Jimmy: Hey everybody. Welcome back to the show. We're back here in 1954 with our pal Charles Schulz and his buddy Charlie Brown. And today we're going to go through the best, the first, the funniest, the weirdest strips of 1954, continuing from our last action-packed episode. I'm Jimmy Gownley. I'm the cartoonist of Amelia Rules, the Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Pp book. And my memoir, The Dumbest Idea Ever.
Joining me as always are my pals and co-hosts. We have the composer for the band, Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. And 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 hit TV show, Mystery Science Theater 3000 as well as the former vice president of Archie comics and creator of the Instagram sensation Sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz.
All right guys, we have so much left to talk about in this great year of 1954. So how about we just get right to it.
May 9. This is a series of Sunday strips, the first ever continuing story. And it is the infamous story. We have been teasing since probably the first episode, of Lucy at her first golf tournament.
I’m not going to read the individual strips, but what I want you to do is pause this podcast, go to gocomics.com. Find these strips. They start on the Sunday of May 9th, 1954, and they continue for the next couple Sundays, read them and then come back because I think we're going to have a lot to say about this little story, including maybe some some nascent conspiracy theories who knows.
All right. So you go do that.
Michael: We'll cue the Jaws music.
Jimmy: Okay, now you're back. Okay. So guys, so we have Lucy at the, at the golf tournament, it breaks all kinds of Peanuts rules. The most obvious being that there are adults drawn in this strip for the first time in this manner. Anyway, it's a continuing story that doesn't really have a gag or, or the feel of the other Sunday strips.
It's just really, really different.
Harold: Sure is. And we, we, we should, we should say that the adults, he never really puts a full face on any adult. Well, for those of you who didn't follow our advice there, but there are, there are heads in the last strip of the four strips in this little series of adults.
I think the closest you get is one guy has like two eyes. It's kind of creepy looking because they're they're incomplete drawings. They're like shadows of, of human beings. Or I'm just, it's like the idea of a crowd is that you often see in a painting. But he's, he's making sure he doesn't show you details on a human being an old adult human being.
Jimmy: Michael, what are your thoughts on this.
Michael: Horror. yeah, it doesn't work on so many levels. I mean, first off Charlie Brown is a golf expert just doesn't scan. We haven't, I don't think we've seen him playing golf.
Jimmy: Well, listen, when I'm the emperor cartoon land or whatever, my first degree is I would ban golf strips.
When, when the cartoonist reaches for the golf strip, it is the most bourgeois nonsense. I cannot take it. And I played golf. I played on the high school team. My dad was a great golfer, golf comic strip. Ugh.
Harold: yeah, there never was a golf comic book
Michael: I’m sure the Japanese have them.
Harold: oh yeah. Yeah.
Jimmy: So there's a couple of things. Not only are there adults, when they draw the main characters, Charlie Brown and Lucy interacting with the adults, the kids are tiny. They look like Smurf height in some of these panels of three apples high.
Michael: This is just a huge error. And I can't understand why he would do it. I mean, a man who's like the most popular cartoonist in the world probably by this time would go, oh, I think people are gonna want sort of as this drama of continued stories and they'll be looking forward to the next Sunday. I can't see Schulz thinking that.
Harold: Well, I mean, we know that Schulz really did enjoy those adventure strips though. And we, he, he enjoyed, he enjoyed basically every type of strip apparently, except for superheroes. And so I can kind of see why he would want to take a crack at this you'd want to, you know, and we see that little strip before we were talking about he's Charlie Brown is making a human interest strip and he's interested in making a human interest strip.
And he's like, you know, in classic style, he's, it's being rejected by anybody ever shows one of his ideas. But you know, the idea that Schulz was thinking human interest strip. What if I could do a human interest or how would I do it? What would it look like? How could I make this work? He's he's doing it here.
And I, I, I kind of find it. I want, I'm so grateful that he tried, you know, I'm so grateful that this is here because it's, it's kind of crazy and it's, it's annoying because Schulz does not put gags on this. And even the final gag is not particularly great. So
Michael: there is no gag.
Harold: Yeah. And everything's like continued next week. Lucy plays in her first golf tournament. Fore! You know, he's, he's really trying to sell it with these little, you know, to be continued things the way Al Capp used to do on his Sunday strips with L’il Abner, you know, the idea that you've got this extended continuity that specifically you are supposed to check out, you know, wait, wait, seven days from now, because you're going to get more of this, this exciting episode.
And yeah, it doesn't, it doesn't work, but I wonder if Schulz might've grown into it. If he had, did you know, this is just four strips, you know, would we be fawning over Charles Schulz is a human interest strips. If he had done another 300 of them, I don’t know.
Michael: Yeah, but he's not using his characters here.
I mean, this is not Lucy. And we know she's, she's going to jump rope, but she's, I mean, to imagine her as like a tournament level golfer, who's only like one foot tall. Just, it just doesn't make sense. It goes against everything. Charlie Brown also seems to be an expert. Schulz is letting his love of golf Maybe that's it. He just really, really wanted to do a golf strip.
Harold: Yeah. It’s weird.
Jimmy: You know, the other thing about this is though, if you, especially, if you look at at May 30th, right? There are drawing choices that are completely antithetical to anything he has done at this point. If you look at the second panel, Lucy, it looks like cubism.
It looks like Demoiselles d'Avignon. She's occupying a space like a plane. Character has never done before with Charlie Brown framed in the lower, right, just visible from the head up. Harold just was talking earlier this episode about how we rarely see that it's usually just the full-on shot.
And here we have him not only a close-up, but he's leaning ahead in the picture plane. It's completely different than that's followed by a three-quarter bird's eye view of the entire fairway with all the little, you know, people out there golfing and the people watching it and stuff like that. Again, like nothing he ever drew before.
If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would say that there's somebody else’s hand here, like Jim Sasseville. Cause that doesn't look like, that doesn't look like Lucy. And the other thing that I find interesting about it, Michael pointed out how beautifully drawn and well observed Patty was when she was batting.
Well Lucy’s not holding the golf club right. She would break her wrists. If she golfed that way. Someone who golfs as much as Schulz, it would seem, would know how a golf club is held. And he does that mistake in a couple of the Lucy golfing things.
Harold: Can you give an example, Jim?
Jimmy: Not off the top of my head, but if you look at some of the non Sunday golf tournament, Lucy's you just look at her when she's, she's driving.
A lot of times, if you see your hands they're crossed and you really couldn't do that, it would really hurt yourself. I don't understand how Schulz would make that mistake having. I mean, he just wouldn't make that mistake. Look at how he draws the scores of Beethoven. It's pretty weird. Could this have been---
Harold: but he does. He does break the laws of physics.
Jimmy: It's not, it's not intentional. It's a mistake.
Harold: It's like what you think
Jimmy: I don't think it's a mistake. It's a mistake. I mean, there's no way it's with--
Michael: Would someone talk about the comic book at this point. Cause you mentioned Sasseville.
Jimmy: That's what I was just about to say.
Could this be a pitch or an attempt at a comic book story that is then retrofitted for the Sunday?
Harold: That was my theory. That was exactly my theory that he was trying to make something that could be sold to United Features a comic. We say United Features was publishing their own comics. They had a bunch of them like Tip-Top, Sparkler, United.
So there was a space where they were reprinting his dailies and coloring them. And then later his Sundays which are already colored in that they were just cutting and pasting and moving them around. And I bet at certain times, Charles Schulz was upset with some of the ways they might have to re realign things and this and that.
And he was like, wait a second. You know, I'm, I'm alongside some other strips that do have some continuity and they're giving me multiple pages. Maybe I can get more pages or that that's all. That was all my theory was, yeah, he's seeing his stuff in comic book form. He, he does have a lifelong loving and like Buzz Sawyer.
I think all of these strips, he would mention that he, he enjoyed. Here's his chance to, to try it himself. And then, and then maybe it could grow into something else. It's it's you know, I, I, yeah, it's not successful. It's not, it's not successful I think from an entertainment standpoint. What I think Schulz ultimately did with this concept is he actually did do human interest comics.
