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1961 Part 2 - Lunchtime with the Little Red Haired Girl

Jimmy: Hey, everybody, welcome back to the show. It's Unpacking Peanuts. It's 1961. We had a lot to talk about last time, so we just got up until April. So we're going to have a ton of comic strips to get through today. And spoiler alert, they're all really good.

Hi, how are you doing? I'm Jimmy Gownley. You might know me from Amelia Rules. Or graphic novels. Like the dumbest idea ever. Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow up. Joining me, as always, are my pals, co hosts and fellow cartoonists.

He's a playwright, he's a composer, both for the band Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. He's the co creator of the original comic book Price Guide, the original editor for Amelia Rules, and he is the cartoonist behind such great comic books as Strange Attractors, Tangled River, and A, Gathering of Spells. It's Michael Cohen.

Michael: Hey there.

Jimmy: And he is the executive producer and writer of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a former vice president of Archie Comics, and the current creator of the Instagram strip, Sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz.

Harold: Hello

Jimmy: guys. 1961. It's a great year. I think we just got to get right to it.

Harold: Sure.

Jimmy: All right, we are picking up at

April 21. Lucy and Linus are walking outside. Linus is wearing a very strange cap. Lucy says, “did you fill out that paper for the school office?” Linus reaches in his pocket and says, “I have it right here.” Linus, continues “my mother's name, my father's name, our address, and our telephone number.” Lucy asks, “what did you put down under family physician?” Linus says, “well, I wasn't sure, so I put down Dr. Seuss.”

Michael: One thing about Schulz, he's not thinking about this is going to be read by how many years afterwards?

Jimmy: No. Or the next day.

Michael: Or the next day. Yeah. I think these newspaper cartoonists going to be read today. It's going to be in the garbage tomorrow. And so there must have been a thing going on about Civil War. It was the 100th anniversary. Linus is wearing a weird hat. Unless you were kind of fairly knowledgeable, you wouldn't recognize this as a Civil War hat. It's just a weird hat. But Schulz doesn't need to say anything about it.

Harold: How old were you when this strip came out?

Michael: Eleven years.

Harold: And do you have any memory of kids walking around wearing these Civil War hats?

Michael: No. We, were in coonskin caps.

Harold: At eleven. Put some buttons on it, turned into a jughead cap or something.

Jimmy: Well, I remember when kids were in-- because I grew up in Pennsylvania, which I know is ridiculous, but it happens. And people, go to Gettysburg, of course, and they sell those hats. They still sell those hats. And I remember every time a kid would go and they'd get to go tour the battlefield or whatever. They always come back with one of those hats, and they'd wear it the day they came back, and then you'd never see it again.

Harold: Yeah. From this strip, you would think it was as big a phenomenon as Davy Crockett, but yeah, I guess maybe it was just happening in his own backyard.

Jimmy: Well, that could be it. Maybe his kids. A lot of times you find this I think your kids are into something, so I assume everybody's kids are into it. And that's not always the case.

Harold: Yeah. I mean, the hula hoop caught on.

April 26, Linus and Lucy are sitting in an easy chair in their living room. Lucy says to Linus, “you can't drift along forever.” She continues, “you have to direct your thinking. For instance, you have to decide whether you're going to be a liberal or conservative.” She continues, as Linus listens in his classic thumb and blanket position. “You have to take some sort of stand. You have to associate yourself with some sort of cause.” Linus says, “are there any openings in the lunatic fringe?”

Michael: Well, if Linus is still around today, there's, plenty of openings in the lunatic fringe.

Jimmy: It's an open door policy, I think.

Harold: And it seems like, again, this is the year when I was thinking Schulz maybe is just reading a lot and conversing with people less. And so this strip kind of makes me think of that world where he's thinking of big ideas, but maybe he's not getting a chance to bounce it off of people. A lot.

Jimmy: Okay, that's very interesting, because Schulz does something that very few cartoonists are able to pull off. He ages out without becoming a crank. And it happens a lot. Walt Kelly becomes a crank. Al Capp becomes a crank. It goes on and on and on. Lots of cartoonists that are still alive today that I won't slander become cranks. Because, like you're saying, they're completely isolated. You read something, and everybody's-- especially if in the mood to be irritated, then everybody's irritating. Right. And you kind of have to be irritated a little bit to be trying to make humor every day.

Harold: Right.

Jimmy: At least that's one source of humor. So you're suggesting that maybe in these little instances here, that's the seeds of.

Harold: What could happen yeah, exactly. Ten years in, there could be a branch going off, one fork in the road that would be going in that direction. And he doesn't really do it.

Jimmy: No, he doesn't. That's much to his credit and much to his success. And it goes back to the temperament. He has the perfect temperament to make the most successful comic strip of all time.

Harold: Yeah. I'll say this, I think, just from what little I know. I think you can also credit Jeannie for that. I think the nature of his second wife, she's got an even keel to her, and a warmth to her. That has to be a bastion for somebody who is digging deep every time he's working on a strip, trying to get somewhere and have someone to come back to every day who's got that level of warmth and, support for you. That's got to help.

Jimmy: Absolutely.

April 30. Lucy has set up shop at the psychiatric stand. Charlie Brown looks defeated as he approaches it. He sits down in the patient's chair and says, “and so I can't help it. I feel lonely, depressed.” Lucy says, “this is ridiculous. You should be ashamed of yourself. Charlie Brown.” Charlie Brown is really taking these words to heart. Lucy actually stands out from behind the booth and is ranting at Charlie Brown. “You've got the whole world to live in. There's beauty all around you. There are things to do, great things to be accomplished.” She continues, “no man trods this earth alone. We are all together, one generation taking up where the other generation has left off.”Charlie Brown is galvanized. He says. “You're right, Lucy. You're right. You've made me see things differently.” He continues,” I realize now that I am part of this world. I am not, alone. I have friends.” Lucy says, “Name one.”

Jimmy: She is torn between the desire to create and the desire to describe.

Michael: I can't see it really well from this on the screen here, but this moment of confidence in the second to last panel is his mouth kind of shaky?

Jimmy: Yes.

Michael: So he's trying to be confident.

Harold: He's kind of the wishy washy version.

Jimmy: Yes. I mean, the most minimal change to a cartoon expression that you can imagine. And he conveys a really subtle emotion.

Harold: He looks vulnerable.

Jimmy: Yeah. He's daring to risk this optimism, which, of course, Lucy takes full advantage of.

Harold: Yeah. And once again, Charlie Brown becomes very sympathetic based on how he's relating with these other characters.

Jimmy: Yeah. Lucy needs-- she has a way to, go if she's going to be a good therapist, but you got to start somewhere.

May 2. Snoopy is sitting up on top of his doghouse, looking at the stars. He thinks to himself, “I am always impressed by the constancy of the stars. It gives me a feeling of security to look up and know that the star I see will always be there and will--” Suddenly, of course, a star falls from the sky. In the last panel, Snoopy is lying on his stomach on top of the dog house, looking absolutely forlorn.

Harold: That is, again, a perfect drawing of the feelings that Snoopy must be feeling based on how he's just been utterly destroyed by the aligning of his thoughts with the reality of what he's just seeing. It's remarkable. And again, this kind of feels like 1961 to me, where there's just this little sense of unease in Schulz and in politics. This is the year of, I think or is it the year following? No, it's the year of-- when did the Bay of Pigs happen?

Jimmy: ‘61, I think, because I think the Cuban missile crisis is…

Michael: I get ‘em mixed up

Harold: That's where we are right now on an international scale. Someone's thinking the big thoughts. You're very concerned. You have two superpowers spying at each other as a cold war raging, and you're just not quite sure what's going to happen next. And this strip kind of embodies that in a way that I don't think any other artist or cartoonist was able to embody so succinctly and so effectively where people are at this time.

Jimmy: Yeah. Now, he couldn't have been referencing either of those things specifically because I looked it up. The Bay of Pigs is April, right?

Harold: But the general feeling-- I don't know. When did Khrushchev visit the United States? And…

Jimmy: it was a Tuesday.

Harold: Okay. And the banging of the shoe. But it's there. This is where the culture is right now. Kennedy came into some really heavy duty stuff, and I don't know if Russia, with the new presidency, was starting to be a little more aggressive, kind of kicking the shoes of Kennedy, I don't know. But that's the feeling I get for this year.

Jimmy: I may have mentioned once or twice that I sometimes get a little depressed. One thing that always cheers me up, have you ever seen the Hubble space photographs where two galaxies are actually colliding into each other?

Harold: No.

Jimmy: Have you ever seen these? They're spectacular. It's gigantic. Galaxies clashing into each other, destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of planets must be destroyed every second. And I think, well, those are real problems. So Snoopy should look at this and go, hey, at least you're not on the site. Whatever that meteor was or whatever.

Harold: I thought you were going to go, that's pretty admirable to wind up there.

