Jimmy: Welcome back to Unpacking Peanuts. I'm Jimmy Gownley. I'm joined by Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: and Michael Cohen
Michael: Hello there.
Jimmy: we're going to start now, just go through the strips and I want to get everybody's general impression.
I think, I think the first one's famous, we read it in our introduction.
October 2nd Shermy and Patty are sitting on some steps. Charlie Brown approaches a smile on his face. Shermy says, well, here comes old. Charlie Brown. Good old Charlie Brown. Yes, sir. Good old Charlie Brown. How I hate him. Good old Charlie Brown, how I hate him.
I think this is amazing because it introduces 2 gigantic themes of Peanuts and the very first strip, the cruelty of children, which goes on forever in Peanuts. And, the fact that Charlie Brown is, is kind of despised by his so-called friends.
Harold: Yeah. That's it's, it's, it's a really a striking first strip given the look of it.
It's just not what you'd expect stuff. The bluntness of this childlike duplicity kids are not saying, and that's, that's, that's definitely a unique take on childrenI think that pop culture at the time.
Jimmy: It's brutal. It’s a, it's a brutal joke.
Michael: Yeah. Yeah. It's a brutal joke. And it seems to point out to me how little he knew his characters though, because Shermy who is fairly a bland character.
And it eventually pretty much gets written out of the whole strip. Cause he is
Jimmy: ...FYI I’m weari ng a Shermy button as we speak right now. So,
Harold: Shermy solidarity
Jimmy: RIP Shermy
Michael: yeah. Okay. He's not somebody who'd hate anybody.
Jimmy: Yeah, I don't, there are characters at all at this point, I think they're interchangeable.
Michael: It’s a joke.
Harold: And the idea is that he's not going to be living with these characters for the next 50 years. This, this seems like a one-off. And you’d think if you were making any kind of story or continuity strips, If we've set up that this guy hates Charlie Brown, then throughout the next weeks, we're going to discuss how, how has he hated them?
Why does he hate him?
Jimmy: instead though we cut away. The only thing we know for sure in day one, is that he wanted a character named Charlie Brown.
Michael: Let's do a, an Unpacking October 2nd podcast, because this is really interesting. You'd think right from the beginning, that this strip, because Charlie Brown is the only one named here, Good Ol’ Charlie Brown almost sounds like a catch phrase right away. You think that would be the name of the strip, right. And he doesn't show up again for a week.
Harold: Right. And that's interesting. Did he want to call it good old Charlie Brown at that early point,
Jimmy: He wanted me to call it L’il Folks, but somebody else already own little folks.
And L’il folks, anyone who's out there, we've seen Parks and Rec L’il Sebastian?
Harold: Yeah. I mean, it's, it's so funny because I mean, Schulz has this dignity to him and Peanuts is horrible. But L’il folks to the modern ears seems like that's the thing that could have been imposed on him by the syndicate.
Oh, this is the thing that he would have chosen for his own strip, but of course he did. And that's what he called the St. Paul version of this thing.
Jimmy: Someone, I guess in the thirties already had done a Little Folks strip and they said to the syndicate, no. Oh, wait, we might do something with this someday and the syndicate president, I guess a Larry Rutman said it's Peanuts.
Harold: Well, interestingly, the United Features Syndicate, which picked this up. Um, one of their, probably top three strips at the time was Lil Abner. Right. This was already derivative. And why Schulz was so insistent on something like that has always been a mystery to me, but there's a, there's something that he just, it seems like he absorbed the nature of what was popular in comic strips. And because that was part of the zeitgeist that he was just trying to insert himself there in some way that he thought had some dignity.
Jimmy: Yeah. Within, again, all these massive limitations put on it, put on it by the syndicate. He had to have it in four panels, but it was going to be reproduced tiny.
He had to have characters rather than just gag a day stuff without characters. He had to call it a certain thing. It's unbelievable. The amount of, of limitations he has and he just launches into it. Clearly. This is Tolkeinesque I think it's that I'm just going to, I'm just going to start and figure it out, you know?
October 3rd, Patty is walking down the street, smiling. She sings to herself, “little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Then she punches a little boy right in the eye and says to herself just as happy, “That's what little girls are made of.”
It goes to Day 2 and Charlie Brown is nowhere to be seen.
And here we have Patty slugging guy in the eye. 1950 at this point, Peanuts is pretty much punk rock.
Michael: It's bizarre. Also the fact that he doesn't name the other characters for awhile, right? I mean, that's the first thing you gotta do is say hi Patty, but no, he goes, because I wrote this down, October 26, Patty gets named.
Jimmy: October 26th. So we're almost a month into the strip
Michael: Snoopy gets named November 10th.
