1957 Part 2 - Who Do You Like Better, Your Mother or Your Father?

Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to Unpacking Peanuts. We're here in 1957 looking at Charles Schulz's masterpiece day by day. I'm one of your hosts for the evening. My name is Jimmy Gownley. I'm the cartoonist behind the Amelia Rules series as well as the graphic novels seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up, and The Dumbest Idea Ever. Joining me are my cohosts. He's a playwright. He is a composer, both for the band Complicated People as well as for this podcast. He is the creator of the original comic book price guide, the Argosy Guide to Comic Books, and the original Amelia Rules editor, as well as the cartoonist behind such classic strips as Strange Attractors, A Gathering of Spells, and Tangled River. Michael Cohen.


Michael: Hey, there.


Jimmy: And he is the executive producer and writer of Mystery Science Theater 3000, as well as a former vice president of Archie Comics. And he used to work for Amelia Rules as well. And now he's the brilliant cartoonist behind the instagram strip Sweetest Beasts. Mr. Harold Buchholz


Harold: Hello.


Jimmy: So, guys, it is 1957. We are here in part two, and obviously, we are all loving the strips. But I wanted to ask you guys, has it affected you in any way? I mean, we are as immersed in someone's art as we possibly can, and Peanuts is a very specific work of art. I was wondering, has it affected you guys either as cartoonists or as people or as readers, just being so ensconced in this world?


Michael: I think in terms of low art and high art, how people are just so blind to the fact that low art can be as great or greater than high art.


Jimmy: Right.


Michael: And I see this little this decade or maybe ‘54 through the end of the decade, is like a real high mark in creativity. I can't think of anybody who has such a strong run creating an entire world plus being hugely successful. Not to put down Picasso or anybody like that, but to me, this is a greater achievement.


Jimmy: I do agree.


Harold: I think Schulz bridges low art and high art. I'd call it hello, art.


Jimmy: Yeah. Because there's a part of this that's hard to see because we're watching him create his characters and develop this world for himself. But he's also inventing so much of what we think of as comic strips. I love Calvin and Hobbes. But is there a part of Calvin and Hobbes that was not presaged by Peanuts? I mean, the imagination is there. The little kid that speaks like an adult is there. The small cast is there. The contemplating, the changing of tones, just the element where Calvin talks like an adult. And I'm not picking on Calvin and Hobbes. This is Amelia Rules and a million other things. Right. There's a level of sophistication that that did not happen with kids characters before Schulz. So he has to build that element, too. It's a huge achievement.


Harold: Yeah, I think there's a ton of vocabulary that most every cartoonist in anywhere near the vein of comedy that he's doing seems to have absorbed and then put into their work. He just enriched the whole world of cartooning because of what he did. I think of Bill Waterson. I think of the we're talking about how Schulz doesn't do the animation style. So Waterson brings this amazing line of action whenever Hobbes is attacking Calvin. It's this beautiful arc of the tail going all the way through the spine and then in the head and the arms that's so gorgeous. Something that Schulz never did, or it's him drawing those crazy dinosaurs or whatever that is just so uniquely Waterson. That's what he's bringing. Plus, a lot of other things. But you're right. I think there are many, many, many things that Waterson took from this playbook that Schulz laid out for any cartoonist who was willing to experience it or look at it, which I think was virtually every cartoonist from 1950 on.


Jimmy: Well, the other thing about Waterson we're talking about those classic strips where Hobbs is attacking Calvin. You can also see that he understands that it can't be labored over, too. Even though these are really beautiful and more evolved drawings, let's say, than the Schulz stuff, he's also inking that stuff really quickly, because there is just something about that. You have to have a little bit of that spontaneity in these things if you're going to bring life to it.


Harold: Yeah. For a certain kind of strip, it seems to somehow connect you in a more I don't know. I don't even know what the term is, but, it's a more, visceral level. I think of the master of clean cartooning during this era is Mort Walker and Dick Brown. What they were doing with early Hi and Lois and Beatle Bailey-- super iconic drawings, similar to what Schulz is doing, but it's also very clean. And that makes every joke that they tell read. It's like they get every ounce of a joke that they can, but it's not taking you to this level of deep connection with the characters the way Schulz was able to do. And I do feel like that roughness in the artwork somehow is part of making us lean into these characters. And I don't understand it. I don't know why, but when I'm doing Sweetest Beasts, I'm thinking about things along those lines because, I'm getting to go over this with you guys. It's such an honor to be able to delve into this Master of Cartooning, almost like you're taking a college course or you're having to teach the college course. You have to learn things. You have to look, you have to peer into it. And I'm constantly asking myself the question, what is Schulz doing to make this feel this way? And why is he more successful than anybody else? Those questions are constantly coming up as we're going through these, and hopefully it's coming out of our conversation here as well for others.


Jimmy: Yeah. One of the things that I'm taking away from it, I actually wonder if there's going to be kind of sometimes I think when you're really hyper focusing on something in your art, it actually weirdly takes a downward turn for a while until you can sort of assume those new influences, those new thoughts, into a more natural part of your process. So I'm kind of going through that. But it's also intriguing because for the first time, I feel like I'm unlocking some stuff, because after a while, you draw comics, you get into your groove, you get into your style, you get into whatever you're doing. And it's really nice to just for a while, take a moment and look at someone else's work so intently. Because even though, it's something you've seen a million times, it gives you a new perspective on your own work. But like Harold, you were mentioning last week or two weeks ago, I guess, the effect, of him spending less time on the backgrounds, and when he does draw them in there, they're slightly sketchier or slightly more abstract. And I really started thinking that's giving a depth of field that I used to try to do in Amelia back, because it was like 2001, I would do with a Photoshop filter. And that kind of looked cool in 2001, actually, but it doesn't really look that cool anymore. I wouldn't do it again. And now I'm just all interested in how do I do it with just the pen, how do I do it with just on the board? And the answer is, it's not as easy as you might think. And if it doesn't look easy, then you're doing it wrong.


