Jimmy: Welcome back to the show. It's 1959 part two here on Unpacking Peanuts, and we have another episode of really funny strips, really deep strips and a lot of firsts. This is just a year of firsts. Schulz is at a new level. Just when it seems like you can't get any better, he manages to do just that.
How are you guys doing? You're doing good? Hope you're out there having a fun time. Thank you so much for listening to us. It means so much to me. I'm Jimmy Gownley. You might know me from talking in your ear every week. And otherwise you might know me as a cartoonist, the cartoonist behind Amelia Rules, the Dumbest Idea Ever, and Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up. I'm going to be one of your hosts today.
And joining me, as always, are my co hosts. He's a playwright. He's a composer, both for the band Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. He's the creator of the very first comic book Price Guide. He's the original editor for Amelia Rules and the current creator of such great comics, 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. He's a former vice president of Archie Comics, and he's the creator of the instagram strip Sweetest Beasts. Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: So, guys, it's, a banner year, 1959. We talked everyone's ear off last week. I think we just go right back to doing it again this week.
Michael: That's always good.
Jimmy: Let's start right in with the strips.
July 1. Charlie Brown is standing and he's talking to Linus. Charlie Brown says, “I thought having a baby sister would change my whole life, but it hasn't.” Charlie Brown continues. This time he's leaning on a fence as Linus listens. “People still hate me. Nobody really likes me. I get just as depressed as I always did.” Charlie Brown walks off with his head hung low. Linus says “poor Charlie Brown. Of all the Charlie Browns in this world, he's the Charlie Brownist.”
Michael: That's got to be like a super classic line.
Harold: It is.
Michael: It must be in the movie. It must be in the TV specials.
Jimmy: It’s in the Christmas special, but it's slightly changed. And it's improved in the Christmas special because he's not saying it to nobody. He's saying it to Charlie Brown. And he says, of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest.
Michael: Is it brownest or browniest?
Jimmy: Browniest. It's much better. As of all the Charlie Browns in the world. Charlie Browniest? There you go.
Michael: I agree. Strangely enough, after not having a new character introduced for five years, Schulz introduces Sally and doesn't show her for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks, they're just all talking about her, and the suspense starts building because you never get to see her and we will.
Harold: Do you think that's because he's seen some of these people in the past with comic strips really building up tension and interests? Like will they or won't they L’il Abner and Daisy May, they're going to get married. Do you think he's doing this on purpose as a way to kind of build attention?
Jimmy: Yeah, I definitely do. What's weird, though, about it is when it was reprinted, it reprinted some of them, but not all of them. So it sort of undercuts that feeling of tension building. And when you see them in the Fantagraphics books or Go comics.com, that's, where you can if you're out there listening right now and you want to follow along with us, you could go to go comics.com, type in Peanuts, type in the dates that we're talking about, and you can read them.
And when you do see all the strips in, order, the way they're originally written it does, clearly it was intending to build that tension and that surprise of when we finally see Sally.
For Amelia Rules fans out there, Karen Applegate Gownley is a huge Sally fan. It's her favorite character. Shouts out to Karen.
July 5. It's a Sunday page. Linus is headed out to the field. We see him in the deep outfield with Schroeder the catcher and Charlie Brown back at home plate. Charlie Brown says to Schroeder, “do you want to see a kid with a great throwing arm?” Charlie Brown tosses the ball in the air and then hits it out to Linus, who makes a classic Linus catch and then fires it home, knocking over both Schroeder and Charlie Brown and sending their clothes flying. We see hats, the chest protector, the face mask, and some shoes just ripped from their bodies. In the last panel, Schroeder is dazed. So is Charlie Brown. But Charlie Brown has a goofy grin on his face and says, there's a kid with a great throwing arm.”
Michael: Clearly a reference to Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series.
Jimmy: Yeah. Whenever you see the other players on the team, it just really strikes you that their failures must all be Charlie Brown's failures. Right? I mean, Lucy is no good, but everybody else is pretty okay, and Linus is like an ace.
Harold: Yeah, but I guess he's not a good batter because they often get zero.
Jimmy: Well, that's true. That is true. But you can't win if you don't score.
Harold: Yeah. Is this the first Peanuts strip where the force is so great of a baseball going past someone that the shoes were knocked off?
Jimmy: I believe so. I didn't want to clock it super closely, but I don't remember seeing it before.
Harold: I love their socks, though. The socks are not coming off yet. That's to come. great socks, reinforced toe and heel. Yeah, it's great.
Jimmy: Really great drawing.
July 18. Schroeder, and Lucy are hanging out at the piano. Schroeder is agitated, and he says to Lucy, “I wouldn't marry you unless you were the last girl on Earth.” Lucy leans in and says, “did you say, if or unless?” Schroeder, says, “I admit, I said unless.” Lucy turns away and screams to the sky, “Hope!”
Jimmy: I love that one. I admit I said unless. I love that.
Harold: Schroeder’s so formal when he's around her sometimes.
Jimmy: Well, she is just gaining these little toeholds, just water on the rocks, just inching up a little bit. She admitted that, okay, if Beethoven likes girls, there's a possibility you could, now she got him to admit he said unless.
Harold: So if she were the last girl on Earth.
Jimmy: Well, and as we saw last year with Linus concerned about the fallout, it could happen.
Harold: Yeah. And you want an extremely annoying cartoonist observation.
Jimmy: of course. That's what we are here for. That's the entire show, Harold.
Harold: No, you won't after I tell you what it is. It is so obnoxiously stupid. The one thing, apparently, that Schulz did not redraw every daily strip was the panels. Right? He had those pre printed. I just was, noticing, again, for no good reason, that the third panel is lower than the third, and fourth panels are lower than the first and second panels. So this particular template he didn't, like, exactly nail. You think if he's going to just do it once and reproduce it, he would have been even more of a stickler. As minimal and stupid as it is.
