Jimmy: Hey, everybody, welcome back to the show. It's Unpacking Peanuts, and we're talking about ah, another high watermark in a series of high watermarks, for our hero, Charles M. Schulz.
I'm Jimmy Gownley. I'm one of your hosts for this evening. you might know me from my comic book series, Amelia Rules, or my graphic novels, The Dumbest Idea Ever, or Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up, which are on sale now.
Joining me, as always, are my co hosts. He's a playwright, a composer, both for the band Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. He is the original editor of Amelia Rules, the co creator of the original comic book Price Guide, the Argosy Price Guide, as well as the cartoonist behind such great 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 Theatre 3000, as well as a former vice president for Archie Comics. And currently he is creating the instagram strip Sweetest Beasts. Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: Well, guys, we are doing 1960. We just wrapped up last episode with a real watershed moment with happiness as a warm puppy. And, we got a bunch more strips to get to this year. So if it's okay with you guys, how about we just get started?
May 11. Charlie Brown is in manager mode. He's lecturing to his team, who we do not see. They are off panel. In front of them walks Snoopy. Charlie Brown says, “this season we're going to emphasize speed,” and Snoopy zips right across in front of them. “We're going to have a real running team. We're going to steal bases and steal more bases. Run, run, run.” Snoopy zips by the other way, causing Charlie Brown to notice him. Then Charlie Brown continues yelling at the team, saying, “we're going to be the runningest team in the league. It's going to be go. Go Go Go.” At this point, Snoopy is starting to spin circles around Charlie Brown. In the last panel, Snoopy bursts into his classic Happy Dance, and Charlie Brown says, “I can't stand it.”
Michael: The thing about Schulz is he was so consistently brilliant that it just overshadows any other cartoonist. There are very few strips where, it seems like he's fundamentally doing something wrong. He's trying something new. It's not working. And I think this is one of them.
And you pretty much have to look at this on Go Comics to see what he's doing. He's been pretty innovative in, depicting motion, people jumping and dashing around. He's tried all kinds of things. He tried something new on this strip. And, to me, it doesn't work. And it's just confusing. If you go look at it, you'll see in panel three. Jimmy said Snoopy is running around him while he does this by showing a Snoopy on the left from a front view, and a Snoopy on the right in the back view, with a little motion line between them, which is kind of understandable. It's comprehensible of what's happening. But the last panel, he has two Snoopy dancing. One on the left, one on the right, to imply that Snoopy is dancing around in circles. But it doesn't read that way. It reads like all of a sudden, there's two Snoopies and one of them looks like he's got a mustache or something. You look at it and you go, who is it? That Snoopy's brother. Who's that other Snoopy there?
Anyway, I pick one per year, which I think, hmm, not quite hitting the home run on this one. And this is the one.
Jimmy: What I think it is, is that the two-- it's panel three and four in sequence. Right? Because you understand in panel one, you understand he's moving right in panel two, obviously, he's moving left. Now you make the leap of logic in panel three that oh, we're seeing him spin around Charlie Brown. Right? But then to go from that panel to panel four, where the figures of Snoopy are in the relatively the same positions in space around Charlie Brown, but just making a different gesture. It doesn't seem like they're still spinning and just moving differently. It seems like they were in the same position as last panel and just raising their hands.
Jimmy: And I think that's what it makes it look like, two instead of one.
Michael: And the motion lines don't really tell you anything about the movement
Jimmy: on the fourth one?
Michael: Yeah on the fourth one
Harold: Yeah, I guess it's not as clear as the third panel. Ah, I remember just my first impression when I was reading this, for the first time, a couple of weeks ago. I was admiring it. I was really enjoying it. It worked for me. But I see what you're saying. The idea that in the fourth panel, they are in the same position.
The other thing about this is, Snoopy's wearing a baseball cap. And in the famous Snoopy Happy Dance, he's got his snout in the air, his nose is perched on top of his little balloon head. Schulz does not choose to redraw the backside of Snoopy as he's going around Charlie Brown in a circle. In this one, the baseball cap is on top of his head. So you also have to accept that Snoopy had his nose straight up in the air. And now he's looking straight forward on the right hand side version of Snoopy. So he didn't do that in panel three. He's changing the rules on himself on panel four. Probably because whenever he tried to draw it with a baseball cap floating on the back side of the head with the nose straight up, it probably just didn't read. And Schulz was so much about something reading, even if it doesn't follow the rules of staying on model with the character or whatever.
Jimmy: And Michael's right, that, the last panel, Snoopy on the far right between the hat on his head and the way the, ears are out at an angle. It does look like he's wearing a false mustache or something like that. It's such an abstract thing to even make a dog out of Snoopy dancing. Like, you really have to know what Snoopy is, I think, before you even can register that as a dog dancing. And I don't know that I have a better solution. Do you guys have a better solution how we could have done?
Michael: Well, we're gonna in like, five or six strips down from here. We have Schulz also trying to do really, an innovative way of doing motion. And that, to me, is totally successful.
Harold: Could it apply back here, or is it just not serving what this strip is trying to do?
Michael: Well, it's Linus and Snoopy tumbling around, fighting over the blanket. Yeah, give the guy a break.
Jimmy: I'm ending the podcast after this. He blew it.
Michael: Yeah, it's certainly not as disturbing as the dog copter or whatever it was.
Jimmy: Well, you know what I think is funny, too, is that this goes back to the fact that we are just looking at it in such microscopic detail. You'd look at this in a comic strip in a newspaper in 1960, and you wouldn't think about it again. Right? So it probably is, like, down and dirty. It gets it done.
Harold: Yeah. I can't think of a better solution to accomplish what he's trying to accomplish than what he did, except maybe possibly continue the little motion lines the way he did in the third panel, where he erases as part of Charlie Brown's pants and legs so that it's clear that there's a motion line going around. He kind of switches that up to, I think, less success in the fourth panel.
Jimmy: Well, do that in the fourth panel. And then either move the position of the two Snoopies in the third panel or erase one Snoopy and just have them be the two Snoopies with a strong motion line in the last panel.
Harold: Yeah, that's tough.
Michael: Let's edit it. Let's go back and redraw it.
Jimmy: it's a shame that he didn't have us. He had been something.
Michael: He could have been so much better.
Jimmy: Oh, my God. Sparky, if only we were there.
Harold: This is the best solution that I can think of, I think, but maybe it was asking too much, to do in a little single panel. I don't know.
May 16. Lucy and Patty are sitting on the bench at a baseball game. Lucy is covering her eyes, and she says, “I can't look.” Patty is looking intently, though, and she says, “the score is three to two in the last of the 9th.” Lucy desperately looks at Patty and says, “but we have two outs.” Patty with a smile on her face says, “but Charlie Brown is on third, and our best hitter is coming up.” Lucy says, “say, you don't think Charlie Brown will try to steal home, do you?” Patty says, “Never. Not even Charlie Brown would do anything that stupid.” And then the fourth panel, we see Charlie Brown standing on third saying, “I wonder if I should try to steal home.”
Michael: This is, the lead off to a really long sequence. And it's a great sequence. We're only going to look at the first one.
I do have a couple of questions about this. You see Schulz is not concerned with the continuity of the baseball team. I mean, they're losing 17,000 to one. And how do they get to three to two? I have no idea. My second question is how did Charlie Brown get on third? And, I'm tossing this up to the panel. Who's the best hitter? Who's on deck?
Michael: You think so?
Jimmy: So it's either Snoopy or Linus, right? Because we've seen Linus hit well, and Snoopy is Snoopy, right?
Michael: Yeah. I don't know. We have to go check some batting averages here.
Jimmy: Well, here's how I think Charlie Brown got to third. I think he was hit by a pitch and then the batter or the pitcher walked the next two batters. That's the only way I can conceivably understand Charlie Brown getting on third.
Michael: Yeah. Anyway, the sequence is great. And this leads up to, again, his total humiliation, which goes on forever to the point where he can no longer sleep at night without someone coming into his room screaming at him.
Jimmy: I do recommend everybody go on GoComics.com type in Peanuts in the Search. And, you could go by Date. Again, we're 1960 here. And you could just read along and read all of those because they're really good. And as we start moving deeper into the 60s, into the later years of strip, you're going to find there's a lot more of these little, long, sequences that really start developing into nice little short stories. And, this is one of them. So you should definitely check this one out.
