Jimmy: Hi, everybody. Welcome to the show today. We're going to be taking a look at Peanuts 1952. I am Jimmy Gownley, creator of Amelia Rules and The Dumbest Idea Ever. My latest book is Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Uup. And I'm one of your hosts on this deep dive, into the world of Peanuts and Charles Schulz.
Joining me as always are my co-hosts. The writer and executive producer of Mystery Science Theater 3000, former vice-president of Archie Comics and creator of the Instagram strip Sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz
Jimmy: and composer for the band, complicated people, as well as for this podcast. And cartoonist is behind Strange Attractors, Tangled River, and A Gathering of Spells, Michael Cohen.
Jimmy: well guys, it's great to be back with you here in Peanuts world talking about another year, 1952. Things are really happening and in the world of Charlie Brown and Charles Schulz. The cast is expanding. The gags are getting sharper. We see lots of first appearances of, of favorite themes and motifs and characters this year.
So Harold, why don't you tell us a little bit about where we find our hero, Mr. Schulz, as, as 1952 begins.
Harold: Yeah, well, Charles Schulz has been living in Colorado Springs, Colorado in the previous year. At the beginning of this year, he and his his wife, Joyce however, they're just about to make a move.
So during this year they are going back to the Minneapolis area, which is more Charles Schulz's stomping grounds. And that's a big change for him. As we said last year, he became a father at the time he got married in April of 1951. And then on February 1st, 1952, he becomes a father this time of Monte Schulz.
And this is all happening right around the time they're making this move in the winter time early into the early spring, back to Minneapolis from Colorado Springs. Things are, are taking off for him. Schulz had a little bit of a community in the St. Paul Minneapolis area of his father's still was living in the area, still working as a barber, as I understand it. And Schulz already had a bit of a friend family at the art instruction schools, but she was continuing to work out. But now, instead of doing a long distance through Colorado Springs, he was getting to see those people in person again, and also the church that he had been attending after world war II was finding a new, small home.
I think it could seat about 40 people and they were, they had broken ground just before. Schulz and his family return and they become particularly Schulz becomes very involved in that little community. So his, his own little family is expanding. He's going back to see old family and friends and and he has a community.
And you really see that. I think in this year’s strips, there's a tremendous amount of growth in Schulz. As a loner, this is the, probably the least lonely time he's had in his life. And he's, he's seeing lots of people that he likes and he loves. And he's you can see him processing this, this growth of, of being amongst other people, other strong personalities and people who he cares very much about and they care about him and his world is expanding.
You really do see this, that's my impression. And things are happening for them as well. professionally. The first Peanuts being printed outside of the newspaper comes at the very beginning of 1952. United Features Syndicate had their own comic books that they've published since the late thirties. And so he appears in Tip Top comics 123 and United comics 21 in the March, April, 1952 issues.
Being a huge comic book fan,I bet that that was a thrill for Charles Schulz to see his strips in color and the comic book form as well. And then the first reprint of the strips themselves. Something called Peanuts is also published in in 1952. So he's, he's moving up in the world. And I think as we're going to see at the very beginning of the very first week, his first Sunday strip appears as well.
So a lot of things are happening in 1952 for Charles Schulz.
Jimmy: Absolutely. It is, it is definitely an expanding world for Mr. Schulz. And, and I agree with you, you can, you can see that in every frame of the strip, as, as the character, it becomes much less insular and much less just about gags and much more about this, you know, group of people that he's creating to interact with each other.
And yeah, like you mentioned, lots of, lots of big things happen this year. Michael what's going to, what can we look forward to as we talk about 1952.
Michael: I see Schulz is entering a pretty experimental period where he's established his main cast, but he's trying different things. And some of them, as I'm sure you'll hear about later in the podcast are, are a little strange and don't seem to work. Schulz realizes it and drops these immediately.
But there's some very odd strips this year, including him trying to work out Snoopy who, if you, if you heard the last episode, you remember that Snoopy is pretty much acting like a dog and a normal puppy, and occasionally Schulz will drop a hint that he's actually way beyond that, that he can understand possibly read and even says a word.
And we'll soon see Snoopy turning into more of the character that we're all used to. And a lot of that happens this year. So basically we're starting out with the main five characters who were established.
Jimmy: so that's, that's Charlie Brown, Patty Violet, right? Schroeder and Snoopy at this point, right?
Michael: Well, Shermy, who's kind of a nondescript character and actually one of the first characters in the strip is still around. Schroeder w as introduced last year as a baby, which seems to be Schulz's way of bringing in new characters. There's a, there's a new little kid who quickly grows up to be roughly whatever age the rest of the gang is. But when we start off there, there are these six characters and there's going to be a couple of big introductions this year.
Jimmy: Can we say on, do you want to give the spoilers? Are we going to wait until we get there?
Michael: No spoilers.
Jimmy: All right. We'll wait, no spoilers for 19, the early 1950s comic strips. Not here, not without ample warning. Yeah, you know, for me, I, what I'm really shocked about with this whole thing is how quickly he becomes just a really, really great cartoonist.
Yeah. It flawless drawing, amazing design. Sometimes he's struggling with maybe Charlie Brown's head at this stage. That's the thing that happens when, when you design a character and you have to draw it millions of times, sometimes it weirdly starts going in these directions. You're not even aware of, and you have to sort of reign it back in, but he's just a great cartoonist the line quality is beautiful. The lettering is sharp. The design of every panel looks great. It's just a joy to look at.