Michael: Shermy doesn't get named till December 18th. You know, his first character…
Jimmy: It takes awhile to come up with a name like Shermy. I mean,
that's like, that's a solid name.
Michael: Yeah. So really it's, it's all very puzzling. So is it maybe possible that these were printed out of order, then he, the way he intended '
Jimmy: No because he actually numbers them. If you look at the Fantagraphics books and they're numbered by hand by him, Yeah, not by date, but by strip number.
Harold: And they look like in the order that syndicate didn't bother shifting
Jimmy: Well, why would they, because there's no characters at all. Like, I mean, he's really trying to figure out, not just a, you know, he's just trying to figure out the form. He had never done a strip.
Harold: Yeah, this was before now. I don't know.
Again, like we don't know, maybe there's something historically that maybe he had made 12 submissions, the adventure strip. I mean, I've never heard about that, but it sounds like he was trying to submit stuff up until now. This was not the first idea that he's
Jimmy: not the first idea, but I wonder if it's the first he showed,
Harold: they actually sent out to …
Harold: Maybe because that's that's three years and he so wanted to be syndicated. Maybe he was biding his time I don’t know.
Jimmy: I'm not sure either, but well, so, you know, but here we are on day two, we still have, we have no characters. We have no names except Charlie Brown, but we do have three great themes. We have an aggressive female.
We have everybody hates Charlie Brown, and we have, these kids are cruel.
Harold: … self deluded too. I mean, she she's swapping this, this Shermy and say, we don't know if it's Shermy. Is it Shermy or is it Charlie Brown? We can’t exactly tell who this character is that she's hitting.
Jimmy: Maybe he's never see again. Maybe she kills him.
Harold: But yeah, just the fact that she's saying little girls are made of sugar and spice, everything nice. That's what little girls are made out of. And then in the middle of that, she's she's kicking, hitting this kid in the eye, in the eye
Jimmy: and he's, he's wounded. He has a black eye.
Harold: He has a black eye. Yeah.
Jimmy: So this, this was, we know, he didn't know who, how he was going to talk about it.
He didn’t know who he was going to use as his mouthpiece, but he knew what he wanted to talk about.
Michael: Patty actually does. I mean, right away, this is sort of consistent with her personality.
Michael: She’s pretty mean.
Jimmy: Right. One thing interesting, just along the lines of talking about Patty is, as you read the first few months, it could easily become-- Peanuts could become a romantic comedy about Shermy and Patty with Charlie Brown as a third wheel.
It could easily have gone that way.
Harold: Did not
Jimmy: Thankfully. The next day we, have one of the great days, probably in what, and in world's culture, we have the first appearance of a little dog that eventually becomes Snoopy. And what, what do we think about the gag guys?
Michael: um, cute. It's all cute. Um, and that's all he’s going for here. It's not particularly funny. Uh I am going to be keeping an eye on Snoopy because the, he mutates rather quickly into the Snoopy we know, I think in two years it'll be very recognizably Snoopy. And I'm trying to watch, trying to follow what I think was Schulz's mental process with. So
Harold: that's huge. That's huge. I mean, and just, just for the people who don't have the strip in front of the number three strip is Snoopy walking along happily on a sidewalk, it has this very tall flower that we don't know how or why there's this, this flower sticking through his collar. That's…
Jimmy: which for years I thought it was coming out of the top of his head.
Harold: I did too
Michael: that’s the joke
Harold: very clearly tucks it into the, if you're looking into that little collar thing. And I hadn't noticed that either. So how somebody must have put it in there. And this was non surreal world. of Snoopy someone put put it in but Snoopy's happy that he has this flower. And then Patty is, is up against, inside the house right outside of the sidewalk, watering her flowers and she waters Snoopy's flower, which then makes it wilt, and fall onto the ground and Snoopy's unhappy.
Jimmy: And that's the whole gag. And, one thing I would like to say, if you're listening out there and you want to follow along, you don't have to buy the Fantagraphics books. Although I highly encourage them because, you know, because they're beautiful and they have fantastic introductions and Fantagraphics should be rewarded for, you know, putting those books out.
Harold: They're remarkable.
Jimmy: They're remarkable, but they're also on go comics.com. You can read all of Peanuts. And they're also now doing a version called Peanuts Begins, which has these strips, but, in color. And if you're a purist, I'm sure you're probably screaming into the void, but I got to tell you, they, they look really nice in color.
So anyway, so you can find them for free at gocomics.com.
Harold: Yeah. Another thing with a little Snoopy comic here is, you know, this is Schulz showing kind of his sensitive side of it, but those small little moment talking about how others can inadvertently ruin your joy . You know, Patty doesn't mean to be pouring water and ruining soupies day, but she did. And that seems to be another theme of Schulz is already getting set up,
Jimmy: Already getting set up. It's amazing to watch.