He actually did do it, but he did it in a way that was so good. We don't think about it much. He gets into these continuities that usually lived in the dailies. And often the, the individual gags are not that strong as your Snoopy goes on a skating competition with somebody or this or that he does do it, but he finds a way to do it that's not so jarring. And it's truer to the characters and truer to his, his style and what his audience has come to expect. But he does kind of move into the human interest things. Remember Snoopy in, in the doghouse with the icicle that's above his dog house. For some reason, the dog house is next to the house for some reason, for the sake of the story.
And he's breaking rules of continuity of the characters. Split time and space thing. And that characterization thing, like it is here where it doesn't add up to the characters we know, but you know, there's real drama in some of these strips. I think we could all remember strips that went on for weeks.
Linus’s is blanket going out over the Pacific ocean or whatever.
Jimmy: Linus , and Lucy moving away at one point.
Harold: Yeah, yeah. And he nails it. Then he does get to use some of his, his interest in human interest story and drama.
Jimmy: Well, can you define exactly… What do you mean by human interest when you say that, what's your definition?
Harold: I think of like, to me, human interest story is… a human interest comic is a, a, a non high drama comic that might be like a Mary Worth or something where it's, we're talking about the lives of individuals. Gasoline Alley might kind of fall into that category in certain years where it's, the stakes are not super high.
We're interested in the way we might be in a soap opera. We're interested in how characters are relating to other characters. It's not life or death, usually with a, you know, like a Terry and the Pirates for people are fighting a war. It, it just has a kind of a slice of life element to it that you know, that he's doing in comic form, humor form now.
And now he's just trying to say, well, how can, how can my characters work in this other world where I'm not necessarily trying to make people laugh every day, but they're, I'm, I'm getting them involved in, in a story, a plot. You know, again, I think this is a, not a good choice of his, you know, he was trying to do some of those probably visually different and interest.
I think he was very interested in, in drawing ways he had not drawn before. You know, that, that, that aerial view you were talking about Jim, where everyone's approaching the green and people are far, far away, and he's using these very stick figures, almost long distance character shots. There's a lot of love in those, those panels.
He's putting a lot of effort into doing something unique and different and showing off an aspect of himself as an artist that we've never seen before. And really don't see much again until we see what he did in sketchbooks and that sort of thing, and that were not intended for print.
Jimmy: So is that all we have to say about the the golf tournament?
Michael: Let's pretend that never happened.
May 26th, Violet and Charlie Brown are standing talking. Charlie Brown has a bag in his hand. Violet says, “I like potato chips.” Charlie Brown says, “that's good. Just hold out your hands.” He proceeds to pour some potato chips into Violet’s hands. “Whoops.” She says “you spilled one.” “Don't worry.” say Charlie Brown, “t'll never hit the ground.” Panel three, the potato chip is still floating to the ground. In panel four Snoopy appears from stage left and snatches it from the air. Gulp.
Harold: This is an interesting strip for time and space and what you can do in a comic strip. I mean, Schulz has the potato chips start to fall in panel two and by panel four, it's fallen maybe six or eight inches and that's after they had the discussion.
Whoops, you spilled one, don't worry. It'll never hit the ground and they wait and watch as it's falling. And it's absolutely impossible in real time for that to happen. It's like everything is suspended and the potato chip is suspended in slow motion as they talk about it falling. I, and yet I think the strip works, which is to Schulz's credit, that he understands his own medium enough that-- you couldn't do this in a, in a movie.
You couldn't do this in a novel, but in the comic strip, it works.
Michael: We're starting to see Snoopy's snout growing at this point
Harold: Yes. Yes. Be he's finding more and more reasons to have a longer snout that helps him get a joke over
Jimmy: Really nice cartooning of a dog.
Harold: Yeah. And also, is it typical for an artist? When he, when he's showing movement to show where this, where, where the falling potato chip is going with little motion lines or where it's coming from? I, I feel like most people's show where something was coming from, but he shows where it's going. He has this little lines that say you see the full potato chip above two lines in the shape of the bottom of the chip.
I think that's kind of unique.
Michael: No, I th I think it's fluttering like a leaf as it comes down. That's what I, how I read it.
Harold: but he's showing you, but he's showing the full one on top.
Jimmy: 100% Exactly
Harold: And then he's showing the movement lines below as if this is what's going to happen rather than here is what has happened.
And here's where the chip is.
Jimmy: No I see it more as it's like a horizontal motion, like that's happening concurrently. Like it's fluttering down, which is why there's the beat between the two you know, explains the beat between the two panels a little bit. And that it's just like slowly floating to the ground.
Harold: Really. That's interesting.
Jimmy: That's how I would do that anyway. Yeah. If I wanted it to be like, it's falling, you would draw the line behind it, you know where it's coming from. And then if I wanted to mitigate that to say like, well, it's falling slowly or whatever, I would draw those motion lines.
Harold: Is that just a subliminal thing he's doing?
Michael: And there are lots of leafs falling, gags. That's a big thing starting this year. And I let's see if he uses that for the motion of a leaf kind of.
Jimmy: I’m sure he does, because I'm sure that's where I got it from.
Harold: I'm assuming that has to be subliminal because if this, this is a special potato chip, it ruins the gag.
And you saying any potato chip can't survive, falling when Snoopy's around. But it's subliminal that if you put those of special, if you put the lines above it, then people would be thinking it's supposed to hit already, supposed to hit already. I'm seeing the thing move down. If you have it underneath it, it doesn't have that feeling.
It does feel like it's kind of suspended in the air, like of leaf. Right?
Jimmy: Right. Exactly.
June 1st Linus is sitting in the foreground, a blanket clutched to his cheek. Charlie Brown says, “Why does Linus hold his blanket like that?” Lucy answers, “I'm not sure. I think maybe it gives him a feeling of security.” Lucy walks while Charlie Brown walks away. Then she finds him his own blanket, pulled up through his cheek a much larger blanket. He blushes and says, “it doesn't work. I feel like an idiot.”
Michael: He just introduces like, like one of the major things in any comic strip ever. Yeah. It's just like, oh, well I think I'll have them suck on a blanket. I mean, the joke doesn't matter, but it's the fact that that blanket, I mean, just becomes a thing everybody in the world knows about, I mean, a security blanket, it's just,
Jimmy: and it's specifically associated with security from the very first.
He nails that from the beginning because the term security blanket was not a thing.
Harold: What do you mean by that? I mean, it was out there. People did say it, but he certainly made it right. He made it popular. He made it a part of everyone's conversation,
June 6th, this is a completely visual gag. Charlie Brown flying a kite, and everybody is sort of doing their own thing. Lucy is jumping rope with the girls. Shermy has Snoopy out on a leash for a walk. Schroeder is running with a balloon and they all get entangled. I presume by Charlie Brown’s running with the kite. And the last panel is just them all askew on the ground.
Michael: This is so cinematic. I could see this as a, like a five minute cartoon, a soundless cartoon.
Harold: And yet the, the biggest motion, the biggest event happens off screen. We hit, we see the aftermath, you know, it's almost like you'd have to, I don't know what you would cut to, or would you actually say this is legit?
The gag work. If you actually see all of this happening or you have to see the aftermath somehow? No.
Jimmy: Oh, I think it's the cut. It's the, it's the fact that you don't see it. It's the fact that, like Michael said, every one of these is a very well-conceived well, composed shot. Yeah. That it does feel like you're editing from moment to moment.
And then the surprise of not having the climactic moment and just seeing the aftermath is what makes it work as a joke.
Harold: It makes it work as a comic. I totally hear what you're saying about it. This, this each shot looking cinematic. Oh yeah. But this only, this could only work, you know,
Jimmy: you couldn't actually edit to get the same punchline. You would have to cut to like a sound effect or something, you know, that would because you can't, it wouldn't make any sense to not have, you'd have to have some representation of the crash. If it was animated,
Harold: you probably have to have an extra panel of this kite dropping out of the frame.
Then you cut back to that. You have one extra shot or something. Yeah.