Harold: Definitely. And detail, we're seeing detail like we haven't before more often. And that's a really interesting development for him. And given again, he's he's between two communities, I think he may be in three different houses this year, starting out in Colorado Springs.
Then they moved to a 5521 Oliver avenue, south in Minneapolis, which still stands. And it's a, you know, it's basically a new suburban area, it was built in 1949. So he's, he's now got another little suburbia with, with shallow lots in and they're just there, I think temporarily while they get their footing again in Minneapolis.
And then one more time by the end of the year with their expanding family is one thing I didn't mention that does affect Schulz at the very end of this period, is that not only did Monty get born in February 1st, 1952, but Craig Schulz is born in January 22nd, 1953, which affects some of the, some of the last Sundays and daily strips that he's drawing you know, a month or two in advance.
Jimmy: Yeah. A lot, a lot is happening for our, for our boy, Charles Schulz. And you know, it's interesting when you talk about him being a part of these two communities, both the, you know, the, the church of God group and the arti instructions group. I don't, I mean, I don't know much. Minneapolis in the 1950s or St. Paul in the 1950s, but I don't think too many people are crossing those groups and are able to just interact and be in the inner circle with both of those groups. They seem like they would probably be mutually exclusive, but Schulz is right at home. And in both of those worlds, which I think speaks to what he's able to do later in the strip, which is just sort of end up being something that everybody could find a little bit of themselves in.
Harold: And I think he's really embracing a social life. Unlike what we would see for most of his 50 years of growing Peanuts, the fact that, you know, he, he had these friends in Colorado Springs, but he was kind of starting fresh out there or Joyce's world. Then they come back to St. Paul and in Minneapolis and he has to what our instruction school.
So a lot of the same interests he does professionally and he's mixing in that, that space. And then from what I understand, he becomes a member of the church board and an adult Sunday school teacher almost immediately on his return. So he's making some real social commitments that are not typical of what I think of Charles Schulz when I think of like his later, his later period. He would almost describe himself as a bit of a recluse. You know, he didn't like to go out even like to travel a whole lot. I think he felt the pressure of expectations on him a lot, but in this period of his life, you know, he really is the common denominator in the social.
He's not, he's not living off of Joyce and her friendships. I mean, she's not particularly thrilled about going to the church. And yet she's very involved. They're having friends over and Thanksgiving dinner and expanding the table of their expanding family and friends he knows don't have a place to go. He's really being very proactive socially in a way that shows a confidence that, that his dream job of being a comic strip artist is now a reality that he's creating his own world and I'm just thrilled for him, and when I see these things and I see it in the strip, he's just, he's just, he's just growing so much as person.
Michael: Well, there's something you need to consider though. Assuming the Charlie Brown is the Schulz representative in this cast of characters and with sharing a first name leads one to believe it, the transition in this year is pretty clear of Charlie Brown from kind of the joker, the practical joker character that was more prominent in the year in the first two years into a pretty miserable kid.
And I don't think it's very typical in comic strips of any period, too, to talk about depression, but that comes into quite a lot of the strips this year.
Harold: Yeah. There is. There's definitely a transition from what we saw the previous year. There's a strip I think we'll talk about later where he's he's yeah, I saw that.
I was looking at that Michael and was like, this is a different joke that Schulz is pulling off in 1952 than he was doing the 1951 based on Charlie Brown's character, but he's also, he's, he's holding his own against the other characters. That's another thing I see it. It's a, it's a carry over from 1951, even though he has insecurities and, and Schulz is willing to show Charlie Brown being insecure, which is so unusual, the comic strip he's holding his own with the other characters. You know, they're not always getting the best of him and sometimes he's coming across as the most reasonable character. So there's definitely a transition here. And I think that's, that makes this really early period in Schulz's strip super fascinating. Things are happening really quickly.
Michael: Yeah. But there is sort of a downward trajectory to his mood. You don't see…
Jimmy: Well, you know, it's interesting, you know, we look, we look at it from the outside and we say, well, you know he has this comic strip and that's fantastic. Has new books coming out, he's got a family, he's got all these friends and having that amount of social interaction is also strange, not just for Charles Schulz, but for a cartoonist.
Because you have to like drawing and writing and yada yada, yada, what you really have to like is being completely alone, most of the time, that's really what your number one thing is as a cartoonist. So maybe what we're seeing from the outside and go projecting on it and go, well, that is happiness and success, but maybe from the inside, he's saying, but I still don't feel like I fit in.
You know, maybe Charlie Brown, isn't reflecting the external realities of what's what anybody else would see happening in Schulz's life. But it might be a little bit, well, what he's feeling still inside, despite the outward success and happiness.
Harold: I think that's a really interesting insight because one of the things that I'm seeing is he's willing to point out his own shortcomings and, and sometimes those shortcomings through Charlie Brown anyway, are that he sees himself as perfect as somebody who's very well-considered. You know, he he's, he's not gonna say something that he hasn't really put some time into thinking about it, but he's also bragging about it, which makes the other characters miffed at him.
And so there's, he's, he's, he's deepening in becoming a richer character through in the Charlie Brown character,
Michael: but in particular, as Schulz says, Charlie Brown drawing comic strips in a couple of episodes this year, which, I mean even makes it even more by biograph. I mean, it can't be biographical, but it's definitely a clue.
