All right. Welcome back to Unpacking Peanuts. I'm Jimmy. I'm here with Michael Cohen.
Michael: Hello there.
Jimmy: And Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: All right, so now guys, what we're going to do is we're going to go and we're going to get into the weeds here. We're going to go through the year 1951, and we are going to pull out some of what we think are, the most noteworthy strips, and we're going to talk about them in depth. Michael, what was your criteria for this? The districts you picked?
Michael: Um, I was looking for a mix of things. One is plain funny in relationship to where it was at, in other words, better than the average strip. Also any firsts, you know, the first time a character is introduced first time some ongoing shtick is introduced.
And then I was looking for strips that really, really pointed ahead and evolve the strip and using the characters and developing the character traits that really become the main focus of the strip. That's sort of what I was looking for.
Jimmy: Harold How about you?
Harold: Yeah. I tried to pull about five out that I, I particularly just like your thought, you know, it could be considered among the best of the.
And then if I had a note or something I thought would be worthy of bringing up, I would just set those aside as well for some of the same reasons Michael had. But yeah, just kind of is this new, is this, is this a hint of what's to come those sorts of things?
Jimmy: All right. Well that's great. Listen, why don't we just, get right to it then?
And we'll start going strip by strip Unpacking Peanuts. All right, here we go.
January 19th, Charlie Brown is in the foreground. He's crying. Patty and Shermy look on concerned. Jeremy says Charlie Brown's been crying all day. In panel two Patty says, “maybe he's maladjusted. Shermy says, “do you think it could be his environment?” Panel three
Patty says, “maybe he's frustrated or inhibited.” Shermy walks away. “I'll ask him.” Shermy returns. “His shoes are too tight.”
Jimmy: Very cute strip. Very funny joke. I think it talks about that sophistication, but it's also sort of taking it and taking a shot at it as well. Which, whichI think Schulz manages to do throughout the strip, to, to be an intellectual analysis that takes shots at intellectuals.
Michael: Yeah. This is the language here is not little kids. I mean, they're the, this is the language of psychology. When you're talking about someone frustrated or inhibited. It's funny. ‘cause Charlie Brown who grows to be the same height and age as the others is still kind of the baby here. So you see him crying, which is not something you'd see, you know, he's unhappy, but he certainly not sitting there sitting on the floor crying.
So yeah, it sort of emphasizes him as the little kid here and there they're the two older kids and then it's a funny joke. That's why I picked it. I think it's just, it doesn't say anything too deep, except that it does show you, this is not a bunch of kids. This is something else.
Harold: Yeah. Yeah. That is pretty sophisticated writing for something like this, that would have been pretty unexpected, I would think on the newspaper page.
Jimmy: Yeah. And it hits it. I mean, as soon as you see the two of them in panel two, looking at each other, if, you know, you think maladjusted and environment, it just feels like Peanuts. Um, you know, yeah. The drawing is, is off model from what we think of as the classic look, but that is exactly the tone that I always think of is as Peanuts.
And one of the things I find odd about it is when he's doing the, the cutesyer this is what little kids do type thing. They come off as less authentic kids then when they're doing things that, and speaking in ways that kids can't possibly speak, because there is some sort of deeper truth to it that he's like when he has them, you know, there were, you know, running around or Charlie Brown suit’s shrinking because it's raining and stuff like that, that all feels forced. And this feels like he's found his voice
Harold: almost like the characters are, are underplaying, their intelligence.
Yeah, that's a good one.
January 23rd, Charlie Brown is sitting at a table writing in a book. Snoopy is very interested in watching Charlie Brown. Panel 2 Charlie Brown says, “I'm glad that dogs can't read.”In panel three Charlie Brown goes back to writing. He says, “a diary is a very personal thing.” Snoopy continues to look on interested in panel for Snoopy walks away, a smile on his face.
Harold: This one is just so darn cute. I mean, in terms of maximum Snoopy cuteness, you get all four panels. Three of them are, are basically almost the same, almost the same image.
Although it looks like Snoopy is getting just a little bit more into it , in each panel based on where it is, but it's just the little dot eye and that little, that little black nose and a profile. And, and just the idea that Snoopy is more than we may be potentially be is here because we don't know Snoopy is smiling because he could read.
But, it's certainly a fun idea to see him walking with this little, little amused, look on his satisfied, look on his face. It's just a adorably drawn and it all again, it's kind of suggesting things. About the world of these characters. It's a little bit richer than you might have expected.
Michael: yeah. Yeah. That's why I picked it. I mostly picked it because it is, I think the first indication that Snoopy is more than a dog and it's not the fact that he can read. It's the fact that he can read upside down. Any dog can read. I mean, but jeeze.
Jimmy: Yeah. I love it. I, I think it's, I think it's great. I think that look on Snoopy's face the knowing smile in panel four is, is hilarious and, and, and just as cute as can be.
January 26th, Patty and Charlie Brown are walking. Charlie Brown says, “I dreamed about you last night.” Patty looks happy. She says, “did you Charlie Brown? Was it a nice dream?” They're sitting on the curb. Charlie Brown says, “I'm not sure I slept through most of it.”
Michael: You know, I think we can't ignore the fact that Schulz has a little kid in the house cause this, I mean, it's a great joke, but it's something that a kid could actually conceivably say trying to be funny
Jimmy: or not trying to be funny
Michael: by the way, do you know what the Joyce's, how old Joyce's kid was?
Harold: I don't think Meredith is even a year at this point. I mean, she very young when, when he, when they get married and get that whole story behind, that was, but obviously this is a quick move to become a father of I believe an under one-year-old.
Jimmy: Yeah. Yeah. She was too young to be the saying that type of thing. This, this, this is like a Yogi Berra thing or a Ringo Starr, you know, malapropism um, you know, I don't remember my dream. I slept through most of it. it's a good joke. It's a, it's a really good joke.
Harold: I think what makes this a unique 1951 version of this joke is the final panel. Charlie Brown is being a smart alec. He's got a big open, wide happy mouth that he's thought of this joke. And Patty is not amused. I think I could see you later strip when one of the characters I can see like Marcy saying it and it's all dead pan.