Harold: It's a unique voice, it really is
Michael: but Snoopy is still recognizably a dog, even though dogs don't have little question marks coming out of their heads, but yeah,
Jimmy: but you would see that.
Michael: But he’s pretty much dog like.
October 5th, a disconsolate Patty is walking in the rain. She says to herself, rain, rain, rain, rain Shermy is happily walking in her direction. He holds a red umbrella. The next panel Patty is walking away, but now she is holding that same umbrella panel for Shermy is now the disconsolate one and says to himself rain, rain, rain, rain.
October 6th. Patty is watering a flower in a flower pot as Snoopy sniffs that over the course of three panels, it grows several feet.
Harold: But then two, two days later, Snoopy, there's a, probably the first surreal element in the strip where Patty is, is again, watering a flower and Snoopy's smelling it and he’s loving it, but it grows so fast it grows out of smelling range and Snoopy can't smell the flower anymore ‘cause it's three feet high.
Jimmy: Yeah. You know, we're looking at these the, the, the day before is just simply kids saying the word, rain, rain, rain, and crossing each other. And Patty steals Shermy’s umbrella. And he says, rain, rain, rain is the most minimalist thing.
Harold: And we don't notice.
Michael: Proof once again that she’s evil
Harold: Did she take it or did Shermy give it out of obligation?
Michael: No, she took it.
Jimmy: But that's a masterful use of the, of the art cartooning, right? Because you guys can have that conversation.. Yeah. And then follow that up the next day with this bizarre flower thing. He's into long flowers. He thought that might be his thing.
Harold: that was something for Schulz, yeah.
October 7th. Charlie Brown and Shermy are standing under a sign that reads Watch Out for Children. They look to their left, they look to their right, and then walk away with Charlie Brown saying,”let's leave. I don't think any are coming.”
Jimmy: And then the next day I think is, is the first strip where I actually laughed out loud.
It's two kids standing under sign. The sign says, watch out for children. And then a Sherman says to Charlie Brown in the last panel. I don't think they're coming
October 18th. Shermy is sitting at a little child's lemonade style stand only he's selling root beer and he has a sign on the front that reads root beer for sale. In panel two, we see Charlie Brown behind a similar booth, only his says flowers for sale. In panel three, we see Patty at her booth and it says lemonade for sale and panel four we see Snoopy and his booth says bones for sale.
Michael: This is the first one that I think could conceivably be a slightly later Peanuts. Maybe this gag would have worked, you know,
Jimmy: that could work at any point in the series
Michael: Well, I think I was -- I was looking for the first sign that Snoopy is not just a dog. So I was thinking, okay, well, he's sitting there smiling. So clearly a dog wouldn't do that, but then again, they could have sure they made the booths and they sat him down and he sitting right. If they say sit and he sits there, then
Jimmy: Or it's a Calvin and Hobbes style thing. And Snoopy, maybe
Harold: you can take it anyway you want. Cause you know, it looks like whoever made these booths, they were all made by the same person who was it?
Michael: A mystery
Harold: to me, this, this is actually so a daring strip and this little thing with it is it's, it's, it's him standing up for smallness and gentleness.
And I mean, one of the terms that always struck with me, it's such a strange term. He said, “I wanted to prove that there was a market for innocence.” And this strip embodies that, but with an intelligence behind it, again, I don't know anybody else who would have done this gag in 1950. Um, even though it's not, it's not this psychological strip or not angst, but he's just taking advantage of this incredibly cute dog design he's created.
Um, and that he doesn't mind adding little hints of surrealism. And the strip it's, it's just, it's just a norm for him from the very beginning.
Jimmy: And I promise you all now that we have now given bones for sale, more thought than Charles Schulz ever did.,
October 23rd. Shermy and Patty are playing a game of checkers. Patty looks happy and says, “Yessir, this is a real game of skill. In panel 2 Shermy looks contemplative. In panel 3 he smiles. He found a good checkers move. “Ha” he says. In panel 4 Patty tips over the board in frustration and says, “Luck, luck, luck. It’s all a matter of luck.”
um, oh, I think we have a little checkers game between Patty and Shermy , and this is something that ends up getting recycled years later. And in a, in a checkers match between I think a or no, it's a, it's a marbles game between Charlie Brown and Lucy, and that, you know, that's another thing that I think it'd be interesting to talk about right now.
We're talking about four characters. Two of which are not famous quintessential Peanuts characters. Linus is years away. Lucy is years away. Schroeder doesn't happen yet. It's amazing. How many of the elements that we think of as classic Peanuts just are not in these strips.
Michael: Yes. But one element. He also, he always had a younger kid, slightly younger.
And in this case, when he started, it was Charlie Brown.