Harold: No, I think that does tie into the idea that we're talking about these beautiful, iconic poses that Schulz is making that you don't necessarily equate with rough drawing. So, like you said, he has to get to the point where he can draw it perfectly pristinely, and then he gets to back off a little bit, and he doesn't lose any of that iconic style, but he gets the sense of it being dashed off. And again, why that is so amazing, I can't put my finger on, but it's definitely there, and it's something that I absorbed as a reader of these comics, and it definitely inspires me to continue to experiment with my own work.


Jimmy: How about you, Michael? You hugely influenced by the Schulz line work these days.


Michael: No, I'm just struggling to learn how to draw my stuff.


Jimmy: It is a struggle. It's an absolute struggle.


Michael: Better make it look like me.


Jimmy: Well, guys, we got a lot of 1957 left to go, so how about we get right back to the strips.


Michael: Great.


April 9. Charlie Brown has taken a tumble, head over heels in his roller skates, landing on his head. Bonk. Lucy walks over. Charlie Brown is shaken on the ground, “Phew” he says. Lucy yells at him, “you blockhead.” Charlie Brown is still lying on the ground as Lucy walks away and says, “I just can't resist adding insult to injury.”


Michael: This is one of Schulz's tricks. I mean, I never noticed this before, but this is a real source of punchlines for, him. This is, again, someone taking a cliche literally. And I think if we had a challenge, try to write a Peanuts comic or Peanuts Daily, I think I'd go with this. I tried to think of some cliche and have somebody react as if it was true.


Jimmy: Yeah, and that's like an invisible thing. I mean, you really have to be looking at this as a microscopic detail to even notice that he is doing that, because it's not like he is doing it three days in a row. He'll do that a few months ago, and then it comes back to it. It is really interesting.


Harold: I'd like to point out in the third panel when Lucy, yells at Charlie Brown, this would be an example of the anger-ometer. Normally, anybody who would draw the strip this way would have Lucy with kind of a little anger line on her. But she doesn't. And in some ways, it makes it even more powerful because she's just saying it with force but not with anger, which makes anger would make her seem, like, weaker, I guess. But the fact that she just states it without any anger, so it doesn't hit the anger-ometer index at all. It's unsettling, it's powerful, and it's so Schulz.


Jimmy: Yeah. Because it's not a visceral reaction that she has to yell at them. She just looks at it as, oh, here's an opportunity for me to yell at them. How nice.


Harold: Yeah. And I'm bored. This is a little pastime, right.


Jimmy: Because she's in the distance on the first panel, too. So she has to walk a little bit to walk up to make sure yeah.


Harold: She just comes across as so reasonable.


April 12. Charlie Brown is dressed in his baseball gear, standing next to Patty. He says, “what a team. Good grief. I've got a catcher who can't see, a first baseman who's only 3ft tall, and an outfielder who can't throw.” “Can't throw?” says, Patty, “I've never heard of such a thing.” And now we see Snoopy standing in the outfield wearing a baseball hat, and Charlie Brown says, “well, now you have.”


Jimmy: So Snoopy is on the baseball team.


Michael: And we haven't seen him before on the team?


Jimmy: No


Harold: He's interrupted the games. That's true.


Jimmy: Yeah.


Michael: This one bothered me a little bit. It sort of violated some rules of the universe.

Jimmy: That you have applied to the universe, they’re Michael's rules.


Michael: Well, no, he’s saying a first baseman who is only 3ft tall. I mean, they're all only 3ft tall. Isn't Patty on the team? So she would have seen Snoopy if he was on the team.


Jimmy: At this point, I think the answer is he hasn't settled into Charlie Brown has a team. Because we also in the previous baseball strip we looked at, Schroeder is catcher, but he's catcher for the team opposite of Linus. So at this point, I think we're still in the world of just pick up baseball. So Charlie Brown is basically saying, oh, this team I have today, good grief. Eventually it settles, and you can even, you know, like, Snoopy plays shortstop, Linus plays second, Lucy's in right field, Schroeder is behind the plate. You could actually tell what positions they play, but at this stage, I, think it's just we're just supposed to assume it's pickup games.


Harold: I think last year we introduced maybe in a strip or two, the idea of Charlie Brown being manager. And he moves into that, I think, this year, toward the last half of the year in a way he hadn't before.


Jimmy: Yeah, it's interesting because this is a slow motion strip just coming into focus over all years now. We're in 1957, and we're still just seeing some of the elements come together. And some of the things that are the most famous thing of Peanuts are years away. Great Pumpkin, Flying Ace, or the psychiatry booth, all, that stuff. We're seven years into it and we haven't seen any of that yet. That's another thing that wouldn't happen today.


May 2, Snoopy is walking down the street. He's surprised by Lucy, who comes zipping by on her roller skates really fast. Off panel Lucy must have crashed into something because we see “Wham” lettered, and Snoopy is actually shaken by the impact. Then as he walks away, he says, “boy, there's nothing like having 4 feet.”


Michael: It's all in that second panel. It's all in that expression of Lucy funny, you know, she's heading for something bad. She knows it too.


Jimmy: And there's nothing that can be done about that.


Harold: It's the third panel of Snoopy vibrating from the impact is pretty amazing drawing, too.


Jimmy: Yeah, that's great. I remember seeing Gary Trudeau do that in an episode of Doonesbury in the 80s. It was the first time I had ever seen that technique of drawing multiple images to make it look like the figure is either vibrating or blurred or something like that. It looks great here. Looks so great. And about 30 years before Gary Trudeau does it.


May 7, Schroeder is at the piano, Snoopy is listening, sitting on top of it. Snoopy is in a state of complete bliss. He thinks to himself, “beautiful, just beautiful.” “Beautiful,” he thinks. And, then as he's in the last panel, actually on top of his head, so taken away by the music, and he says, “beautiful.”


Harold: Here again, we're talking about how hard it is to capture joy and happiness. And, you got four amazing poses and different explorations of how Snoopy can show utter bliss listening to Schroeder play the piano. And this is something that only Schulz could have done back in this time. I don't know anybody else who would even think to go there, but it's great.

Jimmy: And you really have not experienced the strip. If you've only heard me describe it to you right now. So really go to GoComics.com or pull out those Fantagraphics books and check that strip out, because that is all about the drawing.