Jimmy: Yeah. You know, it's funny, everybody eventually has to do that. Right where you ha every cartoon is eventually has the idea. Ooh. What if one of these characters, it was a cartoonist, right? It happens in Bloom County. It happens in Garfield that no, I don't think anyone knows this or remembers this, but John, the second main character in Garfield Garfield's owner was originally a cartoonist. Some idiots do entire memoirs about it.
Like anyone would care about that. So there's always that, that thing where someone goes, what if one of these guys was a cartoonist.
Harold: And for those of you wondering what that self-referential joke was the author of the Dumbest Idea Ever published by Scholastics graphics imprint is absolutely phenomenal. You should check it out.
Jimmy: It's at least Okay. I would say that So, yeah, no, but that definitely is another clue to the linking of this. You know, you mentioned Michael that he shares a name with Charlie Brown. I think I, I think I was a reader of Peanuts for 25 years before I even really noticed or thought about that.
Michael: Same with me.
Jimmy: Oh, really? You're good. I'm glad I hadn't made it then I don't go too bad. Okay. So that's basically where we are in 1952 with Charlie Brown and Charlie Schulz. So why don't we take a break here and then come back and go in deep on the strips .
Alright, we're back again. I'm Jimmy Gownley. I'm here with my co-hosts Michael Cohen and Harold Buchholz.
And we're talking about Peanuts 1952, where Charles Schulz is expanding his universe, expanding his casts and expanding his horizons. So, what we're going to do is we're going to look at various strips throughout the year that we think are either funny or interesting, or maybe it's a first for a character or a theme or a technique.
And we're just going to chat about it back and forth and see what we think of of our favorite comic strip here in the early days of 1952. So right off the bat, January 1st Michael pointed out here that. This has the first appearance of Zipatone in a Peanuts comic strip, which for a cartoonist out there is a very exciting moment.
I imagine. Should I explain briefly what Zipatone is?
Michael: Sure. Go ahead.
Harold: Why of course you should
Jimmy: All right. Everybody wants to know what Zipatone is. All right. Well, when you're printing in a newspaper and you want to have grays, there are no true grays. So what Zipatone is, is a sheet of adhesive, you know, backed plastic, which has dot patterns printed on the top in different shades, 10%, 20%, 30%, or maybe a pattern of rocks or bricks or something like that.
And then the cartoonist, can cut out a little section with an Exacto knife. And when it prints in the newspaper, the dots are close enough together that it will make a gray. Schulz doesn't use this hardly at all. The first several decades of Peanuts it'll pop up now and again, but later on, I think as his tremor got worse and the art became a little more abstract and rough, he used it again to sort of give some form and dimension in places in the art.
But this is a really early example, which she does not go back to very often.
Harold: And it's part of Schulz's development of more detail in his strips, this particular strip for those who get a chance to see it. So it was one of the most detailed houses I've ever seen him draw in Peanuts and a with a, with a snowy kind of type of a setting.
And it's just really interesting to see this beautiful simplified art style just building out a little bit from what it started out as the.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's a, it's a really beautiful strip. It's a really beautiful drawing. This one in particular is some beautiful drawing that that definitely has more detail, more shading on the snowman in the last panel.
The one thing I would just remind everybody, if you want to follow along, you can follow along at go comics.com or they have a version of Peanuts in color from the beginning called Peanuts Begins. And if you read want to get in deep. I recommend getting the complete Peanuts volumes from Fantagraphics, which are still in print and available.
You can get them from whatever retailer you buy, your fine books. So anyway, that's Zipatone. Now, you know, everything you've ever wanted to know about Zipatone and less. Alright. And now we have another exciting first, a huge first actually what happens on January six, Michael, what is that?
Michael: Well, we have the first Sunday comic, which is going to would have been in color and would be probably half a printed page of a newspaper.
Gave him a lot more room, a lot more panels and seems to be a whole new way of pacing, a, a joke, pacing a story. So I think it's just my opinion, but I think these early Sunday pages Schulz is trying to find his way. His timing is always impeccable, but it seems to me that in these early Sundays, they're little scattered.
Like they don't have the right rhythm that leads up to the punchline. And later in the year, I think of the Sundays are much better than dailies But right right on this first one, if you look at January 6th, it's a bunch of kids running around and the point of view keeps changing. And they don't think he's quite got it yet, but he'll get it soon.
Jimmy: Well it's interesting that you mentioned that one thing, the, even later in his life Schulz, always said was that he felt that the Sunday strips needed to reach a younger audience. Which is why often later the Sunday strips would feature Snoopy and Woodstock and things like that. But even back as early as these things, I sort of see that like in this one, this is a very simple kiddy type of gag. It's based more on the visuals of how watching the kids run around and stuff. And it's even a physical little bit or Snoopy bites a hole in Charlie Brown's pants in the last pane.
As we go forward, I'm going to read the daily strips so you have an understanding of what we're talking about.
It's a little harder in the Sundays, so we're just going to sort of summarize them. And this is it's just basically a gang playing tag with the joke being Snoopy is also playing tag. But I don't know if that came from the syndicate that said the Sunday strip has to skew younger, or if that was something Schulz just himself believed.
Harold: Yeah. It's an interesting question. He's, he's, we're looking at the very first strip he does, apparently he did a little bit of a mathematical error when he was trying to clock this thing out. The, the bottom line of the strip. Either Schulz or someone at the syndicate cutoff, just a little fraction of the strip and it cuts into his his signature and the date of the strip.