Michael: But you'd also have to have a score. Here's how you'd score it. Charlie Brown would have a little theme, Lucy jumping rope would have a little theme. And then in the end, they're all playing at the same time. There'd be like a big cymbal crash.
Jimmy: Michael, I think you just gave yourself a an assignment, a little project that you need to share with us. Cause that would be absolutely amazing. They crash and discord. That that's really cool. That would be great. So if you Unpacking Peanuts, fans want to hear that-- first off. You should follow us on our, on our social media, Twitter and the Instagram were unpackPeanuts on both.
And I go there and you'll be able to vote on stuff and you'll be able to see what we're up to between episodes. And now we'll be able to wait for Michael's composition.
Harold: Yeah. And the very next new week's strip is also a kite flying strip. The Sunday strip. That is, and it's the one that I remember the most as from just my childhood memory of Charlie Brown, with his brand new kite that he's put together and then he's bumping it on the ground, the trees, and it just totally tearing it apart as he's running along, just keeping running and running and running, trying to make it fly.
And the last panel he's, he's carrying he's carrying a string, which is flying in the air with no kite and Snoopy looking at it with a question mark. I remember that strip so vividly from my childhood.
Jimmy:. It's amazing how some of them just become a part of you. And, and and it's hard to say why some of them are, it's just, they, they hit you at that exact right moment.
June 8th Charlie Brown is watching television. Violet is behind him. She says, “you're a hopeless case. Charlie Brown, nobody respects you because you're a flop, a complete flop.” She walks away. Charlie Brown says, “Ms. Francis likes me pointing at the television set. Michael: Google that
Harold: I propose the Obscurities Revealed or something like that, for strips that were so of their time and 99% of people reading it today, certainly young people would have no clue what they're talking about. And this would be one of my two nominees for this year,
Harold: Miss Francis. So Miss Francis had had a show. It was the earliest preschool show, a predated Romper Room by a year. And Ms. Francis was this this, this lady who would talk to preschoolers about how to, you know, how to do crafts and arts and sing songs. And it was very big show started 1952,
Michael: not in LA
Harold: what'd you have?
Michael: Cause, well, this is the year where my age, pretty much corresponded to the characters ages. Cause I was four. And I never heard of no Miss Francis,
Harold: it was an NBC show. It was on five days a week in the mornings or something. And and then she was Miss Francis, the lady who played Miss Francis was as an educator and she was super stickler kind of like Schulz was about.
And she finally ticked off NBC when she wouldn't let, let them advertise BB guns on the show. They they let her, she quit essentially. And then I think she went into syndication of couple of years later and lasted until like 1965. So she had like a long, long run and they published like third 25 books.
I have some of them actually and 11 records and they're like 30 different manufacturers making all these ding-dong school products. So, you know, Schulz in his household was walking past a TV set that had Ding Dong School running.
Michael: oh, I remember Ding Dong school. I just don't remember Miss Francis.
Harold: Oh yeah. Well, she, she was Ding Dong School. It was her.
Michael: Oh, well, I remember the name. I think I did watch that.
Jimmy: we had Hatchi Malachi, Shout out to Miss Judy. Well yeah, a live show hour and a half. Every weekday out of Wilkes Barre Pennsylvania.
Harold: Wow. Just out of Wilkes Barre.
Jimmy: Yeah, it was fantastic. Yeah. And they played like old underdog cartoons and she would do crafts and stuff. It was great. Great show.
June 20th, Patty approaches Charlie Brown. “Psst Charlie Brown.” Charlie Brown walks over to her. “What's up?” There’s a big grin on Patty's face. She whispered something to Charlie Brown who whispers something to Violet who whispers something to Schroeder who whispers something to Lucy. Lucy asks “Why?” Schroeder asks why back to Violet, who asks why back to Charlie Brown who asks, why back to Patty. Patty whispers something to Charlie Brown. He whispers it back to Violet who whispers it back to Shermy who says to Lucy, “Because.” Lucy says, “Oh.”
Michael: That’s a lot of panels.
Jimmy: It's a lot of panels, and no rulers on the panel, borders completely freehand
Harold: rounded corners.
Jimmy: So they're playing a game of telephone, the idea being of course, that whatever it started as often, isn't a, what it ends up being in this instance. It's just that the information being conveyed is relatively pointless, right? Because telephone, it's not to just say why. And because it's because it would get mangled and the end result would be very different than the first thing the person said.
This is just an inefficient way to communicate with people. This is what we had before we had social media. You'd have to talk to people, thankfully we're past that.
June 27, Charlie Brown is sitting at what looks like a beach on a lake is playing with a bucket of sand. Snoopy walks up behind them. He’s very happy. Snoopy runs right at Charlie Brown and leaps over his head. He frolics for another four panels before slamming down on the ground. “Wham” and Charlie Brown carries him home in his wagon. Snoopy looks a little bit dazed from the experience Charlie Brown says, “you're the only person I know who can use up a whole day in five minutes.”
Michael: This is a good, another good case of the, the snout growing. Snoopy's becoming a little more pliable and that, and that panel on the third tier, that's not an expression he's used before that smile. And this is something Snoopy starts doing more often when he's imitating people. He goes through this phase where Lucy sitting there and Snoopy will come up and imitate her so he's able to have like a human smile there, which doesn't make sense for a dog.
Harold: Yeah. And Snoopy's quite large in the strip too. I mean, compared to Charlie Brown, should it be, is, you know, gonna, if he, if he's on his hind legs, he's as tall as Charlie Brown,
Michael: Our little boy’s growing up
Jimmy: that second panel that's as good a, of a drawing as a dog, as you'll ever see in the comic strip.
That just looks awesome. Beautiful stuff.
July 11, Lucy and Charlie Brown are walking down the sidewalk. Lucy says, “knock, knock,” Charlie Brown says “who's there.” Lucy is brought up short. She yells, “FUZZ.” Charlie, Brown says, huh? Lucy points to a little speck on the sidewalk. “Fuzz! There's a piece of fuzz on the sidewalk.” “Oh, good grief” says Charlie Brown.” Lucy says, “I'm scared of fuzz. Brush it away Charlie Brown, brush it away.” Charlie Brown leans over to brush away the fuzz. “That's the silliest thing I've ever heard. Fuzz. Good grief.” Lucy yells, “brush it away, brush it away.” Charlie Brown is knocked back in surprise. “Aack it moved. It's a bug. It's a bug.” he says. “It's a piece of fuzz” says Lucy. They turn around. “Let's go back the way we came.” Lucy says, “we can walk clear around the block someday when we're older. Fuzz brrr.”
Michael: This strip was really influential in my life. It changed my life completely.
Harold: So how old are you when you're reading this? When, when you would have read this?
Michael: Michael? Well, what if it probably been the re the reprint books? So maybe it was 56 or something. I might've been six.
Harold: Doesn't this reflect the actual childhood trauma. I mean this, this just resonates.
Jimmy: Yeah, absolutely. It's so great. It's so funny. And it's, there's no traditional punchline.
The punchline is, is the least interesting part of the whole, of the whole strip, but then just sitting there screaming, it's a bug, it's a bug. It's a piece of fuzz. I don't know why this has to be the hundred 50th time I've seen this. It always makes me laugh.
Harold: It's great. And I am, I also, I do love the, the, even though it's maybe not funny, just that there's strategies to go, you know, go around the other side of the block to avoid the fuzz.
I think it's very satisfying.
Jimmy: Oh, it's a great, it's a satisfying ending. I just think it's funny all the way through is that he doesn't have to put a killer punchline in the last panel because the whole strip is funny. It's drawn funny. The idea is funny and. The dialogue is funny. It's just, it's really, really good.
Harold: And that, that Brr, that, that, that Lucy adds at the end is that that's, that's classic also a Little Orphan Annie brr some horrific things happening or chilling thing is happening. It's all these brrr
Jimmy: she uses, or Schulz rather uses italicized lettering for Lucy in the first panel on the third tier, which is really weird.