May 19. It's another baseball game. Linus walks confidently up to the plate. This time, he tosses his blanket to the side. He's in there, he's ready to hit. He clobbers it. Charlie Brown, as the manager, is yelling, “Run it out, Linus. Run it out.” Linus says, “First I got to have my blanket.” So he stops and picks it up. Then he runs. He's off. He careens around first base. Lucy, unfortunately, is playing first base, who stomps on Linus's blanket, sending him flying because she stops him short. He hits the ground, catches the ball, and then tags him out. In the last panel, we see Charlie Brown looking utterly defeated and Linus completely dazed. As Charlie Brown says, “I can't stand it.”


Harold: It's another childhood memory strip for me. I just remember this one, the amazing panel that I think makes me never forget this strip is on the bottom tier on the left, where Lucy stomps on Linus's blanket. And he goes flying up in the air. And I felt that as a kid. I've never, ever forgotten that again. Lucy, she's not being angry. She's going to have those impish grin on her face. She is just being Lucy with almost no expression, which makes it that much more chilling that she would do that. And then the question comes up, you guys are the baseball experts. Was that legal for her to do? Because she's not touching Linus.


Jimmy: My call is that if you bring a blanket onto the field, that's fair play. If you don't want that to happen, don’t bring your blanket.


Harold: I also love how she boops him on the nose. Little sisterly happiness.


Jimmy: And looks so delighted.


Harold: Totally rammed him into the ground. That just resonates with what it was like, the sibling relationship of love that you still do violence to one another every once in a while.

Jimmy: And talking about the art and discovering things as a cartoonist. Here in the bottom tier, we see that same effect of the vibrating figure to indicate Linus hitting the ground hard that we saw previously with Snoopy reacting to Lucy crashing on her skates. I feel it's the kind of thing like, Schulz tried it either this one or the other one, and was like, Oh, that really works. Let me do that again. Or, that's fun to draw. And it works great. Both instances.


May 28. Charlie Brown walks up to Lucy angrily and he says, “look here, Lucy, I don't like all this talk about me being wishy washy.” Lucy says, “who do you like better, your mother or your father?” Charlie Brown stops and thinks for a second. “Well, I” then Lucy yells at the top of her lungs “WISHY WASHY”, sending Charlie Brown flying.


Michael: Well, shout out to my old friends, Tom and Barry. We used to meet at school every day and talk about Peanuts. And this joke persisted our entire lives. Who do you like better, your mother or father? 60 years later, all I'd have to say is, who do you like better? Your mother or your father. And they know exactly …


Jimmy: Fantastic. All right. Shouts out to Tom and Barry.


June 16. Charlie Brown is blowing bubbles on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and Snoopy is chasing them. In panel two he actually manages to catch one in his teeth, but he unfortunately swallows it. Charlie Brown is continuing--


Jimmy: I'm just going to break it here because this is interesting because you can clearly see this is a Sunday strip that was divided into two. The first thing that I just read that could be removed because the strip basically starts again on the second tier. And Charlie Brown says, “Snoopy is the only dog in the world who can retrieve a soap bubble.” And we see Snoopy do just that, but he swallows it again. And then we see 12345 fantastic panels of Snoopy reacting to the fact that he just swallowed a soap bubble. And then it ends with Snoopy draped against Charlie Brown. Obviously nauseated by what happened, Charlie Brown says, “of course, it's not one of those things you can do all day long.”


Harold: So much great drawing here.


Jimmy: Another one that's all about the drawing.


Michael: This looks like it was trying to be an animated cartoon.


Jimmy: It definitely has that.


Harold: I love some of these drawings. Again, this is again, a total childhood memory. These drawings. The memory of these are just etched in my mind. And there's so many funny drawings, I think. And once again, we've got the fraying of the character like you have with the vibration with Lucy and Linus in those two previous ones. you kind of get the same thing where he's playing with the vibration look of Snoopy when he's just shuddering based on the nastiness of the soap bubble. Schulz is just playing so much with the malleability of his characters and he's having so much fun with it. And there's one with Snoopy, the third to last panel that is just hilariously drawn. I can't even explain what it is. He's so off model and so funny with the gigantic tongue sticking out of a very wishy washy kind of mouth. It's great. This is an unforgettable strip for me.


Jimmy: This does not look fifties to me. Although the wildness of the cartooning, this feels like late 60s, early seventies. And I'm not even saying Peanuts. I think it looks like a later comic strip.


Harold: Yeah, like greeting card art or something. It's presaging that. And he did talk about how he would draw in those roughs we were talking about. And you'd see him in a little sketch pad. And a lot of his humor, he said, in later years anyway, would come from drawing just silly little drawings of Snoopy sitting in Woodstock’s nest. And then he'd work backward into a joke. And here you kind of get that feeling that he's in some ways having a tremendous amount of fun just seeing what he can do with Snoopy as a drawn object and he's just coming up with amazingly funny drawings.


Jimmy: I think that is something I try to remember as often as I can when I'm working on comics is to try to start with a visual. Sometimes, especially when you're working with a publisher, it's sometimes necessary to provide a script, which in a lot of ways kills it for me. So I try to start with some drawings even if those drawings are never going to be seen by anyone but me just because the two things have to go together.


Harold: Yeah, I was just thinking there was a strip, I did again, this stuff just must be in the back of my mind and I'm pulling from it whenever I'm doing Sweetest Beasts on Instagram. There was a strip I did where there's a lion, a lamb and I've introduced, for no particular good reason, a Boston terrier into this little trio of characters who are hanging out together. And there's one strip I did where Wild Lion is saying this is my impression of a hyena. And then it's just me drawing a bunch of, silly drawings of the lion getting more and more silly and laughing and laughing and laughing and going off model and just having fun with it. Very much like the strip that Schulz did. And then the last panel is Maisie just kind of deadpan says, this is my impression of being bored silly.


Jimmy: Very cute. And that is a hard thing to achieve. You have to work really hard to make something look effortless sometimes and make something look fun.


June 20. Lucy is bending over and examining the ground. Charlie Brown is standing there looking at what she's doing. Lucy says, “I planted some flower seeds here, but nothing happened.” Charlie Brown says, “Maybe the birds ate them all Lucy. They do that sometimes, you know?” Lucy looks up to the sky. Then she stands up and screams, “is that true!?”