And you can kind of see where Shultz probably was working an extra quarter inch down, and it just didn't fit the dimensions that he needed. The the comic strip, everything is the same panel. So you can make a cube out of it, or a two by two, one by four or four by one. However, for the daily. And then at the Sunday strip, I believe the top tier entirely can be removed to take out that whole top tier of the Sunday strip.
So it has to be a throwaway couple of panels, the front, and, and for all I know there was even more difficulty in having to design this bBeyond that, but from what I can tell, it looks like either you ran it with three tiers or two tiers and that's it based on how he breaks up his panels.
Jimmy: Yeah, I think that's right.
And we should, we should definitely explain that for people who aren't familiar with it. Yeah. There were limitations placed on cartoonists for Sunday strips, and I imagine they still are today for whoever is still doing a Sunday comic strip in the newspapers. But yeah, the idea would be the whole top tier could be removed so that the newspaper could just run two thirds of it if they wanted to.
So the cartoonist every week had to come up with sort of a sub gag for those top two panels. One of which panels also had to contain the name of the strip. And it had to work with that included or without that included, which is a real pain. And something that the earlier cartoonists, you know, guys like Hal Foster or George Herrimann who had the whole page, they didn't have to worry about.
Harold: And then this strip as well, you can see the first time out doing a Sunday is working smaller than he winds up. The line art is kind of similar to what you see on the comic strip itself, but it's a little bit thicker that would suggest he was working small. And it's just, it's just a reduced less than, than the daily strips we've been seeing before.
But in just like a few weeks, the, the lettering and the line actually becomes thinner than the daily strips, which suggests he's working much bigger.
Jimmy: That's another thing I guess lay people don't consider having any reason to think about, but the size you work really affects the way the work reproduces and for standard comic books, which is what I've worked in my whole life y ou're drawing on 11 by 17. To basically print something that's six by nine. And what happens is things tighten up and they seem a little slicker and a little more professional. But when that ratio is off, like Harold is explaining, it will make it look like the line's perhaps a little thicker than it should be, or a little thinner than it should be.
Harold: One other thing I should mention about 1952 that I neglected to mention earlier is this is the year where Charles Schulz has his best Albert Payson Terhune gag.
Jimmy: His best what?
Michael: Oh, I cut that. I cut that man too weird.
Harold: Albert. So Snoopy, it's just one of the strips early on where a Snoopy is, is bringing a book for Charlie Brown to read. And it's, it's always Albert Payson Terhune. And he wrote the book like Lad: A dog. Always reading,
Michael: Oh I thought he was some kind of a religious writer.
Harold: No, no, he was he was he was he was a writer, most famous for writing about dogs. So.
Michael: Weird because only an adult would know this, but apparently it's a kids book, so, well,
Jimmy: that's funny.
And what I used to go around telling my friends, Hey, you're no Albert Schweitzer. I had no idea what I was talking about, but anyway, right, well,
Harold: Lad: A dog was not exactly like on the best seller list. When this came out, it was written in 1932. So Schulz is reaching back to two decades to his childhood, but a funny sounding name, you know, even not knowing anything about it.
It just, the fact that there's a character that Snoopy is bringing for Charlie Brown read is Albert Payson Terhune
Michael: and that's the punchline.
Harold: Yeah. Yeah.
Jimmy: Well, it takes a lot of, a lot of guts to do a joke, knowing that maybe the majority of your audience isn't going to get it. And I am a proponent of doing that and that you have to do that because Michael just was delighted by that joke that Charles Schulz wrote in 1952.
Did I get it, I didn't get it either until right now, but now the joke went off. It's hilarious. That's why you do those sorts of things. Now. No editor wants you to do that. I'm sure no syndicate wants you to do that, but you know, keep it simple, making sure everybody in the world is going to get this. Schulz does not do that.
And still managed to do something that was completely popular with the whole world.
Michael: 70 years later.
March 3rd, Charlie Brown is sitting outside playing. He hears a voice from off panel. “1, 1, 1” He questions what it is. In panel two we see a little girl. She’s skipping rope and saying “1, 1, 1.” Charlie Brown yells out to her, “2 Lucy 2.” Lucy says still skipping rope says, “2,2,2.”
Michael: Spoiler. This is Lucy,
Jimmy: the first appearance of Lucy Van Pelt. Amazing.
Michael: It's amazing. And it's a little different than all the other introductions. It seems like somebody is introduced. There's a, there's a new kid in the neighborhood, or somebody has a new baby brother and she's comes on like she's always been there. So I sorta wonder if there's a missing strip, that introduced her.
Harold: One thing I was wondering, Michael, was if the very first strip Schulz did of, of Lucy, now he may have done something and rejected it, but is the March 30th Sunday, given that he worked earlier on the Sundays that had to be processed for color printing through means that we're a little more involved than just an a daily strip.
That may be the March 30th strip is the first thing that he does with Lucy. Now, it's still doesn't produce Lucy. There's not a character saying this is Lucy and here's her relationship to the neighborhood. But Lucy is named in the very first panel. And she looks even crazier when she does with this kind of little circle deer in the headlights circle eye that you see in the last panel of the daily strip.
Michael: That seemed to be the gag. I mean, Lucy, by the end of the year, she's Lucy clearly the fussbudget we, we love, but he brought her in again as a littler kid. She's not a baby. So he likes bringing in smaller kid characters so the other kids can act like adults, but he didn't have a personality.
So the jokes seem to be about are these weird googly eyes. She has these unfocused eyes and she seems to be really, really attached to her dad. And so there's a bunch we didn't, we're not going to go over them cause I didn't think they were all that good or interesting, but she's like really wants to please her dad. And that seems to be the focus.