Jimmy: I never thought of it that way but you’re right. Yeah, that's really interesting. I wonder what he was getting out of that. If it was just the fact that there was a power struggle, he could play off. There would be, you know, kids who are clearly superior and he can have a little guy, but Charlie is not, is not shown as like the loser all the time.
He's also kind of can be a wise guy at times he could be a romantic rival for Shermy
Harold: He comes out on top.
Jimmy: right? Yeah. Several times.
October 30th is a non gag. And I think it's one of the best ones where they give Charlie Brown an empty plate for his birthday, because they weren't sure if he even was his birthday.
Harold: I know. Why do you call that a non-gag? That baffles me
Jimmy: I guess what I mean by a non gag-- I don't mean it as a pejorative. I mean, it as kind of like the absolute minimalist reduction of what would qualify, because I don't think it's guffawable gag, but I still think it's one of thefunniest.
Harold: In general I don’t think he’s guffawable gags. His stuff is very minimal.
Jimmy: Oh, and I guess what I'm saying is sometimes the more minimal it goes, the more I like it, because I do think there are interesting timing things that he does in Peanuts because it's four panels that he places sometimes the. Not in the last panel who gets to the point where he replaced the joke in the second or third panel, and then there's a double, a reaction joke or something later.
And, and I think it's, it's really interesting and that's something I never saw in any other strip. And I wanted, if Michael was talking about tracking Snoopy, that's one of the things I kind of want to track,
Michael: Yeah. The reaction pattern. Reacting to the joke in the third panel.
Jimmy: Right, exactly. Right. Which I don't know. Is that something we’re talking possibly something like Skippy? W hat about w would that happen when you're reading Nancy backwards? Was that, was that something they were doing in Nancy?
Michael: Yeah, my theory on that by the way, is that Nancy is actually funnier if you read it backwards.
Jimmy: and that's, and that's why some people, I guess, it's the perfect comic strip.
Harold: You can read it any which way
Jimmy: And it's just as entertaining. I like that. That’s pretty good.
November 7th. Charlie Brown is disciplining Snoopy. Charlie Brown says, “you don't seem to realize that I'm the boss in this house. What I say goes, see.” We hear a voice from off panel. Charlie, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown walks away sheepishly. “Excuse me. I think that's my mother.” Snoopy smiles.
Going to November 7th, there are all kinds of Peanuts sins. When you think of Peanuts, I think he think all there's definitely no adults. And Charlie Brown has always called Charlie Brown, but right there in November 7th, we have an offscreen adult voice and he's just called Charlie And then Charlie Brown right after that, But that seems so wrong.
One time at one point in a Charlie Brown Christmas, Lucy says, look, Charlie. And every time that happens, it's just such a wrong note to me. Really? Who calls him? Charlie?
Michael: This is actually one of my Snoopy seems to understand English jokes because he's smiling. It's kind of the irony here.
Harold: You could definitely, definitely assume that Snoopy knows more than you expect a dog to know. The other thing is the Snoopy’s-- This is the one time where the drawing is inconsistent. Snoopy's huge in the first panel and then he shrinks,
Jimmy: oh, that's amazing.
Harold: And Schulz is usually so good about that. That's the thing that's struck
Jimmy: Actually and the head shape’s even a little different.That's an interesting, very, very interesting.
November 9th, Charlie Brown and Patty are talking, Charlie Brown says,”the future frightens me.” Patty replies, “I don't see why. You're young and full of life.” Patty continues. “You'll probably live for another 60 years.” Charlie Brown says,”That's what frightens me.”
Jimmy: What do we think about November 9th, Michael?
Michael: I think this is a brilliant, I mean, that's just like none of none other character would say that line.
I mean, this is clearly a Charlie Brown line. But this proto Charlie Brown doesn't seem that depressed and paranoid and neurotic. So it's, I think Schulz is starting to get a handle on
Jimmy: Yeah. To me, this is the one that you could, he could redraw in 1965. He could redraw in 1975. He could redraw in 1990 and it would always feel like Peanuts.
Harold: Yeah, yeah. It’s kind of post-war insecurity we have not seen in this type of pop culture,
Jimmy: Right, and I think there's a, there's a lot to be saying about him defining or whether defining that zeitgeist or catching that zeitgeist. Um, but Peanuts in the fifties, this version of Peanuts in the fifties, just start clicking and going together.
Harold: Yeah. It really, it really is remarkable how Schulz does line up with what's going on. And he kind of leads the way in so many different ways in pop culture. We think he hadn't seen before. I mean, he represents this fresh shift from the urban to the suburban, you know, and all of these earliest strips were drawn like guys in the city and they're showing the city.
Now this is kind of a different world.
Michael: Harold, that was going to be one of my points. Do you confirm it? I think this might be the first suburban kids strip.