Jimmy: If I was a bird, I would fly away.


Harold: This is just so Lucy again, Charles Schulz taking a character to a place we've never seen before. She's her own force of nature.


Jimmy: Absolutely. I like to think it's a bunch of Woodstocks and his friends out there.


June 29. Charlie Brown is standing on the sidewalk and Schroeder walks up. He has a new badge on his t shirt, and he looks quite proud of it. Charlie Brown looks closely at it. It reads, “I like Ludwig.” Schroeder walks away smiling. Charlie Brown says, “I might have known.”


Jimmy: So is this a time machine or an obscurities explained?


VO: Peanuts obscurities explained.


Harold: I think this is an obscurities explained. There are not a lot of obscurities this year, but this one, I thought might be worth sharing with some of our younger listeners.

Jimmy: All right, go for it.


Harold: So 1952 Eisenhower is running for president. I think it's against Adlai Stevenson. and for the very first time, there is a non Republican funded ad campaign. So it's the first, political action committee, I guess. And they go to Roy Disney, Walt's brother, to get some, animation done for an I Like Ike 1 minute commercial. And it's the catchiest tune. I Like Ike. Everybody likes Ike. And it's basically just a bunch of characters bouncing along, including, I think, there's an elephant. And it's just an amazingly well done and I'm guessing very effective ad. And it comes out in 1952. He wins by a pretty large margin. And then in 1956 well, I also should mention that Walt Kelly does his own version of that, where he does I Go Pogo.


Jimmy: That's right.


Harold: Based on his character. And so it's kind of a fair game thing where all of a sudden, during election season, you can make little jokes like that. And so Schulz, in the second election, where it's the less successful slogan, I still like Ike is. But the buttons were also a huge piece of it. A lot, of people have this really beautifully designing I like Ike button that was red, white, and blue and very, again, just graphically so simple. and that was a thing that was a big deal.


Jimmy: My dad had a collection of campaign buttons, which are missing, unfortunately now. But yeah, I remember he had an I like Ike, and he was a Democrat. He would never voted for Eisenhower, even.


Harold: Did he get the button?


Jimmy: You got the but you know what I like about it? I like Ike.


Harold: Yeah, right. I'm not saying I want to be president.


Jimmy: Side note to the people who do the traffic in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the traffic reports, the Eisenhower interchange will never be called The Ike, so please stop trying to make us call it The Ike.


Harold: The Ike. wow


Jimmy: 26 years they've been trying this. Nobody calls it, it's the Eisenhower. I'm sorry.

Harold: I lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia, for I don't know how many years, and the guy doing the weather, the traffic forecast, or whatever not a forecast. This is bad right now. He would always talk about the twin bridges, and, it only occurred to me about 15 years in that I had no idea what the twin bridges were or where they were. And finally, nobody called the, twin bridges. I had to put it together. It's like, wait a second, two bridges side by side that are not connected.


Jimmy: Well, I think now if you're like an 18 year old kid driving around looking for the Ike, you'd be like, there's no even contact unless you're listening to Unpacking Peanuts. And now you get the reference.


Michael: My story is we had a mock election in 1956. I guess I was in the third grade and everyone in my family is a Democrat. I knew nothing, of course, about politics, so I went into the little booth and voted for Stevenson. And then the teacher came out and gave the results of the election, like 29 Eisenhower, one Stevenson.


Harold: And suddenly you understood a little bit more about politics.


July 3. Snoopy is walking in the rain and it is pouring. Panel two, Charlie Brown and Lucy run by in their bathing suits, singing, “it's pouring, it's pouring. The old man is snoring.” As they pass Snoopy walks away thinking, “idiots.”


Michael: I don't know why, I love this one so much.


Jimmy: I love this one too. It's just so funny. You know what? They are idiots. Because it's raining, it's pouring.


Michael: Have you ever seen kids in bathing suits running out in the rain?


Jimmy: No,


Michael: I grew up in LA. And there was no rain so.


Jimmy: Well, it rains plenty in Pennsylvania. No, I don't ever remember that. So funny. You know what? Sometimes a comic strip is just funny.


Michael: Weird. How unusual.


Jimmy: You wouldn't know that from reading most comic strips.


July 7. Lucy is coloring in a coloring book. Crayons are strewn everywhere. Linus is looking on. He reaches to pick one up. Lucy turns and screams, “get away from those crayons.” Linus yells, off panel “mom.” Lucy is frustrated by this. “Oh, good grief,” she says. From off panel we hear Linus and Lucy's mother say, “Lucy, you share those crayons with your brother.” Lucy stands up, looking very threatening at Linus, and says, “boy, I ought to slug you a good one.” Linus calmly, with a huge smile on his face, says, “just give me the crayons.” “Here's three of them. Now get out of here.” Linus walks away smiling contentedly. Lucy yells, off panel “I gave him three, mom, was that enough?” The mom says, “that was fine, Lucy. It's always nice to share your things.” In the last panel, Linus sits alone looking at his crayons. White, gray and black. He sighs.


Michael: Well, he can try black and white comic strip.


Harold: Yeah, the problem is this is a Sunday strip that needs to be it.


Michael: Needs to be colored.


Jimmy: Yeah, but it looks amazing in black and white. A great design on every panel. And also funny, white, black and gray. Really cute. Great lettering. Again, I love it, the rare times and it's getting rarer and rarer, where he goes for like a serif font, but that panel with Linus just yelling, Mom, that looks awesome.


Michael: Did he discontinue having the adult voices off some point?


Jimmy: Yeah, at some point they fade, away. But I'm not sure when. Even at this point now, they're very few and far between. And it always does jar me a little bit.


August 11. It's evening, and Charlie Brown is rolling out a sleeping bag in his backyard for a little backyard camping late summer. He very excitedly and happily runs inside and then comes back out dressed in his pajamas and nightcap. He tucks into the sleeping bag, but then here's a howling in the distance, which scares him, and he runs inside, but then looks back out and sees, actually, it was just Snoopy who was stolen his comfortable sleeping bag.