He doesn't do that very often gives it extra urgency and a little bit of an extra unhinged quality, which I personally like.
Harold: Yeah. And I still love his open lettering that he's using throughout this period. And certainly for Sundays, he used for a years, but these, that kind of like the thin ones means going Aaack a really thin line. It's just, it looks cool.
Jimmy: Well, it's beautiful. And it also, one of the things that interests me in lettering, which I harp on because it's one of my favorite things to do actually as a cartoonist, is that as much as it conveys sound, which obviously has to convey a story it also is a really neat design thing.
You know, this, this comic strip looks better because of the placement of the lettering because of the quality of the lettering. It just adds a really nice life and and design element to it. It looks great.
Harold: It does, you know, and I see in your Amelia Rules graphic novel series and in your Scholastic ones, like The Dumbest Idea Ever, it, they know you're, you're constantly building the I see that Schulz influence where you're building this a page and lettering is, is the art and art is lettering.
They kind of merged the way Schulz does. And it's just really gorgeous.
Jimmy: Thanks. I mean, yeah, I mean, his, his, his example is just the high water mark and basically everything. I would also say that. I think at this point, it's safe to assume he is using that traditional Esterbrook pen which I, I should have the number right off the top of my head, but you know what, I will give Harold permission to Google this if he wants to because this drawing is like super, super facile and it just, it just looks great.
I think at this point, he's well into using that pen.
Harold: Yeah. What is that magic number he used Esterbrook he used as Esterbroo has done a whole article on him. Yeah, it's the 914. There, there you go. The radio 914, then the radio 940. They actually had an article on theesterbrookpens.com website about Peanuts and Charles Schulz.
Although they misspelled Schulz's name with a T
Jimmy: the T oh, that's bad. Well that's okay. Because I pronounced their company named Easterbrook, so we got them. Take that the man, Big Pens.
Anybody who is a cartoonist out there who wants to, they should, they should try to find one of those nibs online and experiment with it. It's really fun.
July 13, Patty walks up to a kid who's playing in the dirt. We don't see his face. She says, “hello there, what's your name?” The little boy turns around. He's covered in grime. He says, “I haven't got a name. People just call me things. Real insulting things.” Patty says, what do they call you most of the time?” The kid says, “I'll tell you if you won't laugh. Pig-Pen.”
Michael: I think this is a misstep. I mean, Schroeder started out kind of as a one joke character and continued that way pretty much. I mean, it's the piano and it's music, but that seemed to work. But for me, the, the Pig-Pen jokes-- you know, there's a dirty kid and that's about it. And I know he probably stuck in the strip longer than Patty and Violet did, but I don't, I don't, I never liked this character.
Harold: I like-- now you say you've never seen the Christmas special, right Michael?
Harold: So I think they captured the essence of Pig-Pen in that Christmas special. And it's, it's the, it's the lens through which I see all of the Pig-Pen strips looking back at them because he has this sense of, of, of self-dignity and, and and, and a little bit of a, I don't even know what you call it, but he's, he's like, it's almost like daring people to to, to think less of him and you get it from the very first strip it's like this attitude is there where he's, he's not what you would expect of a kid who's taking pride in, in being what he is, which is something that most people find absolutely disgusting. I find there's about as much mileage for me with Pig-Pen, as there is with Schroeder, at least by himself with his piano, I would pick Pig-Pen over Schroeder until Lucy shows up and starts to fall in love. And you add these other layers.
Jimmy: Yeah. Well, you don't ever find out his real name either, which is, which is weird. That's that's probably not a great sign for his depth as a character, but I think as
Harold: Well, he, he says he hasn't, he doesn't have one. I mean, we were going to take him up on that. That's
Michael: Well, Google the Grateful Dead and find out what his real name that's
Jimmy: that’s right. He’s the keyboard player, Right? You know, I'm, I'm a Pig-Pen agnostic. I don't think he adds or detracts from it from my personal, you know, enjoyment of the strip. It is definitely one of the icons of the strip. I mean, there are. Yeah, Pig-Pen t-shirts that you could buy to this day. And they're not just like the retro hipster, Shermy shirts and stuff like that.
They're just mass produced, you know, people know Pig-Pen. So on some level it works at least in, in branding. Other than that, I would agree with
Harold: His defiant confidence is something that I
Jimmy: I would agree with you in saying that the definitive Pig-Pen is A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Harold: I'm also fascinated by how all the different characters try to engage with Pig-Pen because he's doing something socially so unacceptable.
And every character is, is kind of reapproaching him with some angle, like, so do we tolerate this? Do we try to get him to change? Do we judge him behind his back. There's all these different things that Schulz is exploring with a character who has a trait that is not socially acceptable. And then that playing off of that character, being aware, he's aware that they have that feeling.
He's kind of the opposite of Charlie Brown because he's Charlie Brown is concerned about every little thing somebody thinks of him or says about him behind his back or where wherever and Pig-Pen seems to be like the anti Charlie Brown. He's like, you know, I'm aware you feel this way about me, but I just disagree and I'm going to stick. I'm going to stick by my guns.
Jimmy: Yeah, no, that's an interesting way to look at it, certainly. And I think I think it's one of those instances where I'm more interested in hearing you talk about it than I think I would actually find it if I looked in this strip, I think you have to be able to see that with, with Harold eyes, which is one of the great reasons that we have this podcast.
I'm a truly loving listening to what you guys have to say about these strips. And so many times I find that the parts where you're coming from a different place than me is the most interesting.
July 25th, Charlie Brown is throwing a record like Frisbee. In the next panel. He runs past Snoopy. In this instance he's playing. How do you even describe this to the modern reader? He has a vinyl record that he is rolling around with the stick as if for a hoop, from a barrel he's continuing to do that. Snoopy runs up and grabs the record out from Charlie Brown's little playing with it. Charlie Brown yells, “Hey you crazy dog” chasing after Snoopy. He tackles Snoopy. The record bends. Now they're doing a tug of war with it.”Let go, let go. I say, let go.” Finally, Charlie Brown wins struggle. He goes home, puts the record on his phonograph and says, “I don't know what's wrong with these library records. They always sound scratchy.”
Jimmy: Well, this. This is a meaningless strip to anyone millennial or younger, I would imagine.
Michael: No. Well, like I said, I'm contemporary with this strip. I've never seen anyone do this, ever.
Jimmy: That strip, with the stick thing. That's literally from like the 1800s, they would do it with a barrel hoop.
Harold: except for artists who have T squares. And then that's what they were doing probably at Art Instruction school.
Jimmy: Yeah. You know what? Maybe, maybe, but also, Charlie Brown, that's not how you treat a record.
Harold: Yeah. This, this one makes me laugh out loud. I, I, I just love this it's there are some of these classic strips where Snoopy comes in. We'll see greater examples of this in later years, but the, the, like Linus and Snoopy over the blanket and that sort of thing.
But this one is just visually and viscerally fun. We're, you know, Snoopy comes and steals the thing. And it's got, you know, looking and looking behind them as Charlie Brown is running after him angrily, and then the tackle. Snoopy's taken it. He's he said just kind of taking his tackle and then angrily holding on his Charlie Brown is kicking up the dust, pulling back and forth.
He's really good at just kind of creating that, that world. And then I absolutely love the huge grin on Snoopy’s face and extreme long shot as Charlie Brown walks away victorious with this totally mangled record. This just adorable.
Jimmy: You use the word visceral, which I think does describe this strip because if you look at that first panel on the last tier, that inking is really slap dash expressive fun inking that indicates that crash. When you go back to thinking 1953, a similar panel with Charlie Brown falling after trying to climb up the display of comic books, that was all very clean line and very delineated. And this is much more abstract and expressionistic.
Harold: Yeah. And he's picking up this cloud of dust. He's really getting into clouds of dust and with Pig-Pen as well. I'm wondering if one of his kids is just driving him nuts getting in the mud.
Jimmy: I think it also is just a fun thing to draw
Harold: and he's, he's so good at it. It just creating this, this sense of absolute filth and Dustin. Yeah. I'm feeling these strips.