May 16. Frieda is back, and she's talking to Charlie Brown, who yells a cat. Frieda says, “sure, why not?” Freida continues, “I asked my mother if she'd buy me one, and she said she would.” Charlie Brown looks stricken by this and says, “but what about Snoopy? What will he do when he hears about this?” Suddenly we see Snoopy, a giant ball of black ink in a word balloon, hovers over his head. He looks absolutely devastated. Frieda says “he knows all about it.”

Michael: And I just looked at this and went, wait, I've seen that Snoopy picture recently. And then I just compared it to the Lucy thing where she's walking around with a big black blob after she's in. Frieda, he knows how to get, like, the depths of emotion.

Jimmy: I would like to know the idea of conveying sort of emotional despair and confusion with scribbled lines above a character's head, as Schulz didn't invent. But I wonder who did. I wonder how far back that goes. It is such an abstraction, and I'm sure it's not in every culture. I'm sure this is like an American comics thing. I use this all the time, and actually, fairly recently, a younger editor asked me, what is this?

Harold: That makes me nervous when an editor is like, what is this thing that's been a part of comics forever?

Jimmy: Oh, well, then if you should have my life, you would live in a state of existential terror every second. You know, DC Comics literally banned thought balloons for a decade. Or it actually might still be

Harold: that breaks my heart.

Jimmy: Yeah, it's idiotic. This episode of Unpacking, it's brought To you by Marvel Comics.

Harold: We think.

Jimmy: Oh, wow. That's, a great slogan.

Michael: So this is Frieda. This is actually another facet of Frieda's personality because this is part of the ongoing strip. She's out to shake up Snoopy because he's too self satisfied. She wants him to go out and chase rabbits, and he wants to lie on top of his doghouse. So she's purposely getting a cat just to screw with him.

Jimmy: Well, see, do you think, okay. I don't think so. I think she's getting a cat. And I think it's the same as the piano thing. Here's my take on it. And I could be wrong, because you can read these both ways. Frieda wanted to lean on the piano, and Frieda does not care if Lucy does, doesn’t want. Is there? Isn't there? Freda does what Frieda wants to do. Frieda is getting a cat because Frieda wants to get a cat. If Snoopy doesn't like it, well, Snoopy can pound sand. And I have to say I sort of admire that-- as a person who often is like, is everything okay? Are you guys okay? Or blowing up at people. I think Frieda has a really nice, even keel. This is what I'm doing. Live with it, don't live with it. Well, later, I think she becomes that.

Harold: I think you may have missed a strip. On May 18, they actually addressed this directly. Charlie Brown is asking, why are you stirring trouble? And she says, because it has to be done. Snoopy has had it too good around here for too long a time. He has to be stopped. Somebody has to put him in his place. So she show her hand.

Jimmy: I still stand by it as far as the piano, anyway.

Harold: Yeah, I do too.

May 28. Linus is singing what I believe is an old Civil War song. So something's going on in the Schulz household. I don't know the melody, so I'm just going to read it, “just before the battle. Mother, I am thinking of you tonight.” Picture it could be a Dylan song, actually. Suddenly, Lucy is annoyed by the singing and screams at Linus. “Can't you ever be quiet?” She continues. “You're the noisiest person who ever lived.” She's ranting. “Now, if you're not singing, you're knocking things over or running through the house like you're crazy.” Then Linus has apparently turned the television on, and she yells at him, and “turn that stupid TV down.” Linus sighs to himself and walks out to the kitchen, where he approaches a beautifully minimally drawn bread box. In the next panel, we see him, and he has some butter, a, butter knife and some bread. Lucy asks him, “what are you doing now?” Linus says, “Making myself a bread and butter sandwich.” Lucy watches for a moment as he does this. Then Linus says to Lucy, “am I buttering too loud for you?”

Michael: He's getting really good at the snide sarcasm thing.

Jimmy: Schulz very rarely would say he got an idea or something from his children. This is a direct quote.

Harold: one of his kids, this was Amy. Yeah, Amy actually did say this to the kids after she'd gotten in trouble multiple times for being noisy, I think, at the table or something.

Jimmy: Right.

Harold: And I think it's great, because as a little kid, one of those strips I just remember so well, and I so identified with Linus. Ad again, going back to them, how smart is he being, and how is he mixing this weird-- It's so apt what he's saying and how much jerkiness is in it is up to you to decide, because--

Jimmy: Yeah. The way I read it is, Linus is a genius of sarcasm that he moves it to the level of utter sincerity, and by being utterly sincere, it makes it that much more biased.

Harold: Yeah. It's like he doesn't take anything away from having a nasty attitude necessarily. He's just pointing out her absurdity.

Jimmy: If she said yes, he'd be like, oh, I will endeavor to butter softer. And that would just infuriate her more.

Harold: Dearest of all sisters, without whom I would never survive.

Jimmy: This dear sister, greatest of all sisters, without whom I would never survive. All right.

May 31. Charlie Brown and Sally are talking. Charlie Brown is very upset about something. He says,” no, that's not right.” He continues as he admonishes Sally, who looks upset by it. He says, “if you're going to learn to count Sally, you're going to have to pay attention.” Charlie Brown sits in front of Sally, opens up a book, and is showing it to her. She looks at it intently as he says ,”here's a picture with some boats in it.”Now tell me how many boats you see.” Sally says “all of them.”

Harold: There's not a lot of Sally this year.

Michael: Yeah, very little Sally. But is she frustrating him, or that's a good answer, but is she doing it to annoy him?

Jimmy: Again, we don't know. There's no indication. She looks really neutral in her expression, but she's happy. She has the exclamation point.

Harold: I don't know. It's impossible. If I were reading into it, I would think she's a little kid. She's obviously taking to heart what he's saying or seems to be taking to heart what he's saying and being chastised in the second panel. And I think she's just being Sally. And this is, I think, a piece of Sally that we haven't really seen a whole lot of yet where she has her own way, of seeing the world, which makes total sense to her. And she fine with the fact that she sees things differently than others.

Jimmy: And this causes her in the future to struggle with school.

Harold: Right. Which is adorable. It is adorable. That last picture of her is just a really sweet little picture of a more grown up Sally than what we saw when she was a baby a couple of years ago. And this strip makes me laugh. Sure, Charlie Brown is trying to do the right thing with her, and she's engaging with him, and, she's saying something that is logical and it's not what he was looking for.

June 4. Lucy scowling, sits at the psychiatric standard. It's still $0.05, but now the sign reads The Doctor Is In. Linus walks up. He sits down on the stool for patients, and Lucy asks, “what in the world are you doing here?” Linus says, “I'm in sad shape. My life is full of fear and anxiety. The only thing that keeps me going is this blanket. I need help.” Lucy again walks out from behind the booth and talks to Linus directly. “Well, as they say on TV, the mere fact that you realize you need help indicates that you are not too far gone.” She continues, “I think we had better try to pinpoint your fears. If we can find out what it is you're afraid of, we can label it. Are you afraid of responsibility? If you are, then you have hypengyophobia.” “I don't think that's quite it”, says Linus. Lucy continues “how about cats? If you're afraid, of cats, you have ailurophobia.” Linus answers, “well, sort of, but I'm not sure.” Lucy continues, “Are you afraid of staircases? If you are, then you have climacophobia. Maybe you have Thilassophobia. This is a fear of the ocean or gephyrophobia, which is a fear of crossing bridges. Or maybe you have Pantophobia. Do you think you might have Pantophobia?” “ What's Pantophobia?” “The fear of everything” Linus yells, “that's it!”

Harold: We couldn't have asked you a harder strip to read this year.

Jimmy: Yeah, it's brutal, famous, obviously. Adapted, for the Christmas special,

Harold: But with Charlie.Brown replacing Linus. Interestingly.

Jimmy: Now that's an interesting yeah, that's another key to the success. Obviously, as you stated in, our last episode talking about the financial success, is that so much of it comes from things other than the strip. Probably foremost is the television specials, or at least way up there is television specials. And he is able to cherry pick all the gags from 15 years of Peanuts to put into that first special. But he's not precious about it. He'll switch it around a little bit. He'll change the word. All the Charlie Browns in the world. You're the Charlie Browniest was a change he made changing this from Linus to Charlie Brown. I think that's a positive change. But it calls into question our Shermy.

Harold: That's what I was just thinking. You're right.

Jimmy: Yeah, right.

Harold: Schulz, by himself, negates the strip as passing the Shermy test by moving it from one character to another.

Jimmy: Right. Interesting.

June 13. Linus is reading the newspaper as Lucy plays with a yoyo in the background. Probably one of those Peanuts branded yoyos you've heard so much about. And Linus says, “I never realized the world was in such sad shape.” He talks to Lucy, who is still playing with the yoyo. “Look at this newspaper. Look at what's happening. I never realized that such things went on today.” “ What are you reading? The front page?” asked Lucy. Linus says, “no, the movie ads.”