Harold: This strip is another one of those bliss strips. Charlie Brown is smiling his whole way as he's going to get to sleep outside and do a camp outside of his house. And I don't think I've seen another strip where we see Charlie Brown smiling for seven panels in a row. And then I’m just so into it when I'm reading it again. Childhood memory. I remember this strip so well that, when he hears the creepy sound and he runs away back into the house and looks outside the window and then just finds Snoopy with the same blissed out look on his face, sleeping in that sleeping bag is just amazing. You get the double bliss of this strip from Charlie Brown transferred to Snoopy.


Jimmy: Were either of you guys would ever been allowed to sleep out in your yard by yourself?


Michael: I don't think I ever did it.


Harold: I never wanted to. So I couldn't tell you what the answer is.


Jimmy: I wanted to desperately. There was something about-- I loved the things in Peanuts that it seemed like I could do, but they were just a little beyond what I really could do. I would never been allowed to do that, but I would have loved to. So when I had kids, I made sure that we spent a night camping in the backyard, just, I think, so I could have this experience myself.


Harold: That's cool. It's funny. As a kid, it would not occur to me that was a desirable thing to do. But as an adult, it's like, I’d like to do that.


Jimmy: Yeah, right.


Harold: Well, it's funny. We went on a cruise, a Turner Classic Movie cruise back in 2016. And we had this veranda thing. Actually, Dave Roman and I, the cartoonist, we went together on because we love Turner Classic Movies. And I discovered that in this room we had you had this pull out couch. And so you could bring out the little mattress that you would have for a sofa bed thing. And it was very thin. And I was like, I'm sleeping out on the veranda.


I've never done anything like this before. And it was absolutely and I'm sure Dave was happy not to hear my sound.


Jimmy: It's a win win.


August 12. Charlie Brown is peering over a neighborhood fence. In the other yard we see Violet, Schroeder, Shermy and Patty all playing in a children's pool, and they look like they're having a wonderful time. Charlie Brown is dejected in the second panel, and in the third panel, he walks home. And in the fourth panel, we see him sitting alone in a bucket, sighing.


Michael: Now, does this count as a happy strip because the kids are happy in the first panel?


Harold: Yes


Michael: It does?


Jimmy: Well, yeah because it shows happiness.


Harold: Characters showing happiness in at least one panel. One character in one panel.


Jimmy: That it's an overall happy strip.


Michael: This is, like, one of the most depressing things I've ever seen in my life.


Harold: Well it’s that contrast, right? The extremes.


Jimmy: I love that drawing of Charlie Brown sitting in a bucket, and that's something--


Harold: Why isn't that, like, on a bucket?


Jimmy: I would buy any product with that drawing on it. I would never do this because, like, okay, let's say I was smart enough and creative enough to have this idea for Amelia, right? I would then go, well, Amelia can't fit in a bucket. Right? It doesn't bother him at all. You'll just draw Charlie Brown's head sticking out of the bucket. It makes no sense. It is totally hilarious. That drawing-- this is up there with it’s a bug it’s a bug It’s a piece of fuzz for me in terms of just things I find funny, but not as funny as I find the next strip that we're going to discuss.


September 10, Charlie Brown and Lucy are hanging out at the wall. Lucy says, “That teacher of mine never listens to my suggestions. She was trying to get us to suggest how we think our class should be run.” Lucy continues, “she wouldn't listen to me at all.” Charlie Brown asks, “what was your suggestion? “Lucy punches her fist in the air and shouts, “mob rule!”


Jimmy: Lucy screaming, Mob Rule. I would also buy a T shirt that says that. I think everything about it's funny. I don't know why Lucy knows the term mob rule. I don't know why she's in favor of it, but she is, and I love it. And Charlie Brown, the look on his face. He actually puts his hands up to his mouth, like, oh, my Lord, she is unhinged.


September 20, Snoopy is sitting there, and Lucy comes up and is berating him. “You're getting to be a real smart alec. You're getting to be--” Lucy is shocked because Snoopy just kisses her right on the nose. She walks away embarrassed, and Snoopy smiles.


Jimmy: A classic moment here, folks.


Harold: This is another step forward, I think, in Schulz’s-- He's taking these themes, and he's just perfecting them. The cool thing here is Snoopy doesn't lick Lucy. Snoopy kisses with lips.


Jimmy: Yes.


Harold: With a big old smack and the most Berkeley Breathed Lucy you're ever going to see.


Jimmy: Oh, wow. Are you right about that! Those eyes. Wow.


Harold: Yeah. It's like Opus. It could be Opus.


Jimmy: Speaking of Berkeley Breathed, this is a little bit of a tangent, but I think we should at some point, do a special episode where we talk about some of our other favorite strips. Maybe not go into depth about them, but maybe just talk a little bit about them. But it made me remember that I wanted to tell you guys I read some Skippy.


Harold: Oh, yeah.


Jimmy: There are now, like, three or four editions, at least in print, reprinting the early ones, but I just found some online. I think we're, going to have to splurge and buy, let's say, volume four or so of Skippy and do an episode about it because you can definitely see, this is the key missing influence for Schulz.


Harold: Cool.


Michael: Hmm


Jimmy: Not visually, but conceptually, for sure.


October 5. Charlie Brown is angry at Lucy, and he raises his fist, saying, “if you weren't a girl, I'd slug you.” Then Lucy says, “Why, Charlie Brown, how you talk. How can you stand there and say you'll hit the girl who may someday be the mother of your children?” Charlie Brown is shaken by this and runs off screaming. Aaaugh.


Harold: Oh, man, Lucy, you know how to set fear into the heart of Charlie Brown.


Jimmy: Do we see this as a possibility? Do you guys think that could happen?


Michael: Well, Schroeder is not having anything to do with her.


Jimmy: Right. Schroeder’s not changing.


Harold: She spends a lot of time with Charlie Brown.


Jimmy: Yeah, that's true. That is true. I ship it, as the kids say. Actually, I don't ship it. Can you imagine poor Charlie Brown at 50, having to be married to Lucy? Wow.


Harold: They’d figure it out.


Jimmy: At least he's already bald.


