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1954 Part 1 - Look At Me! I'm Dancing!

Jimmy: Hey everybody. Welcome back to the show. It's Unpacking Peanuts. That's the show where we look deep at Charles Schulz comic strip masterpiece Peanuts. Today on the show, we're looking at 1954, which is a year with many high highs, some strange detours, a few left turns at Albuquerque. I'm your host. I'm Jimmy Gownley.

If you know me, you might know me from my comic book series, Amelia Rules or my graphic novels, The Dumbest Idea Ever and Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up. Joining me are my co-hosts. He's a playwright, a composer for the band Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. And he's the cartoonist behind such great strips as Strange Attractors, Tangled River, and A Gathering of Spells, Michael Cohen. And executive producer and writer for the classic TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000, former vice-president of Archie comics and current creator of the Instagram strip sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz.

Okay guys. I think this, this conservatively, this episode is going to last seven and a half days because we are into the, to the meat of Peanuts now. And I, I have, I have a few hot takes, but before I say anything about, about what I think of this year, I want to hear from you guys.

I've been actually champing at the bit waiting to discuss this year with you guys. Michael, what are you, what are your initial thoughts?

Michael: Definitely he's nailed the Sundays. And it's amazing because like with a few exceptions, they're all absolutely brilliant. And I was a little surprised cause I, I was always thinking that Schulz got into his absolute prime with Peanuts around ‘56.

And I was just surprised how many, you know, absolute home run strips. There were, especially the Sundays and there were some real serious missteps, which we'll talk about.

Jimmy: Yeah, it is, it is definitely a year of extremes, which is, I think one of the reasons we could talk about it for so long. Harold, what are your takeaways?

Harold: Yeah, I can get the sense he's had so much change in his life and over the first three, four years, he's working on this strip and, and I, this is I think, more of the same in the sense for, for Schulz. I think there's less, less change for him this year than any of the years up to this point where he's really maybe able to focus on the strip without having to address some new issue or new addition to his life.

So, you know, he's introducing some new characters and he's yeah, he's perfecting his craft at this this year. It seems to me.

Jimmy: So I know we're going to talk about this in detail when we go through the strips one by one, but I want to talk with you guys about some of those left turns that he takes this year, because it seems to me we've been watching, you know, over the course of the last few years, last few episodes for us him gradually adding these little building blocks to the strip and some of them really stick and become a part of the fabric that we think of forever and ever.

And some of them stick around for a little while before fading away. But none of them feel wildly out of place or like wildly off the mark. I mean, the closest thing for me from the earlier ones would be Violet's mud pies, which I think he thinks is funnier than, than I personally do, but it doesn't feel outside the world of Peanuts, but he does some things this year, which are really outside of what we think of as Peanuts and they don't work. I mean, what do you think it is when everything else is operating at that unbelievably high level of creativity, the new stuff, the new ideas aren't clicking. I wonder what that's about.

Harold: I think he's getting bolder. I think he's, he's getting bolder and trying new things and, and leaping off from where he is and going somewhere new, you know, and I at least, at least in one case,

Michael: is there any chance that the syndicate asked him to do more continuity on the Sundays?

Jimmy: You know, I think there has to be some sort of external reason and what Michael's talking about right now, we'll get into detail later, but it's, it's, Lucy's first golf tournament first and only golf tournament in this style. Anyway, thankfully, and I have, so if I was a conspiracy theorist, I have a lot to say about that sequence because I do,

Harold: I have a lame theory myself.

Jimmy: Do ya? It feels to me like it's so far outside of anything that exists before or after and Peanuts that there has to be some extenuating circumstances around around its creation. Cause it's so weird.

Michael: Yeah. Yeah. It's several things he does in the first of these strips that he'd never done before. And I think it runs four or five Sundays.

It's just, it's not Peanuts anymore. And it's, and he must've realized that cause he never did anything like this again. So you're going to have to just wait and see what we're talking about.

Jimmy: The continuity as much as there there's very dry. And we can tell you you know, there's no spoilers at this point and we'll talk about them one by one.

But you know, it's Lucy at a golf tournament. There's adults it's drawn very differently and there, and it turns into a true continuity strip where it's not attempting to make a punchline really, at the end, it's just getting you to come back to see what happens with the golf tournament the next week.

It's a completely different vibe. And he did some other things, you know, this is the year of Charlotte Braun. And I, I do understand and agree with what Harold's saying that, yeah, this is, this is a guy who is, is really, really going for it. And you know, back to one of my few metaphors that I applied to everything, but in baseball, if you want to be a home run hitter, you're also going to strike out.

And I think that's a lot what we're seeing here.

Harold: There's a lot of confidence in this year.

Michael: Yeah. But strangely enough, I mean, he always moved the strip forward. And it was very important to him to keep, to keep it fresh and try new things. It's just this year, I think there's two very obvious flubs. And I can't think of any other year where anything like that happens where it's clearly a serious mistake and he never does it again.

Jimmy: Right.

Harold: Yeah. Although I'm really grateful for those flubs.

Jimmy: Oh, you know, well, this is, this is interesting because once Fantagraphics reprints the entire thing from beginning to end the way we interact with Peanuts as a work of art changes, Right? I mean, Schulz was drawing these things saying. You know, one day it'll be in the newspaper and then it will be gone.

And then I can decide what gets remembered, what gets put into a book and gets reprinted and sends around the world in that format. But because of his achievement, primarily through the strips that we know that have been reprinted 18 million times it's, it's considered this great masterpiece and now we want to see every single thing.

So now we have every single thing and there was sometimes a reason that they were cut.

Michael: Yeah. So it's Mr. Moonlight.

Jimmy: Yes. Why did they do that?

Harold: Wow. No, that's, that's an interesting point, Jim, because not only are we experiencing Peanuts in this, in this collective form, but so as Schulz, you know, he probably didn't have that experience until the first books came out, which was, you know, ‘52.

And he's seeing, he's seeing to some extent the comic's comic strips being published in, in a serial format, comic books as well. So he like us is kind of experimenting in his mind with how people engage with his strip now in a different way, not just on this daily basis, but also he's in, you know, it's something he's experiencing.

Like we are that you can also read him a whole bunch of things together. And that, that must change the way you, you view what you create. I, I just put out a little book of my Sweetest Beast strips from Instagram and reading them together was, was you know, a fairly new thing, just one after the other turning the page.

And it has changed the way I, I consider approaching the strip.

Jimmy: Oh, really? That's interesting. Well, what, what decisions did it make you make?

Harold: I think the sense of repetition and the sense of, you know, something that is only for four panels, if you don't mix up the you don't mix up. The composition and the panels are you, you keep the same colors, you know, that's okay for four panels, but for 40, like I can put some pink in there.

Jimmy: Right. Well, actually, you know, now that I think about this, Michael, when you were doing Tangled River, that was being posted one page at a time. And so you were actually able to get reader feedback. I mean, what was that like? I never, the closest I did Amelia as a comic book, but it's not the same as that kind of instant feedback when you're doing it.

And people are able to respond to page at a time. What was that like?

Michael: I was always a little afraid to get comments because sometimes I think especially on the internet, people tend to get snarky. And so there'd be a snarky comment and I'm going like, wait a minute, is he making fun of this?

Or he's just, it's like a good natured joke for the other readers.

Jimmy: Right. And it tends to be the worst of human nature gets expressed in comments on the internet.

Harold: And I have to say, I was also attract attracted to a little more continuity. Like, you know, what, if I did do something, it was five pages and, you know, again, that's, that's something we think we see Schulz doing here.