August 1st Schroeder is sitting out reading a comic book.He is in just his shorts. “Oops” he says, Snoopy has snuck up behind him.
Jimmy: How do I describe this? I can't describe this.
Harold: That that's the gag.
Jimmy: That's the problem. Yeah. I mean, exactly.
Michael: Well, you don't know till the end what's going on.
Harold: Maybe we don't try to explain this one straight. And that is the joy of the strip for me.
I think it's why I nominated it as it's. It's the fun of comics. You're not entirely clear what's going on based on the rules of what you can do in a comic strip, where sometimes you see a short period of time expressed over a single panel. And what's going on here is Snoopy is sticking his nose in the backs of all these kids who were in, who essentially vulnerable to a cold wet nose on a summer day. And but you can't really tell from the strip because they're, they're like a, a foot or two away from Snoopy at the time that Schulz captures each one of these kids going Eek, aack. Oops, you don't know what's going on until the Snoopy walks away with again, with a huge grin on his face saying sometimes it's kind of fun having a cold nose, you know, again, this, this only works in comics in comics and strips.
It couldn't work in animation. It couldn't work in, in just a description that's, that's written out. It works based on the rules of comics and Schulz knows them so well that he, he finds a way to do just a very unique gag, very well.
Michael: And he's using that big smile, that full, full face smile that he just started adding. I don’t know, maybe there's earlier cases of this, but I don't remember them. Different angle on Snoopy
Jimmy: certainly far more pronounced.
Michael: Definitely a more human face than a dog face.
Harold: Yeah. And I, I, I just love, I love strips with Snoopy having just to ridiculously big grim and you see him going, heh heh heh
August 3rd Charlie Brown approaches Linus who's sitting on the floor. Charlie Brown has a pack of cards in his hand. “I'm going to teach you a new card game, Linus. First I'd better get a pencil so we can keep score.” Charlie Brown walks away in panel three. Charlie Brown walks back whistling to himself in panel four. He shocked to see Linus has assembled a huge tower out of the cards.
Michael: This is the first of a whole series. Well, Linus is still a baby. What he apparently is this savant with playing cards and making these towers that are just absolutely impossible. And I think this carries on later as Linus is sort of some sort of genius character.
Even though at this point, he sort of reverted back to being a baby. We're not seeing his thoughts at all, but he can apparently do anything with anything. So there'll be several more of these.
Harold: What a, what a shift from the Linus we've seen the previous year, the know Linus in the previous year constantly being thwarted.
Every small thing is he's not able to pull off. He puts two blocks on top of each other and they are, they're knocked over and under huge effort. And now all of a sudden he's coming into his own. We're seeing aspects of Linus that suggests he's really very special and it's kind of, it's kind of thrilling to see, see that.
Jimmy: How do you think drew those cards? That's a really elaborate drawing. That looks like it was drawn larger and photostated it on. I mean, I have no evidence of that, but it's a really elaborate drawing for this tiny little panel.
Harold: And do you think he actually used a reference to someone who did do it because, I mean, can you angle a card like that?
I guess he can, but man, that must be hard. I don't know if it's possible to
Jimmy: no, no, you wouldn't be possible. Now that has, because that middle tier is taller than the tier beneath that. So now you couldn't, you couldn't do that, but so that's an impossibility, unless your line is, unless your line is which you'll also see him doing.
And actually that when I earlier discussed the fact that he drew those portraits of the cast, Linus was playing with blocks and he was doing, he was building them up in an impossible way of the blocks to, with the heavier part being on top
Harold: part of his genius is his surreal ability to do things that are impossible physically.
Jimmy: Yeah. So it goes on, we'll see things like square balloons and all kinds of weird things that line that says.
August 6th, Charlie Brown approaches Schroeder with his new comic strip. He says, “would you like to read my new comic strip?” He explains it to Schroeder. “It's really sort of an adventure series see?” He continues to explain, “it's all about this fellow who rides clear across the United States on a power mower. I thought the public was interested in science fiction.”
Michael: That's just weird.
Jimmy: Now the only reason I suggest this is because David Lynch eventually made this movie The Straight Story.
Michael: I know.
That's why I said it's weird. Did he know this strip?
Harold: Isn't that? Isn't that bizarre? Yeah. So Charlie Brown is finally vindicated, it took years.
Jimmy: It took decades but Boom.
Harold: It took David Lynch to vindicate Charlie Brown.
Michael: Well, David Lynch had a comic strip.
Jimmy: Yeah, he did the Angriest Dog In The World
Michael: the Angriest Dog In The World, so he was definitely a fan
Harold: Makes you wonder, you think he read this? Had that in back of his mind when he was,
Michael: I would think so.
Jimmy: I love, I love David Lynch. As a, as a cartoonist David Lynch is an excellent director.
Harold: We're going to have to let that opinion stand I think.
August 15th, Patty and Violet are sitting on the curb. Lucy is walking down the street towards them. Violet says, “did you know that Lucy was going to dancing school?” Patty answers, “it's just one more way for her mother to get her out of the house.” Violet says to Patty, “ask her to do a few steps for us.” Patty says to Lucy “how's dancing school, Lucy?” “Fine.” Patty asks, “how about showing us what you've learned?” Lucy says, “well, I'm not sure I can remember everything, but.” She does a series of six panels of the most basic and ridiculous dance moves then says to Patty and Violet, “that cost my dad $12.”
Michael: That's a great strip. I love this strip. Those little moves are so classic.
Jimmy: Oh, they're just the funniest little drawings and the way he repeats them, like one going to the left, one going to the right. And that last little maneuver which Lucy looks very proud that she's performing right after the sort of weird look on her face previous to that. It's just funny drawings.
Harold: It's like, that's the “one Grecian urn”, right?
August 31st. We just see another example of him subdividing, the four panels. It's what, the other thing that's really weird about it is it's Patty, but she is skipping rope and looking directly out at us. So it's a, it's a complete, full on view of her to the point that it's almost unrecognizable as Patty.
Cause we never really see her drawn that way. It looks much more like a L’il Folks thing or, or like one of his illustrations from those Art Linkletter books that he did.
Harold: And I will put in my vote that I don't think she's ever looking at us.
Jimmy: No, I didn't mean looking at us as if she's trying to play. I just meant I was just trying to orient her in space.
Not that she is acknowledging the presence of a reader.
September 5th, Patty and Violet are sitting on the curb. Patty says, “why should we always do what she wants?” Violet says, “that's what I say.” Patty gets up off the curve and raises her fist in defiance. “Then let's tell her.” The next panel we see they've approached Lucy, “Lucy, we've decided we're not going to play your way.” Lucy freaks out. “You're not, Wah. It's not fair. Wah, cheaters, cheaters, cheater.” She's pounding on the ground. Bam, bam. She pounds her head into the tree Waah. She runs off into the distance. Then she comes back and says, “well, then let's play your way.”
Michael: Essentially the same joke he pulled when she had to go to bed. It’s funny.
Jimmy: Yeah, it is. And it, again, this would pass the Shermy test because this is only funny if it's Lucy doing it.
Harold: Yeah. And of all the 1954 strips, this is the most iconic strip that I remember from reading Peanuts strips in my childhood. This is this 1954 strip is the one that I just deeply feel and remember.
And I think it's because I was learning something somehow from this strip, you know, that Lucy is, is in one place and then winds up in another. Somehow I just have this, this memory of, of there was some profundity about that strip to me as, as a little kid, who might've been six or seven. Well, unfortunately
Jimmy: I deeply relate to this because I know that I do this and it's not a, not a flattering trait of mine or not something I want to you know, keep for the rest of my life.
But I definitely, in my darker moments, see myself doing exactly this. And the funny thing is you come back at the end and it's like, alright, let's do it your way. Why were you so upset to begin with Lucy? I don't know. I have no idea.
Harold: Yeah, but in, in, in yours and then Lucy's defense, I would much rather have a character who would have that minute of a tantrum and then just be, and then reset everything’s fine.
Rather than if she kept a grudge for 20 years.