Michael: I want to do a little prologue to the next sequence. They're not all here, but this is like, the most terrifying depiction of addiction and withdrawal I've ever seen. It's just horrifying. I couldn't even bear to have them all. But there's three of them so set it up because we don't have the set up here.


Jimmy: Okay, so what it is, is that Linus has been challenged by Lucy, right, to give up his blanket. He says he can't do it, or she says he can't do it, and he has to give it up for a whole week. And that's what we're about to see.


Michael: Two weeks.


Jimmy: Right, sorry. Because at this point, what we're going to read is the second week. At this point, Linus has been without his blanket for a week.


October 21. Charlie Brown comes up to Linus, who looks like he's in a bad way, and Charlie Brown says, “well, Linus, you've gone without your blanket for a whole week.” Linus says, “I'll never last another week. I have hot and cold flashes. My eyes won't focus.” He grabs Charlie Brown by the collar and shakes him, screaming, “I gotta have that blanket.” He's now pounding the ground saying, “I'm cracking up and nobody cares. Nobody. Nobody. Nobody.”


Jimmy: That's the strip.


Michael: Hilarious.


Harold: Yeah.


Jimmy: There is no joke there. That is rough. When did that movie come out? The Lost Weekend. When did that come out?


Harold: '45, maybe The Man with the Golden Arm. I don't know.


Jimmy: Maybe the next day--


October 22, we see Charlie Brown, still talking to Linus. Linus says, “look at my hand shake, Charlie Brown. I'm in a bad way. I got to get that blanket.” Charlie Brown grabs him and says, “no, don't give up now. You've gone this far. Don't give up.” Linus continues, “but what about my hands? Look at them shake.” Charlie Brown says, “Put them in your pocket.” Linus does. And we see him vibrating in the same way we've seen it drawn in a few strips previous, where Linus is just multiple versions of himself vibrating.


Jimmy: Schulz clearly liked that technique, and was going for it.


Michael: Yeah.


Jimmy: And then it ends here


October 25 with Lucy playing with a little bear. And Charlie Brown walks in and says, “I think this has gone far enough, Lucy.” Then they run off towards off panel, and Charlie Brown says, “you'd better unlock the closet and give Linus his blanket.” We see them looking off panel, but we don't see what they see. And Lucy says, “I guess maybe you're right.” In the last panel, we see Linus on the ground, having clawed his fingernails into the door to try to get his blanket out of the closet.


Harold: Chilling.


Jimmy: Kids, don't do blankets. If we can have one message from Unpacking Peanuts, it is just say no to blankets.


Michael: This definitely influenced the beats.


Harold: It would have been to their advantage if it had. Man the third strip in this 6th strip sequence, the very first panel of Linus looks like an addict. It really does look like an addict who's been in withdrawal. It's deeply disturbing.


Jimmy: It's funny because Schulz is like a teetotaler, and I know I can't imagine him ever having smoked or anything like that. I wonder what he is channeling to imagine what that feels like, because it feels very authentic. Maybe he's just a great writer and he's able to have empathy, but maybe there's something else that he's thinking. Could be as simple as…


Michael: reading William Burroughs maybe.


Jimmy: Actually, I would not be surprised by that. I remember in that Schulz interview, him talking about, like, oh, yeah, the next book I want to read is Underworld by Don DeLillo. Oh, wow. He really was…


Harold: widely read.


Jimmy: Yeah, widely read, yes. Obviously, that comes through. This is a guy that has a wide range of things to reference, unlike, say, me, who only has the Beatles, baseball, and Peanuts itself.


Harold: That's pretty widely read.


October 28. Charlie Brown and Lucy are walking. Lucy is looking up at the sky, then they're at the wall. Lucy says, “I've sort of had the feeling all day that the moon is going to fall.” She continues, “do you ever have a feeling like that, Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown says, “No, I can't say that I have.” And Lucy looks at him and says,” you're a cold fish, aren't you?”


Jimmy: I love that punchline. The reason I picked this, though, is because that's where we can see that the wall is a bridge.


Michael: Yeah, it's clearly a bridge


Jimmy: Drawn in a very strange perspective.


Harold: Yeah. It looks very pebbly. It's hard to make sense of what we're actually looking at there.


Jimmy: But it's clearly the two walls on either side. It's kind of even arched. It's a bridge.

And actually, when I was thinking about this after having mentioned it, whatever episode I mentioned it, it's seen as a bridge in one of the specials, at least in the Valentine's Day one.


Harold: Okay.


Jimmy: Because Linus runs to it and it's throwing chocolates off it, and you see the bottom of the bridge where Snoopy and Woodstock are catching the chocolate.


So coming up next then, here in November, we have another run of strips about Snoopy feeling insulted, where Charlie Brown says his breed is just a dime a dozen, whereas other breeds, go for quite a bit more.


And here we see on November 7, he's passing Schroeder and Schroeder just says, well, how's old dime a dozen today? And even though Snoopy was previously quite happy walking along, he, in his last panel, looks completely defeated and deflated, just lying flat in his stomach on the ground, thinking to himself, “Miserable.”


So it's interesting. We have variations on the theme within variations on a theme here. Twice in this year, we're having multiple strips about Snoopy just feeling inadequate, I guess.


November 17, Charlie Brown and Lucy are facing out. Lucy is smiling, but Charlie Brown looks angry. “You and your insults.” Charlie Brown continues, “Boy, if you weren't a girl, I ought to slug you a good one.” Lucy is having none of it and puts up her fists and says, “all right, Charlie Brown, come on and try it. You're always talking big. Now come on, try it.” Lucy is in a full boxing position. The other girls come running. “Fight. Fight.” “ Oh, good, Grief” says Charlie Brown. Lucy says, “Come on, Charlie Brown, put ‘em up.” Patty runs and yelling, “Fight.” Now the whole gang is here. Lucy continues, “Come on, I'm ready for you. Put ‘em up there.” Charlie Brown just walks off, completely embarrassed and humiliated. And then he sits by himself on the ground and says, “A person shouldn't have to lose all his pride when he's only six years old.”