Jimmy: For sure. You know, he would be getting reader feedback, but it would be weeks and weeks later. And he doesn't the, the big flopperoos to quote Jules Feiffer don't get repeated. So I think even without the reader feedback, he knew that they were going nowhere because it there's not like they were around for six weeks or so.

And then then disappeared. They, they made their little shots and that was it. But it's crazy because the rest of the stuff we're going to have shows that ended up being days long, because we aren't, like Michael said, this is not what I would have previously considered the beginning of the peak of Peanuts.

And we're at the point where it's just classic after classic and again, so many great Sundays. Yeah. It seems just like, he's really inspired by the, by the form of the Sunday. So I'm not sure what, what drew, maybe that's the part of, of cartooning. He was actually originally attracted to the most with things like, you know, prince Valiant and those again, Krazy Kat and stuff like that.

Harold: And again, that you know that if he's experiencing it, look what I can do with you know, with 10 or 12 panels. Yeah. Maybe that's why we're seeing him think, Hey, what could I do with 48 panels?

Jimmy: Right. Yeah. And he's even breaking up the four panel. He's not going so far as to, to change the size of panels, but he will subdivide on the daily strip, the four equal panels into like eight equal panels, which he experiments with a few times with, you know, varied success.

But it's interesting. I think that he's trying at least a little bit to break out of the, the four panels that he was, he was given by the syndicate pretty short order though. He abandoned that as well and just, just succumbs to it, I think. Okay. So that's where we are in 1954. Why don't we take a break right now?

And then when we come back, we will go through our picks for the best funniest, most interesting and most historic strips of 1954.


Jimmy: And we're back with Unpacking Peanuts. I'm Jimmy Gownley. Joining me is Michael Cohen and Harold Buchholz. And we're going to look at 1954 in the world of Charlie Brown, Snoopy Linus and Lucy go and strip by strip. And also, I should remind you guys, if, if you're wanting to follow along with us while we do this, you can just go to

They have a strip called Peanuts Begins, and you can read these strips all along with us.

January 3rd Schroeder is sitting at his toy piano. Lucy looks on admiringly from afar. She says, “gee, he's cute, but he doesn't even know I'm alive and something's got to be done about it.” Lucy continues to look on from afar. “I'm going to make Schroeder notice me. If I have to kill myself, trying.” She jumps up on top of his piano and starts dancing. “Hey, Hey, look at me. I'm dancing.” Schroeder is appalled. “Get off my piano” he yells. He pulls out a rag and starts dusting off the scratches. “Good grief, scratches, scuff marks, footprints.” “Phew” says Lucy who has been tossed to the ground. Schroeder looks as she walks away and says, “I think that poor girl has lost her mind.” Lucy says to herself, “I'll probably never get married.”

Michael: This is a classic strip. This isn't the first Lucy in love with the Schroeder at the piano strip. And there's going to be lots of them over the years. This is as good as they get.

I think it really sums things up.

Jimmy: Yeah. He comes back to the I'll probably never get married a few times. And I liked the drawing in this. I love her dance and look at me. I'm dancing.

Harold: Yeah, and this is also one of the earlier successful examples of the non punchline joke, where you could argue that it's not easy.

It's not a big laugh. It's just, it's just kind of closing out what was a really dynamic strip he's he's comfortable with the final, the final statement, not being necessarily a huge punch that I guess the first I'll probably get never, never getting married. You could say using it the first time, maybe.

You know, he would have considered a strong punchline. But to me that was one of the hallmarks of Charles Schulz was the fourth panel. Isn't necessarily going to be the big, the big punchline in this case, the last panel of the Sunday,

Jimmy: you know, and you'll see this again and again, and this is continuing from 1953 where he is trying, it's almost every, panel's funny, you know, I mean the, the top tier which gets removed has its own punchline, which is really, I mean, it's not a punchline in the traditional sense, but if you know, Lucy, it's hilarious, you know, she's funny doing her little dance, his reaction is funny, her going flat it's it's the whole thing is just a general nice piece of entertainment, really beautifully drawn to, so this makes me think he instantly has Schroeder up to speed here with his piano. And he has a relationship with Lucy. And, you know, poor Shermy. This is definitely the beginning of Shermy being ousted from the main cast. And I saw something online when I was doing research for this episode that made me, I wanted to bring it up here. Apparently if you wrote in and requested a booklet, because you purchased the first Peanuts collection, you would get this little thing in the mail.

And it was like a, like a mini comic, essentially with the Peanuts cast drawn by Charles Schulz. But watercolor washed, like in his Saturday evening post style where look like a little New Yorker cartoon. Oh, they're gorgeous. And you can see the originals online at heritage auctions website, but he has each of the characters.

Some sort of pose or setting that indicates their personality. Snoopy has a big smile and he's in front of his, his dog house with the TV antenna. Charlie Brown is decked out for baseball. Schroder’s at the piano, Lucy skipping rope, Patty’s playing marbles, Violet selling mud pies. And Shermy is standing there with his hands in his pockets.

Michael: I would like to propose something called the Shermy test of a, of a cartoon. The Shermy test is if that's you wouldn't do it so much in this one we're talking about now, but if you replace the character in the strip with Shermy, would it still be funny?

Jimmy: Would it still be funny? Yeah,

Harold: I just have to say whenever I see Shermy, I do get this warm feeling. I don't know why, but I like Shermy.

Jimmy: Harold. All I can say is you would.

What were you going to say, Michael? I have a Shermy button.

Michael: I like him too. No, but the fact that to pass the Shermy test, if it's, cause I think these jokes are character specific. Yeah. That now would this, if it was Patty who was in love with Schroeder, would it be as funny?

Jimmy: No, it's this is actually really interesting because it's marking the point where Schulz is moving away from just writing gags because one of the things that we all remarked upon in those early strips is he is writing jokes and they're just being delivered by these drawings. And now, like you say, It's entirely out of the character.

Yeah, that's interesting. But we'll see that. Let's see if there's some that are just funny, punchline. He jokes. We'll apply the Shermy test and see if that works.

Harold: Unfortunately, I think I have a funny punchliney joke. I do call out. It has Shermy in it, so sorry.,

Jimmy: Oh, hell it passes the Shermy test, I guess.

January 7th, Patty and Charlie Brown stand outside in the snow. They have just made a snowman. Patty says to Charlie Brown, “that snowman is just as much mine as it is yours.” She continues pointing at Charlie Brown and yelling. “In fact, Charlie Brown, if you don't look out, I'm just liable to take my half and go home.” Charlie Brown answers. “Oh, oh, oh, oh, you wouldn't dare.” Patty says “wouldn't I?” Charlie Brown confidently says “Unh uh.” In the last panel we see the snowman cut in half. And Charlie Brown looks out at us, chagrined.

Harold: And we have to point out that he was, it was cut down vertically.

Jimmy: It was cut down vertically.

Harold: Yes. Although I will say she got the carrot.

Jimmy: Oh, that's true. So that's a little more than half, you know, we should have pointed this out last year. But we didn't really do any of the snowman strips, but one of the big parts of Calvin and Hobbes is, is Calvin's snowman art. And that is a direct lift from 1953, Charlie Brown making, making weird snowmen.

So I'm calling you out Bill Waterson. What you're going-- if you didn't completely steal that from Charles Schulz, why don't you come on our podcast and defend yourself? There you go.

Harold: Oh, he's doing it. Who can, who can let that just lie? He's doing, you know, the thing that struck me in this strip in the third panel we see all four panels.