Jimmy: very much
Harold: the person saying the funny thing is aware it's a funny thing.
Jimmy: I think the deadpan stuff does work much better because it feels less like this is like a vaudeville thing. You know, where he's, he's indicating this is the joke and you should laugh with his smile.
Harold: But this was one case where I give it to Charlie Brown and say, this is that, that was a funny joke. You are, you are totally worth, it's totally worth it to, to enjoy the fact that you told a
funny gag, Charlie Brown.
January 27th, Charlie Brown and Patty are in someone's living room. And Charlie Brown is kneeling in front of a lounge chair. He says, “I lost a penny underneath this chair.”
Patty is now peering underneath the chair. Charlie Brown says “if I had my flashlight, I could see it.” Patty says, “why don't you get your flashlight?” Charlie Brown answers. “It's in the attic.” Ppanel four Charlie Brown continues, “and it's so dark up there. I can't find it.”
Michael: I bet he wrote these on the same day. I mean, it's the same setup.
The characters are positioned the same way, Patty on the left him on the right. It sounds like a follow-up to him being. I mean, it's a, it's a joke, but I don't think he's joking in this one.
Harold: I think you're right. Yeah. This is more of the classic, you know, they're, they're just looking at each other dead pan as if they're not aware of the humor .
Jimmy: Yeah, and the way he develops in panel for that classic profile of Patty, where you don't see any indication of the mouth, which is the most dead pan, it almost looks like one of those pop figures or something like that. And he'll use that again and again, and I don't remember many cartoon. I mean, there are some examples where, but you know, the whole mouth would disappear on a profile.
Harold: Yeah, I'm thinking of like Thimble Theatre and Popeye. Yeah. I'd be interested to go back and look and see if that was something. I know Schulz totally loved that strip. And what about looking ____ same deal where there were there shots of them profiles where the mouth just isn’t present?
Jimmy: in which one?
Harold: Krazy Kat?
Jimmy: Yeah. Probably yes, I can see. Yeah. I can see that, but it's different because they're all animals, so it's, it's a different effect, you know?
Michael: Yeah. But it does say, “are you crazy?” I mean, it's just like total disbelief that somebody said that I don't know why not having a mouth would -- Would mean that, but it sort of says that.
Harold: is that the way you read Patty there? That she's just like,
Michael: yeah. She's like stunned that
Jimmy: Stupefied. Yeah. I always read it that way as well. It's interesting.
February 2nd. Charlie Brown is walking with Snoopy. Charlie Brown looks annoyed. He says, “go home. Snoopy, go home.” Panel two. He admonishes Snoopy further “Go homeI say, stop following me.” Patty looks on questioning. Panel three-- Patty says to Charlie Brown. “He's not following you. He lives in that direction” Panel four. Charlie Brown walks off embarrassed with Snoopy following.
Michael: and Snoopy gets the joke because he's smiling.
Jimmy: He does. Yeah.
Michael: This is really important because clearly, I mean, this is clearly saying he's not Charlie Brown's dog. And he doesn't seem to be Patty's dog either.
Harold: Schulz doesn't seem to know whose dog it is at this point.
Jimmy: Yeah. He feels at best, like a neighborhood dog
Harold: A little collar . And he's obviously doing well for himself. Whoever owns him.
February 7th, a new character enters the world. A little girl with pigtails and she is looking at Snoopy and Charlie Brown, and she says to Snoopy, “well, hello there.” In panel two, she kneels down to talk to Snoopy eye to eye and says, “you don't know me. Do you? My name is Violet, Charlie Brown, “Ahem.” “You're real cute,” continues Violet speaking to Snoopy. “Ahem” says Charlie Brown. Panel four. It's just Charlie Brown and Snoopy and Charlie Brown looks at Snoopy and says, “well, why didn't you introduce me?” And Snoopy has two hearts above his head.
Michael: This is a real important strip. The appearance have a new cast member, this is Violet. And I consider myself a Viotologist. I am incredibly interested in this character who changes pretty radically, but you'll see that. Even though Charlie Brown and Patty are friends they're around, they're around each other a lot but you don't see much affection.
Mostly he's saying something, some wise wisecrack to get her angry or she's slugging him or something. But you know, as far as four year olds go, this, this is like a romance. You know, it doesn't last long into the strip, but, I was really interested when, last episode Harold mentioned that he just got married and I really think Violet is a representation of his wife.
You know, this one is just a little bit of jealousy because you know, she's not paying any attention to him, but to Snoopy, but we'll see. Well, as this goes, you'll see that she is really sweet as opposed to Patty. Who's kind of a nightmare. Yeah. That's my theory.
Harold: Um, so he probably drew this what maybe five months before the marriage, if they could be engaged, we don't exactly know. We know it was pretty quick, pretty quick romance simply because of what we know about their daughter Meredith, but, um, yeah. Yeah, I agree. I mean, I like this on a lot of levels. Obviously new character is always interesting and fascinating, but you know what you were talking about earlier, Michael, about the nature of Charlie Brown and, and Snoopy where, you know, Charlie Brown in that previous strip just a month earlier is glad that dogs can't read.
And yet we're the punchline here is that Charlie Brown expects the dog to introduce him. So the, the, the nature of what's expected of an animal, is starting to shift a little bit here where even the kids are now thinking that capable of more than you'd expect the dog to be. Of course, it's also a very, I think very kid thing to ______, but, but Charlie Brown is expecting it Snoopy
Michael: I, I don't, I don't think the strip works as a joke.
Um, it's, it's certainly not logical, you know, considering what he's developed so far. No, I think it's important just because this Violet character is, you know, being a new character and also a very important character in the first few years of the story,
Harold: because it, it, it, there's just a lot going on.
You know, you got, again, the introduction to the character, you've got this little cute relationship between Violet and Snoopy. You got Charlie Brown, who's trying to horn his way into it. You got Snoopy's little reverie of being in love with Violet and Charlie Brown being ticked off with Snoopy. I mean, for a four panel stripp, that's about as sophisticated as anything I've
Seen so far.
Jimmy: That is a lot to get in there. What do we think of Violet's character design?