Michael: Do you have a microscope or something? I don't see it.
Jimmy: Yeah, if you zoom in. Here's what I'll say to that? Oh, no, it's actually just wrong sized. Wrong. That's nuts that you noticed that. But wow, you're right. What I was going to say is, maybe they were just misaligned, because this will make your blood go cold. When he would send these into the syndicate, he would just fold them in half in between the second and third panel. So I was thinking maybe there was some sort of problem with it and they got lined up wrong. But it's actually a different size panel.
Harold: Yeah. Every single time. It's interesting. We can tell when he switches to a new template at some point, when he fixes it, but right now, it's just slightly off for some reason.
Jimmy: And the panels do change shape over time as well. Even when they're four panels strips, they change shapes.
Harold: Yeah, it looks like he well, we'll see. Maybe someday it goes away.
July 28. Linus is sitting, speaking with Snoopy. He says, “I envy you, Snoopy. You don't have to worry about anything.” Linus continues. “You don't have to worry about the future of the world or about inflation, or about anything.” Linus walks away, leaving Snoopy behind. And the last panel, Snoopy thinks to himself, “I wonder where my next meal is coming from.”.
Michael: The existential dilemma.
Jimmy: Yeah. And goes back to the kids looking at Snoopy as something other than them, but him saying, well, no, I have problems too.
Harold: Yeah. And that he's helpless. Right. He's a domesticated beagle, and he is entirely reliant on someone bringing out that next meal.
August 9. Charlie Brown is sitting at a desk writing. It's pencil pal time. He starts. “Dear Pencil Pal, I guess by this time, everybody but you know that I have a baby sister. I should have written sooner to tell you, but I've been very busy. Her name is Sally. We like her, and she likes us.” “Oh, Oh!” says Charlie Brown, acknowledging something off panel. We see him go to the refrigerator, take out a bottle of formula, put it on a formula heating device 1959 model. Standing there for a while, he tests it on his wrist, as one does with baby formula, walks off panel with the bottle, then walks back onto panel without the bottle, and then continues writing. “In a way, this has been a good experience for me. I have learned a lot. As ever, Charlie Brown.”
Harold: I love this strip. And again, one of the ones I remember from a kid being a kid, I don't know, just the silence of him going and doing this for his little sister, and he's a young boy himself that he's taking on this responsibility. It's like, cheers to Charlie Brown, that he's entrusted with this very important thing, and he's doing it, he's succeeding in his small way of doing the right thing.
Jimmy: Well, it is very important. And if you get it wrong, you could hurt the baby. But he's very diligent, about it, and he tests it, make sure it's the right temp.
Harold: And it's like when there's nobody there to critique him on whether he does things right or wrong, it's just nice to see a little moment where, just between him and his pencil pal, he's doing it right.
Jimmy: Yeah. Okay, so here's a couple of things. How do you the first time ever in the history of any comic strip, draw a bottle warmer? And how do you have the perfect four line version of a bottle warmer just ready to go, that it's identifiable as such? The way he has mastered this style is amazing. But I say that so I could say I have no idea what is going on with the third panel on the, second tier where Charlie Brown says, oh oh, is he trying to say uh oh?.
Michael: that’s what I thought it was.
Harold: I thought it was uh oh..
Jimmy: But that would be U-H-O-H right. It wouldn't be oh oh. I mean, who says that? Must be a Midwestern thing. I'll just say for anything, I think it would be uh oh. And you were supposed to hear the baby crying, I guess. Right.
Harold: Well, I don't dare go into the etymology of uh oh
Jimmy: Well, actually, we might as well just throw it out here. That was created by Albert Payson Terhune.
Harold: Good old Albert.
August 23, it's a, baseball game. And we see Patty’s there, Snoopy's wearing his hat. And Schroeder, dressed in his full catcher's gear, is talking to Charlie Brown. Schroeder says, “where's all your stuff, Charlie Brown? Where's your glove and your bat and everything?” Charlie Brown says “I can't play today.” Patty and Schroeder are both confused by this. Schroeder says, “what do you mean you can't play today?” Charlie Brown answers ”just what I said. I can't play today. There's something else I have to do.” Patty comes over and starts talking to Charlie Brown, saying, “but you've got to play Charlie Brown. You're our manager.” Lucy's there now. Patty continues, “you may be a lousy manager, but you're still our manager.” Lucy says “we need you.” Charlie Brown says “I can't help it.” Schroeder continues “you got to play Charlie Brown.” Patty, “You gotta, you gotta.” Schroeder says, “I just don't understand it.” Lucy says. “I understand it.” Patty says “you understand it? Since when did you become so understanding?” Lucy continues, “It's not a matter of understanding.” And then we see in the final panel, Charlie Brown is pushing Sally in her stroller. He is sighing, and Lucy says, “It's simply the age old story.”
Jimmy: So it's the first appearance of Sally, visually.
Michael: and the joke is she looks like him.
Jimmy: which you would never really think about later, even though she does maintain the same facial features.
Harold: But yeah, there's so much in this strip and you can tell that Schulz really was building to this strip. So how many days have we waited to see Sally? And then he compounds it with this revelation that Sally is the thing that is more important in Charlie Brown's life right now than baseball. That kind of echoes the previous strip that there's something that is important about having a little sister that Charlie Brown takes very seriously, even though it may be things that have been told he has to do by his parents. But he does not take that lightly. He's not not playing fast and loose. He gets tempted to do things, and he does, in future strips, do some things he shouldn't do. But there's the side of Charlie Brown and even the fact that the kids there's one mean thing said by, of course, Patty, but nobody else is yelling at him. They're all saying, we need you. We need you. And again, that's something you haven't heard on the strip before. Anybody saying we need you, Charlie Brown. And not being an April Fool's joke.