We see, well, first street panels. We'll see Charlie Brown. And then we move into what you can say, I guess, is a medium shot of them, a closeup and the, and the word balloons aren't hanging from the top of the strip. At least Charlie Brown's is not. And that variation was really striking that I just thought it was a really nicely drawn and composed panel, but it made me start to think about Peanuts that over 99% of his panels at this point, at least are always long shots.

You see everything of every character and I just wanted to throw out there. Why do you think Schulz did that? And what do you think the, is there an impact for the reader when you're always seeing them in this kind of tableau, like, like in a theater where you're seeing the full body from a distance versus you know, doing close-up shots of heads and this and that, the way these, some other cartoonists do well.

Jimmy: In some ways, it sort of helps with reinforce the rhythm of the four panels. You know, it feels like it that's unchanging. And in many instances, the camera is also unchanging. I think the drawing would draw attention to itself too much as a drawing if there was a lot of radical variations.

And as a matter of fact, we will see that when we come up on the, the infamous golf strip thing you know, and also sometimes just comedy is better and just a wide, a wide shot in a, in a cartoon.

Harold: I mean, the old say Buster Keaton would probably agree with you on that, Jim, because when he was doing silent comedy he was loathe to cut when there was a bit of business being done because the humor is in seeing what someone is accomplishing in real time in this, this, this piece that there is there's no, there's no trickery. There's no, there's nothing to distract you. It's the virtuosity of someone able to make everything happen within the frame.

Jimmy: Yeah. And it, he is a virtue. So I mean, he can really compose the panel, but all of these panels are really beautifully drawn.

January 8th, Lucy is reading a book to herself. “The boy is lying on the grass. The grass is green. The boy is looking up at the sky. The sky is blue.” She tosses the book over her shoulder and walks away. “I can't stand books that have a lot of discussion”

Michael: Pretty funny, I would think.

Jimmy: Yeah, it is very funny and very nice lettering going for a serif lettering, which you don't see often

Harold: giant serif lettering

Jimmy: Yeah. Again, this is his Dan Clowes influence retroactively coming to the fore here, just in case anyone doesn't know who that reference is. He's a cartoonist from the late eighties.

So obviously the influence goes the other way.

January 17th Linus is crawling around on all fours in his living room. He says to himself, “big kids drive me crazy. Well, I'll be” he says coming into a room, filled with toys. “I can't believe it. All these toys and nobody around. No big kids to take things away from me, just when I'm starting to have fun.” Linus smiles and starts playing with the toys. He says, “I can't stand big kids. I can't get over it. All these toys and nobody around, oh, good grief.” He says, “here they come.” He ducks for cover “big kids.” The entire gang runs past in the last panel. We see Linus sitting alone, all the toys gone, he sighs to himself.

Michael: This is really great.

Harold: Yeah. So this is, this is a very articulate Linus.

Have we had our Linus able to articulate kind of his deeper thoughts before? Has it happened before? I can't really--

Michael: No, no. And one thing I did notice this year is Schulz keeps aging and de-aging Linus. Yeah. This is a point where it is word balloons rather than thought balloons, but you can read that as he's alone so it doesn't matter. Yeah. This is really sophisticated, you know, adult language. And he doesn't do this again anytime this year.

Harold: And you know, you really, at least I really feel for Linus in the, in this strip he's this, this little kid is, you know, we we've seen him non-verbally being abused and being verbally abused by Lucy earlier on.

And, and but we haven't really gotten into his head verbally before. And I think it just magnifies the impact of this, this little kid where, because he's a little kid he's. He's just constantly thwarted in in, in having anything happen. He seems to live in this interior world by himself and almost by necessity.

We did have that one strip last year that I really liked that was, was him and Snoopy sitting side by side. And Linus initiates tickling Snoopy, which Snoopy doesn't like initially, but then Snoopy's like thinks better of it and just tickles it back. And they both have this lovely little moment.

That's the first and only time I think we have seen up until now where Linus has has triumphed in some way where he's, he's connected with someone or he was able to see through something they made himself happy. And so this is kind of an extension of this, the little boy being just overlooked abused, mistreated by the other kids.

Jimmy: It's a beautifully drawn strip. It hearkens back to the five and ten store where we saw all the little toys that he drew. In the shelves at the, at the little Woolworths there now they're all back home and have been played with. And I love it when he puts all that, that detail in. And of course the other panel I love is the, the next to the last one with the whole gang.

It's Patty, Violet, Charlie Brown, Shermy and Lucy running in to get the toys. And it's just gorgeous.

Harold: Yeah it really is beautifully, beautifully done that.

Jimmy: It looks like it could be almost a Jaime

Michael: Oh the big panel where they're running. It looks like the line looks a little thicker. I wonder if he actually blew it up.

Harold: than other strips, other Sunday strips?

Michael: Well, just the other panels in that one where they're all running, it looks a little--

Jimmy: You know I think in some instances too, I'm not sure that they had

Harold: interesting

Jimmy: the best sources, although that wouldn't explain why one panel is different. Maybe he did do something different for that one,

Harold: lots of spotted blacks, which definitely kind of gives the feeling that there's a thicker line.

Jimmy: Yeah. And those strange motion marks up at the top . Which feels sort of dead weight in some ways, honestly, this looks like I was going to say earlier, a Jaime Hernandez drawing. I mean, I know Jaime is, is taking from Schulz and using it for his own purposes, but this really, it looks like he inked it.

Michael: Yeah. Well, let's keep an eye on Linus and the next bunch of strips and see if he turns back into a little baby for awhile. I think Schulz would just said such a great setup that he might've thought, oh, what the heck let's give Linus some sophisticated thoughts for once. Yeah.

Harold: Yeah. He's still, he's still crawling in this one.

So, so yeah, it's, it's that classic Schulz mixing something that is sophisticated with something that is very very childlike.

January 19th, Snoopy is begging and Charlie Brown holds a bag of candies. He says to Snoopy, “you don't expect to get anything when you sit up like that. Get some expression, sit up straight. That's the way.” Snoopy now sits up straight or with a smile on his face. Charlie Brown walks away and tosses the bag over his shoulder. “Incidentally, the candy's all gone.” We now see Snoopy standing alone, still sitting up on his hind paws. But now looking forlorn.

Michael: that is such a funny image of him in the last panel,

Harold: which by the way, mirrors the first panel.

Michael: Oh, he's even more like stunned. Well, first of all, Charlie Brown doesn't do a whole lot of these cruel things.

Harold: Yeah. I don't think he's doing it on purpose is he?

Michael: Earlier on he did.

Harold: I mean, it's like, he's just focused on teaching, Snoopy something and Snoopy is the one who's assuming that there's candy in his bag.

Michael: Oh, I think he's being cruel.

Harold: Yeah. Yeah. I would definitely disagree on this. Just looking at how he set it up. He's Charlie Brown is just focused on Snoopy's behavior and he's tried to teach him something and then he's like, it.

Jimmy: No no cause he’s definitely. It's nice that you think the best of Charlie Brown, but no.

January 24th, Lucy kicks a box of cookies out of Linus’s hands. “That's what I think of your box of cookies.” She kicks Schroeder's piano saying, “that's what I think of your old piano.” She kicks Violet's collection of stamps saying, “that's what I think of your stamp collection.” She kicks over Charlie Brown's puzzle. “And that's what I think of your ol’ picture puzzle.” She destroys and kicks Shermy’s marbles saying, “and that's what I think of your stupid old marbles.” She does the same to Patty. “And that's what I think if your silly old color crayons.” In the last panel, we see Lucy being chased by all the other kids with Lucy saying, “I'm frustrated and inhibited, and nobody understands me.”

Michael: this well, this is tied for my pick of the year. This is so such a classic Lucy material and passes the Shermy test. Totally. This would only work with Lucy.