Harold: It's I that's the way I look at it. It's easier in the rural or urban and then this, yeah, I would say that that's, that, that would, there might be an exception, but in terms of during the popular strips, this is reflecting all of these people who are moving, you know, the GIS were back there, baby boom’s, just about the start. This is a perfect time.
Maybe it starts five years early. We had these little tiny kids in 1950. That's just, he's just right on that a major movement was going on the United States.
Yeah. And it's true. It may have been even the type of thing that some of these young parents were reading this strip to the kids when the kids were very young and then the kids seeing themselves as the parents sharing it with the kids.
And then the kids began to identify with these characters because clearly the baby boom and Gen X too identified with these characters in a huge way.
Harold: Right. And I've always been kind of baffled about different people looking at Peanuts and saying, well, this is, these are little kids saying adult things. I never as kid saw that.
I just said, this is, these are little kids saying the things that I'm thinking that nobody else is saying.
Jimmy: right, Schulz. The one, the, the one thing-- I did a comic book, for those that, you know, called Amelia Rules for, for years and ran for eight volumes. And the one thing I kept trying to always remember is that there's really no blurring between the kid world and the adult world, a kid lives in the adult world.
And an adult impacts the kid world and Peanuts is that. You know, it understood the kids have real thoughts and real fears that were no less valid or no less deep and profound than any adult-- in some ways more because the kid wasn't worried about a bill or whether they had a new car, they were-- it's an existential fear or worry that a kid has.
And the fact that he gave voice to that in 1950, It’s mindblowing.
Michael: Well, part of it. I think the suburban setting is important in this case, too, because if these were out on a farm, they'd be working all day milking cows. And if they were in the city, they'd be running with a, you know, a bunch of kids and playing practical jokes, but they sit on the sidewalk and there's nothing to do.
That's why they watched so much TV. There's just nothing to do out in the suburbs.
Jimmy: Right. It's really interesting to look at
Harold: at it and there's no, there's no imminent threats to them. Like you might find
Jimmy: They have the luxury to be angst like Charlie Brown.
Harold: Everything becomes smaller and more intimate. Um, their experiences are smaller
But their feelings are no less.
Jimmy: Right. Well, think about this, you know, I mean, my dad grew up, let's say 15 years previous to this, when he was Charlie Brown's age, he was working in a coal mine. Yeah. That's you know, mind boggling.
Michael: At 5?
Jimmy: No let’s say more like like eight, but when he was eight. Yes, absolutely. A breaker boy.
Harold: Yeah. That, that changes everything. In terms of the experience that people are bringing to reading these strips. The child is revered in this baby boom era and the child, you know, we're, we're finding a whole focus on children around this time because that's what people are doing.
Jimmy: You’re about to get Dr. Spock.
Harold: and they're, it's, it's in these new settings that have all the edges have been taken off.
November 13th. Patty and Snoopy open the door to see Charlie Brown he's arrived and is wearing a winter coat. Patty says, “Well, Charlie Brown come on in. This is a surprise. Just hang your coat anywhere and come into the living room. How have you been?” The two friends walk away, and we see Charlie Brown has hung his coat on Snoopy’s snout.
Jimmy: Hey, November 13th, Snoopy looks like he lives with Patty. When is it established that Snoopy is Charlie Brown's dog?
Michael: Not this year.
Jimmy: Not this year?
Harold: Charlie Brown, is scolding Snoopy in that panel we just talked about it as the first time at hinted that it could be him because he's in Charlie Brown's house.
Jimmy: Right but the next time we say that's something that, that could imply ownership,
Harold: There's Patty with Snoopy. It's like Snoopy is-- Yeah. It's like Charles Schulz maybe has not decided.
Jimmy: Right. Is it Patty's dog? Is it a neighborhood dog? I don't know, but I love Charlie Brown in a sports coat. I think that is just a snazzy look and a point for the people doing Peanuts Begins in color because it, it actually does make it slightly funnier.
Harold: What color is it?
Jimmy: It’s tan. It's a camel
Michael: and Patty's being a decent human being in this one. Right.
Jimmy: Which is also interesting because Schulz-- You can just say maybe he doesn't know the characters or maybe he's trying to go for something a little deeper. Daisy Mae is always Daisy Mae. Right?
Michael: Well, that's the thing, I mean, most strips, well, I would think most funny strips sort of paste one or two personality traits on each character, right?
So this is a guy who hamburgers and blah, blah, and he's always, you know, borrowing money, Schulz didn't do that. So that's when you're talking about why. I think Linus is the most complicated character in Western literature.
Jimmy: I think you're right,
Michael: because you cannot describe him in any short way.
Jimmy: But you're always aware that it's Linus.