May 26. Charlie Brown and Shermy are walking outside. Charlie Brown has his head hung low. He says to Shermy, “all I wanted to do was be a hero.” Charlie Brown, in anger, kicks a can and says, “but do I ever get to be a hero? No. All I ever get to be is a stupid goat.” Charlie Brown looks extremely upset in panel three, and Shermy consoles him, saying, “don't be discouraged, Charlie Brown. In this life we live, there are always some bitter pills to be swallowed.” Charlie Brown walks away saying,”if it's all the same with you, I'd rather not renew my prescription.”
Jimmy: Hey. Is, this the time to look in at the Shermometer?
VO: Let's check the Shermometer. Charlie Brown
Michael: oh, absolutely.
Jimmy: All right, let's check it. All right, so we're in May, and we finally have a Shermy strip. So what do we think here? What does this say about our pal Shermy?
Michael: Well, he's certainly a philosophical lad
Jimmy: He's already consoling. Have we said he's consoling? I think we did. And then it was removed by my bad record keeping.
Michael: I think this is more philosophical than consolation.
Jimmy: Right, that's true. Because he's contemplating life, right?
Harold: Yeah. And, he's taller than Charlie Brown here. And you get the feeling like he is the older kid in this strip. He's got a little more experience under his belt.
Jimmy: Absolutely. So are we going to give it to him? We're going to say, this shows Shermy being philosophical.
Michael: If we haven't used it before.
Jimmy: We have not. So that means that as of 1960, Shermy is well, first off, he's a history buff. And he is also a philosophical, empathetic, aggressive, compassionate, patient, pedantic, knowledgeable, emotional, good listening, vain, friendly, hypocrite.
Harold: that's deep.
Michael: That is real characterization.
Jimmy: Take that, Hamlet. Will I, won't I nonsense. Shermy has no time for that.
Harold: Yeah, it's time for a Shermy novelization.
Jimmy: Yeah. Like, they would have those Ender game books where, they would tell the story from various supporting characters’ perspective. You'd have to show Peanuts from the perspective of short.
Harold: Yeah. There has to be some fan fiction where Bella dumps those werewolves and picks up with Shermy.
Jimmy: Hey, then we could get our whole ___, franchise going.
June 4. Schroeder and Charlie Brown are standing on the sidewalk. Schroeder says “I guess I won't be seeing you until Monday, Charlie Brown. So have a happy weekend.” Schroeder waves as he walks away. Charlie Brown says “thank you.” Then there's a panel of silent contemplation before Charlie Brown yells to Schroeder. “Incidentally, what is happiness?”
Michael: I don't have much to say about this, except when I read this, I went, oh, my entire sense of humor is based on Peanuts.
Jimmy: You said this exact joke a couple of weeks ago and I didn't know it was from Peanuts.
Michael: I didn’t know either. It’s just deeply ingrained in my system
Jimmy: I'm pretty sure, I do commercial jobs like Schroeder has to now and again, you have to play three Blind Mice. And I submitted, a comic strip a while back. And after it was published, I was starting to think, is that a Peanuts? And I don't know, I didn't go looking for it, but I think it's 50 50 I may have accidentally swiped a Peanuts.
Harold: Yeah, I did a strip. It was just a no dialogue strip in Swedish Beasts, where there's a lion and a little lamb following them as they're walking deeper and deeper into these weeds. And then all of a sudden, you see there's a struggle and the lion looks back behind him. You can only see the lion because the weeds are too high. And then the final panel is the lamb kind of lying relieved on his head with a big smile on his face as the lion's looking up at and, I think there is probably a weed strip in Peanuts that I found out afterward is really close. Yeah, that stuff is just ingrained.
Jimmy: Ingrained. And there are 17,897. You'll see instances where Schulz rips off Schulz, and I didn't remember that he did the same gag 15 years previously. Oh, by the way, speaking of doing the same gags again, we have a listener who has very kindly gone out of their way and is making a list of the various comic strips that were adapted by Schulz and the team into the animated specials.
Harold: That's great.
Jimmy: So isn't that really cool, Liz, what's his name?
Liz: Joshua Stauffer, I believe.
Jimmy: Oh, Joshua Stauffer, okay. From Lancaster, PA. I didn't realize that's who it is. See, all the best people are in PA. And I went to school in Lancaster, so they got a, heads up, but we'll be talking about that. I was talking before we started recording with Michael about how we are going to handle the animated, stuff. And, so we'll use Josh's info when we get to that. For sure.
June 5. Lucy is sitting in the living room doing something. She says to herself out loud, “Tyrannosaurus Rex, life size 50ft long and 20ft high. Wow. Model size 16 inches long and ten inches high. He sure had a lot of bones” she says as she dumps out the box. And we now understand that she is making a dinosaur model. In the next panel, Linus and Snoopy walk in and watch Lucy do this. Linus says, “A dinosaur set. Oh, boy. May I help you put him together, Lucy?” Lucy says, “Oh, I suppose so.” Linus bends low and starts picking up some of the pieces from the puzzle and says, “this looks real interesting. There's something about dinosaurs that's fascinating.” He picks up two pieces and tries to connect them. He says, “let's see. Now, this toe bone here should connect to this foot bone. He reaches for another piece, saying, “ uh huh, right. And this foot bone here should connect to this ankle bone.” Now he looks at Snoopy, and they both grin at each other. Linus continues, “and the ankle bone connects to the leg bone. Right?” Now they're dancing. “Oh, the ankle bone connects to the leg bone, and the leg bone connects to the thigh bone.” They continue to dance and sing-- well Linus sings anyway,”the thigh bone connects to the hip bone, and the hip bone connects to the knee bone.” He's not following the actual songs. “Oh, the knee bone connects to the wrist bone and the wrist bone connects to” the while they run around dancing and singing, Lucy looks apoplectic next to last panel. And then in the final panel, we see Linus and Snoopy both being hurled butt over tea kettle out the door while Charlie Brown looks on, wondering what in the world is happening.
Michael: So wait where do people know that song from? Was that a hit song?
Jimmy: I don't think it would be a hit song. No. I think it's an old spiritual song.
Harold: I absolutely love-- this is like a perfect strip to me. This starts out with some minor little thing with Lucy, and it just builds and builds and builds to this raucous, joyous, fun time with Linus and Snoopy getting sillier and sillier, and then, to Lucy just being absolutely incensed and tossing them out the door and this perfect panel at the end with their they're literally flying out the door. I love this strip. I remember this strip as a kid, absolutely loving this trip. It was just so much fun. And it takes you somewhere in a very short period of time with a real economy that is absolutely silly and happy and then absolutely hilarious. So, yeah, this is a great strip. This is my second favorite strip of the year.
June 6. Charlie Brown and Lucy are standing outside on sidewalk, talking. Lucy says, “you should start thinking about becoming president, Charlie Brown.” Charlie Brown hands behind his back, contemplates the idea, “not me. I can never become president.” Lucy says, “sure you could, Charlie Brown, but you have to begin planning for it now.” Charlie Brown thinks about it. “Maybe you're right, Lucy. Maybe if I begin to study now while I'm young, I can become president someday.” Lucy kicks her head back and laughs heartily. “You president? Ha ha ha ha.”
June 7. Lucy and Linus are standing outside talking. Linus asks, “Lucy, do you think Charlie Brown really could get nominated for president?” Lucy indignant yells, “what do you mean, nominated? Don't you know anything?” She continued yelling at Linus, “first you have to become a prince. Then you get to be president.” Linus, in classic thumb and blanket position, says, “It's frightening when I realize how little I really know about governmental affairs.”
And then we have
June 10. Lucy and Linus again. Linus accusingly says to Lucy, “I know why you're so anxious for Charlie Brown to be president.” He follows behind her, shouting, “I'm smart. I've got it all figured out. I'm smart. You can't fool me. You just want to be First Woman.” Lucy indignant with her eyes closed, says “the term is first lady.” Linus, looking like he knows Lucy has got him, says, “I'm never quite so stupid as when I'm being smart.”
And then it wraps up on
June 11, back to Charlie Brown and Lucy outside again. Lucy, thinking it over, says, “maybe I don't need you, Charlie Brown. Why should I settle for being just First Lady? Why shouldn't I be president myself?” She continues, “and then after I got to be president, it would be only one short step to” And then she screams to the heaven, “QUEEN!!” sending Charlie Brown flying backwards.
Michael: She was born to be queen for sure.
Jimmy: She doesn't know very much about governmental affairs her own self it seems
Michael: You don’t have to when you're queen
Jimmy: or in government.
Michael: Right. This is great. I can't remember if this continues further than this.