Jimmy: Yeah. And it's interesting because you know, the other kids have been mean, but they seem to be only mean to Charlie Brown. Whereas Lucy just feels like she's just pure id. It's not solely directed at Charlie Brown.

Harold: Yeah. Anger is something in this strip that, I mean, it's very important part of this strip, right? I did a typical Haroldian thing where I went and looked at all of the strips from this year and all the strips from 1953, the previous year. And I just said, how many times, how many strips have characters expressing anger? So do you guys have any guesses? And I will tell you that it was in my count exactly the same number for each year, which I thought was interesting.

Anybody want to guess what percentage or what number of the 365 strips had a character showing anger?

Michael: The Haroldian Index?

Jimmy: 25

Michael: I would go with 75

Harold: 75 and Jimmy said 25%?

Jimmy: Yeah, no. I said 25 strips.

Harold: 25 strips that character showed angers. You said 75. It was 135 strips.

Jimmy: Holy cow

Harold: characters showing anger. It'd be really interesting to put, put that up against the family circus

Michael: or I guess later Peanuts

Harold: or later Peanuts. Yeah

Michael: I read the Comics Journal interview with Schulz yesterday. And he says in, in the seventies, he's decided for the characters to be a lot nicer. He didn't like all the cruelty and he said, I think they're just going to start being nice to each other.

Harold: What's interesting. We'll have to take a look and see what the trajectory is.

Jimmy: Yeah. You know, that's, it's, it's such an interesting thing because it's just an inevitable part of. Just growing and changing and staying with the same work of art for decades, you know, you're, you're just going to be a different person at different points in your life. So it's really interesting. And he can't tell what is going to make it click or not click it really.

I don't think in his wildest dreams, did he think he would have achieved this level of success? I mean, nobody else had ever in this art form.

January 31st we see Snoopy's doghouse with a line of kids outside. Shermy is down on all fours, looking in he's about to crawl inside. Charlie Brown says, “what in the world is going on over there?” One by one, he sees all the other kids crawl into Snoopy's doghouse. Finally, at the end, he says, “Hey, is there room for one more?” A voice comes from inside. “Sure. Come on in.” Schroeder, pokes his head out and says the house itself isn't so big, but you ought to see the recreation room.”

Michael: I hadn't noticed-- another thing he mentioned in the interview was the decision to make the doghouse always in profile, sort of a two dimensional object and seeing it in three dimensions. I don't know. It kind of emphasizes the joke in a way because you really see how small it is.

Harold: So do you think that works ultimately for it or against a given that he chose ultimately to just show it from the side so you don't see it at any other angle going forward?

Michael: I mean, it's a real dog house here. And so he, I mean, all the classic stuff with him, sitting there with a typewriter, none of that could have happened in a three-dimensional doghouse.

Harold: Right. There's a surreal quality to this that I, I like. And is unique to Peanuts he's Charles Schulz is remarkably comfortable with adding surreal elements to this otherwise pretty realistic world.

Jimmy: Yeah. To me, this is, I prefer when it just stays on it on the flat plane, because this looks to me like a magic trick, you know, they, they crawl into the cabinet and they disappear and you figure, well, there's a basement or something like that, which is weird. I know for a doghouse, but in the more abstract strips, I don't think about the physical aspect of it at all.

And I just accept it that it's, it's sort of imaginary liminal space or something.

February 7th, Charlie Brown is sitting on a sled on top of a very small hill, maybe a foot and a half high. Snoopy is looking on. Charlie Brown says to Snoopy, “Come on, Snoopy. You can sit right behind me.” Snoopy climbs aboard the sled. “Are you ready? Here we go. Hang on. Down, down, down racing like the wind. We made it.” Snoopy looks out. Very unimpressed by the tiny little path that sled has made. Charlie Brown turns to Snoopy and says, “shall we try it again right away? Or do you want to wait until you catch your breath?”

Michael: This is what-- as comparison to the doghouse one. This has to be in profile because this isn't really a hill. It's like, it's not even a slope. I don't know what this thing is, but they’ve gone like two feet and this little, whole slope, but that's a kid thing.

Harold: And you notice a Schulz kind of defies gravity.

Michael: Yeah. Definitely

Harold: Defying gravity because Charlie Brown is like, definitely would not be on top of the slope because Snoopy's got to get on the back.

With Snoopy not being there, it's clear that he would have been actually on the slope going down. It's a really interesting choice on his part to keep everything stylistically and visually the same, even though it physically by the law of physics would not work.

Michael: Yeah. Well, there is no gravity on Peanuts.

Jimmy: Right. But like you're saying it would not work. If you vary the angles and this is a really hard strip to draw because you're drawing this little sled, which is some fine line stuff. That's, it's a, you know, it's, it's a minimal device, but it's, it's a piece of machinery that, that those are just difficult to draw because you have to keep it consistent from panel to panel.

You can't have the same variation you would with a character and he he's showing incremental movement. I mean, literally Charlie Brown’s sled travels, maybe 18 inches on this death defying journey. It's, it's a really, you have to be rigorous to draw,

Harold: ___ break, break the rules. He knows what works in a comic strip.

I think I've got a strip coming up as well. that kind of deals with this strange-- the rules of comics and what you can get away with in comics when it comes to time and, and space and physics.

Jimmy: Yeah. It's amazing how much formal stuff he does considering how much just limitations are placed on him that he can't change. It's really impressive.

February 11th Charlie Brown is sitting outside on his curb. Violet is very happy and says, “when I grow up, I want to be a nurse.” Charlie Brown looks at her and says,” that's fine.” She sits down next to Charlie Brown and asks him, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown says, “Perfect.”

Harold: This is what we have more Charlie Brown, trying to be perfect, trying to come across as perfect, but he's, he's a little more melancholy I think about it than he has been in the last two years. The confidence seems to kind of be slowly running away from Charlie Brown and the Charlie Brown that we're used to seeing seems to be emerging.

Jimmy: You know, if you think about this as some sort of Schulz analog, it's a really weird thing because I don't know many people that aspire to be perfect, but maybe it explains his ambitious nature trying to become such a great cartoonist cause it's a pretty, pretty odd goal. What do you want to be-- perfect?

Harold: Well if he really does feel that way then yeah. I mean, no wonder there's anger, it's not going to happen. You know, and I'm thinking again, he's, he's a he's he's at the church of God offices. He's I think he said elder or at this point he think he's teaching Sunday school classes, you know, and, and I don't know, maybe he's reading, reading you know, the words from the new Testament says, you know, be ye perfect.

And he's like, yeah, that's what I want to do. He's taking it very seriously. I don't know. But you know, it's really fascinating to see, see him just, yeah. He's he's shooting for perfection in the strip. You kind of get that sense and he's, he's doing a really good job, but it's not enough. If you want to be perfect.

February 15th, Charlie Brown and Violet are sitting in class. Charlie Brown says to Violet, “you know what?” “What.” Charlie Brown says, “My grandfather says when he went to school, he used to dunk the girl's pigtails in the inkwell.” Violet stands up, turns around and yells at Charlie Brown saying, “if you try that, I'll knock you clear across the room.” Charlie Brown says,” that's what happened to my grandfather.”

Michael: I picked this one, not because the joke or anything about the joke, cause I don't think it's very funny. It's the first time we've seen them in school at the desks, the profile at the desks, which becomes like a major setting.

Jimmy: Yeah. And it's right in the classic lineup, you know, showing it from the side, two desks in profile, but I have to disagree. I think that's hilarious. I think that's a really funny joke.