Harold: And I think that's so charming because we don't talk about parents a whole lot in Peanuts. But this is when his adopted daughter, Meredith is starting to become verbal. And her saying the words, daddy are obviously deeply affecting to the Charles Schulz. There's, there's a, there's a panel strip just the next day where Lucy's asking for a drink of water.
And Charlie Brown is annoyed saying great, Scott, Lucy, can't you see him? And then Lucy just looks at him with this little musical voice and hearts floating around her perfect dialogues and “Please????” And Charlie Brown walks off to the kitchen. He says, “I've been hypnotized.”I think that’s the sweetest thing. Cause that's, that's, that's very autobiographical. You don't just make up that strip. I mean, that must've been where Schulz was having a little baby girl.
Jimmy: March 16th, it's beautifully drawn Sunday, strip it is Patty and Snoopy going for a walk. And she is imagining all the things that Snoopy the trouble he could get in as they go on this walk and then ends with, with Charlie Brown, who is not the dog catcher that they thought he was. Holding a butterfly net. That's a terrible description of that, but it's going to be, you're going to have to work with me people as we do these Sunday strips. Again, I encourage you to go look at this at gocomics.com or in the Fantagraphics books. Guys. There's some pretty wild drawings and some interesting Snoopy stuff in this strip.
Michael: This is the one of the weird-- This is definitely the weirdest strip of the year. I think Schulz at this point, realizes that Snoopy has got to communicate what he's thinking somehow. And it takes him a while to come around to the fact that why don't we just print what he's thinking? The words we've had a little, a couple of attempts that Snoopy kind of talking was saying, Boo at least.
And she'll said, well, what if Snoopy’s thoughts were a little pictures of what he’s thinking.
Jimmy: Yeah, an amazing cartooning technique later, like about 50, 60 years later, picked up by Andy Runton to use in Owly.
Michael: Yeah. Interesting idea. But it's so bizarre to see Snoopy.
Jimmy: Well, we have to talk about what the drawings of Snoopys-- with Snoopy is running away from what Patty imagines is the dog catcher. But we actually see ended up it's Charlie Brown with a butterfly net. The first thing we see Snoopy thinking of is himself standing up on his hind legs, in a prison outfit breaking some rocks. He's on a chain gang cause he has a ball and chain tied to his rear paw.
The next panel, we literally see Snoopy in the electric chair about to be executed. This was if you're out there and you want a neat little little kind of Peanuts Curio a few years ago, Fantagraphics put out for free comic book day, The Unseen Peanuts, I believe it was called. And it was Free Comic Book Day, comic pamphlet, 32 pages or whatever.
They're reprinted all of the strips, mostly from not all of them, but a lot of the strips from the early days that Schulz and never wanted to have reprinted in the original books. And this was one of them that I had never seen before. And it just, it blows my mind-- first off, how much Snoopy dressed in the prison garb looks like a character in Maus. I mean, that looks like it came right out of Maus.
Michael: Yeah. Well, the electric chair is terrifying cause Snoopy is like shaking, visibly shaking when he's thinking of this.
Jimmy: Well, you're projecting that right there. Oh no. What he's thinking of. Yeah, you're right. He is, he looks terrified.
He's being sentenced to death in his mind.
Michael: Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, Schulz does some, another weird take on Snoopy's thinking process. Luckily he abandoned this one.
Jimmy: You know, from a drawing standpoint, I loved the drawings in this, the drawing of what we first see, the first truck we see, which they believe is the dog catcher’s truck is beautifully drawn.
And in the background looks almost like a clear line, sort of, you know sort of Belgian or French comic, and one little just cartooning technique that he does that I love. If you look at the second panel and you saw this too really clearly and one of the, oh no. We're about to see it really clearly in the, in a pan, a strip we're going to talk about soon, but the characters are walking above the ground.
They're not actually their feet aren't actually on the ground. They're just sort of floating above it, but it gives it this sort of bounce in this life to them walking that I really enjoy it March 21st. Michael, you want to tell us why this one's important? We see Charlie Brown flying a kite.
Michael: Yep. Well, this is the first time and we don't see the kite hitting a tree, which might be the only time. It's just one of the things we're doing when we're going through these strips is looking for first appearances of some meme that becomes really popular. And certainly Charlie Brown's kite becomes like an epic and epic cliche. And this is the first time.
Jimmy: Yeah. And the kite Charlie Brown's kite and the kite eating tree is one of the 12 devices that Schulz talks about that really made Peanuts.
So an early appearance of this, I think it's funny because Charlie Brown actually can get the kite up in the air, but he's too afraid to let it go all the way up, which actually. I relate when I was a little kid and would fly a kite, I would be terrified if it would go up too high, thinking that it was going to fly away somehow.
March 22nd, Charlie Brown and Patty are walking down the street on a clear cold day. Patty says, “do you like having me with you? Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown says in panel two, “of course, why?” Patty answers, I just wondered. You do look happy. In panel three, Charlie Brown says, “it doesn't take much to make me happy.” Patty is outraged. In panel four we see her chasing Charlie Brown. “I always say the wrong thing,” he says,
Michael: this is a throwback to the early Patty gags from 1950. This was kind of a standard thing where Charlie Brown says something to Patty and he was kind of a wise guy. And he would purposely say something to get her angry and then she'd ended up chasing him or clobbering him.