Harold: The reason I picked this is I just went to the Columbus Moving Picture Show, which was a festival of 16 millimeter film aficionados. And they had gigantic rooms of memorabilia. And one of the things I picked up were these Motion Picture Herald magazines from this very year. And in multiple issues in this magazine, they were talking about how the movies we had for about 25 plus years, this Hays code, which was essentially a self-censoring body within the movie industry that set very strict rules of what you could and couldn't do in films. Well, as television comes along, there's more competition for people's eyeballs. And the guys running the theaters are like, well, we need to get people in somehow.

And one of the things that really became popular right at this time were foreign films. A lot of French films and Scandinavian films that were pretty racy. And the growth of the art house theater as the movie theaters had to be divested by the owners of the studios starting in the late forties. And so now there are a lot of independent films show-ers, and they're like, well, we're going to show whatever is going to make us stand out. And so they were getting stuff that was much racier than the American public had seen since like for example.

Jimmy: Summer with Monica was a big one. And be prepared to be scandalized. You see a butt for about two and a half seconds. Pretty intense.

Harold: Yeah. So this is the thing. And again, this also plays into that whole idea that Schulz is reading a lot of stuff at this time and he's probably mulling over these things just like Linus is.

Jimmy: And you get to the point though, seriously, just with age in general, where you're like, I would not watch one of these movies or whatever they are, if my life depended on it. But it's just where the culture is at.

June 25, Snoopy is sitting on top of a rock and he's looking into the sky and he thinks to himself, “that's the life for me. All they have to do is flap their wings.” He continues looking up into the sky. He says,”I admire birds. They look so beautiful sailing around through the air.” Now we see Snoopy desperately trying to flap his ears as if they’re wings. He does, for a split second, terrifying himself and then going back to the rock where he's relieved. Then he yells at the birds. “Stupid birds.”

Michael: Okay, this is too far for me. He's gone too far. Now, not as bad as the helicopter, but I don't like this.

Jimmy: Now, how is this different than a plant growing 4ft in one panel?

Michael: It's a dog flying with his ears.

Jimmy: Right. But neither of those things can happen.

Michael: Plants can grow.

Harold: Sure.

Michael: Maybe not. That's an exaggeration. This is a departure from the established physics of Peanuts.

Jimmy: It's absolutely not. You just mentioned, by the way yeah. There was another strip where he did this.

Harold: If I had one objection, it would be that he was a whirly dog a year or so ago and he can’t fly now. That, would be my problem.

Jimmy: That's my objection, 100%

Harold: Not that he’s flying at all.

Jimmy: Right. He flies. Snoopy can break gravity, and it's not a side thing. Snoopy is trying desperately not to be a comic strip character. That's my thesis on Snoopy. And he is working for 50 years to break it, and sometimes, lots of times, he's going to fly. And that weirdness, though, is baked in from, like, the third strip, I think, now. The dog house, right. The thousands of people going in the dog house.

Michael: Yeah, but you're not seeing it. I think it should be-- well, here am I telling Schulz what to do.

Jimmy: No, but you're from your viewpoint, that's ___ fair.

Michael: Yeah, I could see him imagining this, but I think if they actually showed the inside of the dog house with 50 people in there and a pool table.

Jimmy: well, yes, but they are going in there. I guess I don't see the difference.

Michael: But you're seeing it, so you got to deal with the fact. Is he really flying?

Jimmy: Yes.

Michael: That means he can fly with his ears or helicopter with his ears. And then that changes the Peanuts-verse in a little way.

Harold: I mean, the Peanuts-verse is constantly changing, Michael. There's something unique about it. There's something specifically, it's breaking the laws of an ordinary world. Right. And this is, I think, goes back to when Jimmy was talking about the idea that Schulz is inserting himself in the strip, in essence, by allowing miracles to happen or performing a miracle, you could say, in some way, Schulz, because the idea of a miracle is something that normally doesn't happen based on natural law. Right. And then it happens, and Schulz is putting these things in there, and they do stand out when it happens. That's just a bridge too far for you. That's not the world of Peanuts that you've accepted.

Michael: I really can't describe it, but I feel when I read this, I kind of wish this didn't exist. I mean, Superman can fly by just by standing there and flying. That makes no sense.

Jimmy: Well, it makes no sense that they have Christmas every year and don't age.

Michael: Yeah, I know. I understand. People do these things.

Jimmy: No, but that is the point. But it's not just a comic strip. The point is that it's a comic strip, and Snoopy intuits that it's a comic strip. He can do different things because he is on the verge of knowing he's an ink drawing. There's three characters that are on the verge of knowing. They're an ink draw Schroeder, Snoopy, and Linus. And I think they're all the ones that get closest to an artist.

Michael: I like your theory, but for some reason, to me, Peanuts, because-- (I'm from New York) because it’s aimed, at adults. That yeah. You see this in a Looney Tunes you expect it. If Bugs Bunny did it, I'd say okay. That's making the kids laugh, because it's funny. But I think Schulz has established the strip as something beyond just making people laugh. Doing anything to make people laugh.

Jimmy: Yeah, I agree. But I don't think that's what this is. I think this is another example of Snoopy trying to break the bounds of being a cartoon character.

Michael: What I can't quite see it that way, but I won’t argue it further.

Jimmy: That’s fine. You don’t have to.

Michael All right. Good. I'm right. You’re wrong.

July 2. Linus is seen drawing on some pieces of paper with some crayons, he says. “A little blue in the sky and a little orange for good flesh tones.”

Michael: Politically incorrect, for sure.

“Sometimes there is no doubt in my mind that I am a true artist.” Then Linus sees Lucy, who is putting something in the waste paper basket. Linus goes over to inspect it. “What's this?” He says. He pulls something out of the basket and been all crumpled. Linus says, “hey, this was one of my best drawings. You mushed it all up.” He's outraged. Lucy doesn't seem to care. She says, “well, you shouldn't have left it lying around.” Linus continues after her thing, “but you didn't have to mush it up.” Lucy says, “When Mom tells me to clean house, I clean house. Everything goes.” Linus is now kneeling amid the crumpled ruins of his art. He says, “here's another one of my drawings. Good grief. Don't you realize that these drawings of mine are art?” Then Linus, face to face with Lucy, points his finger to the sky and “yells, great art should never be mushed up.”

Harold: Well, I have memories of this as a kid. I totally related to Linus here. And, this is also the first. Is this the first appearance of the dreaded incinerator in the backyard of the Van Pelt home?

Jimmy: I don't know if it's the first appearance, but it always amazes me. Like we saw with the bottle warmer, like we saw with the bread box. Now with an incinerator. He has these unbelievable minimal drawings that if you're familiar with the thing is, you'll recognize it instantly.

Jimmy: I don’t know how many people are familiar with incinerators these days.

Michael: His language is really so good because when describing this strip, you use the word crumbled all the time. Crumbled is not funny. Mushed up is funny. So if the, final balloon was great art should never be crumbled-- that’s not funny.

Jimmy: No, not me. No. But what's strange is that with the rule being the hard K sound is usually funny. You would think crumbled would be funny. By the way, I have to think about how I'm going to do these things before we do it. I had to think of another word because I couldn't say much because then it would conflict with what Linus is doing. That's just the kind of prep work that goes into my part.

Harold: That's just the kind of guy you are.

Jimmy: You guys think maybe it's possible I'm just listening to other people's podcasts for the other six days a week, but no. No.

Michael: Okay.

July 23. It's a baseball game. Shermy says “it's a high fly ball.” Charlie Brown says “it's going right to Lucy.” Linus says, “if she catches it, we win the game.” Charlie Brown says, “catch it, Lucy. Please catch it. Please, please.” We then see Lucy standing oblivious in right field. The ball lands right next to her. Bonk. Charlie Brown screams to the heavens “AAUGH,” throws his mitt down and takes his hat off, yelling, “I can't stand it.” Then he goes back out in the outfield to yell at Lucy. “What kind of an outfielder are you? That ball only missed you by a foot. Can't you see? What were you thinking about? What's wrong with you?” Through all of this, Lucy remains unmoved. Charlie Brown is still ranting. “You're getting worse all the time. What do you want them to do? Come out here and hand you the ball? What in the world made you miss that one?” Lucy says, “I was having my quiet time.”

Michael: Keep in mind these are boomers. And Lucy here is not the me decade, but she is definitely getting there. Where your own personal space is the most important thing in the world, and you have to control it.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Harold: yeah. And the term quiet time, I know, again, came to have some religious connotation. I don't know if it was the case in 1961 that was like a buzzword in evangelical church circles that you have your quiet time, with the Lord, and that might be reading the Bible or praying or whatever. And, I did go in and check that whatever that word thing is that shows when words are used more. And quiet time, as a term, is just starting to jump a little bit around this era. And then it drops it a little and then skyrockets in later years.

Jimmy: Well, I'm pro quiet time, so I'm on Lucy's side.

Harold: And Charlie Brown's really, really upset with, Lucy in this strip. And the obliviousness of Lucy, when everything matters to Charlie Brown. He's just hoping she's going to catch that. Got his eyes closed. Just catch a catch. A catch. And it's so funny to see that classic drawing of Lucy looking in the middle of nowhere and the ball landing right next to her. It's just classic. Schulz, great stuff.