Michael: Yeah. And so Patty has other sides. She's not just the grumpy, the nasty one,
Jimmy: and that's like a major breakthrough
Harold: All people have goodness and badness baked into them. And he's not asking you to type them. And prejudge them that. There's that that's an interesting aspect of that. They just are. Right. And I don't know how he does that, except maybe he, he does mix up the different angles of them and he doesn't segue and it's like, here's Charlie Brown being belligerent. Here's Charlie Brown being shy. Here's insecure, confident.
Jimmy: Right and it's amazing because it makes it a real person.
November 14th, three wordless panels of Shermy and Charlie Brown sitting at the curb. They looked dejected. In panel four, Shermy, says, “Yup. Well, that's the way it goes.”
Jimmy: That is, that is a minimal non-gag. That's a non gag.
Harold: This was a bold little move for Schulz to have--
Jimmy: Absolutely. And to be so, to know that you already have so little real estate in people's time and the paper, and to go that small is really bold. You gotta love it.
Michael: Well, it wouldn't be funny if he explained what happened. There's no way in the first panel. like well, we lost the ball game, you know, or anything,
Jimmy: Right Yeah. But you know what? Interestingly, I could see just a month earlier, him doing that, having the first panelsbe we lost the ball game, two panels of silence. That's just the way it goes.
Harold: Yeah, it is definitely messes around with timing this early. Had this been done before, had he ever seen this done before? Maybe not.
Jimmy: In a way, just as interesting they talk about it. It works purely because it's a comic strip.
Harold: It's a pure comic strip. This joke only lives in the comic strip world.
Michael: Okay but let's keep an eye on this. This is what they call a wallpaper strip. Where did that start? Was that common in comic strips? Wallpaper strips as I believe it is where the first several panels are exactly the same. You could photocopy ‘em..
Jimmy: Right. Purely for timing. And it's a, it's a strength of comics because you can't in a film cut into the same moment. So this is essentially three identical pictures of Shermy and Charlie Brown sitting on a, on a curb.
And, but because it's in three separate panels, it's three separate moments. You couldn't do that in a movie.
Harold: No it would just look wrong.
Jimmy: It would just look totally wrong. Or unnoticeable.
Harold: How long would they have to run that for that to work? And then people would be,
Jimmy: and it was still be one log moment. It wouldn't be three individual moments.
Harold: And people would still go what just happened. Was that supposed to, they wouldn't even ask themselves was that supposed to be funny.They'd just be puzzled.
Jimmy: right? Exactly.
November 25th. Charlie Brown is speaking with Snoopy. They both look sad. Charlie Brown says, “So long I'll pal, I'm going to miss you.” Charlie Brown continues, “but don't be sad. Try to keep your chin up. It won't be for long.” In panel four we see Charlie Brown tucked into his bed.
“In fact,” he says, “I'll see you in the morning.”
Jimmy: I want to talk about the November 25th strip since we're talking non gags.
Harold: Um, and one Snoopy question. Michael, did you have any notes on the 15th of November for Snoopy’s development.
Michael: Yes, he's definitely understanding.
Harold: And that's that's maybe the first time we could say for sure, Schulz is suggesting exactly understands exactly.
You say. Yeah, that's
really, really interesting. And you know, and already though, like right in that panel, you could see that Snoopy, It’s still radically off model compared to the famous Snoopy, but I would be able to identify that as Snoopy.
Harold: Yeah. Yeah. That's a good point,
Michael: but he's definitely Charlie Brown's dog here.
Jimmy: Yeah, oh absolutely.
When you draw Charlie Brown-- If you were going to sit and draw Charlie Brown, as he famously appears, let's say from like 1965 on or whatever, even though his nose and his eyes are almost connected, they are so close together in the center of his face. It's like the secrets of making him look like Charlie Brown.
If you look at these early ones, you know, there's a, there's a football field between his eyes.
Harold: Which was something you were taught, you know, drawing school is you want to make someone look young, the wide set eyes was one of those things to do. Um, although interestingly, they also say make the eyes lower center on the head and he doesn't do that.
So it gives, it's a strange mixture of an adult and a child like feel to them,
Jimmy: Which is the strip too! It's amazing to me how fractal Peanuts is. You can look at that first strip and extrapolate so much of the later stuff from it. And it's, it's, it's strange, that you see that again and again, that he really knew his themes and he knew what he wanted to talk about, so early on.
Harold: so much of him is in the strip from the very beginning.
Jimmy: from the very beginning. This is a non joke. So I wanted to ask you guys, is this a meta commentary? Like I'll see you tomorrow. Meaning the comic strip will be here tomorrow.
Jimmy: It's just him saying goodnight to Snoopy?
Harold: Well he’s saying I’ll see you in the morning and he's in the morning and evening papers. So I would think that’s not a meta…
Jimmy: So. It's literally just him saying good night to Snoopy. That's the entire strip,
Michael: but Snoopy is really sad about it.