Jimmy: And of course, the one time they say it, he can't do it. So he doesn't get that satisfaction. Although they probably just need him to be there, to be the goat, to be yelled at.
Harold: Well, yeah, typically, I don't know, in sand lot baseball, that why a manager couldn't be a manager, I guess. They need an extra player, I guess. But why couldn't he be the manager on the sidelines? And the players, the players, yes.
Jimmy: Unless he has to take Sally someplace specific. That would be the only thing I could think of.
Harold: Right. And the other thing about this strip, which I think is the first and he certainly has led up to this, is this is the first time you have a Sunday which Charles Schulz had to draw weeks in advance of the dailies that he was doing. He didn't do them in order in that way. The Sundays were always kind of separate from the dailies in his routine. But he specifically makes a point of drawing this strip early and then holding back on the dailies so that the Sunday strip actually leads into the storyline on Monday. And we haven't seen that before.
Jimmy: And it's funny, I think you can tell that because Sally is about 150% cuter when we see her the next time, she's got that big jaw, 1956 or whatever look in that last panel. And then when you see her in the next daily, it's just a classic cute Peanuts look.
Harold: Yeah, she's really cute.
Michael: This is a strange thing also morphing this story into I mean, the Sally story into another story. So we kind of went from baseball to Sally's feelings back to baseball.
Harold: Yeah. And boy, this is typical. We have a little baby girl being introduced, and by the third strip, she is in distress. It didn't take long. Little, sweet, adorable baby is having to deal with…
Michael: Schulz must have felt the need to have another baby character.
Harold: And he does have the two baby girls. He's got the one and the three year old now that he hasn't had a chance to mess around with much since growing Lucy up.
Jimmy: Well, why don't we see what her distress is?
August 26, we see Charlie Brown pushing Sally. Patty and Linus are in the background. They look nonplussed by this. Patty says, “I hope she's satisfied.” Patty continues “depriving us of a manager just before our last and most crucial game.” Patty continues, “all because she has to ride around in her old stroller. Well, I just hope she's satisfied.” The last panel, we see Sally being pushed in the stroller. And she's thinking to herself, “my first year in this world, and already I have guilt feelings.”
Michael: So does babies are sort of born with, like, fully developed English thoughts because she's clearly, like, two weeks old. But that works. It works every time he's done it.
Harold: And it's interesting that everybody is intolerant about this except for Lucy and Charlie Brown. He's just saying this is the reality.
Michael: And Lucy has a brother, a little baby brother.
Harold: And again, this is an aspect of Lucy that we haven't seen before. Usually she's the one who's just flying off the handle the most. Just heart on her sleeve. If she feels a certain way, you're going to know about it. And she's less introspective. and I think this is, again, a cool moment with seeing both Charlie Brown being a responsible person. He was so upset about forgetting his library book earlier this year, and now he's got to take care of his little sister, and that's just the way it is. He's accepted.
Jimmy: well, it's a profound change, actually, in the character. And I think as the decades go on, Charlie Brown becomes more paternal to the other characters. And I think you see it kind of starting right here, even to the point when they're saying, we need you, you're not here for us. Maybe they're learning that for the first time, that it's maybe not even about the winning and the losing, but it's just about the ritual of this is who we are and what we do. And how dare do you say that you're changing that now?
Harold: And maybe that's another reason why we lose Shermy because the one thing Shermy seemed to have on these kids as he was the older kid with the older kid perspective, and Charlie Brown starts to take on some of that. Shermy's even less needed than before.
Jimmy: Yeah, and you know what? It's sort of funny, like going back to the bottle warming strip, even though he's the character that everything goes wrong for. He can't fly the kite, he loses all the baseball games. He is the character that you would trust to do something like that for some reason.
Harold: Yeah, when it counts.
Jimmy: Yeah, when it counts. Right. These are subtleties of personality that are crazy that they exist in these little postage stamp sized comic strip panels.
Michael: Well, keep going, because he kind of does put baseball ahead of his job.
Jimmy: In a great scene. All right, that's a couple of strips ahead. So let me just read one more of these Sally ones, and then we'll go to that one. So how about--
August 27 Charlie Brown is standing. He's watching the baseball team from a distance. He says, “there's my baseball team out there getting clobbered.” He continues, “and here am I, their manager, forced to watch them go down to defeat because I can't play.” He turns and yells at his baby sister, “and why can't I play? Because I have to push my baby sister around.” In the last panel, Sally looks out at us and thinks to herself, “Nobody likes me.”
Harold: oh, man,
Michael: it's genetic.
Jimmy: Genetic, right. Oh, man, that's so funny. So that leads us to…
August 31 in this continuing story. In panel one, we see Charlie Brown pushing Sally in the stroller, but he's doing it at a great clip. In the second panel, he has brought her back to the front steps of his house and says, “I'm sorry I can't push you anymore, Sally, but I have to go save my team from defeat.” He runs off wearing his glove and brandishing his bat like excalibur. “Hang on, team. Here comes your faithful manager.” In the last panel, we see Sally sitting alone in her little stroller, thinking to herself, “I had no idea that life was going to be filled with such drama.”
Harold: So, question for you guys why does Charlie Brown take her and abandon her outside her home rather than keep her with him at the base ball field?