Is this a good time for the anger index?

Jimmy: Let's do it.

Harold: All right. Okay, so 1961, as we've been doing every year for the past many years, we look at the number, of strips that show at least one character in one panel showing anger. And how many strips in the year have at least one character in the strip showing some form of happiness. And we're kind of contrasting the two, and seeing what the trends are. So how does this year feel to you guys? Does this feel like an angry…?

Michael: Feels like a 90 to me.

Jimmy: This is the first time I actually have a real opinion on this. I don't know how many there were last year, but it's way up this year.

Michael: Really, you think so?

Jimmy: I think it's 15% higher. 15% angrier.

Harold: Okay.

Jimmy: But with fewer calories, so it's trade off.

Harold: So do you have any thoughts on it, Michael? You think it's pretty even keel for the year?

Michael: I would have thought a little--I mean, there's fear, there's anger, there's despair. We have a variety of negative emotions.

Harold: Yeah. So this year, last year was 116 angry strips. 32% of the strips, about a third of them. This year, there's ten more. So it's more 35% for anger.

Happiness was beating anger pretty handily last year, 135 to 116, 37%. This year, it was only one more strip, 127 to 126, with also 35%. So little more anger, a little less happiness is more evened out in 1961.

Michael: I like to have a balanced year.

Jimmy: I also think, though, the anger is, when it appears this year, is more pronounced, I think it's back to…

Harold: I think it's more varied. When I was looking at and counting through them, I was surprised all the different versions of them. When I count this again, Jimmy, if you counted this. Michael, if you counted it. Liz, if you counted this, we'd all come up with a different number, because anger is in the eye of the beholder. And you see that little line going down over an eye. Is that determination? Is that conviction? Is that anger? The one constant is that I'm the one counting these.

But it seems like Schulz is finding more sophisticated ways to deal with anger. That's what I got when I was going through these. The variety of anger. Jimmy is, I think, probably the most he's ever gotten, because he's getting more subtle, he's getting more and there are definitely moments like this with Charlie Brown. He's, like, screaming, screaming at Lucy.

Michael: I don't see Snoopy as angry as he was when he was running around, knocking everybody over.

Harold: Yeah, I think it's okay. I think it's trading. Yeah. The characters are shifting and moving around. It's not staying in place for sure. He's, doing it in different ways.

Jimmy: Snoopy is moving into his own world, so he has, less to be anxious or angry about because he's controlling his own destiny more.

Harold: That's true.

July 24, Baseball time. Charlie Brown is speaking with Schroeder. Charlie Brown says “you're what?” Schroeder says, “I'm going home to play the piano.” Charlie Brown says “you're what? Schroeder takes, off all of his catchers gear and says, “I've decided that I'm more interested in Beethoven than baseball.” Charlie Brown says “you're what?” As Linus comes up to witness what's going on, Schroder says, “So I'm going to give up baseball and go home and play my, piano.” Charlie Brown says YOU’RE WHAT?! Linus says, “Why do you keep saying the same thing over and over Charlie Brown?”

Michael: Schulz is so good at this word play and lettering play.

Harold: What stands out for you here Michael, in the word play.

Michael: Well, I mean, he's getting more and more emphatic, but basically that sums it up, right? What else could you say?

Jimmy: yeah, I love that. To describe what happens. You’re what is the same thing repeated three times. First time, though, it's just lettered, as if it's standard dialogue, because it is. Then only what is emphasized. That's the only difference. In the next panel, you're and what are both emphasized, and they're both larger than the last one. All the words are emphasized. It's larger still. And now there's an exclamation point at the end and it makes a really nice looking strip because that's another thing I think we don't talk about very much. But he composes panels so beautifully. There's no other place you would want any of these characters to be, ever. It's just so nice.

Michael: That's something they cannot teach in art school.

Jimmy: I don't think you can. No. No. You either got it or you don't.

Michael: Yep

August 6. Snoopy, completely logically, realistically, and no questions about it, is perched on top of a tree, bent over at an absurd angle, mimicking a vulture. No reality is being harmed in this. Linus is underneath it, playing with the toy truck in the sand. He senses something. He looks up. It's Snoopy, the vulture on top of the tree. Linus walks back into the house. He finds Lucy and says, “I suppose if I told you there's a vulture outside that's bothering me, you'd say I was crazy, wouldn't you?” “Yes, I would,” says Lucy. Without even turning away from the TV, Linus goes back out, where he sees Snoopy still perched in the tree as the vulture. Linus shakes the heck out of the tree. Snoopy hangs on, but is visibly, literally shaking. Then Linus goes back inside, and Lucy says to him, “what happened to your vulture?” Linus says, “he's not bothering me anymore. He got tree sick.”

Michael: The Vulture is, I think, Snoopy's greatest performance. I always enjoy it.

Harold: And talking about Schulz, how he does panels, there's so many subtle things going on here in the strip. When Linus is walking away from the tree to go talk to Lucy, we see the grass beneath him and behind him, and you see the edge of the house that he's about to go into. Just suggest he's moving toward the house. Then when he talks to Lucy and she basically is saying, yes, I'd agree. You're crazy. The second panel, Linus going back, only has the ground beneath him, and there's no other background there. And he's smaller in the panel, like he's all alone. I mean, this is really subtle stuff.

Jimmy: But, his ability to compose these panels yeah. How much of that do you think is conscious? How much of is him just vibing while he's drawing?

Harold: He must be thinking some of this stuff through. I get the sense he was the kind of a student of this sort of thing. And being an art instruction school, not only student, but teacher, I think he had to think about what made something work and not work. And I think he had that ingrained into himself because he was constantly teaching others how to get an idea across.

Jimmy: Yeah. He is the master of that. And I think at the time when realistically drawn strips were still pretty much a rage-- Rip Kirby, Mary Worth, whatever Heart of Julia Jones, I don't know that they would 100% be able to see the subtlety and the sophistication of his staging and how it's related to the drawing and the part that plays in putting his stories over to the people.

Harold: Yeah. And one thing, I don't know if this is just the reproduction of this strip. It's reasonably well reproduced, but in the last panel, the famous little parentheses around Linus's eyes are gone. Is that because the lines didn't reproduce?

Jimmy: I think it has to be a reproduction issue. Maybe he inked it and it was pencil or whatever. But, yeah, no, it looks completely wrong. And no, I don't think he would make that. Let me put it this way. It's a mistake. Somehow. I don't think it's an intentional okay thing.

The other thing I just wanted to point out, he's doing this thing where he's changing locations on a Sunday strip again and again, which I think is pretty cool. A lot of them are obviously one location. One set up, the one with the cow where he goes to the movies, and stuff. And then this where he's going inside and outside. It's really a neat way to do a Sunday page and make it feel like it's bigger than it actually is.

August 13. Charlie Brown is walking away from the psychiatry booth. He says to himself, “Somehow I feel worse now than before I came.” Lucy placidly sits behind the desk saying, “Next case. Come on, step right up. Don't be bashful.” Linus steps up. He says, “I have a problem, but I'm not sure you can help me.” He continues, “Wouldn't it be difficult for you to treat someone in your own family?” Lucy looks annoyed at the very thought. “Nonsense. I have learned to be completely objective.” She continues, “once I take my position at this desk, I leave all my personal prejudices behind me.” Linus says, “that's very commendable.” Lucy says to him, “now you just sit right there and tell me what your trouble is. Don't be afraid to pour out your heart.” Lucy goes back behind the booth and is listening intently as Linus says, “well, most of the time I'm a pretty happy person. I mean, I'm usually quite content. My only problem is the sister of mine who--” Lucy reaches right out from behind the booth and punches Linus straight in the face.

Michael: I don't know what to say.

Harold: That's great.

August 21. Linus is standing in front of a TV. He looks pretty excited. He's talking to the TV, saying, “Speak up. Tell him. Refute his arguments.” Linus raises his hands to the sky and says, “show him where he's wrong. Use quotations from Rattner, Olsen and Letness. Now use sarcasm. That's it.” Linus is now ranting. “Now you've got him. Use more sarcasm. That's the way. Now you've really got him.” The last panel, Linus is lying, flattened his back in front of the TV. He looks drained and weakly says, “these panel discussions on art wear me out.”

Michael: I can't think of anyone except Schulz would come up with something like this. Totally understandable what it is, even if you've never seen one of these intellectual panel discussions.

Jimmy: Right? Yeah.

Michael: I mean, to root for somebody like it's a wrestling match.

Jimmy: It's just so funny.

Harold: And this does go to the argument that Linus may be a little more aware of his sarcasm than he sometimes lets on.

Jimmy: Oh, for sure. Because he's calling it out as a tactic here.

I picture Schulz having had this type of discussion on a daily basis with his art instruction pals. This is now an example of the isolation you're talking about a little bit, Harold. Right. So that he has to get his kicks out by just watching them on TV and yelling.

Harold: Yes. And I did try to see if I could find a connection for Rattner Olsen and Letness. Olsen is absolutely a Minnesota name, but I could not find the connection.