Jimmy: Yeah. But the difference being this time, he didn't mean to say it, which is much more Charlie Brown. It's the exact same format of the joke, including him running away and her chasing him. But this time it was an accident.
Harold: yeah, it's it's it's __ rendered again, lots of background.
Michael: Well, look how smart look, how small his head is in the last panel.
Jimmy: Yeah the head thing is it, it comes and goes. On some of the other panels he'll even do in other strips, rather he'll do some shading on Charlie Brown said to give it dimension, which is a huge mistake you don't want. I think one of the reasons that Peanuts becomes more abstract is really to accommodate the Charlie Brown character design.
Because if you start thinking about the actual volume and weight of head, it's pretty troubling.
Harold: One thing that it just fascinates me is, is when he's does a strip, that's often feels a little bit more autobiographical it tends to have more detail. And I don't know if that's just me reading into the strip, but it seems like those strips where this may have been based on something actually happened in real life, all of a sudden you're seeing. You were seeing tree branches and the clouds and things that there aren't in a typical strip. And I don't know if in Charlie Brown's head being smaller, just everything moves toward this more realism. And it's seems like he's telling a joke that instead of it's a wisecrack from Charlie Brown, where he's congratulating himself about something.
This is actually something he said that intentionally hurts, unintentionally hurt somebody. And it just has so much more depth of feeling to them just last year’s strips.
Jimmy: Yeah. And again, in panel two, we see the characters just hovering a few inches above the ground as they walk. It's just really cute cartooning. And I love that.
April 4th, a human-seeming Snoopy wearing overalls yells at Charlie Brown, who is in front of him on all fours, Snoopy yells, “Speak.” Charlie Brown says, “ARF ARF.” Panel two Snoopy sternly says to Charlie Brown, “sit up” and Charlie Brown does in the manner of a dog. In panel three, Snoopy says, “chase it, bring it back.” As he throws a ball, Charlie Brown runs away on all fours to retrieve the ball. In panel four Snoopy is waking up from what was clearly a dream as Charlie Brown says, “Hey, Snoopy, wake up. I want you to pull me in the wagon.”
Michael: This is really disturbing.
Jimmy: It really is.
Michael: I'm going to have nightmares about this one.
Jimmy: You know what, I will tell you, Snoopy with his ears puffy like that, wearing the overalls looks a little like Larry Fne, you know, from three stooges.
Harold: Well, yes, but of course,
Jimmy: well, it gives him that ring of quality hair look. It's really troubling thing.
Harold: Yeah. Charles Schulz is just now starting into, into a weird Snoopy ear t hing where snippy is used to start very wonky he's just on the cusp of getting into that, that period.
Michael: Yeah. This one, this one's like pure Twilight Zone.
Jimmy: It really is
Michael: Scares me
Jimmy: It's not much of a joke. It really is, does seem just an attempt for him to see what he can do with Snoopy. And one of the cool and interesting things about the daily comic strip that we sort of lost. I don't know, maybe it's true in web strips, but I kind of don't think so. Well, I know not is that you could do this in a, in a daily strip and tomorrow it was gone. And sure, okay, there might be a book collection coming out, but you can pick and choose what’s going to be in those. Just
Harold: the idea that. This is such a, a temporal thing you're in the newspaper one day, and then you're not the next that Schulz knew he could try things and if they didn't work, that they'd be forgotten.
And it wasn't a big deal to, to play around with this idea of Snoopy in overalls speaking. And, and it's worth the try. You never know you might, you might do something that resonates, and I really appreciate that he’s pushing the boundaries of his own strip and his own rules to see what would work. ‘Cause he, we see so many versions of that that actually paid off in a huge way for Schulz, because he was willing to try something a little different.
Jimmy: Maybe it'll just be something that three cartoonists look at 70 years later and go, yikes.
April 23rd, Violet sits. She looks upset. Charlie Brown is sitting across from her a book in his hand. He says, “see, this proves it. It says so right here in the encyclopedia.” Violet walks away looking annoyed. Charlie Brown follows her book under his arm. “Now what have you got to say to that? Huh? Smarty, huh? Huh? Huh?” Violet turns around enraged. She yells. “Oh yeah?” Charlie Brown in the last panel is chagrined. He says, “well, maybe you're right after all.”
Michael: This was actually one of my picks, one of my faves of the year. I am the resident Violet- tologist in this group. So I pay attention to her, her strips, because I think she is the stand in for Schulz's wife. So this is kind of a domestic scene where he's reading to her they're sitting in a living room, even though, you know, they're acting like kids, you know, with that Oh yeah retort kind of seems like a married couple to me.
Jimmy: It also seems like any two people on the internet today that is the state of everybody's philosophical, social and political discourse in 2022.
Harold: Yeah. My only note on this strip underneath it and the book, I just wrote the logic of arguing with your spouse.,
May 3rd, Charlie Brown is sitting outside eating some candy. Violet approaches him and says, “you eat too much candy, Charlie Brown.” In panel two Violet says, “before you know it, all your teeth will start to decay. Then they'll ache and pain all night long.”In panel three, Violet continues and Charlie Brown looks upset. “Then one day your teeth will start to fall out. Plink, plink, plink. Then--.” Charlie Brown runs away screaming.
Jimmy: Yeah. By the way I would just like to say to all our listeners out there, my acting that's free of charge. That's the bonus you get for listening to this you're welcome
Harold: We are blessed
Jimmy: Oh yeah. As an actor. I'm a great cartoonist
Michael: that's for sure.