Harold: Michael really does like the jokes that are, are coming from character. And this, this is if you did the Shermy test passed the Shermy test

Jimmy: Now wait, does that mean it passes the Shermy test? No it fails the Shermy test.

Michael: I don't know.

Jimmy: Yeah, no. If Shermy can do the joke that's failing the Shermy test.

Harold: Yes. Makes sense. Yeah. By Michael's rules, And the strip would get away with that

Jimmy:. Okay. So we're going to say this is important because first school, we think it's a funny joke, but it does fail the Shermy test. So it's not quite up to snuff. All right.

February 16th Linus is sitting on the floor, reading a book. Lucy is sitting next to him, staring at a clock. From panel one to three, we see the clock incrementally move towards the hour when it strikes seven o'clock Lucy turns to Linus and screams, “BEDTIME.”

Harold: and then Linus completely flips over dropping his book.

Total, total I don't know. What do you call that? That expression, surprise and, and fear, and

Jimmy: He’s totally shocked

Michael: and chagrined

Harold: this, this pre premeditated. I mean talk about this is like classic Schulz is saying this little girl is premeditatedly waiting to torture her little brother, and that is chilling.

I mean that, that is just a chilling strip. I mean, and, and the Schulz is willing to go there and let her, let this character be so, so just innately cruel is, is, is it, I don't remember seeing stuff like this in other strips.

Jimmy: No.

February 21st Charlie Brown and Lucy are standing outside at night. Lucy is pointing up at the sky and counting “901 902.” Charlie Brown says, “Gee, I thought you'd have given up by this time.” Lucy says, “No sir, when I get started on something really worthwhile, I never give up.” Charlie Brown says,”if you're going to count all these stars, I think I better help you.” Lucy says, “well, I appreciate this. Charlie Brown.” Charlie Brown says, “have you counted that little one up there, Lucy?” “Which little one, that one?” Charlie Brown says “no, that little one over there.” “Over there?” “No, there.” “You mean that little one next to that chartreuse one?” “No, that little one right there.” “You mean right there?” ”No, right there. Right up there.” “There, up there?” “No, no, there.” “There? there?” “No, there.” “There?” “Yes, there.” Lucy says, “what about it?”

Jimmy: So funny.

Michael: This is great. It's a great gag.

Harold: Does it pass the Shermy test?

Michael: Yeah, I mean, I mean, the gag is not a typical Lucy gag, but it's a typical, well, maybe it doesn't. I mean, it's a kid thing with pointing out stars. First of all, it's impossible to do.

Jimmy: Well Lucy does have this thing though, where she's trying to count various things.

She's trying to make scientific advancements. She's doing her own little experiments, so it does sort of make sense for Lucy and also she is slightly younger than Charlie Brown. So she might be still able to think that she could do this.

Michael:That's one thing she Lucy does a lot this year and in the, in the upcoming years, she's like a little scientist, except she has no clue. And comes up with these crazy explanations for things. And if somebody comes up with the real explanation, she thinks they're crazy. So she's actually the first Q Anon adherent I think.

Jimmy: I was gonna say it is really funny because she is so confident in her ignorance. She will just make up a fiction and go with it.

Harold: And is there a character like that, that predates Lucy? Is he following anything or is he kind of creating this, something that hasn't been seen in comic strips before? Because I know, like in general, early strips were often very urban people were all over each other in a city, you know, Someone's always hanging out of a window next to somebody else it's crowded or, or rural strips where they're using their wits to survive those kinds of strips.

And then here, we're in this world where people come together, but they're still somehow isolated from each other. It's this, this existential strip, like we haven't seen before, except maybe in Krazy Kat in one form or another. And there's this real sadness and being unable to connect to others, despite this great effort, you know, in a world that's so much bigger than they can comprehend.

It's, you know, without putting too much of a philosophical spin on this, I really do feel like he's doing something that has not been seen before. He really loved flat color for the later Sunday strips. But I don't know what the early ones looked like.

Jimmy: They're flat color too. I mean, It's not until the Photoshop comes in in the nineties, when you start seeing gradients and stuff and Peanuts, and it looks really jarring.

They color it on Peanuts Begins even the dailies.

Harold: Yeah. And those are colors that were done after Schulz passed away for the dailies. Just done by done by really talented artists. After the fact, the Sundays, I'm assuming. What, well, maybe not, maybe they weren't able to, to salvage the, the color as Schulz marked it out, because the way it used to work for Sundays, as you would mark up the colors and tell through a series of codes, the engravers and the people working in the offices of, of the, these separation companies that would make the different colors.

Schulz couldn't actually do that himself. That was one piece that he had to rely on others to do through a series of kind of mechanical codes. And I think because of that, he's not particularly interested in, at least in the later strips that I see, he'll just say, okay, you know, a hundred percent cyan, there's a back, there's a background color.

Then it's 50% yellow and he would always change the background colors. There's a little jarring as an adult to go back and look at that. But as a kid, I just took it for granted that, you know, the, the background is so abstract to Schulz that he doesn't care. If there's a, a red sky followed by a yellow sky, followed by a blue sky, followed by a green sky, he's just mixing up, you know, adding, adding some variations on the page.

Jimmy: Yeah. It just makes a really attractive Sunday page. I've become really influenced by the mid-century coloring recently. And I, in my later work, which mostly stuff people haven't seen yet the coloring is, is gone more towards that style. What people don't realize there were only 64 colors they could even choose from.

I mean, at some point it went to like 128 and guys like Will Eisner, I think only had 32 it's and it's just mixing cyan, magenta yellow. And then there's a black plate with the lines over top of it. It's limiting, but like limitations often are, it can be a source of creativity. And if you get good at it, people who are really good at coloring with those 64 colors, it just looks really sharp.

And it never dates because you're not going to see all. That's obviously a 1990s Photoshop gradient. Oh, that's obviously a lens flare from your Photoshop effects pallet or something like that.

February 28th Lucy is in her pajamas. She's walking along in her house, pulling a Teddy bear in a wagon. She's playing with her blocks and singing to herself. From off panel an adult says “Lucy, It's time to go to bed.” Lucy freaks out. “No, I don't want to go to bed. I won't, I won't. You can't make me. You can't, you can't. I won't go to bed. I won't, I.” During all of this, she is just throwing herself all across the living room and evermore ridiculous positions of protestation. She says, “Come to think of it. I am kind of tired.”

Michael: He does this takes other takes on this gag. There's one later in the year. And that when we come to it, that's September 5th, basically we're Lucy flies into a tantrum. I mean just an insane tantrum and then goes along with it in the end saying, okay.

Jimmy: Yeah, it seems like there's a little bit of, of Lucy that just feels she has to do the performance because that's who she is.

She's the fuss budget. If she just went to bed, who is she? Yeah, these work so,

Harold: well, it's almost like you could make a bed spread out of this strip. You know, it just is beautifully designed, really so much fun. Oh. And did you notice that there is one stylistic choice that Schulz does that kind of, is different than virtually every other strip he ever did.

This is a unique strip, as far as I know,

Michael: whoa

Jimmy: The panel-less border

Michael: Does this have to do with lettering?

Harold: well, in a way it does.

Jimmy: did you hear what I said?

Harold: the panel-less border It does have a panel-less border, I think works really, really well, but that, wasn't what I was thinking of. two of them.

Michael: You got me.

Jimmy: No, I don’t know

Harold: Take a look at his signature.

Jimmy: Oh no, that's not a stylistic choice. That's different. I knew that. I was going to call

Harold: I'm sorry. Okay. He signs, he signs his complete name. Did he do that? Any other strip?

Jimmy: Yeah, he does it a couple of times.