Jimmy: I assume it has to be okay, this is like, where the story and the rules that Schulz is working, with conflict, because I think what he's supposed to be doing is taking Sally home. So, like, right off panel would be her parents. But we can't see them in the strip. Right? But that's what that's signifying. Not that he's just letting her sit there in the stroller and why you can't do that. In the famous Whiffleball World Series, Jackie Swearhart had to babysit his sister Heather, and I remember her very clearly standing on the back porch, because the Whiffleball series was in my friend Mark's yard, and she was eating a cookie. She wasn't even eating it. She was just a toddler. So she's just, like, sucking on a cookie, and turning it into cookie mush.
Harold: arrowroot biscuits.
Jimmy: Yeah. and someone hit a line drive with just a whiffle ball and hit the cookie in her hand, and it shattered in a million places. She screamed and cried. They're playing hardball, so you can't leave a kid
Harold: hard wiffle ball.
Jimmy: No, we were playing wiffle ball. They're playing hardball. So that would hurt if she got hit with that. So she has to stay home.
Harold: Well, it's interesting that you assume that the parents are right there, that he's not being irresponsible in that way. He, may have shortened or sped up his time, that he had obligated that he actually.
Michael: It has 4 panels!
Jimmy: Yeah, right. That's what it is. yeah, that's exactly what it is. He has to achieve that. And he only has actually only has one panel to describe what is happening there. Right? It's amazing. So, yeah, that, to me, is shorthand for he brought her home.
Harold: Okay, so he's faithful, son and faithful manager.
Jimmy: and terrible at baseball, though, so it's not going to matter anyway.
September 14. Charlie Brown is racing, trying to get a kite up in the air. Shermy and Linus look on. Charlie Brown runs right into a tree. Wham. Shermy and Linus run after to see what's happened to their friend. In the last panel, we see Linus and Shermy carrying Charlie Brown, who seems dazed, home on his kite. And Shermy, says, in, the olden days, this was known as bringing the warrior home on his shield.
Jimmy: Shermy gets to say something.
Michael: Get the Shermometer out.
Jimmy: Yeah. This is, like, the second thing Shermy got to do all year.
Michael: We have to analyze it.
VO: Let's check the Shermometer, Charlie Brown
Jimmy: Let's call it. All right. What does this indicate to you in Shermy's personality? Does this give him something?
Michael: He's historically knowledgeable. He knows his history.
Harold: He's the historian of the strip
Michael: history buff.
Jimmy: That's great. All right, I'm writing that down. So for those of you playing at home, as of 1959 according to the Shermometer, Shermy is a history buff who is empathetic, aggressive, compassionate, patient, pedantic, emotional, a good listener, he's vain, good friend, and a hypocrite.
Michael: That's the stuff of drama.
Jimmy: That is how you make a good character over the course of nine years. People say, Shermy has nothing. He has a lot. But it all comes down to that base. He is a hypocrite. It's my favorite part of the show. And we only have a few years left for Shermy. By the end of the 60s, he's out.
Harold: one reference and that’s it.
Michael: He gets laid off.
Harold: Maybe Shermy was really Jim Sasseville.
Jimmy: Too soon. Too soon.
September 20. Violet is screaming out to someone, “You're a 14 carat blockhead.” She continues, “you're stupid. You've always been stupid, and you'll always be stupid.” She continues, “you're a cheat and a liar and a fool.” In the next panel, we see Lucy seems to be the person who is taking the brunt of Violet's attack this time. Charlie Brown and Linus look on. Charlie Brown says, “Boy, just listen to those insults. Violet has Lucy speechless. She really knows how to dig her.” Now Violet is coming towards Lucy. “You have a face like a goat. No, I take that back. You look more like a baboon.” Charlie Brown continues talking to Linus. “Just listen to her. I'm glad it's not me she's yelling at. I'd never be able to take it.” Linus says, “she's good, all right. There's no denying that. But just wait until they get up close.” We see Lucy's stern face as Violet approaches. Then when they get nose to nose, Lucy leans in and says, “you're a no good, tale tattling, little sneaking, snip, snap ponytailed ape.” Violet walks off. She looks devastated. Lucy, is quite proud of herself, and Linus says, “nobody can beat Lucy at Infighting.”
Michael: Well, we've often wondered who would win in a match between the two, and now we know. Clear knockout.
Jimmy: Okay, what do you think of this one, Harold?
Harold: I don't know what to say. It's well told, it’s defining the characters well, and because this strip has gotten so, I don't know, rich and diverse, this just stands out. again, it's a major moment of strong emotion, but it stands out from the other strips, and yet it fits in the world. I don't know. I'm just in awe of where all the places Charles Schulz has taken us this year. It's crazy.
Jimmy: First off, I would love part of me is so tempted to just do a rough of this for one of my next books and submit it to the editor as if it's my own. Just them lose their mind. You cannot have one child call another child a baboon.
Having said that, here's what I would have done if, old Sparky came to me and said, hey, Jimbo, I need your help on this one. Here's what I would do. The next to last panel, you're no good, tale tattling, little sneaking, snip, snap, ponytailed ape. That's not really a great insult or anything. I would have Violet come right up to Lucy, and I would have Lucy whisper something to Violet that we can't hear. Yeah. And then I'd have Violet walk off and Linus say, nobody can beat Lucy at Infighting, because then, whatever you're thinking, she says it's way horrible.
Harold: Then I think Jimmy may have just out Schulzed Schulz.
Michael: Yeah, that would have been good, but I think it has something to do with all those little dashes in there. I think she's speaking that really fast-- faster than anything.
Jimmy: All right, well, so this goes back to that conundrum of how do you convey someone speaking quickly? Because she is going for the or rather, Schulz is going for the italicized lettering, there. So we're definitely seeing something different than just force, because force is usually done with bold lettering.