Yeah. We see here the first appearance, I think it's the first appearance, of ponytail Violet, which is one of the many manifestations of Violet. The pig tail violence started out as a very sweet, fun little kid who likes making mud pies and doing things for people. Now, she’s sort of the, the spouse stand in for a bad relationship with Charlie Brown, and ponytail, Violet who comes and goes the pigtails come back in soon, Is definitely the nagger who’s trying to get Charlie Brown's goat.
Harold: You think Violet believes in what she's saying, Michael? Or is she just trying to get…
Michael: I think she’s just trying to freak him out. It's a way of nagging too. You know, don't eat too much candy
Harold: I love, I love the use, the use of the, the wording of that.
Your teeth. They'll ache and pain all night long.
Jimmy: That is some old fashioned language.
Harold: It just sounds like it's, it's not Schulz’s voice, but he heard somebody actually say,
Jimmy: oh, that's something like my grandmother would say, oh, it's aching and pain and me.
Harold: Preach it Charlie Brown.
Michael: Well, I think it's important that Snoopy's got the little lines on his face to
indicate he's blushing. That's a real cartoonist staple. They picked us, knock us. It's that funny? But this is kind of a proto later Snoopy, Snoopy. You'll see in a couple of years, if you're hanging around likes to frolic and that's what he's doing here is he's frolicking. He's just mindlessly dancing. But later on, he has, is definitely has a dance that he does when he's happy.
Jimmy: Oh, the Snoopy dance of course becomes a pop culture meme. You can get animated gifs of it to this day.
Michael: So I think this is Snoopy learning how to dance.
Harold: Yeah. Charles Schulz was getting himself the permission to get silly. Go for it, Charles Schulz .
June 1st, this is a Sunday strip. Charlie Brown is walking past Snoopy with an ice cream cone. “Uh Oh, he heard me.” Snoopy pursues Charlie Brown. “I was afraid of this.” Snoopy is bouncing around. He really wants to get that ice cream. “Get down, Snoopy, get down”. Now he bounds. He's jumping on Charlie Brown. “Get down,” Charlie Brown says. Patty comes over and says, “Yelling at him. Won't do any good Charlie Brown.” Now Snoopy is chasing Charlie Brown around the tree as Patty yells on. “And the more you tried to get away from him, the more you tantalize him.” Charlie Brown is yelling, “Well, what do you expect me to do?” Patty advises, “just stand still. Don't let him bluff you.” A calm panel. Snoopy sits in front of Charlie Brown who holds the ice cream cone. And Patty smiling says, See, he won't bother you anymore. Snoopy thinks, “Can this be true?” Gulp. He eats Charlie Brown's ice cream cone. Now Charlie Brown is chasing Patty around the tree saying, “Just stand still. Don't let me bluff you” as Snoopy finishes the ice cream.
Harold: I love the script so much. I think it works on so many levels, but I think both you and I nominated the strip, Michael. I decided so funny that Charlie, Brown's taking advice from somebody who, who is an expert on how to dog psychology as we're watching all this action going on the cuteness of Snoopy going after the ice cream cone and seeing a lot of different little details of this tree that they're running around.
And then when Charlie Brown has been thwarted by the bad advice ofe Patty, but just the fact that the last time. Charlie, Brown's repeating her own advice to her. Just stand still don't let me bluff you as he's angrily, chasing her. I just think it's a, it's a brilliant strip and very funny and reminds me of like class, some of the classic comics, like from the thirties that he might've read some big Sunday strip that might've, you know, I'm not sure which strips I'm thinking of in particular, but it's just, it's just brilliantly constructed.
Michael: It is like a little dance. It's all choreographed the joke. Which is I, I think I picked one reason I did pick us because there was another attempted giving Snoopy another way of him thinking, except he seems to be talking.
Jimmy: well. It's, it's interesting because, and I said thinking because, but what it actually is, is a hybrid between a thought balloon and a word balloon.
You would sometimes actually see him like superhero comics later that would indicate something like telepathy or whatever. It never works. And you know, I don't even know how modern readers, how familiar they are with thought balloons because they were, they were actually banned at DC conflicts for decades.
But the difference between a word balloon and a thought balloon is a thought balloon has a scalloped edge and usually has little circles pointing to the thinker's head and a word balloon. It doesn't have a scalloped edge, and it has just a tail like a pointer pointing to the person who is speaking.
And this. A hybrid between them. Cause I think he's overthinking it and trying to come up with some sort of dog language, but ultimately he does just go back to the classic thought balloon.
Harold: Just one other thing about the strip is to me, if, if Schulz is processing somethings, he's processing the challenges of coexisting with other people's opinions and needs, right?
I mean his, his world is now. There are some aggressive personalities in his life and he's having to deal with them and he's having to figure out how to live alongside them. And sometimes it doesn't work in your favor to be the surrounded by people who maybe don't pan out to be that accurate.
Jimmy: It's a very difficult strip to draw too actually, because you have to, like Michael said, it is choreographed and you have to get the choreography cCorrect. You have to be able to. Convey some slow while keeping Snoopy a dog, you have to complain convey some slight emotion, right? Because he's not attacking Charlie Brown. He's clearly happy and excited by the ice cream cone. Then you have things like running around the tree with, with Patty in the foreground.
It's a lot of thinking that you have to do to make this pretty simple joke work. It’s a really nice example.
Harold: A lot of good choices-- Snoopy chasing Charlie Brown around the tree. Snoopy's front two legs are splayed out 180 degrees from each other. It's just like this little joyous, crazy drawing, as Snoopy kind of, it's a representation of chasing around the tree, but is his little, little paws are so wonky and drawing, it just makes it extra funny.