Michael: Yeah, I’m looking at the next one. it's coming up on a 3 21 March 21st.

Harold: Do you think there's any particular reason why a certain strip gets the full name or not? Or he's just a, he just forgot.

Jimmy: I have no idea. I, I briefly had a conspiracy theory for this, but it was disproved later while I was doing my rereading. So I'm going to keep that to, into myself. I don't know why. I really liked the drawing in this strip. I love where Lucy lands on her head. I love the panel after that, where she's kicking her feet and it's just these abstractions. It's like futurist art.

Harold: Yeah. And the, I won't, I won't two different directions, directions and two panels away from each other. And they're like mirror reverse, Well, yeah, it's a mirror image.

Jimmy: It's great strip.

Harold: I just think it's great.

March 21st Charlie Brown is outside playing in a sandbox. Patty comes over, kicks the sand castle he was making down, stomps all over it. Charlie Brown looks forlorn and looks out at the audience, just a look of disbelief on his face. Then he gets angry. Then he goes home. He takes off his shirt. He takes off his shoes. He gets into bed looking utterly defeated and depressed and then sighs to himself.

Jimmy: Siga

Michael: Good Ol’ Charlie Brown. This is probably the most depressing.

Harold: Wow. This one really hit me

Michael: This is the most depressing Peanuts strip. It's like, this is his life right here.

Harold: It's so gutting this to see, you know, the little happy kid making his sandcastle and then the joy with which Patty is destroying his, his his. And you know, that he goes from sadness to disbelief for, can you believe this to the audience, then just taking in what he's seeing.

It's like, it's like the stages of grief or something, then there's anger. And then he just walks home with no expression. And, and then, you know, it gets into bed with the little orphan Annie circle eyes, which Schulz was still using occasionally. That is very haunting. And he's just kind of, yeah. He's assigned to himself with his, with, and you can see his, his shoes and his socks still the strewn on the floor where he's left them.

It's yeah, it it's. This is again just pure Schulz. There's there's nobody, nobody who could do what he does here at the time he's doing it the way he does. I mean, certainly a lot of people, I think have been inspired to go to places like this in, in more recent years, but I don't think anybody had ever seen anything like this, where he's asking you to see this little character, who's got a C for a mouth and two dots for eyes.

And you know, a round head that we put all of our emotional, you know, feeling into this little character. It's, it's amazing.

Jimmy: Yeah. This is the origin story of Charlie Brown, right? Because this is the time where he breaks. We talked about this last episode that sometimes depression manifests as anger, but Charlie Brown by nature doesn't want to be an angry person.

And so here we see it, you know, he, he, he has the opportunity. This little girl comes in gleefully, meanly ruins his day, he gets furious, but then rather than actually expressing. He just goes home and goes to bed and going home and going to bed like it is the truest depiction of depression. I it's, it's really shocking to me that this was in a comic strip in 1954.

And I think it obviously meant something to Schulz. And the reason I think that is because he was featured in Illustrator magazine, I believe it was called. It was the magazine that was published by the art instruction school, where he was teaching at. And they have a whole little interview with him right at this time during which they call him Charlie.

But the strip that they choose to reprint and they reprint it in a six by nine format, like a traditional comic book size format is this one. And in full color as a full-page comic book page. It's glorious. It just looks so good. And. I mean, I think as an example of what a comic strip is capable of even now, but especially at that time, this is light years beyond anything else.

Harold: Yeah. You know, and again, going back to that, he wants to be perfect. And it's like, what, how, how do you, how do you deal with imperfect people? If you're trying to be perfect, you know, are you not, you're not allowed to be angry. Charles Schulz won't let Charlie Brown, ultimately that being his primary expression.

Yeah. It's, it's, it's complex.

Jimmy: Yeah. And it's this feeling of, there's no way out, my only options are to be angry, which I don't want to be, or to be depressed, which I don't want to be, but I'll choose depressed because that only affects me seemingly.

Harold: yeah. Again, going back to the, you know, the biblical admonition in your anger, don't sin, you know, it's like, oh, so what do I have left.

Jimmy: So, what I have left is just to sit here and be depressed. Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's a glorious, glorious strip and, you know, on a little, a note, really fun lettering and you get to see that in the next to next to last panel. Charlie Brown really could not put on or take off a shirt or do much of anything with those little arms.

He has to fudge it a little bit to get that over Charlie Brown's head. And if you just isolate that one panel

Harold: it's levitating off

Jimmy: It almost looks like a South Park. Like if you zoom in close it's it's to the point of abstraction.

Harold: Yeah, yeah. Look, look at how long those little arms are where the elbow is. It's it's an odd, but, you buy it when you're reading it, but this little body could take a shirt off.

Jimmy: Sure. Absolutely. And it's it's, you know, it's expressionistic.

March 23rd Violet is sitting at her mud pie stand. Charlie Brown says to her, “Something new, you say?” Violet says, “sanitary mud pies.” Charlie Brown says, “I don't get it.” Violet says, “untouched by human hands.”

Jimmy: The reason I picked this is because Violet would have crushed it during the pandemic.

She is a visionary. She is inventing no contact delivery.

Harold: She's an innovator

Jimmy: decades before anyone thought of it. So I think that is, she is absolutely an innovator. The other thing I wanted to point out just a briefly is if we go to April 6th. It's Charlie Brown, listening to the radio and we it's revealed that he's just listening to static, but the way he draws static, I just thought was really great.

He did a visual representation of static rather than doing like hiss through lettering or something like that, but it makes a really sharp looking strip. It's something he did here. It does make appearances now and again, as kind of an expressionistic device, sometimes representing frustration over characters head, but I just thought that was a nice little modernist touch.

Harold: it looks like an art art instruction, school assignment,

Jimmy: in what way?

Harold: Well, the, the try to put the lines together and designs as close to each other, without touching the other line to draw multiples of this, this particular thing in, in different shapes. Yeah. It just made me think of it. This was an exercise he might've had on paper and he was like, wait a second.

Yeah, it's a really up in the penthouse at this point in the art instruction schools building, which is pretty cool

Jimmy: and nice work. If he can get it.

April 11th Snoopy, Lucy and Schroeder are all standing in the rain. Lucy and Schroeder have baseball equipment. Lucy says, “I think we'd better quit.” Schroeder says, “I do too.” Charlie Brown looks up at the pouring rain and says, “it's going to clear up.” Charlie Brown continues. “I think it's going to clear up.” Violet says “you're out of your mind, Charlie Brown.” It's continuing to rain. As the kids run home, Violet yells. “We're going home.” Charlie Brown says, “but it's going to clear up.” He continues chasing the kids as they run away. Patty and Snoopy run. “It's going to clear up, it's going to clear up. It's going to clear up.” Finally, Charlie Brown is left alone in a downpour, the baseball field completely washed away and he still says, “it's going to clear up.”

Michael: This is really gorgeous. I mean, the way he's, he's leaving like a little white streaks in everybody's black hair.

Just representing them, getting wet in the rain and says something about Charlie Brown, even though he went home and crawled into bed previously, he's, he's standing up for his, his, his belief here is optimistic belief.

Jimmy: And ultimately he will be proven right

Harold: Yeah. In the fullness of time it will come to pass.

Jimmy: It will.

Harold: The second and third to last panels have, yeah, like Michael saying, he's, he's experimenting with, with how to represent the rain and Shermy and Schroeder are, are running off and you have these kind of these, I don't know. The uneven ground of the mud and what they're running over, he uses darker lines to kind of represent if not a shadow, it just kind of feels like they are, they are in the mud, they are, they running through it.