Michael: I'd like the pig-tail Violet. The ponytail Violet is evil, so she changes fast.
Harold: Yeah, the one I love, I love the design of her. I think she's very cute. I'm not a huge fan of the experimentation he's doing with, um, filling in the blacks because he's drawing so much attention to his, his, his ink lines that he usually doesn't do. And to me it's distracting.
Jimmy: Yeah. And it feels a little bit throwbacky, it doesn't feel as modern as, you know, the Patty character design, which is, you know, just these, these flowing outlines, um, you know, going in there with that brush and it's not the most facile brush inking. I agree. It does sort of stand out as, as not being quite of the world with the rest of them.
Harold: You think that's a brush or do you think that's a really flexible pen?
Jimmy: Oh, it could be a really flexible pen. I mean, he's definitely, I don't think at this point using that radio pen nib that he uses from like the late fifties onward. I, I, I, I think it's probably one of those Gillot nibs, which are super flexible, if anything, but I also, you know, I mean, I think there's a good chance it's a brush. I couldn't, I, you know, I could be wrong though.
February 15th, Charlie Brown is in the bath. He tosses a rubber ducky out saying “ducks.” In panel two he tosses a toy boat out, says “boats.” Panel three. He tosses out, I guess, a rubber swan and yells “swan.” And panel four, he looks at us and says, “great, Scott, can't a man take a bath with any privacy?”
Michael: Funny. I think using the word man is what makes it funny.
Harold: I really, this one just makes me, makes me laugh. I, this is one of my nominees and it's, um, it's nice, nice design on Charlie Brown. For some reason the, when the second panel, um, we don't see the full completion of the line and Charlie Brown’s he ad that. You don't see, he's not wearing a shirt. You, you have an open head, which I actually find really, really nicely done.
And there's some, these little tiny things where he's throwing his arm back. You see a little line for the, for the inside of the armpit. That, I mean, it's just beautiful, beautiful design. It's some of my favorite drawing of Charlie Brown in this year.
Jimmy: It has a solidity and an observed quality that the more iconic ones don’t.
Yeah. And that could definitely be the result of having a little baby that you're giving baths to. Not the, not the joke, not the words, but the observation of what a kid in a tub looks like.
Harold: Yeah. That very well could be.
February 24th, Violet is sitting outside. In front of her is a piece of wood containing three mud pies. She says, “these are very special mud pies.I've sprinkled them with coconut.” In panel two she presents one to Charlie Brown who smiles. Violet says, “here Charlie Brown, have a mud pie. Pardon my fingers.” In panel three, Charlie Brown tastes it and does not seem pleased. Violet looks concerned. Charlie Brown says “phooey, this tastes awful.” He drops the mud pie on the ground. Violet looks at it sadly. And Charlie Brown says, “I'm sorry, Violet, but I just don't like coconut.”
Michael: Good joke. I think this is an attempt to give Violet a shtick an ongoing shtick. Since the characters are still a little, two dimensional or very two dimensional, occasionally he will come up with a character that has one quality and play it over and over again.
And a lot of these characters never, never evolve. I mean, I'm thinking mostly of like Pig Pen, who, you know, the jokes are he's dirty and Schulz relied on this mud pie thing all year for Violet. And then abandoned it, but, you know, it gave her, you know, I guess it makes it a lot easier to come up with gags if, if you have sort of a, a recipe for creating them.
Jimmy: well, and I think it goes back again to talking about his, his Krazy Kat influence, where he was looking for his scenarios, that he could just, you know, ring comedy out again and again, and again, just with subtle variations on the theme.
And ultimately actually he does come up with a list of things. He calls his 12 Devices, which are the 12 things he believes that made Peanuts to success. And most of them are, are, are things like this little scenarios that he would come back to again and again and again, not, you know, be more famous than the, than the mud pies, but things like the football or the psychiatry booth, I think that's what he, what he's doing.
I think he's trying to, trying to find, find those little things that he can go back to again and again, and, and just ring, bring new humor our of. Cause mud pies actually last pass this year. I believe I'm, I'm certain they last pass this year.
Harold: and Michael, to your point that maybe, um, Violet comes into the strip because of this new relationship with, with Joyce, this is a very sympathetic through line of support, little panels with, with Violet. She seems to be very intent with what she's doing and she's doing it with care. It's done in a kind of a three quarters view on that first panel, but he's using that, that profile nose and mouth. So that it's very, again, kind of UPA and the idea of your Picasso, like, and then one part of the body is facing one direction. And the other part is facing another, which is kind of a good indication that he's he's, he's still experimenting a lot with design and what he's comfortable with and what he likes what you might expect Violet herself. All the way through. It was just, she seems to be a good character in thise strip. You just see in these simple little drawings that she, um, she she's got a heart to her.
Jimmy: You know, as a small note, this also establishes Charlie Brown’s long running hatred of coconut,
Jimmy: He constantly, over the years, it goes back to referring that he does not like coconut,
Harold: Glad he was consistent
Jimmy: And Snoopy doesn't like coconut either.
Harold: is there anyone who does? I don't know.
Jimmy: Well, I guess, I guess Violet.
March 28, Violet is skipping rope. She's counting “eleventy 6 30, 12 .” She skips more rope and counts more “54, 40, 60, 1-teen.” Shermy runs up. “Hey.” Violet looks annoyed as she stops jumping. “Now look what you've done. You made me lose count.”
Michael: Well, that's a, that's, it's very funny. Cause it's, that's a little kid thing. I mean, making a, not really knowing numbers,
Jimmy: Is it? I think it seems like some things, someone who has no knowledge of children thinks as a little kid, like I, you know, I've never, I kid doesn't go eleventy-twelve. I really don't think so.
I that's what I mean. I think when he does the kiddy kid stuff, it, it never rings true to me.
Harold: Hmm. Yeah. I can see that. I, yeah, this, this one. Um, I think it's a clever, clever joke, um, on Schulz’s this part, but it's yeah, it doesn't ring true is as a kid to me.