Jimmy: I really like the little short stories that he gets into, and I love, this is the next step beyond just variations on a theme. I really enjoy these. Some of these go on for weeks in later years. I always liked that. How about you guys?
Michael: Yeah, I mean, this year he's really developing that form.
Harold: Can I bring up some more obscure lettering issues?
Harold: Okay. So one thing that I've noticed after the fact as an adult cartoonist is one of the typical rules of lettering, for some whatever reason, it's been established that, if you start if you use the word I, you put what do you call that? The horizontal, line above and below the vertical line of the I. The Serifs, I guess you could say, when you say I. But then when it's in a word, you just put a vertical line. And Schulz tends to break the rules, maybe just because he needs the space where he doesn't put the serifs on the letters. But I was just noticing here in the strips, he's kind of going back and forth on the June 10 episode. He's got a bolded line that's going, I know why you are so anxious for Charlie Brown be president. And that's got the serifs. And then, I'm smart. I've got it all figured out. I'm smart. You can't fool me. They don't have it. And then when you get down to the following day, Lucy is using all serifed versions of it, so he's bouncing back and forth. it's just one of those things that I noticed that I had never noticed before. And I don't know if he's not thinking about it, because it seems like Schulz thinks about everything he puts into his strip, but he's breaking a rule, and then he's following a rule.
Jimmy: It's when he uses the personal pronoun I in a contraction, he does not use the serif or the crossbar, or whatever you call it on the I.
Harold: So there is consistency here.
Jimmy: Yes, there is consistency, because whenever he uses it as a part of the contraction, it has the crossbars. And if, he uses it as just the personal pronoun.
Michael: You got that backwards
Harold: Wow, what an interesting choice, okay, I see what you're saying. So he is consistent. He has thought this through, and that is his choice. That's really interesting. Okay, well, thank you for clearing it up.
Jimmy: Well, you know, I live, but to serve
June 12, Charlie Brown is standing outside amid a series of abstract shapes. This one I really encourage you to go to Go Comics, or pull out your trusty, Fantagraphics book and look at, because we just see a series of all kinds of, pen marks that indicate possibly fighting, possibly agitation, possibly some sort of mini tornado what do they call them? Dirt devils. But then, by the third tier, we see that what was actually going on was it was another classic fight between Linus and Snoopy for the blanket, which has a brief respite while they both are sort of winded. Then they look at each other, determined each to keep their end of the blanket, and then go back into a fighting abstraction.
Michael: This is brilliant. But as someone who wasn't familiar with the strip would have no idea what's going on.
Jimmy: Well, I think you'd know that the dog is trying to-- you wouldn't know that.
Michael: Well, we've seen it before. Have you ever seen a dog and a kid fighting over a blanket?
Jimmy: Yeah, because you could have a chew toy with a dog or a towel with a dog or whatever, and they'd have one end and you have the other end and you could pull it. What you wouldn't get is the context of Linus. And this is being Linus's security blanket. Right? But my gosh, if you weren't familiar with cartooning as a language, the first five panels and then the last panel are half complete and total, just abstract art.
I would have loved to see this one in color. I bet it is in color on GoComics. But in the fan of graphics books, they publish it all in black and white, which normally I'm for because I love a good, clean, crisp black and white reproduction of the line drawing. mmmm That's good stuff. But every once in a while I'd like to check out the color. So I'll have to do that.
Harold: Didn't Fantagraphics, later, put out just the Sundays in color?
Jimmy: That's true, but that's a whole separate edition. I think they're called Peanuts Every Sunday, actually.
Harold: Right. Yeah, I think that's right.
July 8. Snoopy is stalking on his hind legs with his teeth bared. He thinks to himself, “here comes the big dinosaur king of the world.” And we see him standing against hind legs again, but his teeth are no longer bared. Lucy walks by with a scowl on her face. Snoopy looks up to the sky as if he's just minding his own business. Then the fourth panel, he's back to his dinosaur ways. “Here comes the big dinosaur king of the world.”
Michael: His, arms are too long to do a good dinosaur.
I think I picked this just because I love the classic Snoopy imitations of animals. And he's doing less this year. Very few. This is actually one of the few.
Harold: This is like one of the first ones where he's doing something and then he stops and then he's basically, the fourth panel is the same as the first. He did that a lot, but I don't remember seeing it before as we're reading chronologically.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's always welcome to see Snoopy the mimic. I think it's just a fun, exercise for Schulz as a cartoonist. I'm always interested in seeing the way he contorts Snoopy to make him look like his subject.
July 13. Violet is walking by Snoopy. She says to him, “Hello, dog.” Snoopy looks after Violet and thinks to himself, “that's not nice. You should always greet a dog by his name.” Snoopy walks away thinking, “not that there's anything wrong with the word dog.” And Snoopy is on top of his dog house. And he thinks “it's just that one is never quite sure of the implication.”
Michael: This is sort of tying in with my theory from a couple of episodes ago.
Jimmy: Which is that Snoopy sort of either identifies or represents sort of repressed minorities in American society. Yeah, that definitely has that resonance. Right. Because okay, you're just calling me a dog, which I technically am a dog, but I don't like the way you're saying it, because I don't know what your intentions are. Which makes total sense. Right.
Harold: Yeah, it works.
Michael: Yes. It's like calling someone boy.
Jimmy: Yeah, right, exactly. In racist terms, it's called the dog whistle. You say it in a way that you could get plausible deniability that you didn't mean anything by it, when in fact you knew exactly what you were saying. And that's the case in this strip. I mean, Violet knows it's Snoopy. She might be being forensically correct, but she knows she's being dismissive.
Harold: Oh, she does, does she?
Jimmy: Oh, she does.
July 14. Lucy presents Linus with a drawing she has made. She says, “I've just drawn a cartoon. Look at it and laugh.” Linus looks at it and says, “I don't think it's very funny.” Lucy says, “I said, look at it and laugh.” Linus, “He he he he he he.” Lucy walks away with her drawing and saying, “that's the trouble with cartoonists today, they don't make people laugh.”
Michael: She'll still do a lot of these self referential things, but this is a good one.
Jimmy: Weirdly, I buy Lucy as a cartoonist more than Charlie Brown, especially if she's going and demanding laughs from each individual listener, which, by the way, is going to be my new marketing plan.
Michael: Right. So this Lucy as a cartoonist thing goes on for a little bit, as.
Jimmy: It does the next day.
July 15, Lucy is down on her knees, drawing on a piece of paper. Charlie Brown is watching her. Lucy says, “I decided to go into political cartooning.” She continues, “I'm going to ridicule everything.” Charlie Brown thoughtfully says, I understand, Lucy. “By the use of ridicule, you hope to point up our faults in government and thus improve our way of life.” Lucy, hands to the air, says, “no, I just want to ridicule everything.”
Michael: This is a good persona for Lucy.
Jimmy: Oh, for sure. And this is interesting because, according to Pepper's paradigm, Lucy, when she's, pointing out her friend's fault, does have their best interests at heart. She really thinks she's making a difference here. She has found an outlet for just her base instincts. She just can ridicule people. One of the, great things you can do with art.
July 31. Linus is tying on some boxing gloves. Snoopy already has a boxing glove on right on top of his snout. We then have 1,2,3,4,5 six panels of basically Linus getting the snot beat out of him by Snoopy, who is just basically headbutting him with the boxing glove attached to his snout. Linus walks in to talk to Lucy, looking disheveled. Lucy says, “well, how did the boxing go?” Linus says “not so good. I got beaten.”He puts the boxing gloves away in his toy box. Lucy says, “really? What was it that beat you? Was it a left or a right?” Linus thinks “I don't know.”Then, in classic thumb and blanket pose, he says to Lucy, “when you stop to think about it, it's kind of hard to say.”
Michael: I love this. I love it because for the visuals, it's great. This is a great strip. But that visual of Snoopy with the glove is classic. The way he hits--
Jimmy: Great drawing. I know I don't have to answer this, but I assume neither of you had boxing gloves growing up.
Michael: I've never hit anyone in my life.
Jimmy: My friend Frankie had boxing gloves, and I remember he was like, hey, come on down. I got boxing gloves. So I walked down in his house, and he has two sets of boxing gloves, and him and this kid, Max, his next door neighbor, are just beating the hell out of each other for, like, ten minutes straight. And then Max, was done. He goes. Okay, your turn. Pass. It's a hard pass. Can't risk the money maker. Are you kidding?