Jimmy: That's that's my, my, I learned that from my dad. I think he had that ability to be like, just close the chapter and go like, all right, that was five minutes ago. Why are we still, why are you still talking about that?
October 4th, Charlie Brown and Lucy are standing outside. Lucy staring up into the sky with sunglasses on. “I'm waiting to see the eclipse.” She says, Charlie Brown yells at her, “the eclipse good grief. That's been over for months.” Lucy takes her shades off and says, “well, don't you think I know that Charlie Brown, I'm not stupid, you know.” She walks away saying, “I just thought that by this time it might be showing in suburban areas.”
Harold: Peanuts obscurities explained.
Jimmy: See back in the day…
Harold: the frequent millennial and younger audience, that's listening to this. Yeah. I don't think this is going to be a clear gag. You might get a sense of it. But you won't know exactly what Schulz is referring to. Do you think I'm right about that guys?
Jimmy: I think there's a real chance you are right.
Yeah, because the, the, the joke being, it would sometimes take weeks or even months for major movies to move out of the major metropolitan areas and into the suburbs. I found out that Darth Vader--spoiler alert for Empire Strikes Back-- that Darth Vader is Luke's father from the Marvel comic and, and Empire Strikes Back didn't come out in my area for weeks after the comic book.
Harold: Yeah, because they had a finite number of prints to shuttle around from city to city. And so, and those were expensive to make. So those little towns weren't worth making fresh prints. So everybody got the same thing at the same time. Like they do today, when it's all digitally, they can make 10,000 things and won't cost a dime more.
But they only could make, you know, thousand prints or whatever, and then it would play in the big theaters until it didn't anymore. And when Star Wars was running, your Empire Strikes Back was running. There were some cities that would have that thing for 26 weeks before they'd let it go. And so the suburbs would have to wait.
Jimmy: Yeah. You know, the other thing I was thinking about when this is sort of tangential, but I, I figured this was where you were going to go. When you selected this strip. I actually pulled out the Marvel comics adaptation that I had of that Empire Strikes Back and it was published, it was published several weeks before the movie actually came out.
Harold: Oh wow.
Jimmy: In its totality as a paperback with all the spoilers. I mean, can you imagine with all the secrecy and hush, hush, everything has these days and they just published an adaptation of it a month ahead of time. Yeah. I also never saw a movie probably until the late or mid nineties. Anyway, that wasn't completely just beat the heck, just scratched and you know, hairs are rolling across it and missing chunks. This is-- totally different color saturations from one reel to the next. Yeah. And that's how we liked it.
Harold: That wasn't a movie. If you didn't see all that.
Michael: Well, let me say something about this strip. Lucy is such a rich character, like as opposed to Pig-Pen, who's kind of got the one trait. He keeps coming up with new stuff for her.
And they're all great. Yeah. Lucy here is, I mean the whole series of strips are about basically her inability to understand how the world works. She just misunderstands everything
Harold: and yet having strong logic. She has strong logic. It's this wrong logic.
Jimmy: He's definitely inspired by this character. Something she's really, she was the missing spice that it needed. Somehow the meanness of Patty and Violet, it doesn't have the depth that Lucy has that allows you to like her, even when she's being mean.
Harold: Yeah. I was just thinking about this with, and one of the things about Lucy that makes her a unique character that like you've, we've never seen a Lucy before I think is because in the past, in comic strips, lots of other strips, it was, you might show the treatment that she has with others or the way that her way of seeing things with others.
But like in the, in the case where she she's sitting by the clock waiting for it to turn seven o'clock so she can scream bedtime to Linus. What you don't see in this strip is the comeuppance, right? She, she, she does something terrible and the punchline is that she did it, but it's, we're not asked to, to identify with her.
Cause that was a lot of strips would either have, you know, the cruel character. They could kind of wink at you and say, Hey, come on and watch. We, we, you know, Katzenjammer kids, the little kids are going to beat up on the big guy because he's a big guy. And so everyone can laugh when they, they do something to him.
But here it's a bigger character, you know, an older sister and being cruel to her brother. And you see the angst, and the consequence of it on Linus and you feel forum and this, but he, he doesn't really take a side in how it-- Schulz doesn't say, hey side, with this character. You just have to accept that this exists.
And I, I think that's unique in Schulz at least in his era to kind of let the characters just be side by side. And sometimes he's just letting you see a a cruelty happen. And he's not saying ha ha that this, this cruel thing is funny. I don't think he really ever does that, but that's the, that's the antithesis of who Schulz is, but he does let it happen.
He does let a character do something and he doesn't always have to step in as the, as the God of this, of the story and, and, you know, and give Lucy her comeuppance in a little four panel strip. He can't.
Jimmy: Right. Well, you know, this is really interesting stuff and important stuff. I think, I think you will see less and less of that in the coming years.
From my experience with publishers, this, that type of storytelling is it's difficult to make understood. And it took me yes. Years of, of not understanding what people were even saying to me about things like this, until it finally dawned to me, it's like, oh, they think my job is to tell their kids or these, my readers, how to behave.
And to me that would kill it. I can't be--
Harold: Or what to think about behavior in real time.
Jimmy: Right. Right. I want, I want the kid to feel like I'm on their side. I'm not one more adult telling them how to behave. So when Amelia would do bad things, they would be shown as bad things, but you wouldn't hate Amelia for doing them because you have done bad things and you would hope that she, and you would just get better.
And I think a kid actually does understand that and they do understand that there are some just cruelties in life and Schulz allows you to see those things. But they're within this much larger picture and much larger worldview that somehow it all is, is still okay. It's still a warm place to be, even with all the cruelness because it encompasses so much.
Harold: Yeah. I mean, we could talk for a long time about this, but I, I totally see what you're saying, Jim, and I've seen how you've extended it from, from what we're seeing here in Peanuts and it's, it's powerful and I can't even totally put my finger on it. You thought about it a lot more than I have. I'm sure.
But the idea that you're showing characters, I mean, to me, when I would say, when I, I see a film, I love a film where I get the sense that the God of that film, the creator of that film, if there is one, it's not a committee thing it loves all of the characters, even the villains and doesn't necessarily love them as villains, but he loves them as people and, and honors them for where they are at a given moment.
And I think that in and of itself is teaching whether you intend to teach or not. It's making a statement about how we treat people and whether we give grace to people and whether we, you know, allow a person to be where they are in a given moment. And if you're not allowed to do that, because you're told we have to judge this character and the author of the God of the story has to judge that character on the spot that is limited.
And it limits, I think that the psychological depth and the emotional depth of what you can do in a story and how much you can affect somebody in a deep way that's much, much richer than saying, yeah, this, this person's being bad now. And we have to point out that there's person’s being bad and we all have to not like this person.
Jimmy: Yeah. It also comes from the fact that people expect things, their entertainments to flow a certain way. One of the great tragedies of discourse about art is when people started referring to story arcs instead of stories, because they sort of think, well, it has to hit this point and then this point, and then this point, and then I'm done because I've had the satisfying experience that they've had 15 million times before. Schulz isn’t interested in that.
Harold: Yeah. And that they can judge the story based on the idea of the arc. Yeah. I mean, but a classic example of this, this concept is in the movie, It's A Wonderful Life. You know, my favorite film Mr. Potter, the evil banker who's causing so much pain and suffering and the town of Bedford Falls. The last we see of him is Jimmy Stewart, who's just come back from, you know, from, from not existing, running to his window and banging on the windows as a Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter, that's the last, we see a character interacting with this guy and I love it. And I've heard people say, no, no, he's got to get his comeuppance. There's no real resolution of this character.
I think, yes, there's a resolution and it's a transcendent resolution that it doesn't matter. You know, it doesn't matter that he's, he's still got his money. That's the whole point. You don't have to have a whole bunch of people like in the Saturday and Saturday night live version where they go off with pitchforks and stakes and you know, to, to, to beat him up.
It's like, no, you're missing the whole point. If that's where I go with a story like that. And, but arcs do typical idea of an arc for a story would kind of say, well, well, you, you got, you've got to resolve that in a different way. It's like, No.