Jimmy: Yeah. And I think once he starts putting his own thoughts and his own, you know, insecurities and loves and stuff in the characters mouths instead of trying to imagine what a kid must be like, it, it starts working because the kid is much more like an adult brain. T hey just don't have the language and he gives the kids the language, which is what the magic Peanuts is.
Harold: you know, reading it as kids. I think that's when it really does strike us that he he's in my mind, you know, this, this is a way I think even as a seven year old, I had memories of sophistication of, of thought it seemed more real to me in what I was seeing in these strips and then what I was seeing anywhere else.
Jimmy: No, I, I agree. I feel the same way about it.
Harold: So sorry to veto you there, Michael. It is,
Michael: well, I don't have kids, so I don't know.
April 26th, Patty and Violet are walking down the street. Violet says,” boys are rough and mean aren't they?” Patty and Violet continued to walk. Patty says, “I'll say they are, but girls are different. Girls are kind and gentle.” They will come upon Charlie Brown and scream at him. “Get out of the way.” They pass and continue talking. Violet says, “girls are peace-loving and considerate.”
Michael: I dunno, I think this is important in the development of these characters and keep in mind that we're skipping a lot. You know, we're just jumping, a few every month. There've been a lot of strips with Violet being really sweet and, you know, making the mud pies and giving them to people.
And she just seems to be really kindhearted. Here we see a phenomenon where that he really builds on, which is whenever Violet is with Patty, she starts acting like Patty and becomes really mean, whenever they're together. And you'll see a lot of these and this, this is the first one where I can't imagine Violet doing this, just walking by herself.
But when she's with Patty, she takes on Patty's characteristics, which is really typical of kids. You know, with somebody, they, they do something bad. You do something bad.
Jimmy: That's a subtlety of characterization you're not getting in most strips at this time.
That, I mean like you, you say usually it's, they, they attach one personality trait and that's what that person is.
Michael: This is getting more sophisticated. And it's also showing Charlie Brown is the victim of these two girls, which I mean that that's a running theme basically is they're the ones. Usually the, the boys are kind of nice to him.
Shermy he's always nice to him. Linus is nice to him. So it's usually the girls who try to get his goat. And especially when, when Lucy comes along, she kind of replaces Patty and Violet in just sheer, sheer nastiness.
Harold: Charlie Brown is sweating. He is sweating in this last panel after they've left him and he sees, he's been shaken up here. This is not a, he didn't, he doesn't just brush that one off.
Jimmy: And as you see, even in panel three, the way he looked shocked, he, I mean, he looks not just shocked that there's a loud noise. He looked shocked that these people are saying this.
Harold: Yeah. Why, why would they say such a thing? Yeah. What is going on here all of a sudden? Now one thing that is, I wonder why Schulz made this choice. You had this conversation between Violet and Patty, but it's Violet who introduces the idea that boys are rough and mean that we haven't seen anybody treat, um, Violet rough and mean have we in the strips. So I would've thought maybe Patty would have been the one who would have planted the seed and then Violet would kind of go along with it. But it's the other way around.
Jimmy: Yeah that's interesting actually. Yeah. You know, I think he wasn't at that level of understanding of the characters yet, you know, so he was at this point probably, you know, if he would have maybe even had more time or whatever, he would have put a little more thought into it and switched those speaking parts around.
But I think he would just like make the joke work.
Harold: Yeah. And he's, he's looking at it from a different angle. I think he's, he's trying to find the humor in that obviously the dichotomy between those who say they're sweet,
Jimmy: right? Yeah. That's that's his focus.
Harold: Um, yeah. It's it's it's it's it does feel like classic Peanuts. Just a few months in.
Jimmy: for sure.
April 18th, Violet is pursuing Charlie Brown. She looks annoyed. Violet says “Charlie Brown, you said that I was your girl.” She continues to talk at him angrily. “And yet I saw you down at the drugstore today with Patty.” Panel three, Charlie Brown throws his hands out wide and says, “all right, I admit it.” As he walks away, he says, “I'm not above that sort of thing.”
Michael: Great. Yeah, I should have picked that one.
Harold: The odd thing to point out here is this is the strip that ran the day of their wedding. You know, now they were married on a Wednesday. So I can't exactly know him working six to eight weeks in advance. If he knew this would have fallen on that day, he knew it was going to happen. He probably would have chosen another strip.
Michael: That's great.
Jimmy: It is a really funny, funny joke. And then Charlie Brown, walking away with his hands in his pockets, all devil may care.
May 7th Shermy, Charlie Brown and Patty are sitting, putting together a jigsaw puzzle panel today. Charlie Brown gets up and stretches saying, “well, I hate to break up the game, but I guess I'll have to be going.” Panel three. He continues to talk. Shermy and Patty make no reaction in his direction. They continue to put together the puzzle. Charlie Brown. “I said, I hate to break up the game, but I guess I'll have to be going.” And he walks out of the house in his jaunty hat and says, “Rats.”
Jimmy: First off I love a good jaunty hat.
Michael: This is classic Charlie Brown. I mean, this could have been done years later, this exact same strip. It totally defines his personality. He's like nobody, he's a, he's, he's a nowhere man. And that rats thing is, I don't know this. I don't know if that's the first time he says rats, but basically that's his word for when something really humiliating happens to him.
Harold: that is pretty classic.
Jimmy: Is rats something that was just a slang term that was around. If the people say that,
Michael: oh, rats. Sure. Yeah.
Harold: Existed in, in comics. I don't know who was using it
Michael: I’ve said it many a time.
May 30th. Charlie Brown is playing in a sandbox. Patty approaches him and says, “have you met Schroeder yet Charlie Brown?” They walk off together. Charlie Brown asks, Schroeder, who's he?” Patty answers. “He lives next door. Come on. I'll introduce you.” Patty introduces Charlie Brown to a smiling baby boy in a onesy. She says, “here he is say something to him.” Charlie Brown says, “I don't know what to say.” In panel four he continues.”I always feel so uncomfortable near children.”
Jimmy: First appearance was Schroeder.