August 3. Lucy, Charlie Brown and Linus are all outside. Lucy is talking. “I think it is possible to be too nice,” she continues, “by golly, nobody's going to walk all over me. No, sir. If anybody's going to do any walking, it's going to be me.” Lucy walks away, pounding on her fist as she continues. “There's only one way to survive these days. You have to walk over them before they walk over you.” Now, alone, Charlie Brown and Linus are standing there, and Linus says to Charlie Brown, “it must be nice to have a philosophy that will sustain you in times of need.”
Michael: Yeah. Schulz had been reading Atlas Shrugged. I could see Atlas Shrugged then as the Peanuts cartoon. Yeah, that would be great, John Galt would be Schroeder.
Harold: Instead of the Fountainhead it would be the fountain pen.
Jimmy: That's enough free publicity for Ayn Rand.
August 14. Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy are standing on a hill, looking at the clouds. “Aren't the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton,” says Lucy. In the next panel, our heroes are all lying on their back, looking at the sky. Lucy says, “I could just lie here all day and watch them drift by. She points to the sky as she continues. If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud formations. What do you think you see, Linus?” Linus says, “well, those clouds up there look to me like the map of the British Honduras in the Caribbean. That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Aikens, the famous painter and sculptor.” Linus continued, “and that group of clouds over there gives me the impression of the stoning of Stephen. I can see the apostle Paul standing there to one side.” At this point, Charlie Brown lifts his head from the ground, stupefied by what he is hearing. Lucy says, “Uh huh, that's very good. What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown says, “well, I was going to say I saw a ducky and a horsey, but I changed my mind.”
Jimmy: We've seen this one already. This was a William Pepper pick.
Harold: It's a great pick. When you talk with people about Peanuts, that just are not huge fans, Peanuts. I'm surprised, this one comes up quite a bit. This is like so classic Peanuts. It's so well done. Yeah. I absolutely love this strip. And again, remembered from childhood, just kind of being in awe of Linus, just like Charlie Brown is, and feeling like Charlie Brown, like, wow, I can't live up to that. But, at the same time, to be in the presence of someone who sees those things is pretty cool.
Jimmy:. Although Lucy and Linus are definitely from home, they're ending in therapy. I don't know why I see that. They’re both…
Harold: Well, I love this little moment here where we've seen Lucy as the big sister to Linus. And she's at first teaching him things that he's swallowing whole cloth, no matter what it is she says. And then he starts to question whether she knows what she's talking about. But here they're kind of in this stasis where Lucy's leading this and Lucy's having them say what they see. And then I love that Linus goes through all the stuff that I'm sure Lucy knows nothing about, and she's going, uh huh, that's very good.
Jimmy: Oh, yes. She's totally just playing along. But of course, no one questions whether Linus is just making, just saying a bunch of stuff he heard somebody else.
Michael: Yeah. Well, I'm impressed with Charlie Brown being honest and not trying to fake it.
Harold: Yeah. And I kind of like this little moment where the older sister younger brother thing is kind of working out here. Despite their differences, they each have a role to play in this little scene. Charlie Brown is just so honest, You have to love him.
Jimmy: One of the best punch lines in the history of the strip. And not a punchline, really. It is a punchline, of course, but it just gains the depth because you know who Charlie Brown is. And you know that Charlie Brown was legitimately going to say, hey, I saw a ducky and a horsey. I was darn proud that it looks just like a ducky. But he's just not he's not at Linus's level of imagination for sure.
Michael: Jimmy, you said they're going to need a psychologist? Well, there is one there, and I think it's very strange this year that he introduced the psychiatric booth last year and he hasn't gone back yet.
Jimmy: It's wild. I mean, it's probably one of the top two or three things you think about when you think about Peanuts is Lucy's psychiatry booth. And, yeah, it wasn't instantly a part of the strip, like so many other things that he tried out and just worked.
Michael: Yeah. It took him a while to realize what he had.
Jimmy: All right, well, I'm excited about the next trip we're going to cover because this proves my theory from last episode. So here we go.
August 21. Charlie Brown and Linus are, standing out in the ball field, but it's starting to rain. Charlie Brown says, “oh, no,” but it only rains harder. Charlie Brown actually walks away, giving up on the ballgame. He says, “Rats. Every time you want to do something, it rains.” We then see two panels of Linus standing in the pouring rain. He looks up at the sky and says, “Rain, rain, go away. Come again some other day.” Instantly, it clears up, shocking Linus beyond belief. He looks up at the sky, he looks back out at us, but just sort of off in the general distance, shocked by what has happened. Then he runs home, terrified, slamming the door behind him, and then runs up to Lucy, an expression of absolute panic on his face. And he says, “Hide me.”
So here you go. Charles Schulz is a character in Peanuts. That's the way I look at that.
Michael: Well, no, I think the deity that blew up the kite,
Jimmy; which is Charles Schulz.
Michael: Yeah, well, you can look at it that way, but it's definitely a trickster god.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's Charles Schulz because he's told us it's a comic strip twice, three times. So we either take him, at of the word or we don't. But here, this would not happen in our world. Right?
Jimmy: I don't mean it's only a comic strip. This doesn't diminish it to me at all that suddenly all, kinds of different rules apply to it. If anything, it makes it richer to me. And I was thinking about it. You see this in instances with, like, Charlie Brown. There's a pop fly, which Charlie Brown is about to catch, and it stays up in the air for six days while people have complete conversations underneath it. It explains even how that potato chip thing works. Right. It's that Schulz actively is part of this strip and messes with the characters. So he's performing miracles within the street.
Michael: But I don't believe in Charles Schulz actually
Jimmy: There’s the title.
Harold: So this is a three Sunday strip in a row sequence, which this is pretty new for him. He did it with the Golfing episode. I'm sure he's done it a few times. What's interesting so, Jimmy, you're essentially saying that Schulz is entering into the world as the creator and he is performing these miracles within the strip that become a part of the strip, and that makes him a character in the strip, which I think is absolutely fascinating. And what's interesting to me is over the three strips, they try to kind of prove it by having Linus replicate it. And, he replicates it once in front of Lucy, and then it's Lucy, Charlie Brown, and Linus in the final strip. This is going to prove it once and for all if Linus is capable of doing this himself.
And, it's not resolved. Linus chokes. And you can't even say, Rain, rain, go away. And so the rain just was pouring and pouring and pouring. And given what you're saying. Jimmy. It's really interesting to think of the idea of some outside force entering a world that has the rules of that world. Which are not our rules. But we've learned the rules of Peanuts, more or less. And then the rules are bent or broken in a way that is not character based directly. Unless Linus does have the power to stop praying. Which just makes sure we don't find out one way or the other if he did. But that makes Schulz a character like you're saying in the strip and that maybe adds something to the strip that very few artists dare to go. There's something about this strip that makes it kind of transcendent for some people in terms of how they've experienced it and what it means to them because of this.
Jimmy: And I think when you're thinking about the strip, and you think about it as this 50-year-long work, when you're constantly foregrounding Schulz as the central element of the strip, the whole strip becomes more interesting and richer. And you also are able to appreciate and even like, the down moments because, it's not just oh these characters aren't the way I remember them or it's sillier now or whatever. It's like, this is where Schulz was at this point in time. How am I jiving with him? I was a guest on a radio show in KCRW of a couple of years ago, and I was talking about Liz Phair. And I said, the thing about Liz Phair is it's not really even about whether or not you like individual songs. It's just that she's somehow the way she writes makes her feel like a friend to you, and you just want to check in with your friend even if you're not on the same page anymore or you haven't been recently or whatever. And that's how I always felt about Schulz. I always felt his presence in the strip. And that made me connect with it more because I felt like it was a direct letter from him to me every day.
Harold: Yeah, I kind of feel the same way when I'm looking back on-- as a little kid, as you tried to learn more about Schulz, and then they occasionally would put out a, ah, book or there was something where you could see an old article interviewing Schulz. It meant so much to me to know who this person was behind the strip. Now, maybe because I wanted to be a cartoonist as a little kid, I don't know how universal that is for other people who read and really enjoyed Peanuts, whether it was important to know who it was behind the strip, but maybe that's because Schulz really was in the strip. But like you're saying, and he kept exuding this kind of integrity, toward the strip. And he was saying, this is extremely important to me, and I have my own set of rules that I live by. When I make the strip, no one else will touch it, only I will do it. He sets up this myth about himself, and I don't say myth in the sense of myth being false, but a, story, this overarching story that's huge about this world. And so whenever he would say something like, well, I consider a good strip to be, you have each character as a key on the piano and you have to have all the notes to play the perfect strip. I mean, I was just like, he's spoon feeding this stuff and I'm like, totally taking it in because I know what his strip has meant to me. I can't put in words what it's meant to me, but he somehow entered into my life in a way that no other artist has.