Jimmy: There is no joke though. There's literally no attempt at humor.
Harold: I would love to try to get inside Schulz's mind and say, why, why did you do this?
Jimmy: I love that. I love it.
Harold: It adds this. It's like all it, all it does to me is it adds importance to the relationship between Snoopy and Charlie Brown, that Charlie Brown would choose to have this conversation with the dog that the little dog stands simply because he's going to bed and he won't see him. And then that's important.
Because that's all I could get out of this otherwise.
Jimmy: But the other strange thing about it is there's a location shift, cause it's just Charlie Brown and Snoopy in the void. You know, the Peanuts void where there's no background at all talking to each other. And then in the last panel, Charlie Brown’s suddenly tucked in in his bedroom in bed
Michael: in his pajamas.
Jimmy: In his pajamas still talking to Snoopy.
Harold: I guess. I guess the only gag here is maybe, maybe what he was thinking. Was he saying so long old pal, I'm going to miss you in the first panel. And so you don't read anything else here. The assumption is he's going away, that's gotta be the gag, right.
But Schulz was thinking, I'm going to set this thing up where it looks like there's a really sad goodby.
Jimmy: It's interesting. Well, it's really interesting though, because he's he's has this spare style, but he's still experimenting within it, but some of these of these panels, it's unbelievable how stark they are. No background whatsoever. And then some of the others where he’ll put a little more detail in.
Harold: and he said that he says Skippy by Percy Crosby was an influence of his. It’s such a forgotten strip today. Um, and I think it's just because it hasn't been out there. People have to see it. What people have said about it is remarkable.
It's like this forgotten piece of cartoon history that influenced Schulz and often Crosby would, would not have a lot of background element or just from a little, I’ve seen. Schulz will often have a panel even with a background that don't go all the way to the edges of the panels. And I think that was something that he might've been influenced by Percy Crosby., Because Percy’s style was much looser that Schulz’s, but it, it, it, it focused you in on the characters and the background became super minimalistic and it's almost like it's designed to make you not take it all in.
Jimmy: And I believe that yeah, very impressionistic. I do believe also is where Schulz got the idea of the kids sitting on the curb, which later becomes, and the strip famously the kids philosophizing at the stone wall.
Harold: Yeah. And the fact that the very first strip has them sitting on a curb. That’s like an instant I mean, I think Skippy, it ended in 1945 and they run for like 20 some years and there was no more, so he was kind of picking up the mantle.
Jimmy: Right, right. I definitely think there's an element of that to it. Oh. And then, I like the fact that Patty is a comic book fan. Of course, a few times they mentioned Patty's a comic book fan. So she's like the cartoonist. She's a manic pixie dream girl for cartoonists. She's cute. She's mean. And she likes comic books.
Oh, well, how about December 21st?
Michael: We're all the way up there!
Jimmy: Yeah. And, and, and what happens on December 21st? We have the first appearance of the jagged striped t-shirt.
Michael: I didn't even notice it. And I read this like four times in the last month, I didn’t even notice that.
Harold: that's a biggie.
Jimmy: Yeah. And it works instantly works.
Harold: Yeah. It's a wonderful little graphic touch. And do you think this was Charlie Brown? They have this little jaggies
Jimmy: right, Yeah, that's true. I know this is not my observation. I think it came from maybe the David Michaelis biography or, or maybe somewhere else may be Gary Groth said it. Do you think it's an influence of Krazy Kat?
One of the strips that Schulz absolutely adored. Considered one of the, the greatest strips of all time. and the jagged stripe was a, it was a theme or a motif rather that, that Herriman used throughout that strip. I wonder if there's a little
Harold: He was such a student of, of strips.
Jimmy: I wouldn't put it past him,
Harold: even if it was sub conscious that that was something that he saw a lot.
Jimmy: Because again, again, with the idea of picking up the mantle, cause I don't think he just wanted to be a cartoonist. I think from the minute he started this was what he was going to be great.
Harold: He was aspiring to something much, much higher.
Michael: Okay. So I'm looking to see if the zigzag shirt is consistent from here on.
Harold: Yeah. It's all right. It's like once he, once he's committed here, he doesn't go back.
Jimmy: And it's so amazing that even without focusing on the details, just seeing that little bit of black, it instantly reads as Charlie Brown. What is the verdict Michael? Is it consistent throughout?
Michael: Yeah. Except he's wearing a coat.
Jimmy: There's a coat. Yeah, exactly. So, and then, so we wrap it up on the 30th. There was no Sunday strip and that is Peanuts 1950, a very short one because there was only a few months, but guys, I want it. I want it just your general impressions. Michael, why don't you start.