Michael: Important. Sound the trumpets,
Jimmy: no indication of, um, Beethoven yet, but it is the first instance of someone arriving as a baby. Which happens again and again, as the years go on in Peanuts
Harold: and he must have considered quite the success to revisit it in later years, it
Jimmy: It is a really odd way to go about it, to have new characters introduced as like a new generation as a baby. And then they grow up in age to the point where they become Charlie Brown's age, and then everybody freezes.
Harold: It's that's, that's the Schulzian rule, right? It's moving forward in its own its own pace.
Michael: He’s still noticeably smaller than Patty and still younger, but he's now being replaced as, as the, the little kid in the group.
Jimmy: And I wonder if part of that is from like, when we saw that earlier strip of Charlie Brown, sitting there crying, he's just clearly too old, the character for that type of behavior.
So maybe Schulz is getting inspiration from the baby and his house, his new little daughter and he needs a place to put that at least maybe that's his initial thoughts.
Harold: I would think that there's definitely something to that. It's a part huge part of his life. And he's, he's initially working out of the house now.
They probably don't move in-- being the morés of the fifties. He's like moved in until the 18th, which would it be really just maybe what we're we're about four, six weeks, when he drew this before he actually has moved in, but he's obviously around them a lot. But the interesting thing is he, he works out of the home very briefly.
They don't have a lot of money moved to this new new town. And, the one thing that Charles Schulz did put his foot down about, you often said he was wishy-washy. When it came to working from home, he said, this is not working. And he got himself an office very quickly in downtown Colorado. Um, that's a very interesting telling thing about, you know, where Schulz’s priorities were.
You, they didn't have a lot of funds to mess with at this point, but that was a super priority for Schulz to be able to work in in privacy.
Jimmy: heard that, I believe I read somewhere that it was his mother-in-law that suggested it.
Harold: Yes, that is. I think that's true. I think, so I think he got a little bit of, um, support for it, but I'm sure it was not an expense that they were happy to have at the time.
Jimmy: Oh no. Especially when you know, he's able to really do it as he has been on the card table in the basement.
Harold: no. I would like to point out something here and I, I have a feeling I may know where a, an inspiration for Schroeder comes from. I've never heard anyone say this before. Maybe it's been said a lot. I have a theory.
Jimmy: This is exciting. This could be an Unpacking Peanuts exclusive. All right. Lay it on us.
Harold: Okay. So we were talking about UPA before Jim, right? Yes. Well, in 1950, UPA puts out in November 2nd, a very, very influential cartoon into movie theaters
called Gerald Mc Boing Boing
Jimmy:, oh my Lord.
Harold: Gerald Mc Boing Boing is this little kind of a toe headed kid.
Who's got a, kind of a sweet disposition, but is instead of being able to speak normal words, once he gets to the age of speaking, he makes sound effects. So like a train freight train or, or bouncing sound which is where the mc boing boinb comes from. It was an idea by, um, Dr. Seuss. it made a huge impact because, it was very stylized in its art. Very simplified, very large heads for the little, the little child in the same kind of proportions that we see here. I'm not saying that Schulz was following UPA style to start, but he found something that was very simpatico with what he was doing when he saw or heard of Gerald Mc Boing Boing. And I'm almost sure he heard about Gerald Mc Boing Boing at that point given the fact that that would have been when he was in St.Paul at the art instruction school. People were talking about this. It wins the academy award on March 29th, 1951, about eight or nine weeks before this comes out, I'm guessing Schulz saw still frames and newspapers and magazines about this remarkable cartoon, which was super stylized. And when I see it later and I'll point it out at a later strip, but the, the little, the little tuft of hair that you see here with, with Schroeder in this three quarters view in this iIsn't quite as strong. But the thing that brought me to this was a later strip when I saw something that I didn't see in some of the other strips where it's a profile of Schroeder playing the piano, right? The, um, the, the angle, the angle on the piano is not entirely in line with the perspective of Schroeder.
And when you see him in profile, he gets that little curly cue line from the top of his head. it's down to the forehead that kind of creates the hair for shorter, as it gets little baby version, which is very similar to Gerald Mc Boing Boing.
Jimmy: And I believe you're talking about October 2nd, which we will talk about in depth later, but yeah, I can-- the panel 3 on October 2nd I completely see what you’re saying.
Harold: And I'll throw one other thing in here that I think is fascinating. And that's the, you know, the lead animator was.
Harold: Bill Melendez.
Harold: Went on to do the animated series’ for Schulz throughout his career. So, and there's actually, I just watched the Gerald Mc Boing Boing thing today. And there's, there's one shot that is totally Charlie Brown Christmas that I'd never seen before or since.
And it's in both cartoons. I'm betting anything Melendez drew it. It's a shot of, of little, um, little Gerald Mc Boing Boing, super long shot high-angle with, but with lots of Picassoesque angles and going off to the school house for the first time. And, and you just see this little dot hopping around and it, it just kind of bops up and down just like Charlie Brown does at the end of, of the Charlie Brown Christmas, when he gets the little Christmas tree and decides he's going to take it home.
Jimmy: Very cool. Very cool. Well, you know, I would not be surprised if. If you're on to
Harold: I mean, I mean, cause he doesn't speak right ? And neither does Gerald Mc Boing Boing. And in this case, it's, it's, he's into music at a very, very sophisticated instead of sound effects. And this doesn't take anything away from Schroeder at all for me to say that I think it's, but I think it, it may have been a little bit of a nudge to think of something new
Jimmy: Yeah for sure. And even though Schroeder does not have much of a, a depth to his personality. he becomes one of the things that really is, is most identified with Peanuts.
Harold: Yeah. It is remarkable how single-minded a character can be and embraced at the same.
Michael: Yeah. But he, he, where would Schroeder be without Lucy? I mean that the gags were Lucy. Schroeder was the object.
Harold: The follow up until the point when Lucy really does start to take on that role, is Schroeder just staying Pig Pen until Lucy shows up.
June 26th. Charlie Brown answers the door. Patty is there waiting for him. And Charlie Brown says,”I think I'll stay in this afternoon, Patty.”They both sit on the step talking to each other. Charlie Brown says, “I'm going to read to grandma.” Patty answers “read, you know, you can't read.” Charlie Brown stands up and says that doesn't matter. As he heads back inside, he says, “Grandma, can't hear either.”