Jimmy: Rattner Olsen and Letness-- they'll also take care of your DUIs if you get…. Rattner Olsen and Letness

Harold: Let Letness do it

Michael: There were these late night because the budget was zero, basically, late night TV would have a desk and three local people arguing.

Jimmy: Right.

Harold: Sometimes a potted plant in the back. Yeah.

Michael: Just to fill up an hour. So I'm guessing these are local art critics or something.

Jimmy: And you just know they're smoking. You can see all the smoke.

Harold: Wrong.

Jimmy: You know, Gaugain, like I know Pizzaro.

Harold: It's all El Greco to me.

August 30. Violet is being Violet to Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown looks pretty upset by this. Violet says, “So there smarty. Nyah nyah nyah.” Violet sticks her tongue out at Charlie Brown. Then she walks away looking calm and aloof. Charlie Brown looks very upset. Then he holds his stomach and says to us, “those nyah's get down into your stomach, and then they just lay there and burn.”

Michael: I wonder if you were looking at a translation of this into other languages. If the nyahs would translate.

Harold: Every language.

Michael: What would they say? They've got to have a word.

Jimmy: Oh, yeah, of course. Yeah. No, it's, just a sound effect onomatopeia No, I guess it doesn't technically qualify.

Michael: It's not any of those.

Jimmy: Yes. No, you're right. It's just a nonsense word, really. Yeah. I'm sure there's nonsense words that indicate that sort of teasing, taunting, mockery in every language. There's a book for you. Just get the nyahs in every language.

Michael: I'm interested now, but maybe it's an anagram. No, you are a

Jimmy: hyena

Jimmy: I'm don't think it's an anagram.

Harold: That is so well written. That last line that those nyahs get down into your stomach and then they just lay there and burn. That is so well said. And again, seems to be pulling us into this place where somebody is on the receiving end of cruelty. Again, old comics usually would make fun of the person who's causing the trouble for somebody else, and here he's siding with the person and the troubles being made, and you're asked to empathize with them. And I really appreciate that in Schulz. And I think it's that quiet kind of sit with the loser for a little bit that makes the strip so special.

Michael: Is it possible that Schulz had, like, an ulcer dealing with their editors? Because Charlie Brown manifests everything in his stomach?

Jimmy: Yeah, that's very true. Could be to what you were saying, Harold. It's almost like, what would be the climax of a normal strip, or a normal storytelling scenario is actually the first panel we come into. Whatever. This scene is super late, after basically Violet has delivered the coup de gras, and we just hear her taunting him at the end. Then the whole strip is aftermath. And that's not something that gets done a lot in comics that I could think of.

Harold: Yeah, as a kid reading this, I remember this strip. I think it's in a special as well. So it's been magnified from the strip itself. But, it's asking you it's inviting you into somebody who's hurting. And as an artist, that was very much what Schulz was trying to do. I mean, he did say to Lee Mendelson, I think Lee said toward the last weeks of his life, he was reflecting on the strip. And he said, when I was thinking what Peanuts was all about, I ultimately decided it was a strip about bullying especially given what I know of the later years, where it wasn't always about that. You know more about that than I do, Jimmy. But that was something that was very near and dear to his heart. And you don't think of it as moralizing or anything.

He's just taking you within the strip to a certain character and asking you to be in their shoes. And that's usually not the character who you would be identifying with and kind of sitting with. Right. You might have a brief moment of empathy for a character, but we're hanging out with Charlie Brown in this space of pain, and that is unique, I think.

Jimmy: Well, this brings up a cartooning point. And like I said, I've tried, and actually, Michael, will be talking about the Peanuts cast and where they rank, and this sort of ties in with that as well. But I've sort of been, thinking, about all the secret sauce, what it is that makes Peanuts Peanuts. And in some ways, why the later decades do feel different. And one of them seems prosaic, but it's huge. He had to do this in four panels. okay. In 1990, if he has this idea, he does not have to have the two middle panels, because he can arrange the panels any way he wants. Right. And it's more economical, and it's much less drawing to do this in two panels. Right. Or at the most, three, maybe. Violet walks away, and you cut out to Charlie Brown just looking after her panel. But having the four panels, like you say, you sit with Charlie Brown for three quarters of this strip by himself, contemplating it, and that little regular beat of those four panels just really works well. And he's mastered it by this point.

Harold: Yeah, he knows exactly how to use those four panels. You're right. It could have been a two panel. But you get the feeling that he would have still done a four panel if he had the choice at this stage.

Jimmy: But I don't think he would have later.

Harold: Well, that'll be interesting to take a look at that maybe way down the line, we can remember that and bring that up again and say, you know, I think this would have benefited from another panel.

Jimmy: When it happens, I think it's 1984, when the switch happens. I definitely want to take some time and just talk about it in the context of that first year, because it's amazing how big an impact that regular four panel rhythm has on the strip.

The other thing I want to say about bullying and later years not being about bullying, because the other thing I've been thinking about, how would you do this? You have to have these different types of creativity, kind of percolating, all at the same time. You have to have the one that's, like, go and always constantly pushing things forward.

Jimmy: But then you also have to be able to have, like Michael describes in the I think in the 1960 episode it's this cruising altitude. Like maybe you're not introducing a lot of new stuff. Or maybe you're not exploring some of the extremes. But as it goes on. You don't have to.

Because Charlie Brown brings with him all of this previous insults. Every strip about Charlie Brown in the later years. You carry with you all of the stuff you know about Charlie Brown. All of his failures. All of them not received Valentine's. All that sort of stuff. But it's almost implicit you don't even have to go into it in the strip.

Harold: That's interesting. Yeah.

Jimmy: And I think that's the same way with the bullying.

Harold: And again, I wonder if, like, somebody who was introduced to Peanuts in Charlie Brown, if they were just reading the strip, would they have a completely different take on the characters because they don't remember, the history. They don't know the history.

Jimmy: Well, you would have to look at the different take that I have from you and that you have from Michael. And it all has to do with where we were when we saw it, not where we were when we saw it. Sort of where the strip was when our lives collided with it. Michael's a contemporary with it. Michael had stopped reading it by the time I was born because Michael's, like, frigging old. But that just makes it this it always comes back to that. How did one person do this for 50 years?

Harold: Yeah.

September 1. Linus looks super excited, and Charlie Brown sees him coming up outside with a big smile on his face. And Linus says “Ms. Othmar is coming back.” He continues, talking to Charlie Brown. “My favorite teacher is coming back to our school this year. She's coming back. She's coming back.” Then in the last panel, Linus floats away on waves of love, saying, “Miss Othmar is coming back.” And Charlie Brown watches as he floats away.

Jimmy: That sound is Michael having a stroke.

Michael: No no no no no

Jimmy: this one counts?

Michael: I accept this one because I don't, think he's actually floating. Charlie Brown's looking a little he's going, like, looking. If Linus actually floated, Charlie Brown would be, like, stunned. I think it's just symbolism, comic book symbolism. He's not actually floating.

Jimmy: Well, we tell ourselves all kinds of things to get through the night. Michael.

Michael: He didn’t-- If he had a little propeller on his head and he started flying away, Charlie Brown would look.

Jimmy: Why is, Charlie Brown leaning like that?

Michael: He's just looking at Linus like this kid is a little weird. This is fine. This is fine.

September 3. The phone is ringing in Charlie Brown's house. He picks it up. “Hello?” He speaks to the other voice on the end of the line saying, “huh? Snoopy? yes, I guess so. But why? Sure. All right, hold the line. I'll get him.” Charlie Brown runs outside and get Snoopy, who's lying on top of the doghouse. “It's for you, you're wanted on the telephone.” They both run back. Charlie Brown is now on the receiver saying, “hello, operator, I have him right here. Just a moment, please.” Charlie Brown puts the phone up to Snoopy's ear. Snoopy listens for a moment. then he clearly bursts out laughing, much to Charlie Brown's consternation and confusion. Snoopy walks away giggling to himself. Charlie, Brown stands silently for a moment, then yells to the heavens, “I'll never know what that was all about.”

Michael: You guys got any theories?

Harold: I think it's Lee Mendelson.

Jimmy: I think there's some sort of beagle revolution being plotted.

Michael: I don't know.

Harold: I love the little innocent, dot eyed version of Snoopy while he's sitting next to Charlie Brown when he's saying Operator. So it's an operator who’s connecting this call. Snoopy is just like, just so innocent. And then when he bursts into the laughter, I remember again, this strip as a kid. This one just cracks me up. And again, we're being pulled into Charlie Brown's world where he's the one, who's the anchor of the strip and you're seeing some crazy stuff. And Charlie Brown is the one that we're kind of able to view all of this with some sort of point of, I don't know, of reference. As the Peanuts roll starts to get a little bit crazier as what Michael's kind of been bringing up, Charlie Brown seems to become more and more of an anchor.

Jimmy: Yes.