Jimmy: Right. And it's like, well, that's a loose end. And it's like, no, it's not, but that's okay.
I always think someone wrote me about a question they had in Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up. Then they said, am I missing something? Yes.
October 14, Snoopy is sitting under a sparse thin tree, question mark is above his head. As he looks up into the air slowly, a leaf falls, Snoopy growls at it as the wind blows it away. He chases after it barking the whole time. And he makes one last dive for it, smashing into a picket fence. The leaf comes to rest on the other side of the fence, and Snoopy is disappointed.
Michael: Now I picked this because this is another facet of Schulz's genius. It's he does these leaf strips falling leaf interacting with the characters for years. I think you could do an entire book of leaf strips. And they're generally wordless. If you gave me 10 years, I couldn't come up with one and it's really beautiful. Cause it's, you know, sometimes the strip gets wordy, but these generally are just little, little ballets. And I don't know. I think maybe later in the strip he has the leaves thinking something, which seems wrong to me, but I really love these leaf strips.
Jimmy: Yeah. They're beautiful.
Harold: The lettering, They're just gorgeous.
Jimmy: Yeah. That ARF ARF is gorgeous on the second tier and that wham in the last tier is absolutely beautiful. And there we are seeing those motion lines above and below the leaf in panel, in the first panel where we see the leaf and then just above it. And the next one it's it's it's like Zen.
October 17 Linus is sitting, holding a blanket up to his cheek. Charlie Brown looks on, “I don't get it,” he says. He inspects Linus and the blanket closer. Then Charlie Brown asks Lucy, “why does Linus sit around all day holding that blanket?” Lucy answers. It gives him security and happiness. Didn't you have a blanket when you were little Charlie Brown?” She tugs the blanket out from Linus and says “here, feel how soft it is. It's called outing flannel.” Charlie Brown, inspects it, “outing flannel.” Now he's holding it up to really get a good look at the blanket. Charlie Brown says, “you mean, if I hold this next to my cheek all day, I'll be happy?” Lucy says “insanely happy.” Charlie Brown dumps the blanket on top of Linus, his head saying to Lucy, “that's the most stupid thing I've ever heard.” Charlie Brown leaves the house and goes walking away “stilI could use a little security.” Charlie Brown walks up to the counter at a dry goods store where we see an adult at the counter. Charlie Brown says, “One yard of outing flannel and don't laugh.”
Michael: This is an important addition to the legend of Linus. Cause we now know what his blanket is made of.
And that's very important. Also, Jimmy mentioned that we see an adult standing at the dry goods store. We actually see his hands, right. Maybe her hands. So he hasn't quite violated the no adults rule.
Harold: Well, it's a ring on the finger so that's kind of specific, right?
Jimmy: Yes. It is a married person at the dry goods store. Okay.
Harold: But one of the things that really strikes me in this strip is that there's this, the secondary thing going on in the strip is Charlie Brown and Lucy are talking. The flannel and he goes off and buys. It is the abusive Linus and the total disregard for him there. They're pulling the blanket away from Linus while his tongue is sticking out, as he's trying to hang onto it for dear life.
And then Charlie Brown now has completely taken it away from him. Linus is sitting far away with a frown on his face when Charlie Brown rejects the idea and calls it stupid. He yet he dumps the blanket on Linus his head and his a little exclamation point coming out of Linus. Is that, that just that whole disregard for the younger, younger kid in the room is that's, that's just really unique that he's, he's playing this whole thing.
It's not part of the gag itself. It totally was unnecessary, but he has it in there unnecessarily for the gag I'm saying.
Jimmy: He does that a couple of times. And he's done that more and more as the years progressed there, there's a strip from a few months ago that we didn't really talk about, but you know, the punchline is whatever it is.
It's it's Charlie Brown is playing baseball and the joke is up at the top independent of the fact that there's another joke playing out visually where Charlie Brown is looking up, waiting for a fly ball and a ground ball goes by him without his even noticing. I'd seen that strip many, many times, and really didn't even notice that there was a second whole visual bit of business going on.
He seems to be really into doing that.
Harold: Yeah. It's like his world is expanding. These characters all have different attitudes and opinions and he's, he's familiar with it and he's not uncomfortable. Kind of weaving that in to like particularly a Sunday.
October 29th, Schroeder is talking to Patty, he's holding up a sheet and says, “this is the outfit I'm going to wear on Halloween.” He puts it over his head. Patty says, “It might be kind of chilly that night.” Schroeder now decked out as a ghost, walks away and says, “I can always put on a jacket.” Patty looks at him as he comes back in with winter coat over his sheet. Patty says, “somehow that seems to spoil the effect.”
Harold: And I just like this one, because it's such a funny little sight gag of this, this sheet with a nice little jacket on or over the, the sheet with, with no arms coming out of the jacket.
It's just a really cute, funny sight gag. And that Schulz is very good at.
Jimmy: Well, and I feel this strip deeply because I was a Halloween enthusiast as a kid. And I remember very clearly for Halloween, 1978, wanting to go as Luke Skywalker. And I had my, my Nana make me my very own Luke Skywalker costume, ‘cause you could not buy Luke Skywalker, anything. Right?
So she made this for me and it was amazing. I was so excited and so happy for it, but my mom was intense and I think it was a little chilly that night. So she said you have to wear a coat. I'm like, I'm not wearing a coat. So she made me wear a turtleneck underneath the Luke Skywalker outfit. So now I just look like some weird kid with an ascot and a smoking jacket.
Then she decided, well, it's windy. You have to wear a hat. I'm like, I'm not wearing. So my other grandmother had given me this helmet. It was a Star Trek helmet. You could Google this it's rated as one of the worst, like licensed products of all time. It's just a white motorcycle helmet with a giant red siren light on top and the letters that spelled across Spock on it.
So it wasn't even Star Wars it was Star Trek. So my mom, just, my mom just took a piece of paper and wrote Luke Skywalker on it and stuck it to the front of the helmet. And that was my Halloween costume.
Jimmy: So talk about spoiling the effect.
November 30th, Charlie Brown is walking down the sidewalk. He spies a little girl he hasn't seen before. Charlie Brown says to her, “you're new around here, aren't you?” He reaches out his hand in friendship and says, “my name is Charlie Brown. All my friends refer to me as good old Charlie Brown.” The little girl who has a very loud voice as indicated by her bold lettering style says, “that's what my friends call me too.” “Huh?” asks Charlie Brown. The little girl says “Good old Charlotte, Braun, Charlie Brown says “Oh no.”
Michael: This is the second big misstep of the year after the golf tournament. Schulz, doesn't introduce very many characters and it's usually when they come in there, they might be sort of a one joke bit. And then they evolve. This was a character who supposedly her name was funny and who talked loud.
And that seemed to be the entire thing. These were never reprinted I don’t think.
Jimmy: No, I don't think so.
Michael: So we're going off the Fantagraphics collection, which has everything. So I'd never seen these before. It's yeah. There's just nothing funny about this. And I think Schulz realized that. So she appears a few times next year in ‘55, and then she's gone forever into that magical place with Shermy, and the other ones.
Jimmy: This was actually worse than I remember it. Here's why in my mind, from the last time I read these strips, Charlotte Braun looked exactly like Charlie Brown, but like in drag. And that's actually kind of a funny idea, but when I looked back at, at this time, it's like, no, she's just a little girl. I mean, she has a similar shape head, but there's the facial features aren't the same and her body type isn't the same.
So it's really is just that she has a similar sounding name to Charlie Brown and she's like,
Michael: Yeah, no, I think Harold should answer the philosophical question of where do Peanuts characters go when they disappear.
Harold: Well, I don't have the answer to that, but I do have, this was I courtesy of, I believe it was the Schulz museum website and the library of Congress, which has a letter from Charles Schulz to a complaining reader who apparently was somewhat, I'm just guessing we don't have the original letter. At least I haven't seen it. That was written complaining about Charlotte Braun, how she should be basically dropped from the roster. And it gives a little bit of insight into Schulz. What, where he was willing to go with, with with a reader. I'm assuming this was a playful snarky letter given his response, but this is what he wrote back to the person who did not want to see any more Charlotte Braun.