Harold: Yeah, she's right up in her face. And the term infighting is kind of odd at the end. When I think of infighting, I think of people who are supposedly working together on something, and they are going after each other. I'm not sure why Linus uses that term.
Jimmy: I think it's a boxing term. Let me look it up.
Jimmy: Yeah. Fighting. or boxing at close quarters. Yeah. So it's a boxing term.
Harold: Fighting at close. Okay, well, that's cool. I did not know that. And this is a good time as any to bring up the Anger Index.
Jimmy: Oh, very good. That's great, because I have a surprise for you guys. All right, go for it.
Harold: All right. So how does this year feel compared to 1958 for you in terms of anger? And again, for those of you listening the way I'm doing this, I'm going through the strips and in my own subjective way, trying to see if in at least one panel there is a character showing the emotion of anger in a strip. And then I count of all the strips that have at least one of those incidences, and then I do a percentage of the year to see how many strips have anger in them. And then we compare it to previous years to kind of see if Schulz is going a certain direction.
Michael: It's got to be way down. I'd say 81.
Jimmy: I'm going to go with 237. Oh, I don't know. I'm terrible at this.
Harold: All right. You're really close, Michael. 94 of the strips show anger down from 150 in 1958. So, again, this kind of plays into my theory that moving to California is a good thing for Charles Schulz in terms of the pent-up stuff that's going on maybe in this sprawling estate somehow, with his family now a little more isolated than his coworkers over at the art instruction schools. He's no longer, attending the church he'd been in for years and had gotten very involved in. That maybe things have expanded a little for Schulz and me, and things are getting a little more subtle. There's not as much anger. That's the theory.
Jimmy: However, he's not sacrificing depth.
Jimmy: It's not like it's just turning into the opposite. Well, here's something.
Harold: okay, I'll let you switch over to your anger things, but I did want to just do the happy thing, that plays into what you're saying. So, the happy index, in 1958, we had 47% of the strips showing someone with happiness, and that, was up from 34% in 1957.
Michael: Are we doing percentages or number of strips?
Harold: Okay, let me put it this way. There were 170 strips in 1958. 47% of the strips had a character showing happiness. Do you think that goes up or down this year?
Michael: I think that's down too
Jimmy: yeah, I'm going to go with eleven.
Michael: I'll go with 23. I think he's using subtler emotions here than happy, angry.
Harold: Yeah, you're right. It is down. It's 155, down from 170. So, in relationship to anger, it's higher by far than it's ever been. But he just had the stakes higher In 1958. Everyone was-- that's why I called that year kind of strident. But I think this year, things are really becoming a lot more subtle. He's introducing a lot of new angles, and it just seems like the strip's opening up. And that's a major, major shift in just one year.
Jimmy: It really is. So I wanted to do something because I thought, well, this is interesting in and of itself, but how does that compare to other strips? Are there any other strips from the 50s that were contemporaries? And what would the Anger Index be on that?
So I decided for your edification that I would read the entire 1959 run of BC comic strips, and I would chart the anger in BC. I failed. I could only do six months in BC. That was rough. One BC strip in 1959 literally has an ant, the bug an ant being executed by hanging for crimes he committed. I was like, you know what? I don't know how many more of these I can do. But in six months, there were 52 BC strips that were angry. So what does that mean?
Harold: So that's 104 for the year, which.
Jimmy: Would be extrapolated out.
Harold: Yeah. Slightly higher than Schulz this year, but down from his previous year.
Michael: There was more to be angry about in the Stone Age. There was dinosaurs as you know.
Harold: Right? Yeah. And talk about a strip that, again, drawing wise, really shows that someone's looking at Peanuts.
Jimmy: Oh, boy. It was shocking to me. The line quality, especially, and the simplicity of it, and the idea of coming back again to these recurring things. It's a heavy Peanuts influence.
Harold: Yeah. I have a collection of strips from I think it was 58 or nine from BC. And definitely, I think it's my favorite era of BC is the really early stuff, which is often the case. It's funny. So many strips come out strong. It's like Hollywood Square syndrome, right? You see all these people like, who the heck is Charlie Weaver? And people that you didn't know for, anything being famous other than they were on Hollywood Squares. Like, why on earth is this person famous? And then you go back and you see some routine that somebody had done at the beginning of their career that made them famous. That's why they're famous. But you're just seeing a shadow of it later on. I think a lot of comic strips were like that. While Schulz built and built and built and built. A lot of artists, I think, came out of the gate strong. And you can see why a syndicate editor bought the strip. And then it's like they just lose interest. They don't know how to continue to make it interesting.
Jimmy: It is funny, I think, when we're talking to William Pepper. Well, I said, Schulz seems really enthusiastic at this point. Whatever it was. It was like a strip from the 60s he said, Well, I don't think it's enthusiasm. It said he had wanted to do this his whole life. Like, yeah, that lasts until 1952, right? And then you're faced with the reality of this is a job, and it is an unrelenting job that just goes on and on and on and on and on. So it makes much more sense that people would get burned out and people would be starting to become even, more inspired like he is. Now he is also getting massive rewards for it. That's a part that you can't ignore.
Harold: Yeah, he's somehow, because of his nature, he evens things out and he's pacing himself, but he's constantly getting rewarded for what he's doing. And I think it just continues to encourage and make him more determined. Another thing William Pepper brought up was Garfield. I don't know if you guys read much of the early Garfield strip. It's very different in tone. It seems more sophisticated. The drawing looks like Kliban cats, instead of the Garfield we know.
Jimmy: What is a Kliban cat? You mentioned that. I have no idea what that is.
Harold: Why don't you google it?
Jimmy: You Google it. Harold obscurities is explained.