September 15. It's another day at the psychiatric booth. Lucy has a new patient and he looks very upset. It's Snoopy. Lucy seems to be very interested in what Snoopy is doing. There she sits with her hands folded, very patiently waiting. Then the second panel, Snoopy has sort of an embarrassed grin on his face. And the third panel, he just walks away on all fours, looking very sad. And Lucy says, “what can you do? When the patient doesn't say anything.”

Michael: Wow, it's funny. Well, the thing is, certain people can seem to read his mind when he's acting out something they can know. Oh, he's a pirate captain.

Harold: Right.

Michael: Lucy doesn't seem to have this ability.

Harold: Right.

Michael: Maybe Snoopy expects people to understand, what he's thinking.

Harold: Yeah, it's like our dog. We got a Boston terrier in our marriage probably, I don't know how many years in-- maybe 10 years in, and my wife had had a Boston terrier before in her life, but I had miniature Schnauzers and she was trying to tell me, this is a different kind of dog. This is a vibe dog. What do you mean, a vibe dog? You have to catch its vibe. And once it knows you're getting the vibe, then you guys can communicate without just by looking at each other and being around each other. And I've seen some pretty amazing things between my wife and my dog that kind of backs that up. And so it's interesting to look at it from that context, that Snoopy thinks there's a chance maybe that there's going to be some connection with Lucy. He knows that that's a psychiatric booth, and he knows he wants to get some help, but it's not happening. And he can't make it…

Jimmy: That drawing with Snoopy walking away. I just feel it's so sad.

Harold: Yeah. For Snoopy.

Jimmy: Okay, Michael, what do you think he's going there for? What help does he want?

Michael: Oh, he wants to be a human.

Jimmy: He doesn't want to be a dog. Right.

Harold: That's what I think.

Michael: Yeah.

October 1. Linus and Lucy are sitting in their living room. Linus in classic thumb and blanket position. Lucy is reading a book to him. Lucy says, “when she saw the little house in the woods, she wondered who lived there. So she knocked at the door. No one answered, so she knocked again.” Lucy looks at Linus and says, “what do you think will happen?” Linus says. “I can't imagine.” Lucy continues reading. “Still, no one answered. So Goldilocks opened the door and walked in. There before her in the little room, she saw a table set for three. There was a great big bowl of porridge, a middle sized bowl of porridge, and a little wee bowl of porridge. She tasted the great big bowl of porridge.” Lucy continues, “oh, this is too hot, she said. Then she tasted the middle sized bowl of porridge. Oh, this is too cold. Then she tasted the little wee bowl. Oh, this is just right, she said. And she ate it all up.” Linus says, “I have a question.” Lucy says, “about what?” Linus says, “well, it's in regard to cooling. It would seem to me that if the middle sized bowl was cold, the little wee ball would be cold, too, rather than just right.” And Lucy hauls off and slugs him. Then she walks away, leaving Linus a crumpled mess on the floor. Linus picks up his blanket, puts his thumb in his mouth, and says, “I never even brought up the far more obvious point of unlawful entry.”

Harold: I just wanted to hear you read that. I didn't--

Jimmy: It' so funny. Well, it's in regard to cooling

Harold: Is this something that you guys would think about when you were-- never-- see, this is something that I would be thinking about.

Jimmy: I can see the two of you going, well, this whole thing falls apart.

Harold: Because, of course, the bowl size this is going to have everything to do with the temperature. The middle one has got to be the middle temperature, no matter what.

Jimmy: Right. With its willynilly cooling rules. It's absurd.

Harold: Although I had no trouble with the unfalafel entry.

Michael: Unfalafel entry.

Harold: She brought falafel. This would have been a non issue.

Michael: I think this is the wordiest Sunday I've seen. And that's the thing with Schulz. He can do it with no words at all, but when it's called for it, he's got the room in the strip to make it super wordy, and it doesn't seem cumbersome in any way.

Jimmy: No, I mean, that is true. And every time I look at a panel, like, let's say the first two on the second tier, where the word balloon goes clear across the entire panel, there's a number of times I try to do this. Actually, I've been trying to do it a little more recently so I'd have more of that horizontal space across the bottom. It doesn't look right when I do it. It just looks like a huge mistake.

Harold: Yeah. When I was reading Sunday comics growing up, Prince Valiant, come on. It's all text on the bottom of these images. And I'm like, that's not happening. Absolutely. I would read through this. I would, be carried all the way through.

Jimmy: But that brings up another interesting thing. I agree with both those points, but I would pour through-- I love The Lord of the Rings books or whatever when I was a kid, science fiction, fantasy books. I loved reading anything. But I'd see those blocks of text in Prince Valiant and be like, Forget it.

Harold: I'll read this 1000-paged tome.

Jimmy: You're right. But I'm not reading that Prince. Why is that, I wonder? It's just because it's an odd use of the media.

Harold: Well, yeah, I mean, the classic magazine cartoon that used to always be in the magazines, it still kind of exists, is you've got a single image, right? And then below it, you have text. Sometimes it's typed out like a font through a machine, and sometimes it's hand lettered, like in the newspaper strips with Dennis the Menace Daily comics. But I never did like the divorcing of the words from the pictures. For some reason. It was like, you take in the picture, oh, I guess everyone's different. Maybe someone would read the text first, but I would usually take in the picture, and then I would read the text, and then I have to bounce back up to the picture. And it's so weird that it's the same thing, right? No, but, except in this world, in most cases, in traditional comics strips, comic books, the words are on top. They come first, and then you take in the picture, or however your brain does it. And for some reason, that is much more satisfying to me than the other way around. I don't know why.

Jimmy: It's very hard to even describe to people who haven't grown up reading comics who don't have an affinity for comics, like how to read. It's less of a problem now because we have an entire generation of kids now who have grown up reading comics. Again with the YA graphic novel crazing, with things like Wimpy Kid and with things like whatever I can't think of.

Michael: Yeah, of course they read right to left, most of them.

Jimmy: Yeah, right. exactly. But there is still that issue of people who it doesn't click in their brain.

Michael: So we have a book club, really smart people, college-educated, and we take turns picking books. And I finally, after thinking about it for a couple of years, I said, I've got to pick a graphic novel because none of these people would know what it was. So I picked Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, which I think is extremely literary, but also very clear as far as layouts. And a couple of people commented that they were really confused. They didn't know if they should look at the picture first or read, the text first. And they found it very difficult to deal with, even though that was very conservative comic. As far as layout goes.

Harold: Yeah, that's always confused me, because I think about how newspapers back in 1900, let's say you're in New York City, and you have thousands upon thousands of people coming in from Ellis Island who don't speak a word of English. And the way they're learning English is through the comic strip. It was like, that is the conduit to reading for so many people, is a comic book. And then there are all these people over 100 years later going, I don't know how to read this thing.

It's like, well, why did it work so well way back when, that everybody could read the comic, and maybe you could then read the blocks of text later. And it seemed like they didn't have any precursor to this, right? They didn't have any like nobody sat them down and said, this is how to read this thing. There's an invention, essentially, that was really not seen before. Why did it work so well then? And yet there seemed to be people that feel intimidated by a comic versus text.

Jimmy: Yeah, it still clearly is. The best way to, I mean, the classic joke I've always made is if the plane is going down, the thing they give you to tell you how to turn your seat into a floatation device is a comic strip.

Harold: Right.

Jimmy: Because across any language, etc. too.

Michael: But it's weird because those old strips, like, before 1920, I can't read them right?

Harold: Is it because of the lettering?

Michael: They seem so disjointed. the text seems disjointed from the images. I look at them and I go, there's no way in the world I can read this strip and just move on. I couldn't even read one now.

Jimmy: Are you counting even, like, the great things, like Little Nemo and stuff like that? Or are you just talking--

Michael: Even Little Nemo

Jimmy: that might have been a bad example because that's the worst lettering in the history of comics.

Michael: and also the best art in the history of comics

Jimmy: The guy invents-- he's the greatest artist. He invents animation, but he can't figure out, hey, you know, I should do the words first and then draw the balloon around.

Harold: That's drives me crazy.

Jimmy: How could he not have figured that out? That's amazing. That's just something deep and somehow comforting about humanity.

Harold: Yes. For those of you at home, go look at some Winsor McKay Little Nemo comics, google it or whatever, and take a look at some of the lettering. Because what Jimmy is describing is he's got this very small hand lettering with these kind of wavery little balloon lines going down to a character against gorgeous, incredibly immaculate art of architectural beauty, or an elephant that you've never seen, rendered in pen and ink so amazingly and accurately. And his little word balloons, they're going along a line. And then he runs out of space like he drew the balloon first. And he actually turns at 90 degrees and runs it down the side of the balloon. He's like, what are you doing?

Jimmy: It's so weird. It's like he got his eight year old nephew to do the lettering. It's one of the great mysteries of life. Doesn't make me like him less, actually.

Harold: No I mean, right? It's a headscratcher. But yeah, it's like, what? You put all this time into this thing at work, that's crazy.