Michael: This is a case where he sacrifices all logic for the joke. And I think this is one of the best jokes of the year, but we know he can read because he can write he's writing in his diary.
Jimmy: Right. Yeah. He is just searching for gags. Yeah.
July 3rd, two characters are walking by with what looks like sheets pulled over their heads, pretending they're ghosts. One is clearly a dog. Panel two, the human under the sheet says to Patty “Boo.” Then the dog under the sheet also says to Patty, “Boo.” They continue walking.
And Patty looks at us confused,
Michael: important mainly because it's one of the few times Snoopy actually says something out loud, but I think, and then I think maybe he does another boo joke later in the year, but that doesn't come back. Snoopy never talks.
Jimmy: Oh, well, Boo is a great word for him to use though. Cause it's, it's also could theoretically be a sound a dog could make.
Michael: Yeah. But I think what's more important here is the reaction shot. Which I mean, it becomes one of Schulz's main tools for, for pacing is the joke is not in the last panel. The last panel is people reacting to the joke. And I don't know if this is the first time he does it, but this is a real, a real trademark of the strip.
Jimmy: Just a huge innovation, I think in the way, you know, comic strip jokes are told you. And also
Harold: for the record, um, it looks like Snoopy speaks before Schroeder does.
Jimmy: I think these drawings look like late period. And, you know, because I mean, we've, we're familiar with the ghosts from things like, Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown or whatever, but it doesn't, it does not have the really slick, you know, fifties inking that the other strips have.
For some reason, those, those characters feel like they came out of like the late sixties, early seventies.
August 24th, Charlie Brown is on the pitcher's mound. He throws one in. Snoopy is standing behind them. In the fourth panel, Snoopy raises an ear. And Charlie Brown argues with him saying a ball. “What do you mean? That was right over the plate.”
Michael: You got to explain this to her foreign fans.
Jimmy: Explain what baseball is?
Michael: They would not understand-- cause Snoopy’s the umpire and the umpire would raise his hand on a ball and Snoopy raises one ear.
Jimmy: Yeah. Well it's also really sandlot rules where the umpire stands behind the, the pitcher in real baseball that you would watch, you know, major league baseball or high school baseball even, or whatever, you know, nine times out of 10 that the umpire is behind the plate. Occasionally in a school game, they will stand behind the
Michael: Yeah, but the important thing about this strip is, I mean, it's real significance is first time first pitch for Charlie Brown.
Jimmy: And it's a ball,
Michael: it's a ball
Jimmy: and further development of Snoopy because Snoopy is sophisticated enough to be able to be an umpire,. if not a player yet on the team.
Harold: One thing I, I really love, and this is in the fourth panel, we see something we normally don't really see a lot of, as I recall, it's the inside of the mitt, where the little cutout is and you see Charlie Brown's tiny, tiny little hand.
Jimmy: I never noticed that. That's really cute.
Jimmy: I liked the drawing in general and that strip, I think panel two of him winding up is really good too.
Yeah, I like it.
Harold: I like Charlie Brown's expression in panel four. And I like the little, the little jaunty curve of the cap and panels are one and three that you don't, you know, basically the way to Charlie Brown and all of the kids, baseball were drawn in later years is so abstract. But, this, this, this is a very well ventilated, cap with lots of holes.
Jimmy: A baseball cap is something that's very hard to draw. Actually. I think the, the abstraction, the only thing harder than a baseball cap to draw in someone's head, I think is a fedora. Those are both really, really hard. You can always tell when Will Eisner wasn't drawing the Spirit, because it didn't matter. It could be another genius like Jack Cole, but they couldn't draw the, the hat. So props for Schulz for trying to draw a decent hat there.
August 16th, Violet is calling after Charlie Brown, who is walking away. Scowling, Violet says, “I don't care what you call me, Charlie Brown.” She continues “sticks, and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me.” Panel three. She walks away, but in panel four, she turns back and yells, “you blockhead.”
Jimmy: And there you have
Michael: Look. This is the first Lucy. I think this is Lucy. I mean, look at that panel three that scowl on her face.
Jimmy: Now is this the first blockhead?
Michael: It might be the first blockhead, but everything in this is exactly what Lucy would do.
And he might even have used this gag later on. Um, no, this is, I mean, it's Violet and it's changing your personality. I mean, this is not a sweet person. This is a mean person.
Jimmy: Yeah. It's interesting because. You know, the sweet Violet does have a lot of appeal, but in, in a medium where you're trying to write a joke every single day, she's a, a character that doesn't have a lot of grit, a lot of things that can cause an agitation to get to the joke.
So clearly he's trying, trying something different and it does feel like, yeah, I mean, that feels like you could transplant that again into 1965 with Lucy and it would work.
Harold: I think once the thing interesting here to see in this particular strip is, again, we're, you know, not to read too much into this, but you know, we're a couple months into this new relationship with a marriage and having to live with somebody, you know, full time.
That's, this is a big deal when you get married. And what I really find interesting in this strip is that these characters are equals, you know, later years, Charlie Brown seems kind of put upon he's he's got big. That one up on him looks, looks like Charlie Brown started something here. He called Violet something in panel one and he's, he's not happy and neither of them are. Um, and she standing up to him and, you know, there's, there's no, there's no good guy or bad guy here. There's nobody here. We're supposed to feel, feel
Jimmy: that’s true because we don't know what Charlie Brown said to her. And if, actually, if anybody is the bad guy, you could imply that it's Charlie Brown because he said something, right?
Harold: may have been the first one who started it, but
Jimmy: infer I should say
Harold:_____ character this year, he really is. And this is an interesting example of where he’s toe to toe with these other characters and these shelters, not Schulz is not asking for any, any sympathy or, or, for us to see him as. In this case.
September 24th, Charlie Brown presents Schroeder with a toy piano. Charlie Brown says, “see how easy it is Schroeder.” As he taps at the keys, plink, plink, plink. He continues plinking away at the piano. Charlie Brown says, “the piano is a beautiful instrument to play it properly.” Plink, plink, plink., In panel three he presents the piano to Schroeder and says, “now let's hear you play Schroeder.” Panel Four Charlie Brown is embarrassed as a font of beautiful music pours forth from Schroeder's piano.