And so just going back to what you're saying, when you said in the previous episode, you introduced or kind of expanded on the idea that he is a character, it really got me thinking, a lot, because I've noticed in my own work that I do constantly do that where I'm having a story is being dealt with from a plane that's outside the story. And you do it, I know, in your books as well, Jimmy. And I think that's part of why I fell in love with love with the work that you've done is that element is there. And it takes you to a place, it takes me to a place in my mind that is a place I love to be. I love to live in a world of an artist who I like, I respect, I trust, and, I do like you're saying with Liz Phair. I feel invited into that world. I'm being told, come in and live inside my world, inside my mind. And that's a huge gift to be able to do that in a way that is so uniquely artistic.
Again, you could do that as a stand up comedian. Right. But here, it's got so many layers to it because he's spent hours of his life creating this world that is from a blank piece of paper. I don't know. It’s magical.
Jimmy: Yes, it is. And it's a hard thing to do because you have to be really brave to do that, because you're including yourself in your work in a way that removes a lot of the shield a work of art can give you. The work is the work, and I'm me. But when you remove that barrier, I mean, Liz Phair has gotten reviews for her music that are, not about her music, they're about her person. Yeah. And there's elements of that with the way people react to Schulz, too, because they feel an ownership of this person.
But it's weird, I think, because, like you said, had that integrity of the strip. That's why the licensing and stuff and the animation and everything else, Knotts Berry Farm, whatever never bothered me one way or the other. Because the art is the strip, and he strip is just as pure as any Robert Crumb.
Harold: And everything else was inspired and involves others. It's not Schulz. It's not pure Schulz. And so now you're just seeing how others are playing with Schulz, and it's not going to be the genius of Schulz, you know, pure distilled Schulz is the strip, and there's no other place where it exists.
I can think of Duck Amuck-- you guys have seen the Warner Bros. Cartoon, where Daffy Duck is being constantly mistreated by the artist of the cartoon that he's in. And that's done for a laugh. And it's kind of whimsical, it's kind of capricious. And Bugs Bunny turns out to be the artist and he's “Ain’t I a stinker.” And it's like, that's cute. And people really like that strip because it does deal with those different planes. But all you get out of that strip is Ain’t I a stinker. But in this thing, you're getting a whole person and his attempts at integrity and at warmth and at meaning and doing something that was worthwhile and positive. And that makes it really a rich experience to read Peanuts.
Jimmy: For sure.
Hey, Just talking, about Duck Amuck. Duck Amuck is prevented from being the all time greatest Warner Brothers cartoon by one thing. Bugs Bunny doesn't cause problems.
Jimmy: Bugs Bunny reacts to problems. That's like Chuck Jones number one rule. And this is not my rule. This is him. He has stated this is that Bugs Bunny is just living his life. And then suddenly, Elmer Fudd or whoever comes along and causes problems. In that Daffy Duck's just living his life, and Bugs Bunny causes problems.
Jimmy: That makes it the number two after Duck Dodgers
August 22 Linus meets Sally on the sidewalk. He says to her, “look, it's Charlie Brown's little sister. And she's walking!” And we see Sally do a little two step there on the sidewalk. Linus runs away, announcing, “she's walking, she's walking, she's walking.” Sally blissfully thinks to herself, “isn't he the cutest thing?”
Michael: This is really odd that-- Well, there's two things I want to say.
One is I would consider the two most important things he did in 1959. One was to introduce Sally, and the other was a psychiatrist booth and here we are in August, and this is the first time she showed up this year.
I thought it was a brilliant character the way he introduced her in the last year, but he had to find a hook to bring her back into the strip. And this is the first of a series which is really heartbreaking. More so, I think, than the Charlie Brown. His little sister falls in love with Linus. And, we haven't selected any of the others in this sequence, but she's, like, madly in love with Linus. And then she overhears him, saying to defend himself, saying she's just a little kid. And she's, like, totally destroyed by this.
Harold: And what's really heartbreaking about it is it opens with Linus showing an interest in her. He's the one that's noticing that she's walking, and he's got this sincerity toward her that's really kind of kind from a little boy to a much younger little girl. He is showing her kindness, and he is putting up with her to a point, and then he hits a wall. And then her hopes about him, given that he is kind of a sincere little character, that he ultimately hits his limit and her hopes are dashed.
It's a pretty complex relationship that it's not like things I've seen in other literature where there is an affinity between them. There is this connection. It's just well, I guess it's a classic I just want to be friends kind of story, right. when one character wants more of the other character, and the other character likes them, wants to hang out with them, likes to interact, appreciates things about them, but it's not on the level that they wanted.
Because of the nature of these two characters, it comes across as very real. They're two unique characters that are not just stereotypes. As we said, Linus is the most complex character in Western literature.
So, Sally has chosen well, but, he's not available.
Jimmy: I love the last panel drawing. I just think that's and I love all the drawing, actually. We don't talk about the narrative as much, I don't think, because now it's like, settled into this classic Peanuts thing. But, boy, he's still a really great cartoonist and just draws a really fun drawing.
I thought what Michael, you're going to say is, how did she get outside if she's just learning to walk? And how did they let her out to the point that this random kid from God knows where in the neighborhood witnesses her first steps
Michael: In those days, parents did not care about_____ at all.
Harold: This was standard, commonplace 1960 things. And the other thing is, you like both of these characters. often when they set up the love triangle or whatever you're supposed to, they have the character who's lesser so that you know who you're going to root for in a classic movie or whatever. But here, these are just two likable characters where they're just not jiving. And it is sweet and it's heartbreaking. But you really feel for both of them, the predicament they're in.
September 8, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Violet, and Linus are all hanging out by Snoopy's doghouse. Snoopy and Charlie Brown in particular, look worried. Violet says, “we can't let them build the freeway here and destroy Snoopy's house.” Linus says, “Maybe we should write a letter of protest.” Violet looks at Linus and says, “to whom?” Linus says. “I don't know. How about Sam Snead? I've always kind of admired him.”
Michael: Sam Snead makes a comeback.
Michael: Do we have to do a new explainer?
Harold: We'll refer them back to the transcript.
Jimmy: Sam Snead big, golfer and clearly one of Schulz's idols because he's mentioned him a number of times.
Michael: Yeah, this might be the longest sequence of the year. And this is almost like a self contained little drama here. Yeah, we're coming in in the middle. But the whole thing with the freeway and Snoopy's house being-- going to be knocked down is the kind of thing that, Adventure Continuity Comics would have, I imagine, where there's a problem and it looks bad and then it resolves itself. And everyone’s happy. So he runs this couple of weeks.
Harold: So are you okay with the premise here, Michael? Because I know particularly maybe you, Jimmy, also didn't like the idea that we had this icicle strip where Snoopy’s Dog house has been moved to be underneath the eaves of the house just for the set up of this gag.
Well, now there's a highway going to be run through Snoopy's Dog house. It's running through their neighborhood. It’s going to destroy the whole--
Jimmy: There's bigger problems than just Snoopy's Dog house. Exactly.
Michael: This didn't bother me, because he's not violating his own rules anywhere.
Jimmy: Yeah, he's not moving the doghouse, which is kind of cheating to manufacture the drama. That's how I felt, anyway.
Harold: So, can you accept that the kids are not really thinking about themselves at all? Because that's just them. They're only worried about Snoopy. Unless Charlie Brown has been walking like three quarters of a mile to deliver the dog food.
Jimmy: It's not my favorite sequence, to be honest. But yeah, it's fine. It feels like it's a retread of the icicle thing, I guess, in some ways. And I love the Schulz long stories. Not always, though, does he stick the landing. And I think this is one where it just kind of gets kicked down the road.
And, it's tough because he's doing these short stories that also kind of have to be self-contained jokes. So the conclusion also has to be a joke. And because of that, it almost has to be a punchline that sums up everything. And a lot of times that doesn't play off on that very last one.
Harold: Do you think Schulz is sometimes not sticking to landing on purpose? Like, he has some philosophy about these things that they go on for a long time and you just keep mulling over them, looking at them from different angles, and then is it on purpose that he's like, okay, now we've examined this, let's move on, but we're not going to try to settle anything?