The other question that I have that maybe our listeners know something about, or somebody has said something about, is to Michael's point, there was a certain kind of scratchy lettering that was done for years in comic strips. And it was like it always looked rough up to a point. I'm wondering, who was it that really said, I'm going to make this lettering great, and did beautifully crafted lettering.

The earliest thing I can remember is Bringing Up Father. He starts out with that scratchiness. George McManus did a strip about an Irish husband and his wife and daughter. And at first it has the same, weird lettering as everyone else. but at some point, it's like, it gets beautiful. I don't know if you hired somebody and they were like, oh, don't worry, George, I got this taken care of. And it looks gorgeous. But it was like this weird, scrawl, all upper case for some reason. That was another thing with comics. Why was that a thing? But it was always this roughness. And it is hard to get into a lot of these old strips because we're not used to that level of scratchy handwriting. And yet somebody figured something out and all of a sudden everyone seemed like, we need to up our game with the lettering.

Jimmy: Yeah, I don't know. But then it does become a thing because you have beautiful lettering and things like the Lil Abner, obviously, and Pogo. So it does become a thing where people are-- Popeye has really good looking lettering. Or the early Thimble theaters, I don't know. But this point and, this is a very specific style. He has this rounded, bouncy style that's so unique to him that you wouldn't have seen. It just somehow really complements the art.

Harold: And it's funny, as a kid, I didn't like that rough lettering that we were talking about. And Schulz's lettering is relatively rough. Once everything got so polished. He starts incredibly polished. Because he was a letterer, first and foremost, right. He was hired to letter. That was his first official paid job. And now he's like, I'm losing my style. I'm trying to make this look more organic, and yet it's so clean. Because he started knowing what to do. It's like, you have to learn the rules before you break them. That's what he's doing here with this lettering.

And the only thing that really I didn't like as a kid with the lettering was the balloons. He would leave an open ended balloon the way they would do in Blondie. instead of closing the little point of the pointer toward the person that's, speaking, Blondie would leave it open. And that for some reason, it was like, well, all the air is going to come out of the balloon. It just seemed wrong to me.

And when Schulz starts doing it later, he's not doing it much now, but he will be shortly, where he gets into this very unique little pointer that I never did like. As much as I love Peanuts, for some reason, that was an offense to me.

Jimmy: Well, you can see it in the last panel.

Harold: Yeah.

Jimmy: But getting back to the earlier, strips, Michael, that you can't read aside from lettering, is it just the whole that it feels so removed from, time from now. I mean, it's amazing how modern in some ways, they look, because the production values are beautiful in some of those. But they do read, like

Michael: yeah, it's a new art form. It has to evolve. I mean, say you look at Renaissance painting or medieval painting, and they have all these weird things that everybody had to do and took how long before anyone even thought of perspective? Like, hey, this doesn't look right.

Harold: Can you guys read, I think, superhero comics, let's say, from the 80s or 90s, where you'd have lots of big splash pages, and then you'd have the panels cut up in all sorts of different angles. Do you feel like that there's a literacy that when you read those things that are really mostly selling the art? Does that read for you? Can you read through, like, a 32-page Superman comic from 1995 just fine?

Jimmy: No one could do that.

Harold: I couldn't. I don't know if it was me, because I was like, wait, are they trying to actually tell me a story? Because I am lost.

Michael: No, that's all style.

Jimmy: That's all style. Yeah. I just want to say style based on the fact that they wanted to have a lot of splash pages that they could sell the original art for five figures

Harold: That's working against five figures. That's an economic incentive. That's working against the comic.

Michael: Chris Ware's the guy who takes this whole question and makes it an art form, can you follow his strips?

Harold: Right? No, maybe you don't need to even.

Michael: Need to maybe you can go any direction you want.

Jimmy: Well, it's funny because there was a period of time when Jimmy Corrigan came out, and I would occasionally run into people, usually at library shows. Well, I've never read any comics. Of course I've read Jimmy Corrigan. It's like, no, you didn't. You've never read a comic, and you started with Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan. No, you didn't. It's like, oh, yeah, I never you.

Harold: Might have read three of them and then saw where it was going.

Jimmy: Yeah, I figured I basically got I never read a book. I started within search the last time.

Harold: I can see them framing it on their wall behind the sofa.

Jimmy: Well, and it's stupid, but it is one thing that comics you can appreciate comics purely on a visual level. I mean, I could see getting well, there's probably 30% of my comic book collection is stuff I would never read.

We were talking in an earlier episode. I know we're way off target now, but we were talking in an early episode. Michael said, we're talking about Hey Look! and I was like, oh, yeah, I love Hey Look!. And Michael said, well, I don't think it's funny. And then, like, hours later, I thought, I don't think it's funny either. But I still love it. I love looking at it. You know what I mean? I love looking at the brush lines and stuff. And honestly, in that collection, that's enough for me.

Harold: Chris Duffy on Facebook, probably, about five plus years ago, he posted something. And Chris Duffy--

Jimmy: Chris Duffy, who is an editor, previously editor of Nickelodeon magazine and a cartoonist himself, right?

Harold: Yeah. So he's looked at a lot of art and selected art for its humor and for its readability. And he posted this question. Name a comic that you find genuinely funny in the world of comic books that is not based on a previous property or this or that that you genuinely think is funny. A comic book. And I was amazed how everybody struggled to even come up with comics that came out of comic books that they actually thought were funny. It's really hard to make a funny comic book.

Jimmy: Oh, it's really hard.

Michael: I hate humor.

Harold: Well, I think it's hard to make a comic strip.

Jimmy: Oh, yeah. Well, no, yes, because, the comic strip, it's like you're walking into a comedy club, and there's a brick wall and the microphone. So you're, like, ready to laugh.

Harold: Right?

Jimmy: I mean, it's just in the thing, a comic book. Anything can happen. Or ideally, they're laughing and crying on the same page. That's what I would want him to do.

Harold: Right.

Michael: There is one person who doesn't write long stories. R. Crumb is hilarious and brilliant.

Jimmy: Well, Cerebus is funny.

Harold: And I've never laughed at R. Crumb. I can't say I've read a ton of it, but I've never laughed at an R. Crumb comic.

Jimmy: Yeah, I don't know that I would laugh. No, I don't think I've ever laughed. I'm not talking about Crumb. I just mean in general.

Michael: Yeah, I don't laugh.

Harold: Walt Kelly, I would be reading the old comic book stories, and from a certain period around 1950, around the same time you start in the comics strip, and I'd be laughing out loud. You know, Diane always feel like making fun of me. You're the only person I know who laughs out loud while they're reading comics.

Jimmy: Oh, my gosh. Well, the first time I ever read Pogo was in Bennett Cerf's, who was, I think, the publisher of Random House. He edited a bunch of different collections, and one of them was a humor book called House Full of Laughter. So it's just a bunch of humorous pieces and stuff, but they had a complete, like, eight-page Pogo story, which is the Chicken Little story. And I remember being in grade school and pre reading doubled over, laughing so hard because they just keep calling them different names like Turtle Wurtle and Birdie Wirdy. And they keep calling the dog different names, and he's like, if you call me Doggy Woggy one more time, I'm punching you in the nosy wozy. And for whatever reason, I just thought that was the funniest thing I've ever seen.

Harold: And I think one of the big challenges, especially for comic books, it's true for strips, too, is that there's only so much the artist and artist and writer can do to give the strip timing. The rest is up to the reader. And timing is a lot in comedy. Right.

So when you're reading Crumb, Michael, is it the audacity of it that just kind of lifts you up and takes you there? Is there timing built into that that makes it funny?

Michael: Oh, it's pure vaudeville, but it's also vaudeville from the point of view of an insane drug addict.

Jimmy: So you're talking primarily like the Zap comics and stuff like Meatballs?

Michael: No, Crumb got much more serious later on. Extremely serious.

Harold: So what's it like the funniest period would be right at the beginning, or did he kind of hit a sweet spot at a certain point?

Michael: It's hard to go back and read the Zap stuff because I've read it so many times, and his targets are dated. Even though you considered to him one of the hippie crowd, he was actually making fun of the hippie crowd. It's just the characters and well, that's another podcast. We shouldn't even get into this. Let's go back to the strip, because my favorite line for the year is coming up in the next strip.

Jimmy: All right.

Michael: Second strip. All right.

Harold: Okay.

Jimmy: Well, we got to get back to Peanuts. I would just say if you want to read what I think is a funny Crumb strip Meatball.

Michael: Oh Meatball.

Jimmy: Yeah, that's good. Anyone can read Meatball. Whatever else you see, if you Google Robert Crumb, that's on you. I can't control that. So buyer beware.

October 8. Snoopy stands resolutely atop his dog house. He's looking off into the distance. Suddenly he spots something, a sail on the horizon. “Sir, he thinks to himself.” He's standing now, alert, on top of his doghouse again thinking to himself, “here's the captain of his Majesty's ship standing bravely at the bow. We can't be sure if it's a pirate ship, boys. Wait until she fires the first shot, then move in for the kill” thinks Snoopy. As Linus walks up behind him, Linus shouts to the heavens. “Boom.” This freaks Snoopy out, who dives off the doghouse, yelling, “we're hit.” Suddenly he starts swimming for safety, although he's just on the grass thinking to himself, “swim for your lives, boys. Every man for himself.” He swims on the ground right past Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown and Linus watch him swim away. And then Linus says, “Blackbeard is still the terror of the high seas.”