Jimmy: So there we go. We see the first appearance of Schroeder, as a musical prodigy and his first appearance of his, of his striped shirt.
Harold: And is this the first time we've seen that really fancy, transcribed, um, treble and bass clef notation, that Schulz was so proud of?
Michael: I'm sure it is. Yeah. I mean,
Jimmy: We have some earlier strips with Charlie Brown playing the violin, but those are just, you know, some stray notes drawn here and there. Um, you know, cracking and breaking.
Um, yeah, I think that's the first, I'm just looking through the book again. That definitely seems like the first instance of that. And yes, Schulz was very proud of this because this was not a photocopy or anything like that in 1950, he actually hand copied that score.
Harold: Yes, you can actually go in and play this and see what it is
Michael: It’s not Photoshopped? Amazing.
Jimmy: No, I don't. I don't think it was Photoshop. I think Photoshop 2.0. was out then, but you know, Schulz probably wouldn't have access to that till the mid fifties.
Harold: know, and one of the things I'd like to point out here, I believe this might be the strip that starts a sequence of gags in which we don't really see this year much at all. Um, they're almost all one-offs, but I think he has like at least four strips in a row that featured this, this idea, this was, this was like the gold mine that Schulz hit on in 1951 where he was like, I got ideas here.
Jimmy: Yeah, for sure. For sure. And it really does, the, you know, the, the musical notation does add more of that sophistication to the strip, you know, you're, it's, it's, it's a brilliant way to visually communicate music.
I mean, you're, you're working with the silent medium. There's never a sound in a comic strip, but you know, we've already know that that's the way sophisticated music is notated. So seeing it. It just works perfectly. You can almost hear it.
Harold: aesthetically it looks really nice compared to his characters. It just makes real
Jimmy: It does. And you know, I'm looking at these, with these panels that we have pulled out, to discuss with you today. So I'm looking at them on one big sheet and seeing Violet right above that. She more, even more stands out to me as a character design from the past. The brush strokes or the, or the flat pen strokes or whatever in her hair.
It just does not feel any way near as smooth and sophisticated as the rest of it.
October 2nd. Okay. So Harold, this is what you were talking about earlier. Panel one, we have Schroeder at his at his toy piano playing some, some classical music. In panel two, Charlie Brown walks up and lead Schroeder away by the hand and says, come on Schroeder, we'll see how good you are in a real piano. Charlie Brown looks on confused as Schroeder just bursts into tears at the side of the actual piano keys. Charlie Brown brings him back to his toy piano and says, “I don't get it. I just don't get it.” And Schroeder is back at the piano playing beautiful music again, as he's slowly
Harold: Hmm. Yeah, this, this was that first panel, um, in this strip is the thing that made me think UPA and which led me down the rabbit hole of lining up, Gerald McBoingBoing with Schroeder’s debut.
The first panel Schulz, he's playing with some things that are really interesting. He has a, here's a shadow line that goes underneath, um, Schroeder and goes through part of the piano which probably doesn't make sense. So you guys could probably tell me better than I would know, but it doesn't seem like that is in any way, an actual shadow line that would exist in real life.
You've got Schroeder, it looks like he's head on when it comes to the beautiful design of, of this, um, profile. And then you have feet that suggests the shoes suggests that there's an angle at which he's sitting, but he's covering up in front of the feet or the back foot, which kind of is only now as high as the front
Anyway, it's got a lot of really odd things going on that created a little bit of that Picassoesque UPA kind of a perspective.
Jimmy: Yeah. There is something about cartooning in general that's lightly, lightly Cubist. And when something is framed too much like a photo, it feels less lively because there's almost an implied movement within the one image.
You know, if you have various little perspectives and various little things that are sort of off from one another it gives the thing of bouncing a life to it. You know, like obviously the piano is at a completely different angle than the kid, but, you know, it's like a Cezanne painting or something like that.
It just works as a, as a design. And I think that, I think this is a beautifully drawn strip. And I think that the beautifully drawn keyboard and panel three is nicely offset by the, the notes and the notation that he does in the other panels. It's really pretty.
Harold: Yeah. I agree. That's a really, really nicely done. I wonder if there was a piano in the, in the, the new home.
Jimmy: Oh, maybe. Cause that's definitely observed from something.
October 4th, Charlie Brown comes upon a fence. Written on the fence is Charlie Brown loves Patty. Charlie Brown takes something out of his pocket and he crosses out Charlie Brown loves Patty. Then we see him walking away, having replaced the graffiti with Charlie Brown loves the whole wide world.
Harold: This is such an interesting strip for this time of Peanuts. I don't know if that this strip would have existed any other year. I could be wrong about that. Or maybe people just have a slightly different angle on it, but it's, it's funny, you know, some, someone other than Charlie Brown has written on a fence, the Charlie Brown lives, Patty, and it's interesting that it's Patty and not Violet too.
So does that suggest that he sees something and says, well, that's not true, but he's going to replace it with something else. It's just, there's so many odd things about this strip. So Charlie Brown looks like he. He's on top of things in the second panel, he's got the classic tongue sticking out when you're thinking, I don't know if that's happened before in the strip or this is the first time we see that it must've existed somewhere before but he's reaching into his pocket.
And interestingly, yeah, so he, he crosses out Charlie Brownlow's Patty on a really nicely angled fence. That makes me think of like Napolean the old strip with the big fluffy dog. And then he, but when he walks away, he's written apparently a new version, surely relatives, the whole wide world. But did he write that fresh?
He's got the same lettering as whoever wrote the first thing. A lot oddball about this, but the idea that that's how Charlie Brown sees Charlie Brown and he gets away with it, right. He has the final say and there's, there's no irony. There's no. It's just an unusual, odd, unique strip in like, I'm just fascinated about Charles Schulz in this, in this time, period seems like it's this little window of confidence that he's working with.