Jimmy: I think it's on purpose in the sense that he thinks it's successful to do some sort of last punchline that sort of minimizes the drama of the rest of the thing. But I don't know that it necessarily works, as a story. Like, I think he couldn't do this because he's doing these one a day plus a Sunday strip that's unrelated. But if you could somehow work the beginning and the end together--
He tries to do this on the Mr. Sack thing, which is his favorite short story from Peanuts from the early 70s, which is when, Charlie Brown goes to summer camp with a rash on his head. So he puts a paper bag over his head and instantly everybody loves him and becomes, like, camp president and stuff like that. But there also he tries to tie it into the beginning, but it doesn't quite work. And it's because I think because the last reveal has to be a punchline to the whole story, It often, for me, falls flat.
Harold: Right. And for the record, for those of you who are following along at home, the way Schulz wraps this one up is that Charlie Brown announces to Snoopy, who is determinedly standing on top of his dog house to fend off anybody who's going to come and tear down his place, Charlie Brown says, you can cut the pose or not starting work until 1967. And then Snoopy says, well, that's kind of disappointing. I thought I looked pretty good up there.
September 28. Schroeder is reading to Lucy. “Sometimes he would startle people in public places.” Schroeder continues, “he flew out in anger against all that was petty, dull, or greedy in men. Often, however, his scorn would turn to high hilarity and humorous jests.” Lucy, now leaning on Schroeder's toy piano, asks him, “are you reading about Beethoven or Mort Sahl?”
Jimmy: All right. Mort Sahl making another appearance. I think we mentioned him earlier.
Harold, do you want to explain him at all? Is that an obscurity?
Harold: Michael, do you have, any insights on Mort?
Michael: Yeah, I'm a big fan. He just died last year too.
Jimmy: He did, 93 years old.
Michael: Yeah, Mort was a stand up comic and he didn't do jokes. He get up on stage with the newspaper and just start talking about whatever's happening politically. It was a funny bit, but they were never gags. Like pre-written gags. He was just improvising.
Jimmy: right. It was all improvised.
Michael: Yeah. So all this description here would sound like Mort Saul.
Harold: So would you say in some ways, Saul and Schulz have some things in common?
Michael: Not politically, I don't think.
Harold: Some people say he's the first-- I think Wikipedia, he's the first, modern comedian. I'm, just thinking Schulz kind of blazed his own trail and roughly the same time, do you think there's any similarities in terms of how they're stripping things down?
Michael: I think Schulz would be closer to, like, Bob Newhart.
Jimmy: Yeah, I can see that.
Michael: Psychological, Sahl was purely political, which would be more like what Walt Kelly was doing in those years..
Harold: Yes, Sahl and Kelly I can see together.
Jimmy: It's always a shame about those guys, because, I mean, so many really bright I mean, that's not a shame. They have wonderful careers and they contribute to the culture and everything, but 50, 60 years later, their work becomes kind of unintelligible if you're not completely versed in the culture in which it came out of.
Harold: Yeah, that's true. And often it doesn't, age well, too.
Michael: Well, Sahl became an early conspiracy theorist.
Jimmy: Well, right. He was big on the Warren Commission. Right?
Michael: He got obsessed with it to the point that he wasn't even making jokes anymore. He’d just get out and read from the Warren Report. He had a TV show, like a daily TV show in LA. And people at that point were like, not that there was any conspiracy around Kennedy. I mean, that's absurd. But no, he was more like Lenny Bruce, who was at that point, was just talking about injustice in the police and racism. And it was barely a comic.
Jimmy: Right So that's Mort, Sahl.
Michael: That's Mort.
September 30, Lucy is holding a book and talking to Linus. She says, “did you ever stop to think that when I was one year old, you weren't even born?” Linus stands up and says, “I've not only thought about it, I remember it. I was up in heaven, waiting to be born.” Linus stands up in classic thumb and blanket pose and says, “I didn't mind waiting, though.” Then with a smile, he says, “we used to have some pretty good times up there.”
Harold: This raises some questions.
Michael: Glad you're here to answer them.
Jimmy: This is why, Linus you also have to understand Linus is insane. I mean, he's a wonderful thought. Yeah. Linus does not remember living up in heaven before. He's either messing with Lucy, which is possible, or he believes it.
Harold: Based on the final panel, those of you on September 30th want to go look it up, however you can look it up, the look on his face, if I were to put a term to it, I would say is sincerity. I don't think he's pulling anybody's leg.
Jimmy: but there is another strip. All we do is read Peanuts and talk about it. So I can't remember if this was something we covered on the show or if it's something coming up, but someone else makes a reference very similar to this. And then another character says, your, understanding of medicine and theology is appalling, or something like that. So it's like the same joke, look at it from a different way. But no, I believe this is the side of Linus that also believes the Great Pumpkin is coming.
Harold: The way he leaves it here, it's like he doesn't resolve it. You just have Lucy looking at him with what looks like a little bit of concern and disbelief, but mainly just kind of “what the” I mean, it's a really interesting strip that he just lets hang there.
Jimmy: Well, the other thing is that kids do just have flights of fantasy that they incorporate into their own life. I mean, I could see a kid being oh yeah, I totally remember being in heaven before was born, just on a stupid level, my kids had Tony and Dutch and they lived at Target and they were just their imaginary friends. So it could be something like that too.
Harold: In strips before this, when it involves the kids, there's usually somebody to go, well, I can't stand it, I just can't stand it. Or where they get their comeuppence through-- even like the Great Pumpkin sequences, somebody has to respond to the fact that this is an amazing, mind blowing statement. And this one just stands there.
And to me, it's like the first time he goes there, there's something he's doing that he has not done before in this little strip that, again, takes Peanuts just to a level that's not done it before. And it adds mystery, it adds concern for Linus. However you want to look at it, it's left up to you to respond to it however you're going to respond to it.
Jimmy: In panel three, we see the look on Lucy's face, which is her calculating how much money he's going to have to spend on therapy in later years.
Michael: A nickel a time I would think
Jimmy: That's a great story.
October 5, Linus and Lucy outside again. Lucy says to Linus, who was standing under a tree, “Charlie Brown tells me you've been talking to leaves.” Linus says, “Talking to what?” Lucy says “To leaves. He says, you talk to leaves.” Linus is indignant. He says “he's crazy. You go tell Charlie Brown that I said--” Suddenly a, leaf flutters from the tree. Linus whips his head around and says, “oh, hi there.” And then continues to Lucy. “But I said he's out of his mind.”
Michael: I talk to leaves. I don't understand why he's making fun of that. Don’t you guys? I mean when a leaf blows in front of you don't you say hello? I thought everyone did.
Jimmy: And there is in panel four, that is Lucy contemplating how much money Michael is going to have to spend on therapy.
Harold: My problem is I give them all the same name-- leafy.
Jimmy: Tune in next week when I have two new friends discussing Broom Hilda. Where we don't get into these weird discussions about leaves and existential philosophy.
October 9. Lucy and Linus are out playing in a sandbox. Lucy hears something. “What's that?” she says. Linus says, “What's what?” Lucy says, I thought I heard a car door slam.” Linus is up, pointing. He says, “It's dad. He's backing the car out of the garage.” Linus yells in the direction of his father, “Hey, dad, are you going to the store? Will you bring me something?” Lucy says, “Tell him I want a comic book.” Linus continues to yell, “Lucy wants a comic book and I want a candy bar.” Now Lucy is yelling, “I want a candy bar too.” Linus says, “Lucy wants a candy bar too, and I want a comic book too, and can I have a boat?” Linus is now running in the direction of his father. “Will you bring me a boat or a football?” He's picking up speed. “Will you bring me a candy bar and a comic book and a boat? And oh.” He walks back to Lucy. “He was just backing the car into the driveway to wash it.”
Michael: This is why Linus is the most complex character in Western literature, because you would think of him as not a materialist. And the joke here is all kids are total materialists.
Harold: Yeah. Why is this Linus and not Lucy? Why do you think he chose Linus?
Michael: I don't know.
Harold: I remember talking about strips. I remember from childhood, this is one of the strongest ones from this year. I remember specifically as a kid being fascinated that this is what the kids do. If they see dad heading out they're going to ask for a thing. I was like, A candy bar, a comic book. Wow. You know, I never asked my dad for a comic book or a candy bar like that. I remember just mulling this over in my mind as a seven-year-old kid or whatever, just fascinated with the concept that that dynamic could exist with a parent.
Jimmy: Really? You would never go, hey, get me a comic book from the Jiffy Mart.