Michael: good gags. I mean, I couldn't come up with any of these. They’re pretty consistently good. I mean, the punches are there. The last panel punch almost every time. And I could see where this would become a popular strip even if it stayed this way. It wouldn't be like epic, but it would certainly be better than Nancy.
Jimmy: At this early stage, maybe going even to ‘53 or whatever it would have, like Barnaby style cult following. People who had people would think of it as better than average high brow.
Great example of the craft.
Har old: Which is amazing when you think about, okay, so we're saying the intellectuals might have made this a, you know, a darling when he's doing something in, in probably the most accessible in terms of character and, and structured simplicity. Um, You know that very well may be true. I mean, we know that there was no merchandise built around this for awhile.
These, these very minimalist characters to all of a sudden kind of worm their way into people's hearts and minds.
Jimmy: and those, the characters that did the worming, most of them haven't even appeared yet.
Harold: Right. Yeah. Yeah. We just don't know them well enough to identify with them. To me, what I feel all the way through here is Schulz.
I just did this strong sense of this unique voice behind it, but the characters themselves are not yet fully embodying them in ways that I know Charlie Brown. I know Shermy. I know Patty. Well, Snoopy, I'd probably feel like I know the best at this moment.
Jimmy: Spoiler alert for episode, whatever it will be, the last episode of the 2000, I think that's where Schulz ends up. I think he ends up being, I, I see the last year of peanuts as just Schulz, too. What are you thinking about? What to, what are your goals from this podcast from participating in this podcast? Michael, what are you looking forward to the most?
Michael: Um, I'm curiousis 1951 going to be Snoopy's first thoughts? And who's born next?
Harold: Yeah. It's just fascinating to hear, what you guys are saying about the strip, you know, your, your unique perspectives on, on something that we're seeing forming before our eyes. And that grew into something that we had such a massive impact on the culture and just to see how we, we knew then, you know, we we've in our own experiences with this strip and how it might resonate with other people who are listening.
Jimmy: Yeah. You know, for me, the thing that I've really got out of just reading these first strips was I just liked being in this world again, you know, it's, it's one of my first memories of something that I was just head over heels in love with just a fan of it.
And I love it. And these early ones, so many of them are still newish to me and so fresh. Some of them I've only read once or twice in my life. The later ones I may have read a hundred times or more. But I love, I love that. And I, I'm just looking forward to the fact that I get to, you know, visit with Charles Schulz everyday, while we're doing this podcast.
And now for the big finale, we are each going to pick our favorite strip of 1950. And then you'll go to our social media, which will be at the end of the podcast and vote for who is right. Who has the best Peanuts strip for 1950. Harold? You start, what is your pick?
Harold: Okay. I don't know. This will be a very popular one, but of all of the strips, I had a hard time picking one that really, really did jump out at me, but I decided to go with a Snoopy strip that is entirely visual.
Snoopy is surprised by a little jack in the box that pops up. And then the second panel, he gets this mischievous look on his face. And the next thing, you know, Shermy’s coming up to the closed Jack in the box and Snoopy pops out in the final panel. Again, it's one of those things where as a gag, it's, it's it's, it's not the normal way. I think someone would tell a strip. It feels like Charles Schulz to me, but it also feels like Schulz leading up to Peanuts. It feels like the L’il Folks things that he was doing the Saturday Evening Post strip that he was doing. And it's a simple ____. It's beautifully told Snoopy's desire to surprise in this, this classic early iconic, cute smile of just popping up out of the thing.
So he's mischievous, but at the same time, He's guileless when he actually pops up out of the thing and he says, I just find it extremely endearing. And it, and it is an aspect of Schulz that, is, is easy to get lost. I was kind of talking about this kind of the art of the cute, this kind of world of innocence mixed in with all of these deeper, deeper thoughts and themes that Schulz did with such integrity.
And this is just a classic little version of it where he unapologetically is just telling us this simple little vignette. It’s just darn cute.
Jimmy: Michael, what is your pick?
Michael: well, first of all, Harold's totally wrong.
So, I got to go with that November 9th, the future frightens me strip. Um, and just because to me, there was the brilliance of Peanuts is not a reflection on the cuteness and the adorability of kids. It's on how are horrible human beings they are and how horrible life is for them. And this is really the first time we see it in full flower.
Jimmy: yeah, I would've, I would've picked that one too. That was in contention for me. But since you picked it, I'm going to cop out. I'm going to go with the first one. How I hate him. Well, that's
Harold: that’s a smart choice I think. people are voting. You may win this round Mr. Gownley
Jimmy: Guys, this was so much fun everybody out there. I really, really, thank you for listening to us. I hope you join us again next week. I'm Jimmy Gownley. For Harold Buchholz and Michael Cohen, be good. We'll see you next time.