I am taking your suggestion regarding Charlotte Braun and will eventually discard her. If she appears anymore, it will be in strips that were already completed before I got your letter. Or because someone writes in saying that they like her. Remember however that you and your friends will have the death of an innocent child on your conscience.
Are you prepared to accept such responsibility?
And then he does a little drawing of Charlotte Braun at the bottom with the gigantic axe in her head. all look it up.
Jimmy: Oh my God.
Harold: She's just kind of standing there.
Jimmy: Imagine getting that back.
Harold: Well, it's in the library of Congress. So somebody thought much of that letter probably it's on her conscious the rest of her life.
There was never another Charlotte.
Jimmy: Well, it's really funny and look. It's so great to hear from readers, but every once in a while, you have to answer back with a little bit of snark just to save your sanity.
Michael: I don't think snark was invented until the seventies
Harold: I get the sense from, from Schulz that he, he liked someone who could pull something out of himself that he normally wouldn't share. He couldn't share that in the strip itself, he was so conscious of his audience and his editors and everybody involved. There's this balance that he has been in this personal correspondence.
Again, I'm guessing that the letter, he got just had a vibe to it that he felt free to do that. And that he probably very much enjoyed sending that letter. It just shows another side of him that I think is pretty fun
Jimmy: To answer your philosophical question, Michael, is that they go nowhere because space-time is a four dimensional solid.
December 19 Linus is playing with some toys. Lucy walks in with a scowl on her face. “Hey” she yells. Linus knows what's coming. Lucy starts picking up the toys and says, “give me those toys.” She gathers everything together and storms out saying “everything's mine, mine, mine, mine.” Linus sighs defeated. Lucy walks back in and nonchalantly flips him one solitary rubber band saying “here, I guess he can have this rubber band. Have fun with that.” Linus looks at it for a moment. And then there's three panels of him blissfully and utterly joyously playing with the rubber band. Lucy comes back in, even angrier saying, “what's going on here?” She snatches back the rubber band. “Give me that.”She walks away. She says, “I didn't mean for you to have that much fun.”
Harold: Yeah. I love this strip. It's Linus in his first year of existence was nonstop frustrating. He's just unable to get anything he wants. Nobody's paying attention to him. He just can't connect with anybody. And then this year toward the end, we're at least seeing that he's, he's finding some of his own happiness, even though sometimes it is short-lived.
And this is just a really great strip showing that Linus can overcome his, his circumstances. He's finding ways to find that that happiness on his own, even if he's still disconnected sometimes with his, his friends and his older sister.
Jimmy: Another great bit of drawing in this strip, but the drawings of him playing with the rubber band are just so much fun.
And my favorite drawing of the whole strip is the expression online as his face in the last panel, which I'm not exactly. It's a very complex little expression that he's a little upset that Lucy took the rubber band. He's a little daze, cause he was just blissing himself out with the rubber band and he's a little proud.
Harold: He kind of got her goat. Yeah, he's kinda, it's weird. It's a lot of interpretations on that. My two favorite drawings in this one, when he's full, full tilt, playing with a, I don't know, he has probably about, about 14 hands as he's stretching the rubber band every which way. And he has this total, total triumphant joy on his face is just, is just delightful.
But then the other drawing that really hits me is the second to last one is this little, this little look of his open mouth as, as he's had, it's almost like it's, it's from some, a Pieta it's it's it's like it is, yeah,
Jimmy: it doe have a Renaissance pose kind of feel
Harold: Like something has been he's, something has taken away and he's, he is the innocent who has had it taken away and he's holding his arms out is like this, this thing that has been removed from him is.
I don't know why that little simple drawing is really powerful.
Jimmy: All right guys. So that's 1954. How do we sum that up?
Michael: That's a major step forward with a couple of little baby steps backward. He's definitely solidifying. This is a year that the Sundays really shine. Almost everyone is great. And we'll see this progression continue.
Jimmy: Harold, what do you think?
Harold: It's a great, it's a great year. It really, really more and more feels like the Peanuts that, that I remember growing up, which means a lot of the stuff from the fifties, sixties and seventies in particular. But well, I lived to kinda in the sixties and seventies, but this is the kind of stuff that I remember of Peanuts, the characters are there. The personalities are coming out. And he's loosening his style up this, this year, I think he's moving toward a a little freer artwork and it's just it's just a great year. There's so many wonderful things in it. And his he's moving away a little bit more from doing traditional gags and is just playing off of these rich characters he's developing.
Jimmy: You know, it's, it's fully Peanuts. It's beautiful. It's funny. My biggest takeaway from the last couple of episodes is my shock at how good the Sundays are and how quickly they get that good. He just had a knack from it almost from the very, very beginning. And definitely there are some of the funniest and some of the best drawn comic strips I've ever seen.
And you know, where I want to leave 1954 guys, is we have spent, we have spent an inordinate amount of time busting up the golf tournament, but something happened during the golf tournament that we did not mention. And it's an historic moment in the history of Peanuts. Do either of, you know, what it is?
Harold: no idea.
Jimmy: It is the first appearance of the name Van Pelt.
Michael: Oh my God.
Jimmy: We find one of the things I think is going to be interesting as we move forward is that sometimes, and even in the lowliest nooks and crannies of this masterpiece, there's something really cool and really great. If you take the time to look.
Harold: You start to see the Dutch influence.
Jimmy: You got to see the Dutch influence. All right, guys, this has been great. This has been 1954 in Peanuts. If you want to, you know, continue with the following along and getting involved in the conversation, why don't you check us out on our social media accounts? We are unpackPeanuts at both Instagram and Twitter.
Also go to the website, UnpackingPeanuts.com, where you can find old episodes and where you can also vote for your strip of the year. Speaking of strip of the year, guys, your nominees for strip of the air 1954.
Michael: I'm going with the classic Lucy, January 24th, where she's having a tantrum running around destroying everybody's fun.
And in ends up with her running from an angry mob. And she says she's frustrated and inhibited and no one understands her.
Harold: I was going to do Linus with the rubber band. That was going to be my my nominee. But at the last minute, having gone through all of these, I think I'm going to switch that over to March 21st with Charlie Brown, making the sandcastle and Patty just destroying it with glee and Charlie Brown winding up in, in bed, sighing.
It's just so uniquely Charles Schulz. This is like, I think it's, it really takes your breath away when you read it. When you see what has happened to Charlie Brown, because of this act of, of, of careless cruelty it's so Charles Schulz, and it's not typically the kind of strip that I dwell on too much, but this one really, really hit me.
Jimmy: So my takeaway is that I am tired of going last picking strips of the year, because I always have to adjust my picks based on one of your guys. That would have been my pick as it is though. I'm going to go with the classic Sunday strip from July 11th. It's a bug, it's a bug. It's a piece of fuzz. It's just funny.
I defy anyone to find a panel per panel, funnier comic strip in the whole decade of the 1950s. It's really good.
Michael: Yeah. And that would make a good band name. Actually, if you're looking for a band name it's yours. It’s a bug. It’s a bug It's a piece of fuzz.
Jimmy: Hey, that should be something we could track that anytime something comes up in Peanuts, that would be a good band name.
We'll have to call that out. I have so much fun doing this podcast. I hope you have fun listening to it. We get to hang out with pals and talk about the greatest comic strip of all time. So why don't you come back and join us again next week? Until then I'm Jimmy. For Michael and Harold be good.
VO: Unpacking Peanuts: is copyright Jimmy Gownley , Michael Cohen, and Harold Buchholz. Produced by Liz Sumner. Music by Michael Cohen, additional voiceover by Aziza, Shaquila Shukralla Clark.
For more from the show follow unpackpeanuts on Instagram and Twitter. For more about Jimmy Michael and Harold visit Unpacking Peanuts.com. Have a wonderful day. And thanks for listening, you blockhead.