Harold: No, not at this age. No. It was a revelation to me that such a thing could exist. And yes, it's one of those weird little things that it's so ingrained in me. I was so fascinated with the materialist in me as little kids, you can do that. And I didn't own a comic book back then. I'm sure I’d gotten a candy bar or two.
Jimmy: Wait so when did you get your first comic book? 42?
Harold: Man. I don't even know. I think for, a while I wasn't allowed to have them. I, think it was around 19--, let's see, I would have been maybe eleven or twelve when I could buy comic books.
Harold: Now we go to the library. So Linus's library card thing meant a lot to me that we’d go to the library and we would go to use bookstores, that did not have comic books, or if they did have comic books, they weren't on the table for me to walk away with. I was always getting the collections of comic strips, the types of things that were in book form, and I don't know what it was.
My mom would have been around 14 or 15 when the whole comics code thing came about. With all of the Senate hearings about juvenile delinquency. I don't know in the back of her mind if her experience with comics where they were lesser. But yeah, it was not a part of my life. This world where it's tantalizingly close to have these things, this strip embodied that for me. And boy, that's a strong memory from childhood. And then, the fact that they don't get anything at the end, sets it back to zero. But still I went on this tantalizing journey with Linus and Lucy.
Jimmy: I could always hit my-- my dad was a soft touch, as they would say. I could always hit him up for a candy bar or comic book. I would, actually not even ask when. He would just say, I'm going down to Jiffy Mart ever I’d just kind of sidle up to him and grin.
Harold: What I was collecting around the time I read this, because they were a nickel, and I was allowed, for whatever reason, were Wacky Packages, which were those parody brand things. So it was like something in a supermarket that you would have there were parodies of the packaging for toothpaste and cereal and you name it. those things I did collect, and that was allowed in my world. But I did have an allowance. I was using my own nickel. It was a nickel to buy a pack of those.
Jimmy: Wow. See, we learn things about each other on Unpacking Peanuts.
November 1, Linus looks distraught. Charlie Brown and Snoopy look on as he says, “I believed in the Great Pumpkin. I really did.” Linus continues, “I believed in the Great Pumpkin with every fiber of my being.” Then he walks away completely destroyed, saying, “Rats.” Charlie Brown is sitting on the curb with Snoopy, and he says, in all this world, there is nothing more upsetting than the clobbering of a cherished belief. And Snoopy thinks to himself, “true.”
Harold: Why, why does he have Snoopy underscore Charlie Brown statement?
Jimmy: It's very weird.
Harold: That is wild. That to me, sounds like Schulz wanted that to one get across. He wanted people to seriously consider that it wasn't just a joke, it wasn't just a throwaway gag or Charlie Brown's unique, odd perspective. It's like having Snoopy just sitting next to Charlie Brown in agreement. I don't remember seeing that before in this strip either.
Michael: Yeah it doesn't seem like a Schulzian thing to do
Jimmy: No, it doesn't. One thing I wanted to say about the Great Pumpkin, and I was always kind of looking for a great place to put it, but this is as good as any.
One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever read was from the comic book author Alan Moore, and he was talking specifically about when he had to take over a character that had already been created, like Swamp Thing or, whatever, Miracle Man, the things he was working on at the time. But it also just works if you're just writing anything. It doesn't work in every situation.
But what it is is that let's say you're writing a superhero story, and there's five or six things that make that superhero story a superhero story, and you want to make an impact. You don't go in and you don't change four of the five you don't change. You change one thing, and you let everything else be the same. And I started thinking, wow, that's just a brilliant thing, because once you make that one change, it's spider webs out, and it, has domino effects. And suddenly everything is starting to change.
And all the Great Pumpkin is moving it from Christmas to Halloween. And just that one change unlocks this whole world of absurdity in this thing that we all do every single year. Or not all of us, but millions and millions of us do all over the world every year at Christmastime for kids, right? And I just thought, that is such a neat way, just because I thought the Moore thing was interesting to contemplate I kind of look for that in pop culture to see if oh, there's kind of an example of it. And I think this is a great one. All he did was move the holiday up one.
Harold: You told me about that years ago, Jimmy. And I think that is a profound piece of advice for a writer who's trying to figure out how to add their touch to something, and mix it up. I think that is a brilliant piece of advice from Alan Moore.
Jimmy: We're talking about Peanuts. We're talking about Liz Phair. We're talking about Alan Moore. We get into all of it.
Michael: Mort Sahl
Jimmy: Those are the big three
Michael: Don’t Forget Mort Sahl, in the pantheon.
Jimmy: We didn't mention the other guy, who I'm not going to mention
Michael: Dr. Seuss?
Harold: Okay, then.
Jimmy: Albert Payson Terhune.
Harold: Oohh and we got one more coming up in the not too distant future here for this year.
November 3. Linus walks up looking disillusioned to Charlie Brown, who's holding a little bag of something, and he says to Charlie Brown, “What's the cure for disillusionment Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown says to Linus “a chocolate cream and a friendly pat on the back.” And he offers the bag to Linus, who selects a candy. And Charlie Brown walks away smiling as Linus helps himself to the treat. Then Linus, looking much better with a smile on his face, says, “Good old Charlie Brown.”
Jimmy: There we see him in that older brother patriarch kind of role that we were talking about seeing him in earlier.
Harold: It seems like Schulz is getting more and more comfortable with showing different sides of the character without it negating what we knew and thought about the character before. And given the tension that he creates, where Charlie Brown keeps failing over and over again and just can't seem to find a way to get to where he wants to get in life. And then you have this little moment, very little moment, where he just has the right answer for Linus. The last line is good old Charlie Brown.
Now at this point, when in Peanuts, do we get the Sunday strip saying Peanuts featuring good old Charlie Brown?
Jimmy: Well, not yet.
Harold: So is this the first time we hear this? Not the first time we've heard it. We've heard it in the very first strip.
Jimmy: Right? Wait, is this the first? My favorite portion of our podcast. Is this the first? Who knows?
Harold: So, in the very first strip, here comes good old Charlie Brown. It's like, good old Charlie Brown has been with us, since the very first strip. But this is the first time I talk about it first. I think the first time that maybe somebody really sincerely says it about it him, which I think is pretty cool.
Jimmy: Nine times out of ten it is an insult saying you're ordinary Charlie Brown. And this is-- I don't know if it's the first time, but it's definitely one of the rare times where someone means it in the way it's intended.
Harold: And I think this does tie back to Michael's theory that Schulz is now working with Hallmark cards and, he's putting his mind in a certain place he hasn't before.
Jimmy: Yeah, right.
Michael: Well this certainly contradicts Charlie Brown's main complaint, which is he has no friends. Yeah, Linus has always been his friend.
Jimmy and Harold: Yeah.
Michael: And plus the fact that in almost every strip, he's hanging out with somebody. I’d call that a friend-- somebody you hang out with every day.
Jimmy: Yeah. I mean, Charlie Brown does not see the forest for the trees when it comes to his life a lot of times. Which is true for all of us, I'm sure.
Michael: Yeah. And he has great friends. Look at, read the next one.
November 17. Schroeder is talking to Lucy. He says, “Why should I give you something for Beethoven's birthday? I don't even like you.” In panel two, Schroeder walks away and Charlie Brown enters the panel. In panel three, Lucy turns, sees Charlie Brown and says, “well, I don't like you either.” Then she leaves, and Charlie Brown is left alone. And he says, “I don't even know. what's going on.”
Michael: That's a punchline he's used a lot. It's a great one.
Jimmy: It is a great one. Going back to the thing that you were saying about, the Hallmark thing, too. Yeah. That is interesting. In that you could take those first two panels of the strip before and turn that into a Hallmark card. Right?
You wouldn't say disillusionment, because that would be a weird thing to give someone a Hallmark card for. I have a friend who's disillusioned. But what's the cure for being down in the dumps? Chocolate cream-- Yeah, I could definitely see that. Really interesting.
And then, this one, it’s just that's another one of these instances. It really only works if you know these characters. So it's the opposite of a greeting card, really.
December 5. Snoopy is asleep on the ground with a big Z over his head. Charlie Brown walks up and says, “Beagles on the grass, alas.” Then he walks away and Snoopy says, ”I ain't no stupid beagle.”
Jimmy: Now, I don't know who picks the strips we use, but I knew instantly that this had to be a Harold pick.
Michael: Oh, yeah.
Harold: And why is that?
Jimmy: Beagles on the grass, alas.
Michael: That's got to be a poem, isn't it?
Jimmy: Is it a reference to anything?