Jimmy: One of the things that struck me because we have coming up here another Lucy kind of fight thing. Schulz does not treat the girl characters like traditional girl characters in comic strips or kids fiction or probably just in pop culture in general. He shows them as they're capable, they're tough. You know, if this is going to be a fight and Charlie Brown decides to go for it, he's going to get his butt kicked by Lucy. I think it's something that doesn't get a lot of attention, I think. But it's definitely something worth noting, about Schulz.


Michael: Yeah, well, I think it's really interesting because his three main girl characters are all very unlikable, and the next three characters he's going to introduce are very likable girls-- Sally and Peppermint Patty, and Frieda.


Jimmy: I do like Lucy is being there is a joy to Lucy's meanness, which it partly makes me feel like she's kind of putting it on until it gets too far. And there's a more nastiness to Patty and Violet. I like Lucy. That's a great title. You should use that.


And then we have another fight strip.


December 8. Charlie Brown and Lucy are squaring off again. Charlie Brown says, “Boy, you sure talk a lot.” Lucy says, “Yeah? Well I’m not alll talk like some people I know.” “Good grief” Charlie Brown says, “how do I get into these things?” Lucy says, “do you want to put ‘em up?” And she does. “Come on, Charlie Brown, let's see what you're made of. Come on, put ‘em up here. What's the matter with you? Put ‘em up.” Charlie Brown is again dejected and turns away from her, embarrassed. He sits on the ground, humiliated, as Linus and Schroeder look on, and Lucy walks away, a wicked grin on her face. Linus yells after her, “you should have slugged her, Charlie Brown. Even if she is my sister, I say, you should have slugged her.” Schroeder turns to Linus and says, “you don't understand, Linus. Charlie Brown did a very admirable thing. He would never think of hitting a girl. So he deliberately humiliated himself to hold on to his high moral standards. Isn't that right, Charlie Brown?? Charlie Brown says, “No, I was just afraid of getting beat up.”


Michael: Now, if that would have been Shermy instead of Schroeder, this would have been much funnier.


Jimmy: All right? Is that a question? Yeah. Well, that would fit in with Shermy's personality traits, though, right? Because he has empathy, as Harold said. So I think that is the year, even though this is not a Shermy strip, I think it tips the Shermometer towards empathy. What do you think?


Harold: I think Schroeder is starting to usurp some of Shermy's personality traits.


Jimmy: That's actually a really good point. That's probably why Shermy eventually becomes phased out, because Schroeder can do all of that stuff, and--


Michael: He can do it while he's playing piano.


Jimmy: Exactly.


Michael: That's talent.


November 18. Schroeder sits listening to a little transistor radio. Across the radio comes the announcement. “And now the number one song hit across the nation.” Schroeder listens in horror at some dissonant looking notes and then turns the radio off. As he walks away, he says, “the nation's in sad shape.”


Jimmy: And I looked up the number one song the day this came out was Jailhouse Rock.


Michael: Yeah, I figured it was Elvis.


Jimmy: So depending on how you feel about Jailhouse Rock, you could either agree or disagree with Schroeder. Hey, but, Harold, why don't you Google what would it have been when Schulz was creating this strip?


Harold: Well, if we go back six weeks, that's my best guess. It looks like it is Honeycomb. No, he couldn't possibly be thinking that about Honeycomb. I think Honeycomb is actually based in probably classical music in some way.


Michael: Well, there is some music there, if somebody can figure out what it is.

Jimmy: Well, is he just drawing the same note next to each other twice so that it looks like it's almost like he's drawing reverb, if you know what I mean, which actually is pretty innovative in and of itself. But I think we're supposed to read it as dissonance.


Michael: Yeah. Jangly noise.


Jimmy: Yes. And then we wrap up the year, basically, with a whole run of gags about Schroeder missing Beethoven's birthday. Beethoven's birthday is one of the earliest calendar markings that comes up in Peanuts, I think. Later on we'll have things like the Easter beagle, of course, and the Great Pumpkin. But Beethoven's birthday is a nice little fun. Schulz invention for the strip, I think. And, Schroeder constantly being concerned that it’s being commercialized.


Harold: There are three strips in a row that you could argue if you did not read the strips before, you wouldn't know where the humor is coming from. You got Lucy singing loudly, happy birthday, dear Beethoven, happy birthday to you. And then laughing. And Schroeder is just angry as all get out. But it doesn't tell you that he missed the birthday or forgot. So it doesn't really make any sense in and of itself. And then when she's sitting at the piano and he's all depressed, she says, you wouldn't catch me missing Pat Boone's birthday.


Jimmy: That’s a Time Machine.


Harold: Yeah, you'd really have to kind of read into these characters to get what's going on there. And then the next strip, again, it's just Schroeder standing at the doorway, looking towards his piano and then walking oh, no. Walking toward the piano with has a bust of Beethoven on it. And the last panel, he just says, “what can I say?” No explanation whatsoever.


Jimmy: By drawing two commas, two parentheses, rather, to the side of Schroeder's eye, it indicates, like, despair possibly, that he was crying or that he's about to cry. Most minimal change. And it really sells that emotion. And a good drawing of Beethoven.


Harold: Yeah, always.


December 24. Linus and Lucy are in their PJs. Lucy excitedly comes up to Linus and says, “tonight is the night, Linus. Tonight Santa Claus zooms around the world, dropping presents down the chimneys for all the little kids.” Lucy looks completely happy and excited as Linus contemplatively, holds his blanket and sucks his thumb. Then Linus says, ”Let us fervently wish him safe journey. “


Jimmy: That's part of that Schulz language.


Harold: Yes. And this year, to me, is about the deepening and enriching each and every character. You've got Lucy, who's just more and more self confidently, just being this again, this force of nature. You got Charlie Brown kind of settling into this kind of loser character, and you have Snoopy moving into this area of I don't know what you call it. We're seeing a lot more of Snoopy's bliss in this strip, he's just so independent of the kids in some ways, but he's still very tied to them, and whatever they say can hurt him. That's just getting deeper and richer. And then you've got little Linus all of a sudden becoming maybe a bit of a what would you call it?


Michael: Complex.


Harold: He is such a complex character. What is the word for Linus? Or there's not just one word for Linus.