And then I love that Schulz is able to stack the two drawings visually of being chased around the tree, Snoopy chasing Charles Brown, and then Charlie Brown chasing Patty. It just works so well.
Jimmy: I find the, the, the rear view shot of Charlie Brown and the rear view shot of Patty really funny for some reason, I just think they're really funny drawings.
June 9th, Patty, Shermy and Charlie Brown are all dressed up as cowboys with cap guns and hats. Patty says, “I'll be the good guy.” Shermy says, “all right. And I'll be the bad guy.” In panel three, Patty says, “what are you going to be, Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown says, “I'll be sort of in between. I'll be a hypocrite.”
Michael: Definitely one of my favorites.
Jimmy: That's just hilariously funny.
Michael: Yeah, well, later on one of it, one of his characteristics was wishy washy.
Michael: So maybe later on, but that wouldn't be funny if he says I'll be wishy-washy,
Jimmy: It would be okay but it wouldn't be as just like dynamite as I'll be a hypocrite.
The last word you expect to be in this comic strip, these little kids playing cowboys is hypocrite.
Harold: It's just so perfect in the, and again, it just ties into where Schulz is right now. And it's in his in his life where he's, he's doing the comic strip, but he's also very involved in his church. And so some of the conversations that are coming out of that part of his life are seeping into this little kid strip in a way like we've never seen before.
Jimmy: Yeah, for sure. And I imagine both factions in Schulz life that the art school people and the church of God, people. And this I'm not, I'm going to use this word, but I don't mean it necessarily in a disparaging way, but are pretty dogmatic. Let's say insular, right. They have their version of the world and it makes sense to them.
And that's fine. And Schulz is navigating between these two things. And we, again on the outside are able to look at it and go, oh, that's wonderful. And how well adjusted. And on the inside, he's saying, boy, what a hypocrite.
Harold: And it's like, yeah, draw a hippie. You know,
June 19th, Charlie Brown approaches Lucy who's standing outside. Charlie Brown says “that's a nice bunny you have on your dress. Lucy.” Lucy says “I've got a sweater with a tiger on it. And a blouse with kitties on it.” In panel three, she continues, “my bed has a doggy on it. And my high chair has a Teddy bear on it.” In the final panel Lucy says, “all those animals are going to drive me crazy.”
Michael: I think this is the first time he nails Lucy. She's just so negative about everything. So you think, you know, the one thing that makes all little kids happy as animals, but no Lucy is like, nah, they're driving me crazy. There's too many animals.
Jimmy: One of the things that's interesting. You mentioned, you guys mentioned earlier, Lucy having the saucer eyes, you know, where he would draw the little.in the middle and then he enclosed them in a complete circle for the iris and the whites of the eyes and he gets away from that really quickly, but he does leave these two little commas on either side of her eyes and only the Van Pelts, I believe have those as permanent expressions.
If they appear on anybody else, it's an indication of some sort of worry and emotional disturbance that's going on. They have it all the time. And I think that's really interesting. It gives them a little bit of a more neurotic qualit.
Harold: and a little bit of there's an earnestness to the stare of Lucy without that little, that little, what do you call it? The parentheses?
Jimmy: as I said, I called it a comma. It's like, actually it's actually the parentheses. Yeah,
Harold: yeah, yeah. Those, those eyes just they're like, they're just like these intense, these, these intense earnest eyes, I think a great, and one of the funny things to me, just in Schulz's life, again, we know that Schulz painted some pretty, pretty nice involved murals on the walls of the house, at least in in Colorado Springs.
And then again, in one of the houses in Minneapolis, where the kids were, where the, where the cribs were. And we, I think one of those walls, I don't know if you saw it when you were at that museum Jim, but they, they actually preserved the wall and moved it to to the Schulz museum in Santa Rosa, California, where you can see it.
And it is he's got, he drew it. He did a beautiful tiger and he does a bunny rabbit and it has kind of like wild expression in its eyes.
Jimmy: Yeah, it’s beautiful.
Harold: And I know the guy who owned the house in Minneapolis and he was telling me the story of how they were preserving that. And we're going to send it to the museums.
I don't know if that made it there or it's on display yet, but apparently you know, Keith Abdo was the owner of probably the last house they were in I'm guessing and same deal. They, they went out of their way to basically take what had been on the walls and preserve it and get it over to the museum.
Jimmy: Yeah, I believe it was. Cause I think Schulz actually painted it in oils, which is why it was it. Cause it had been painted over for decades and they actually restored it from that. So yeah. That's an amazing thing. So guys, I think we should call it right there. What do you think? 1952, take a break right here and then go back next week
And finish up this momentous year in, in the world of Charlie Brown and Snoopy, what do you think?
Michael: Let’s do it
Jimmy: All right, so that's what we're going to do. We'll break it off here, come back next week. If you want to find out what Charlie Brown and the gang get up to in the rest of 1952. And in the meantime, why don't you follow us on our social media accounts?
Unpack Peanuts at both Instagram and Twitter, you can check us out on our website, unpacking Peanuts.com. So until next time have a good week have for Michael and Harold. This is Jimmy saying, thanks for listening and be good. We'll see you. Next week.
Unpacking Peanuts is copyright Jimmy Gownley, Michael Cohen, and Harold Buchholz. Produced by Liz Sumner. Music by Michael Cohen.
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