Harold: Klibin he was very popular around the time. I mean, there's no question that Jim Davis was basically taking this artist's work. There's a famous little, drawing of this cat. He was used a lot in Merchandising. I don't know what his origins are. We can Google it. But there's one where he's singing a little song. He's like, oh, I love to eat the little mousies. I like to nibble their little toes. It's this kind of Edward Gorey kind of cat. It's kind of hard to describe. It was extremely popular, I think, in licensing. Like, you see pillows and mugs and things of this, but where he came from, it's a very good question. I don't know.
But you see that influence in Garfield, and then in time, I think the way Jim Davis dealt with it was, I see that this is appealing to a lot of people just like Schulz. It's appealing to younger people. And then Garfield became its own massive phenomenon in the early 80s. Everyone had a Garfield doll and an Odie doll if they were really into it. And it's like he just made a decision, okay, I'm going to standardize my strip, and I'm going to hire people to support me, and we are going to make a standardized product of Garfield, and we'll make him cuter, and we'll make him rounder. And that was a successful commercial choice of his artistically, I guess you could say there's a sameness to it, because it's standardized, because that's the danger of Schulz. He's going off into these new directions, and maybe people don't like where he's going. Every time he takes a chance with that, he might alienate.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's a risk every time. It really is.
Harold: And yet Schulz pulled it off over and over and over again for so many readers over such a long period of time. Even though the strip changed massively.
Harold: It's like there was an integrity to it that people respected it at the least, even if they didn't like certain areas, it seems.
September 25. Snoopy is staring at a tree as some leaves fall. Snoopy thinks to himself, “if I were a leaf, you'd never catch me falling off a tree.” Then we see Snoopy gripping tight to the tree. He thinks, “I'd hang on for dear life. I'd stay with that tree until they came to get me.” Now Snoopy is even more distraught as he mimes being pulled off the tree. He thinks, “even then, they'd have to drag me off. I'd kick and scream and put up a real fight.” Then in the last panel. He calmly thinks to himself, “I’d make a lousy leaf.”
Michael: Considering how many strips Schulz did on this theme, I happen to really like the leaf strips. But imagine him telling the editor, like, I've got a great idea for a bunch of strips. There’s this dog watching a leaf falling off a tree.
Jimmy: Yes. You can't get more minimal than that. Really? Right.
Harold: You imagine if that was just sold as a daily-- the torture you’d go through…
Michael: I don't know how many leaf strips he had. You could probably put a book together.
Jimmy: Well, there is like I said, there is-- On GoComics.com, they have a curated, collection of just the leaf strips. I don't think it's all of them, but it's a representative sampling, which is another really nice thing. It's crazy that we're able to do this. It costs nothing to read every single one of these strips. And although I am encouraging all of you to go out and buy the Fantagraphics books, to go on GoComics.com and just read them for free and have little curated lists like that. It's fantastic.
Harold: Should we encourage somebody to publish that compilation of leaf, stories.
Jimmy: That would be amazing. Here's what you do. You put a little gift book of it together and you sell it at Hallmark or coffee shops when the pumpkin spice lattes come out.
Harold: That's right. What would you call that collection?
Jimmy: I have no idea. Wouldn't it be great if I thought of something really funny, like zip right there? That would have been amazing. But I have no idea.
Michael: Spend a week thinking about it and we'll edit it.
Jimmy: We'll edit it in later. That sounds perfect.
October 5. Linus and Charlie Brown are standing, outside. Linus looks very happy and content. Charlie Brown says, “I hear you kind of like your new teacher, Linus.” Linus says to Charlie Brown, “Charlie Brown, I have the greatest teacher in the whole world. She's a gem among gems.” Linus sighs. And then in the last panel, he says, “I never realized that the National Education Association turned out such a fine product.”
Michael: Miss Othmar is one of the greatest characters who never appeared in a comic.
Jimmy: Great character.
Harold: Yeah. The Carlton your doorman of comic strips.
Jimmy: And of course, he does this. The parents are never seen. Famously, the little red haired girl.
Jimmy: And Miss Othmar.
October 8. Lucy is yelling at Linus, who looks super happy and content. She says, “you always overdo things.” Linus tries to walk away, but Lucy comes after him, still heckling him and saying, “it's alright to like a teacher, but it's wrong to worship her.” Linus says, “I never said I worship her.” Then he continues saying, “I just said that I'm very fond of the ground on which she walks.”
Harold: This strip. I have fond memories of this as a kid. It's funny, Jimmy, when you drew me for the Unpacking Peanuts logo, that first drawing of line is like, oh, that's pretty close. And Lucy starts to become a bit of a voice of reason sometimes. She's harsh, but she's got some insight. Right. Instead of saying that the moon is made of green cheese, she's now saying some things that may have some helpful insights if she could be listened to.
Jimmy: It's interesting. Yes. She sort of understands the interior life of people, but she does not understand the world around her very well.
Harold: Yeah. It really is a fascinating character. And if in a strip, someone was speaking reason to somebody, like the psychiatry booth thing, sometimes what she says has truth to it. Sometimes maybe not so much. But it seems like Linus, in ways, benefits from having an older sister, given his personality.
Jimmy: Yeah. Of course his personality is also formed by having an older sister.
Harold: That's true. Yeah. Would he have the blanket if he did?
Jimmy: Yeah, probably. It’s a chicken or the egg scenario, who knows?
October 22. Sally is playing with her bottle on the ground in her house and Snoopy is watching her. She spins it around. The bottle points at Snoopy, who then in the last panel leans out for a big kiss, surprising and dismaying Sally.
Jimmy: I love the art in this strip. I think this is great cartooning.