Michael: It has to be.
Jimmy: I just assumed that it--
Harold: It is my last Peanuts Obscurity explained for the year. Yes.
VO: Peanuts Obscurities Explained.
Harold: So this is from a poem by Gertrude Stein. It's very short. It's pigeons on the grass, alas. Pigeons on the grass, alas. Short, longer grass. Short, longer, shorter, yellow grass. Pigeons. Large. Pigeons on the shorter, longer, yellow grass. Alas. Pigeons on the grass.
Jimmy: Shout out to Gerty Stein. Gerty Stein. Liz Phair, Mort Saul. We got them all.
Harold: Yeah. Well, I think Virgil Thompson wrote music for this. It somehow became some part of some other it was performed musically as part of I think it was a Broadway show that was directed by John Houseman. Of all people.
Michael: There you go.
Harold: Paper Chase.
Michael: There's a musical connection.
Harold: Yeah. And, the fact that I'm assuming Schulz is somehow reading Gertrude Stein. We've heard that he has quite a library, and he's very well read. He's apparently watching Mort Saul on late night shows or whatever. And Gertrude Stein is yet another person, that he's obviously thinking about. And whether or not he thinks someone's going to understand he's referring to something, he's quite happy to include it in an unusual little strip.
Whenever he does strips like this, I feel like he's honoring somebody. Because the joke doesn't pay off in its own terms. Snoopy saying, I ain't no stupid beagle.
Michael: But he is a beagle, isn't he?
Jimmy Well, but that goes back to-- this is the crux of the Snoopy character arc. Snoopy might be a beagle, but he is not going to end up a beagle. You're the one that pointed that out. Right? He is angry about being thought of as a dog when he's younger in the strip. And, it's just going to keep going that way.
Harold: Yeah. Is he, offended by the alas? Is he interpreting the--
Jimmy: I don't think it’s that because he says stupid beagle.
Harold: Well, is he saying I ain't no stupid beagle? Or is he saying, I ain't no stupid beagle? Right? Because if Alas means that there's something negative about being a beagle, then he's saying, well, I'm not stupid, but I am a beagle.
Michael: He should have said, I ain't no stinking beagle. That would have been
Jimmy: stinking beagle. I don't know. You know what? I give up. I don't understand Peanuts.
Michael: Me neither. Let's stop right here.
December 13, Charlie Brown is out in his front yard contemplating a football that lies in the grass. He says, “that's odd.” In the second panel he says, “last night I left my football in the backyard, and this morning it's in the front yard. Very peculiar,” he says as he walks away. In the distance, we see Snoopy peeking out from behind a tree. In the last panel, Snoopy runs up to the ball and kicks it into the air, thinking to himself, “the Mad Punter strikes again.”
Harold: This is quite a long sequence. Does he come back to this? I remember this again so vividly from my childhood. I don't know if there was just like five or six, eight strips in a series and he was done, he never revisited it. But I remember this one very vividly. Again, as a kid in this world that you've got this dog who is doing these strange things and nobody can figure out, or Charlie Brown is the one who is obsessed with seeing these footballs being moved around with no particular explanation that there's some mystery. And Snoopy is having the joy of creating the mystery. It's just a really fun, vivid sequence that I love.
Michael: It's showing a transformation in Snoopy a little bit. Because up until this point, all this fantasizing is about being an animal. Except for I think-- it wasn't a Joe Cool reference, but it was like--
Jimmy: Yeah, hanging on the street corner.
Michael: Hanging on the street corner. And then getting into the 60s. It's more like people, the Flying Ace and all that. He’s not-- He's getting beyond, I want to be a different animal. He’s getting on to I want to be a human.
Jimmy: Right, exactly.
Harold: Yeah. He's enjoying outwitting the kids. Anyway, it's fun. For some reason this really strikes me as classic golden age Snoopy, where, he's affecting their world. He's not just dreaming something up. He's dreaming something up, creating a character, but then the kids are actually affected by what he's doing.
Jimmy: Absolutely. And that brings us to an end to 1960.
Listen, Michael had an idea that, we were going to add another quick segment here at the end of every year, which is the MVP Most Valuable Peanut. And leaving aside-- we won't do anything cutesy and conceptual and include Schulz, but of the actual pen and ink characters in Peanuts, guys, who do you think gets the call for Most Valuable Peanut 1960?
Michael: I would say Linus. I might say that every year, but I think it's a close one between Linus and Lucy. Notice out of the ones we pick, Linus is, I think, by far the most prevalent character.
Harold: Yeah, I have to give it to Linus as well. There's some really cool things with Snoopy that continue to develop, but, yeah, Linus is the one that really stands out for me.
Jimmy: I'm going to go with Snoopy just because I want to be different. And, there's some big stuff going on with Snoopy this year. yeah, I'm going to pick Snoopy as my Most Valuable Peanut.
Guys, if you're out there listening and you want to let us know who your most Valuable Peanut is for 1960, you can check us out on our social media, we’re @unpackpeanuts on both Instagram and Twitter. You can also log on to our website, unpackingpeanuts.com, and you can vote on Strip of the Year. You can find, transcripts from past episodes. You can catch up on past episodes. You could buy us a mud pie. these, shows don't edit themselves, so, if you could throw in 50, cents for a mud pie or a root beer, we'd much appreciate it.
Other than that, that just leaves, the last thing, which is, guys, what is your pick for Strip of the Year 1960?
Michael: Well, as much as I hate to agree with Harold, I'm going to have to agree with Harold on this and that's, The Clouds, The Ducky and the Horsey.
Jimmy: A classic. Harold, is that what you're going to say is your pick of the year?
Harold: Yes, I had said in the William Pepper one that maybe this was the best strip ever, from Peanuts. So I'm going to have to certainly choose it for this year.
And I'll just throw in one little last piece of trivia. I noticed in the very last panel here, this is for nothing. One thing that Charles Schulz on the lettering side did is he often would close the Gs where you draw the little loop. And then you bring it in against the inner side of the curve of the g. And he often would actually take it all the way until it hit the curve of the g. Which is generally a no no right in lettering, Comic lettering in the traditional sense. And he does do that in this strip.
When I was at the Columbus Peanuts, Charles Schulz exhibition that's going on right now at the Billy Ireland Museum, one thing I noticed on one of the originals that they had, which I thought was interesting. There was blue pencil above mid 1950s strip. And Schulz had done one of these Gs where he closes the gap between that straight line and it goes all the way into the curve. And you see a little blue pencil mark taking you down to that G. And then you see an exacto knife scraping away at the strip.
I'm thinking somebody at United Features, went in and messed with a Charles Schulz strip, and years later, they don't do it anymore. So I'm guessing he caught wind when he got his strips back and let them know that, you don't mess with, any lines I lay down here.
Jimmy: Well done, Charles Schulz. They shouldn't be messing with your work.
All right, I'm going to go ahead and pick March 20, which is “my sister is going to grow from a baby to a well adjusted child.” To which Linus replies, “like her brother,” just because that is one of the all time great zingers.
And I'm going to give just, since, you guys are both sharing, I'm going to do this. I'm going to pick two. I'm going to also do, how pompous can you get? Which is the library card. And the reason I'm going to do that is because, without you fine Librarians out there, I would not have a career.
Michael: Isn't it National Library week?
Jimmy: Well, not when we're releasing this, whenever that will be.
Michael: Well, in the moment. We're living in the moment.
Jimmy: Happy National Library Week wherever you are.
Harold: Every week is National Library Week.
Jimmy: Exactly. And regardless of what nation you're in.
All right, so, guys, this was 1960. As always, this is just an absolute thrill for me. I love hanging out with my pals, talking about my favorite thing in the world, which is cartooning, and my favorite cartooning in the world, which is Charles Schulz's cartooning on Peanuts.
We're going to be back next week with 1961, where things are going to continue to sing along at this super high level of fun and creativity. And I really hope, that you join us, because if you're not here, it just won't be the same. Until then, I'm Jimmy. For Michael and Harold, Be of Good Cheer.
Harold: Be of good cheer.
Michael: Yes, be of good cheer.
VO: Unpacking Peanuts is copyright Jimmy Gownley, Michael Cohen and Harold Buchholz. Produced and edited by Liz Sumner. Music by Michael Cohen. Additional voiceover by Aziza Shukralla Clark. For more from the show, follow UnpackPeanuts on Instagram and Twitter. For more about Jimmy, Michael and Harold, visit unpackingpeanutscom. Have a wonderful day and thanks for listening.