And then the, that second to last panel, there's a splash from from Shermy that is just beautifully done. I mean, there are a lot of creative things Schulz-- yYou really don't see again in the other strips, but just for this strip, he. He innovated a lot of things with, with line work, which is beautiful.

Jimmy: I love all the baseball strips because it really evokes my childhood. We played so much pickup baseball.

Harold: Oh, you did.

Jimmy: I love it. Oh yeah.

Harold: So this was like, so nobody is nobody's making this happen. You're you're figuring out ways to get a team together to go against another team, just, the kids.

Jimmy: Well, we had, we had little league too.

I played little league teener league and then into high school, I quit sophomore year when I realized I was terrible at baseball. But yeah, we would once, like the baseball season would be over in June, you know, the little league season and then we'd just play ourselves or we would, it would be a bicycle. And through the handlebars, you'd have your bat and on your bat would be hanging your mitt and then you would jam a basketball up the bicycle frame between your legs. So you could, in case you need to play basketball. And then if you had to, you could hold the football under your arm. Cause he never knew what you needed to do.

And that would be it from nine and well it's from 11 in the morning when there was free lunch till it got dark the every, every day.

Harold: Oh wow. My experience was, I realized I was terrible at baseball at the wiffle ball stage. So I just have to kind of watch these strips as an outsider,

Jimmy: Wiffle balls, is its whole, a whole own art form. We were also heavily into wiffle ball.

Harold: Okay. I remember playing catch with my dad once. We had to, we went to kick, kick kick ball was the thing on our, on our street. And foursquare was the thing that was popular on the playground for a number of years. But yeah, baseball was not part of my life.

So I just kind of, yeah. I just have to watch the strips and learn

Jimmy: You like baseball, Michael you played, right?

Michael: Yeah I was good field. No hit.

Jimmy: That’s me!

Michael: Yeah. I was terrified also because everyone's watching you. I played one game. I got like a little dribbly single, because I was like super fast. So Iwas on first base and I thought, Wow, because my dad was actually, I think it was an adult, like a father- son game or something.

Yeah. But I thought like, wow, like I'm on first. Like, that's like the coolest thing in the world. People are watching. My dad comes up and my dad was like, Superman. He just like knocked it like to the moon, basically. I went -- shut down again.

Jimmy: Oh, you know, it's cool that your dad did it. That's pretty impressive.

My dad was a great baseball player too. I was always grateful that he never held it against me.

April 18th Charlie Brown is pitching a ball to Patty. He says to her, “all you have to do is keep your eye on the ball.” He looks at us and says, “girls are a nuisance sometimes, but it's always a good idea to humor them.” Charlie Brown tosses and underhand lob to Patty who rares back to hit it. Charlie Brown says, “okay, try and hit it.” Pow. Patty does knocking Charlie Brown backwards. Then as she runs to first, she tosses her bat away hitting Charlie Brown in the back of the head. Then as she scores for her home run-- her inside the park home run I assume, she jumps on Charlie Brown’s stomach, “A home run.” “Oof.” Charlie Brown is sitting dazed on the ground. Patty says, “well, do you think I'm good enough to play in your team?” Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown says “you'll never play on my team.” Patty says, “but why not?” Charlie Brown answers “because I'm giving up the game” and he crawls away..

Michael: He really knows baseball. I mean, those poses are just so classic.

Jimmy: Well that is, I'm really glad. I'm really glad you say that. He does. That picture of Patty batting, right? The two of them, you know, where she lifts, her leg. Yes. Yes. She is stepping into the pitch and

Harold: the panel that follows, I think is the first time we've ever seen Charlie Brown having a ball, a ball being hit right through him. And he's upside down when you see a big pow.

I think that's the first time Schulz ever discovered that design look for, for, you know, having a ball hit past you or through you. Has it happened before? I don't think it has.

Jimmy: I know, I don't think so. And as it goes on, it gets even more humiliating for Charlie Brown because it gets to the point that all his clothes, except for his little black shorts are also stripped from him when he gets aligned with drive knocked past him.

I used to always just think. Gosh. It's the most in the worst indignity that could befall a human.

Harold: Be stripped of your clothing by somebody's line drive.

Jimmy: Yeah, exactly. I mean, like Michael says, you know, you're when you're pitching or batting and baseball, all attention is on you and it's almost like a dream, right?

Like you show up at school or work and you have no clothes on. That's where Charlie Brown ends up as a pitcher.

April 23rd Schroeder is behind the plate. Shermy's up at bat. Schroeder says, “throw him the old bean bag. Charlie Brown, come on boy. Throw him the good old bean bag. Shermy says, “just in case you don't know it, the word is bean ball.” “Oh.” Panel four. We see Shermy was wrong. Charlie Brown does in fact throw a bean bag to Schroeder.

Michael: Do people even know what a bean bag is anymore?

Jimmy: Yeah. If people play that game, corn hole, that, that, that has bean bags

Harold: Cornhole. Yeah. It's a, it's a thing over in the states now. I dunno how it became a thing, but it is a thing. They have championships on ESPN seven

Jimmy: So glad I don't have cable anymore.

Harold: I nominated this strip. Just something to bring up. I don't know why, but I absolutely love the strip. It's funny. It, it, I don't think it passes the Shermy test. But I just, this. Is is Charles Schulz, his sense of humor that he has dating back to the Saturday Evening Post and with little folks and all of that.

And I just, it's just beautifully drawn and, and, and surprising and funny.

Michael: I was just going to say very rare strip without any of the big four in it.

Jimmy: That's true. That's true.

Michael: Thinking Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus or Snoopy.

Jimmy: Now I wonder why they gave it to Shermy. It also implies that Shermy's not on Charlie Brown’s team

Harold: because Charlie Brown's pitching.

Michael: Well there are no teams.

Jimmy: Well, here's the thing that I look at

Michael: no Shermy’s he's on retainer

Harold: He was, he was traded.

Jimmy: Here's the really weird thing. And maybe this tells you something about Shermy. A bean ball is when the pitcher intentionally throws a ball at the batter's head. Shermy is not upset that apparently Schroeder is calling for an illegal and possibly fatal pitch.

What he's upset about is that he got the terminology wrong. No, no, no. That's not a bean bag and he just gets right back in there. No helmets. Well,

Harold: Finally we're learning a little bit about Shermy's personality, these, these little, little hints. You have to just scrape them away from the few appearances in this strip.

Michael: Yeah, but a Charlie Brown bean ball is not going to hurt

Jimmy: Yeah, it would somehow end up being a home run anyway.

Harold: Yeah. Yeah. And this, I think this is a strike and not a and not a ball from what I can tell. Right. So he didn't make them just comes up to cross the plate pretty well.

Jimmy: We would have to do that occasionally and not play with bean balls. But when we were playing wiffle ball, we used to play in the school yard and that there was a, we would end up putting the balls on the. By accident, you know, you hit a foul ball or to go up on the roof and we'd run out of wiffle balls. So then you're playing like with tennis balls that are going 500 feet, it's just absurd.

Harold: Oh wait. So if you could get these onto the roof, does that mean you did the classic kid thing where you could actually hit a window?

Jimmy: Oh, we broke many windows. Oh my gosh. Oh. Oh, I please Harold. Oh my gosh. Yeah. Absolutely remember breaking a window both at my friend Mark's house

Harold: and it, so the rule is, and then run.

Michael: Oh, absolutely.

Jimmy: No, it was no, we were too goody goody for that because we were all going to Catholic school. So we'd go to hell.

Michael: I was evil. I tore down the street.

Jimmy: Well, the problem was

Michael: It caught up with me later.

