards as well as the fine printing notes scribbled in the margins. Likewise, the color printing serves to show that these are photographs of the original strips and artwork rather than digital reproductions or post-processed scans.
The attention to detail and care that has gone into curating this book is obvious, considerable, and welcome. Special effort is made to not only display the various pieces of ephemera but to provide context for them. It’s easy to get lost in little stories and minutia detailing phenomena from a time gone by; I’ve been through the book several times now, each time going down one rabbit hole or another, becoming fascinated by some aspect or another of the Peanuts story that began (and sometimes ended) well before I was born.
Said aspects are fascinating (the production process), interesting (the board games and braille books), weird (the vinyl dolls), and, of course, just a little heartbreaking (the final strip), and served well by the top notch production values and curation. But I’m biased.
The title comes from Schulz himself, who referred to his cartooning style as keeping only what’s necessary. The designers of the book have equated this to simple, which is beautiful and eye-catching. But necessary can also mean everything: every line needed to show the characters' feelings and reactions, every word needed to express the artist’s vision, every single thing needed to show why we still need Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, and Lucy now, and for many years to come.
– Joel Neff