Harold: I laughed out loud reading this one. I just thought it was hilarious. Both characters are incredibly cute.
Jimmy: So cute.
October 24. Snoopy is lying inside his dog house at night and he's thinking to himself, “Sometimes I lie awake at night wondering why I was born, why was I put on this earth, what am I doing here?” In panel three, he's on top of the doghouse and he thinks, “and then suddenly it hit me.” In panel four, we see him laying on his stomach on top of the doghouse and he thinks, “I haven't got the slightest idea.”
Jimmy: Schulz comes back to this again and again, where Snoopy is the person that punches holes in philosophy, where later on he'll write a theology book with the title Has It Ever Occurred To You That You Could Be Wrong? And this is it too. You can contemplate this all you want, but the reality is you don't have the slightest idea.
October 25, Sally crawls up to Linus, who is sitting in his classic thumb and blanket pose. Snoopy walks up as well. We have multiple panels of Linus, who first he looks at Sally, then he looks at Snoopy and he knows something's going on, but he decides to just let it go. And in the moment where he closes his eyes in contentment again, Sally kisses him on the cheek and Snoopy steals the blanket. Linus is shocked. His hair shoots straight up in the air. He looks around, both are gone now. And he walks over and finds his sister. He sits down next to Lucy and says, “if you can't trust dogs and little babies, whom can you trust?”
Michael: It's cute.
Harold: Is this the first time we see Sally's proclivity toward romantic relationship with Linus?
Jimmy: Yeah, it's the first time they're alone together and she gives him a little kiss on the cheek. Really cute drawing, really cute baby stuff. He obviously going back even to the Sally with a milk bottle spinning it around, it looks a little less like a Peanuts body and a little more like maybe Schulz was looking at a real toddler's body.
Harold: Yeah, and it's adorable what he does in the second tier, the first two panels, he's doing the side eye to Sally, who's got this innocent, sweet little smile looking in his eyes. And then he side eyes to Snoopy on the other side. And then Snoopy gives a sweet little smile. It's just really cute that he just is kind of silently playing out these characters and that they're supposedly ganging up, or at least Snoopy is taking advantage of what's about to happen with Sally.
Jimmy: Great masterful cartooning
Harold: Character and the characters again, although we're introducing something new with Sally because I know that that's where Sally goes with Linus. It's like, wow, he's really playing with his characters. He knows them well.
October 26, Linus is writing a, letter. Lucy is watching. She says, “what in the world are you doing?” Linus says, “Don't you know? This is the time of year when we all write to the Great Pumpkin and tell them what we want for Halloween. The Great Pumpkin loves little children. I can see him now rising up out of the pumpkin patch with his big bag of toys.
Michael: First Great Pumpkin.
Jimmy: Great Pumpkin. Another one of the great themes. This is up there with the psychiatry booth. This is something that the whole world knows that just came out of this comic strip. Amazing.
Michael: And this ran for a week or so, Great Pumpkin stuff.
Harold: Right. Yeah. And we've just gone through a whole series, of strips, like one after another because he's getting so good here in October. The one we skipped is maybe the clue as to where Schulz got the germ of the idea of the Great Pumpkin, which I think is really fascinating. In October 23rd Charlie Brown has said, I've never been so mad in all my life. Because he goes to get a Halloween mask more than a week before Halloween and they're busy putting up the Christmas decorations. You can't find a Halloween mask. I was like, oh, that maybe was where he made the jump to having a Christmas celebration in Linus's mind go back to Halloween.
Jimmy: You know, I have a long, detailed philosophical paper on the Great Pumpkin that I could read, but I think I'm going to save that for a later Great Pumpkin.
Jimmy: So stay tuned, you blockheads.
November 12. Lucy is skipping rope. “You a doctor?” she says to Linus. “Ha. That's a big laugh.” She stops skipping and then just confronts Linus and says, “you could never be a doctor. You know why?” She resumes skipping rope? saying, “Because you don't love mankind.” That's why. Linus yells after her, “I love mankind. It's people I can't stand.”
Jimmy: That's a famous one.
Michael: This became a famous thing.
Michael: And its origin is here, you believe?
Jimmy: Yeah, it's one of those things. Like there's a famous thing about the band The Velvet Underground, another modern reference, where it was like only 2000 people bought the first record, but everyone who did form a band and I've seen that quote attributed to everybody, right?
Harold: Albert Payson Terhune?
Jimmy: Yeah, right, of course. That's the original.
Michael: How could Mark Twain not have said this?
Jimmy: Well, and then later on, I know it's attributed to Jerry Seinfeld, but it's like a comedian has to have a great love of humanity and hate every single person he met. So there are other examples of it, but I think this is definitely where it comes from.
Harold: Boy. This is one of those strange insights from Lucy where you're like it's harsh. And she doesn't love mankind, but that's okay.
Jimmy: Yeah, because she's not trying to be a doctor, right?
Harold: She's a skipping rope. It doesn't matter to her.
November 29. Snoopy is crouching amid the long grass. He thinks to himself, “here's the fierce mountain lion sneaking through the grass.” In the next, panel, we see him leaping over the underbrush saying, “here's the agile mountain lion bounding through the underbrush.” Now he's standing on top of a rock thinking, “here's the proud mountain lion sitting atop a rock.” Next panel, he has a ridiculous look on his face and his ears prick up because he thinks to himself “suddenly he sees an approaching figure.” It's Charlie Brown. Snoopy ducks behind the rock and thinks to himself “he crouches behind the rock.” He then springs on Charlie Brown thinking “he leaps” as he makes the noise “GRAUGH” He then lands on Charlie Brown's head and for two panels, just hops up and down on Charlie Brown's head. As Charlie Brown stands there just befuddled by the entire thing. Then in the third panel, he stops, leans over so he could look at Charlie Brown in the eyes, then walks away sighing to himself. In the last panel, Charlie Brown is writing to his pencil pal and he says, “Dear pencil pal, on my way home from school today, I was attacked by a mountain lion. I was not, seriously injured.”