Jimmy: Oh did it? Well, for me, I couldn't, I mean, it was right across the street from my house, like right across the street. So I would, I would've gotten

Harold: it was your house

Jimmy: basically. Yeah. like oh well

Harold: oh man. So these, have you have visceral reactions to these, these two, these baseball strips?

Jimmy: Oh, the coming up when Charlie Brown is like, oh, if only I grit my teeth, this is much later in the strip. I'm going to get a home run.

I mean, I would think things like that. Cause I think I mentioned, I once struck out 28 times in a row and I'm a, I was a decent athlete. I was like, I was an all-star basketball player,

Harold: But who’s counting

Jimmy: I am to this day and I still think someone will call me up and I'll have to like bat against somebody. That'll have to have a curve ball and my humiliation will

Harold: You have those dreams?

Jimmy: totally. Yes, absolutely.

April 28th Charlie Brown presents a comic strip that he's drawn to Schroeder. He says, “how would you like to read my new human interest, comic strip.” Schroder’s looking at it. And Charlie Brown narrates over his shoulder. “There's this little kid and his Grandma, see. They're just about to starve to death when she comes up with a baked bean hot dish. The little kid wonders where the beans came from. Then he notices something, his bean bag is missing.” Schroeder looks nonplussed, Charlie Brown walks away saying, “humans that aren't interested in human interest comic strips, aren't human.”

Harold: So this-- in the annals of, of Peanuts, beanbag strips I think these are two of the finest.

Jimmy: Yeah, the great beanbag motif,

Harold: but this strip is yeah, you got bean bags in it. You've got, we actually see a little, little visual representation of what Charlie Brown drew on his strip, which is kind of fun too. It's like his little shorthand far away four panel strip. Just like Peanuts that he's drawn, almost like it's, it's been folded. We probably sent it to the syndicate and folded it. I don't know how that works, but in any case, the real reason I brought this strip up is Charles Schulz is thinking about human interest strips. We know he loved Little Oorphan Annie, and he loved a strips that had long continuity's like Thimble Theater and Popeye.

And, you know, he was, he admired the adventure strips I think just as much as the humor strips and you know, you work ahead probably two to four weeks and typically on your Sundays versus your dailies. So here he's doing a strip on the 28th of April and we're what we're going to see in about what about 11 days coming out in the Sunday strip is a human interest comic strip that Schulz is trying to do. So he's thinking about it here. We're seeing him play with it as a joke on a daily, and then you get to see Charles Schulz’s attempt at a human interest comic strip in just a few days on the Sunday page.

Michael: Interesting

Jimmy: You know, I I'm surprised that he has been sticking with this Charlie Brown as a cartoonist thing for so long. I mean, none of these strips wherever reprinted that to my knowledge or very few of them, I never saw any of them until these later day reprints. I, it just, it's such a weird thing. You know, I cannot imagine Charlie Brown as a cartoonist. It just doesn't strike me as being treated the character.

Harold: I kind of, well, I can guess I can see that, but again, looking at Schulz now that Schulz is, is back in Minneapolis and he is at the art instruction schools drawing this every day and he's surrounded by artists. I could totally see why he would be like trying to throw in a gag that his buddies would like.

Jimmy: Oh yeah, I can see that for sure.

May 1st Lucy and Charlie Brown are talking to each other outside. Each hold a pile of comic books. Lucy says, “how about trading a few comic books, Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown answers. “I've only got three-- Mangle comics, Disease comics and Gory comics.” Lucy says, “That's fine, here. Take three of mine.” Charlie Brown looks at them. “The Little Bunnies, Billy Bluebird, The Funny Foxes.” he runs after Lucy. “Hey.”

Jimmy: So this is a sequel to our comic book strip from last year.

Michael: Yeah. Well, Schulz says he was buying comic books in those days. He really liked comic books and this strip kind of reflects the two genres that were most popular. This was early fifties. Superheroes were gone and it was down to those horror comics. And the funny animal comics, those kind of ruled the day.

Harold: Yeah. I love the strip. I'm glad you nominated it. I held myself back on it just cause it was, I felt this kind of personal because I tend to draw the little bunnies, Billy Bluebird and the funny foxes.

I mean, you checked on my Instagram. It's very, it's called Sweetest Beasts. It's about a little lion and little lamb getting along with each other. So I, I totally, I totally feel like this is a, a strip for me. I do want to point out another thing, which is, is fascinating. This is 1954. This is when comics are under the greatest scrutiny they had ever been in, in American culture, because this is the and I don't know how he did this, but so this is May 1st, he works probably about four weeks or so ahead, but he probably knew these trials were coming or it was, he was thinking about it.

The trials about these gory, mangled, disease-y, comic that were out there were like horrible and very violent. I mean, they weren't comics.

Jimmy: Hearings, we should say

Harold: Yes. It was the Senate, Senate hearings. And there were, that were known as the Kefauver hearings. You could check it out on Google, but they started on April 22nd, 1954. So they were in progress when the strip ran, even though he did it in advance, which I think is hilarious and amazing that he, he is being as topical as he's ever been, whether he meant to, or not with this strip.

Jimmy: Yeah. The, you know, the other important thing that we need to say here is that Charlie Brown did not trade his copy of Throttle that he so diligently went for last year. He's like, Hey, that, that one stays at home. My trading comics are Mangled Disease and Gore, but Throttle that, that's the only thing that gets me through a funk.

Harold: I think that's a wise choice on his behalf. Yeah.

Jimmy:. Now Schulz did say that he hated superhero comics. So I think probably not long after this period, I would imagine that's when, when Schulz his interest in comic books ends.

Harold: yeah, the, did we ever, he never, he never depict, he never did depict a superhero comic on those. When he'd make those racks of comics, it would always be,

Jimmy: oh, no, never. And of all the things that Snoopy imagined himself being, he never imagined himself being a superhero.

Michael: Hmm.

Harold: Yeah. That's true.

Jimmy: Which is, you know, throughout all of the things like, I mean, he was working during the Batman craze of the sixties and the Batman craze of the eighties when the Superman movie came out and he's making references all during this stuff.

I'm hearing references like the Bo Derek movie 10, and Bob Dylan's 30th birthday. So he's not above, you know, talking about things that are current in the zeitgeist, but superheroes never just don't register for him. I've heard him talk about Like Robert Crumb more than I've heard him talk about Jack Kirby.

Harold: So in like 19,000 strips or whatever you, you can't think of a single superhero reference. That'd be interesting to keep tracking, to see if anything ever sneaks in.

Jimmy: The only thing may be in the really late years maybe Rerun might read a superhero comic, but even then he wants to be an-- Rerun wants to be an underground cartoonist.

So I don't know, but yet Charlie Brown, it is confirmed. He is a hardcore horror comics fan, which is pretty funny.

Harold: Yeah. And he also does use the word COMIX comics on the covers of these 1950s thing, which turned out to be a popular spelling for underground comics. So I wonder if anybody had that in the back of their head, after reading Schulz, having some subliminal thing that you, you got to spell it with an X.

Jimmy: Yeah. Maybe.

VO: We'll have more with Jimmy Michael and Harold in Unpacking Peanuts 1954, part two, including the infamous golf tournament.

Harold: Wait, seven days from now, because you're going to get more of this, this exciting episode.

VO: Unpacking Peanuts is copyright Jimmy Ganley, Michael Cohen and Harold buckles produced by Liz Sumner music by Michael Cohen, additional voiceover by Aziza Shukralla Clark. For more from the show follow unpackpeanuts on Instagram and Twitter. For more about Jimmy, Michael, and Harold visit Have a wonderful day. And thanks for listening, you blockhead.

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