Jimmy: He’s super complex


Harold: He's complex. And that there's a little kid saying, let us fervently wish him safe journey. I just find that absolutely delightful. I am falling in love with Linus here. When he started out a year or so ago, he was still the little brother and slightly different personality than what you got now. He's a little more, he's stepping back, he's contemplating things more, and then coming up with amazing zingers in his own Linus-y kind of way, which is just.


Michael: So we're seeing Snoopy being kind of bipolar manic depressive, because we go from the happy dance stuff, which there's a lot of, to the fact that someone called him fuzzy face, where he's totally destroyed for a week.


Harold: Yeah. The extremes are widening, and the characters are owning those extremes in ways that you can't point to another character in comics or in literature and say, that's the template for Lucy, that's the template for Linus, that's the template for Snoopy, that's the template for Charlie Brown. They don't exist. He’s making his own…


Jimmy: I was talking about the extremes. We could see that in just this one trip here on the 24th, too, because let us fervently wish him safe journey is such a formal and almost archaic sounding phrase, but it's coming out of a child's mouth. But not only that, it's in reference to Santa Claus, the most childlike thing you could imagine. Right. Another cartoonist would say something, say, well, it's snowing, I hope he has four wheel drive, or I'll get a bigger -- Whatever it is, it wouldn't be that.


Michael: Yeah.


Harold: And there's even one more thing in this strip, Lucy. This is a nice little bonding moment with Lucy running up in her PJs and little footsie pajamas, and she's the one she's been taking on the role of the big sister, teaching Linus all these things that generally aren't true, and now she's teaching something that at least would be generally accepted as true in the child world. Right. And then she has this amazingly blissed out moment standing next to in front of the fireplace in their home. And of course, the fireplace makes you think Santa Claus. And I love the last panel where the contemplative Linus says, let us fervently wish him safe journey. And I can't even describe the look on Lucy's face, but it's almost like a gratitude that he found this little homiletic statement to make that's appropriate for the occasion, if you read that into it. I don't know how he did that in that little drawing, but that's the sense I get this little warm moment between them that shows off their personalities.


Jimmy: And that smile on Lucy, which is different than other smiles, is accomplished by changing one line 1 32nd of an inch, or something like that. It's mind blowing that it's these minimal little things that convey so much range of emotion. It's great cartoon.


Harold: And the third panel of Lucy is the purest drawing of Lucy's happiness I think we've ever seen that didn't have some layer of you could say that there's greed behind it, what she's doing, but this looks like just a genuine moment where she has gratitude.


Jimmy: And the drawing, it's great as cartooning, because if you unfolded Lucy's arms, they would drag on the ground like a gorilla. But if you drew them in quotes accurately, if she had real anatomy in that cartoon body, they would be too tiny and they wouldn't even register. So he just knows how to-- he knows how to distort his figures so that it doesn't even come across as a distortion. It just comes across as the pose. It's really great.

Well, guys, that brings us to the end of 1957. Any last words on this year?


Michael: How could it get better?


Jimmy: Well, actually, before we do, I have one question for you. Michael. Then this year, you would now be one year older than Charlie Brown, right? Because Charlie Brown defines himself as six. And you were saying, obviously, it was not for kids, but yet you were reading it when you were a very little kid. Did this feel like an authentic portrayal of your childhood? I mean, since you're a contemporary at this point?


Michael: Yeah, I mean, I identified it with Linus even though I was totally mediocre at everything just because of the relationship with Lucy.


Jimmy: You both had that in common. You and Harold.


Harold: Yeah, absolutely. Linus, to me, I think I said this in the very first episode we did that Linus was more real to me than anybody in my neighborhood. How do you do that? How do you do that with pen and ink? I don't understand.


Jimmy: Nope, but maybe if we read the rest of the 17,897 strips, we will come to understand. If not, at least we will have a heck of a time doing it. So, guys, thanks for doing this with me. I appreciate every week we get to spend recording this.


And for you guys out there, I appreciate you listening, and I hope you're enjoying yourself. In the meantime, between now and next week, if you want to get in touch with us, you can write us at UnpackingPeanuts.com, or you could check us out on social media or on Twitter and Instagram at Unpack Peanuts. And we would love to hear from you and we would love for you to vote on what you think is the strip of the year from 1957 out of our choices.


So that's how we're going to wrap it up, guys, give me your choices for strip of the year 1950. seven. Michael, why don't you start?


Michael: I mean, it's a tough one. I can't explain this one or why I love it so much, but it's 7/3. It's raining it’s pouring. The old man is snoring. Idiots.


Jimmy: Uh.


Michael: By the way, maybe we had the west coast variant because this is it’s pouring. It's pouring where we said it’s raining it’s pouring?


Jimmy: Yes, it's raining. It's pouring. It's not. It's pouring. It's pouring. That would be absurd. That's why Snoopy think they're idiots.


Michael Of course. They got the lyrics wrong.


Jimmy: Harold, how about you?


Harold: This wasn't easy for me either. There was no one strip that seemed to embody everything, so I chose the wordless strip, which is from August 11, with Charlie Brown happily setting up his sleeping blanket, only to be driven in abject fear into the house to discover that he was scared off by his own dog. It's just so well told. Schulz is so good at these wordless gags. And it's got a little bit of that Snoopy bliss that was really a major part of this year.


Jimmy: Both are great picks, as was what I was going to choose. I was going to choose Charlie Brown in a bucket, just because that drawing is great. August 12. But I'm actually going to go with September 10th. Lucy yelling that the classroom should be run by mob rule because that's just a funny punchline.


So there you go, guys. Go on our website unpackingpeanuts.com. Let us know what you think. This has been great. You know what I think? Next year, 1958, it gets even better.


Michael: You think so?


Jimmy: So until then, I've been Jimmy. From Michael and Harold, Be of good cheer.


Michael: Be of good cheer.


Harold: Yes, be of good cheer.


VO: Unpacking Peanuts is copyright Jimmy Gownley, Michael Cohen and Harold Buchholz. Produced by Liz Sumner. Music by Michael Cohen. Additional voiceover by Aziza Shukralla Clark. For more from the show, follow Unpack Peanuts 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.


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