November 14th, Violet is holding a football. She looks very nervous and says, “he'll kick my hand. I just know he will.” In panel two, Charlie Brown comes running up to kick the football, but Violet says “I can't go through with it” as she lets go of the football. In panel three, Charlie Brown with a huge question mark over his head, kicks at the ball, misses the ball and lands flat on his back. In panel four he is lying there, stars above his head. As Violet says, “you didn't kick the ball Charlie Brown. Why didn't you kick it?”
Michael: Who does this remind you of? Um, I think he was starting to come up with these great gags and realized he didn't have the right character for them. I mean, she's, she's still, you know, she's not being mean at all. She's just scared. And I think he saw that third panel. He went, this is funny. We've got to find another situation for this.
Jimmy: and the Krazy Kat thing. Again, this is one of the great things that he will milk for. You know, I was shocked reading this, that it predates Lucy.
Michael: Yeah, it's stunning, but that's 2, 2, 2 Violet doing Lucy shticks.
Harold: Yeah. And that's probably the worst strong Charlie Brown on the fourth panel of
the whole year.
Harold: Didn't quite know how to do that,
Jimmy: but, well, that's a really, that almost looks like a Dan Clowes drawing. It's really hard to draw a figure laying down at all. And at that angle, it's hard. And Charlie Brown's already a weird proportions that just looks
Michael: Well he's lifting his head up. He's not flat on the ground.
Harold: And that's interesting. I mean, I don't know why Schulz felt he needed to show that belabored expression.
Jimmy: Yeah, it would be better if it was undersold.
Harold: I mean, I think of the classic thing when he's, when you just see the pants and the legs when they're hanging there and this, this one. Yeah. The funny thing is you don't see the face, Schulz became a master of those types of things.
November 23 Patty and Violet confront Charlie Brown. Violet says, “we're going to have a party, Charlie Brown, but we're not going to invite you.” Charlie Brown walks away saying, “what do I care? I don't want to go to your old party anyway.” Patty sits down on the curb saying, “I wonder if he really meant that.”Violet says, “I think he did.” Patty says to Violet, “well, in that case, maybe we'd better invite him.”
Michael: This is so good. He he's used this situation a lot with those two girls trying to get his goat and really being frustrated that he doesn't care.
Jimmy: Yeah. And it's also, again, this subtlety of personality, you know, where we, where
we see the, you know, the bullies and their own insecurity is going Oh, gee, if he doesn't want to be here, maybe, maybe we do need to have him here. Hmm. That's a really nice observation about, about just humans, not just kids.
Harold: Yeah. And you just think all the stories, Schulz, always feeling like he was the one nobody wanted. And you know, this is, this is an observation from somebody who's spent a lot of time thinking about these things.
Jimmy: Yeah. One of those, it's almost like a Buddhist thing. Like the Zen, you know, the way to get what you want is to give up wanting it and that's exactly, you know what Charlie Brown does fine. And you don't want to have me. I won't, I won't go. And then he gets this invitation.
Michael: That was great.
November 30th, Patty and Violet are sitting on the steps outside of one of their houses. Patty says, “I guess we really shouldn't talk this way about Charlie Brown.” She continues, “after all. He's a pretty good guy.” Violet says “sure he is.” Patty says “good, ‘ol Charlie Brown.” And then panel four Patty says, “however…” Violet answers, Yes?”
Jimmy: That's a really cute strip. I liked that one a lot.
Michael: Yeah. Yeah. Totally character driven. I mean, it's not really, it's not really a joke there, but it's, it's all sold with these characters.
Harold: Yeah. You're, you're, you're living with these characters now they're they really are starting to come to life. So yeah, this is my nomination for 1951 in a Charlie Brown. And after all he's a pretty good guy. That’s what this year is all about.
Jimmy: Yeah, it is. And you know what? I really liked the drawing in this strip too. I especially liked panel to Violet kind of leaning back against the steps. Again, it looks like something that's observed, you know, to the degree, some degree, panel one as well. Eventually he really codifies the drawing into a series of poses that, that work really well.
Yeah, they become almost hieroglyphics. but these early things where he's still experimenting a little bit has some nice stuff.
Harold; Yeah that panel two is lovely.
Jimmy: All right, guys. So that is that's Peanuts 1951. How about we just let's sum up now that we've gone through these, these strips, where do you think we've come over the course of these 365 days, Michael?
Michael: Well, I think it's mostly character development. It seems like later in the year, Charlie Brown is less of a wise guy. I mean, that was sort of his, his thing in 1950 was making wisecracks and getting people mad. He's a little bit more of a victim. We've got Patty and Violet as being sort of a team now who were against him in some ways. We've got the potential for some major character stuff at a Schroeder.
And we've got Snoopy acting a little more human. So it's, it's, you don't see the turning points particularly, but it's definitely the later strips I think are better. And Harold picked the last one that eh, here and one right before that was my pick for strip of the year with the party invitation. So I think, I think it ends really strong. Looking forward to the next one.
Jimmy: Yeah, me too. And, my, my pick for the year is going to be the, the first appearance of Schroeder playing the piano. Not because it's particularly funny or anything like that, but just because it's such a great moment in the history of Peanuts. And also, I remember that's one of the first strips. I remember having a reprint of. One of the earliest strips rather. I remember having a reprint up, so that's always been a kind of in my brain.
Harold: Yeah. Well, those are both great strips. If I had to pick one, I would have to pick the introduction of Violet simply because it's got three of the major characters in there and it's so darn cute with Snoopy and it, and it shows, it's just, it's just showing personality on all three levels of this, these early versions of the characters that plays off nicely, as far as I'm concerned.
Jimmy: Hey, and if you're out there listening and you want to get in on this conversation, why don't you follow us on our various social media feeds? You can find us on both Instagram and Twitter at Unpack Peanuts. And when you're there, you'll be able to vote. Who has the strip of the air? Is it my choice? Michael's choice or Harold's choice. And of course in all the comments,
you can, you can pitch out your own ideas. Won't be one of the winners, but you can, we want to hear from you anyway. All right guys. Well, this has been a real pleasure going through this year with you. I'm looking forward to doing 1952 next.
So let's just say goodbye until next time.
Michael: Okay. Bye everybody.
Harold; Thanks so much.
Jimmy: Bye everybody. Be good.