Michael: Just to remind our listeners, Snoopy has not given up on his impersonations because that was a big thing in the 50s. So this year he was a gopher, a bloodhound, a vampire bat, big man on campus, and a mountain lion.
Jimmy: Amazing. And Snoopy’s later, more famous guys like Joe Cool or the flying ace or the writer all evolve out of this initial impulse to try to mimic for the other characters and then different animals and stuff like this. And this is a great one. I mean, I love the panels of Snoopy jumping up and down on Charlie Brown's head. It just legitimately makes me laugh.
Harold: It's got one classic drawing after another. It's got the incredibly intense Snoopy in the very first panel and the thicket of weeds looking like he's going to cause trouble. The very next panel, he's got a little blissy Snoopy bouncing off of a rock, but he's somehow parallel to the ground like he's about to fall on his face, but he's somehow going to recover quickly. And then you have the proud Snoopy and the next panel sitting on top of a rock. And then you have this weird Jay Ward-ish Bullwinkle Snoopy.
Jimmy: That one cracks me up.
Harold: That's hilarious. And then I love the, next one where, he's got his little snout peeking over the rock and his mouth is way forward. Like it's like, he's somehow made his smile to sit on top of the rock. And then the pounce on the next strip is again a classic first. I don't think I've seen this version of Snoopy bouncing with the teeth quite the way it is there. And then next panel, he's jumping up and down on Charlie Brown's head, who is entirely emotionless beneath. And he continues on the next panel. And then I love the next panel, where it's Snoopy sitting on top of Charlie Brown's head. Now, emotionless, and looking at the emotionless Charlie Brown, looking straight into his eyes, and Snoopy's ears hanging straight down. Anybody who can get access to the November, 29th, 1959 strip, take a look at this thing. Because even when Snoopy walks away depressed with his Sigh, it's also classic Snoopy. It's like he nails panel after panel after panel of all these different versions of Snoopy. It's so amazing. The cartooning just blows me away.
Jimmy: What's so unique about it, and interesting, I think, is like, previous to this, you're thinking the great Sunday pages are Prince Valiant, the beautiful Flash Gordon pages by Alex Raymond, stuff like that. they would take a whole week to do a Prince Valiant page. This was probably drawn in an afternoon. Well, it was definitely drawn in an afternoon. So quickly, so minimally, but no line is ever wrong.
Harold: Yeah, he's at the top of his game here. And this looks like the classic Peanuts to me.
Jimmy: For sure.
Harold: There's nothing out of line with this. I wouldn't know if this was a 1965 strip six years later, necessarily. Just from my memory, it's Peanuts.
I'd love a T shirt with Snoopy looking down on standing on Charlie Brown's head, looking at him with his head down, 180 degrees.
Jimmy: So cute.
December 2, Charlie Brown is talking with Lucy outside. He seems to be a little agitated. He says, “look, you don't have to tell me I'm blah. I know I'm blah.” Lucy answers, “well, then there's still hope for you, Charlie Brown.” She continues, “if you recognize this in yourself, then that's the first step up from blahdom. The last panel, we see Charlie Brown alone as he looks out to us and asks, “Blahdom?”
Michael: How did this not become a catchphrase? I don't understand.
Harold: Is this the first time that Schulz does the Charlie Brown repetition of some strange phraseology of the other cast members? And he does it over and over again. I think this may, be his first time with Charlie Brown doing that.
Jimmy: Here's what I think though. That way back when we started this podcast, I did a little thing that said and we'll be charting the, first. Here's how we chart the first. Is this the first? Does anyone know? Has anyone ever read this? Is this it? We literally have every year we go, is this the first?
Harold: That's because we get nailed every time we say it is. But I will say, April 6, I saw it for the first time, not with Charlie Brown, but with Lucy. Did it the first time that's when Linus calls Lucy Mommy-o.
Michael: There’s a couple of Beat references from Linus that year.
Jimmy: Yes, I get that he would be sympathetic out to the beats and I get that the Beats would be sympatico to him. I mean, you cannot think of people further apart on every other life spectrum, but the existential questioning and the Beats of the beat down nature of Charlie Brown, I think vibe with them.
December 13. Charlie Brown is sitting in a chair reading a book. He looks at the clock and says, “5:00, time to feed the dog.” He then makes a bowl of food for Snoopy and brings it out to him in the backyard, saying, “okay, Snoopy, here you are.” Snoopy immediately jumps to attention and sings. Well, does he sing or do I just think of him as singing? At the very least, he's saying, “oh, it's supper time, it's supper time, suppertime, supper time, supper time.” Now he's dancing with Charlie Brown. And Charlie Brown says, “hey, cut it out now. Watch what you're doing.” But Snoopy continues, dancing around the dazed Charlie Brown. “oh, it's suppertime, it's supper time.” He continues, “it's supper time. Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, it's suppertime, it's supper time.” Charlie Brown's had enough and just screams, “Alright, eat. Good grief.” Charlie Brown walks away, leaving a dazed Snoopy. Snoopy then starts eating his dinner, saying, “so what's wrong with making meal time a joyous occasion?”
Harold: So is this the first super summertime dance?
Michael: It's the suppertime dance, but google the song summertime, summertime, sum sum Summertime.
Harold: see if it lines up. Let's do that. All right, I'll check it out. See if that lines up.
Michael: That's what I'm hearing in my head.
Harold: That would be cool. And the living is