Michael: Now we read another one recently that was very similar to this. So this is kind of follow up. Same set up, different punchline. And this all depends on Linus knowing what he's doing.

Harold: yeah.

Michael: I mean, if there were no words in the first four panels, what would you think? What's Snoopy doing?

Harold: Right. And we don't even know from the context of what we read that is Blackbeard until Linus says it.

Jimmy: Right. I was wondering about this is there was like Blackbeard a pop culture thing at this time.

Michael: He appeared in Fantastic Four Number five. Sure.

Harold: Schulz being such a huge comic book fan, do you think he probably was still reading comic books, at least at this time because he was still in comic books. He was making comic books.

Michael: Blackbeard is just the cliche pirate, and I'm sure Superman met him at some point. If you're going to have a pirate, it's going to be Blackbeard in the comics.

Jimmy: This is all about the drawing for me, the third panel and the second tier. I love the really almost crude looking drawing of Linus. And to a degree, Snoopy, he's getting really abstract and expressionistic.

Harold: Look at Snoopy's feet in that third panel on the second tier. It's like--

Jimmy: That took 3 seconds to draw those.

Harold: Yes, it's crazy. And then the other art piece that really stands out to me is when Charlie Brown is looking down at Snoopy grass- swimming. And Charlie Brown's head looks pretty much the way Charlie Brown's head always does, except that his nose is pointed down 45 degrees. Everything else is pretty much the same. It's an interesting choice. I don't know if he does that again, but that just kind of stood out.

Jimmy: Yeah, that's strange.

Harold: His Picassoesque choice of angles.

Jimmy: Speaking of Picassoesque, I mean, Snoopy, well, it's not so much cubist as futurist. You're getting to see him in motion as just still drawing, which is really a fun thing to do. I always find it hard to do that as a cartoonist to draw wild motion in one drawing, as opposed to wild motion over the course of a couple of panels.

Harold: Yeah, me, too. I mean, you have to make some bold choices. He's got Snoopy with six arms, upper arms, or paws in some of the drawings. Yes.

Jimmy: And the problem from the cartoonist point of view is the more time you spend on it, the less sense it makes, and the more you start making weird judgments that it's not going to read. So you start widing things out, and you just have to intuitively trust it.

Harold: Yeah.

Jimmy: I mean, if you actually separated those drawings of Snoopy, they don't look like anything, really. It's only in the context.

Harold: It kind of goes back to what Frank Camuso was saying to me at the Baltimore Comic Con last year, that he was thinking he was quoting someone else, maybe a professor or somebody he worked with, but he was saying that there's something about cartooning like this that if you give it too much polish, it dies. it has to have a little bit of that sketchiness in it to get the maximum impact. And I struggle with that with my own art, because I'm always trying to justify I feel like, as an artist, I struggle. So I'm trying to show polish to make it sell like I meant to do this. I feel like if I'm doing a quick drawing like Schulz is doing here, it'll just look wrong to people, and maybe it will be wrong. So I put polish on it so that they say, well, his foot is in a really weird place, but it sure looks clean, so it must be right?

Jimmy: Right.

Harold: Yeah.

Jimmy: No, I struggle with the same thing sometimes, but when a master does it, it looks darn good.

October 25. Violet is being Violet to Linus. She now just exists to make people feel bad and I guess play in the outfield. Violet says, “you're crazy. You're just playing stupid crazy.” She, continues ranting at Linus.” You talk like someone who's just fallen out of a tree. You're stark raving stupid!” Linus thinks,” I should have known better.” Then he walks away thinking, “there are three things I have learned never to discuss with people religion, politics, and The Great Pumpkin.”

Michael: Wow. This is one of the Violet's greatest moments, I think. She's like a diva of, like, insulting. I mean, stark raving stupid. It's genius. It's like Beat Shakespeare. I mean, it's so good.

Jimmy: I love never discuss religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin. I said that. I said that in my speech at the first Kids Love Comics meeting, actually.

Harold: Wow.

October 26. Linus and Lucy are in the living room. Lucy comes up to Linus. She's already ranting at him. “You're at it again, aren't you?” She continues waving her hand, saying, “the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch on Halloween night and flies through the air,” she says, quoting Linus. “Good grief. How can you believe that” She asks. Linus answers, “I have to believe it. I've already sent out 57 pumpkin cards. It would be economically disastrous for me not to believe it.”

Michael: Yup. This is the entire Republican platform right here.

Jimmy: That's really funny.

October 30. Linus is sitting out in the pumpkin patch. “Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He's got to pick this one. He's got to. I don't see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one,” Linus continues. “You can look all, around, and there's not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”

Harold: What other cartoonists have spent so much time on the topic of sincerity as Charles Schulz.

Michael: Yeah, but it's not a punchline, really. There is no punchline.

Jimmy: No, no. And it is in the middle of this ongoing a daily story of the Great Pumpkin. The Great Pumpkin itself is a great idea, and we talked about this before, where I think it's like well, it's odd, and I don't think obviously, he moved Santa Claus to Halloween. That's the bit. But there's all these little bits within it like the fact that he rises out of the most sincere pumpkin patch. That little subjoke adds so much to it. Right. And then the fact that Linus is checking out the patch for a sign of hypocrisy, that's just funny in and of itself. He's beyond the point. I feel like the Violet thing sometimes at this point, just really feel like throwbacks, because this is so odd and subtle. Just one kid sitting in a pumpkin patch talking about sincerity and hypocrisy.

Harold: Yeah. And as a little kid, you know, I'm reading this. I'm trying to keep up with Linus. I'm trying to keep up with Charles Schulz here. What are you talking about? And he'd pull you in, and you wouldn't necessarily get it all, but you're starting to get these inklings of thoughts you hadn't thought before. And it's accessible, but it's also mysterious. It really is powerful. It is.

Jimmy: And it's a real gift you can give to a child reader, if you're an artist, to make them want to come along with you just because it expands their brains a little bit. It's a little exercise, too. But also sometimes you're dealing with, it people ask about, like, why would you put things that are beyond a kid? One of the functions of art is that you can work through a complex or real life, a difficult real life thing first in art.

Harold: Right, exactly.

Jimmy: I mean, it's better.

Harold: Right, exactly. And that is what we've talked about this before, but I think it's worth saying again that, and you've mentioned this many times, Jimmy. It's like, this is what it's like being a kid where you are in a world that doesn't make any sense. And then it makes a little bit of sense, and then it makes a little bit more sense. But you're used to ambiguity. You're used to things existing that you have no idea why they exist. You can't take it all in.

And when you read something like that strip in Peanuts where it's again, ambiguous and strange, but for some reason, Schulz makes it inviting. This kind of inviting little safe place where you can explore something that you don't know what it is. But because it's in Peanuts world, you want to learn more.

Jimmy: Yeah.

November 19. It's lunchtime at the school for Charlie Brown, and he's upset. He's walking through the playground sighing to himself. He sits alone on a little bench with his little paper bag lunch and says, “I don't think I'd mind school at all if it weren't for these lunch hours. I guess I'll sit on this bench. I have to sit by myself because nobody else ever invites me to sit with them. Peanut butter again. Oh, well, Mom does her best. Those kids look like they're having a lot of fun. I wish they liked me. Nobody likes me.” Charlie Brown is just continuing to sit on the bench eating his lunch alone. “The PTA did a good job painting these benches. I'd give anything in the world if that little girl with the red hair would come over and sit with me.” Charlie Brown continues. “I get tired of always being alone. I wish the bell would ring. A banana. Rats. Mom always-- still, I guess she means well. I bet I could run just as fast as those kids. That's a good game they're playing. That little girl with the red hair is a good runner. There's the bell. One more lunch hour out of the way. 2120 to go.”

Michael: This is hall of fame material.

Jimmy: Yeah. This is the first mention of the little red haired girl. And it's this classic sad, sad strip. It does have a punchline, but it's not a punchline that's going to make you go fast. It's a punchline that sort of punches you. It makes you feel for Charlie Brown.

Harold: Yeah, but he's just been doing so amazingly well this year. he's found something new to do with the strip. We're talking about innovations. And I really feel like he's discovering that he can pull you into Charlie Brown character. Instead of just being a punchline, you're experiencing who he is. And you're kind of falling in love with Charlie Brown in this process.

And this is also the first strip where he's sitting alone on the bench eating lunch, as well as a little bit. He got it all in one strip, which is pretty amazing. But to me, this epitomizes the year in that this is Charlie Brown and us hanging out. And Schulz gives him these lovely little touches where he's being appreciative of the PTA that he knows that they painted the benches on. And he's wanting to be a little critical of his mom because he's always--

Jimmy: I love that panel. That panel reads, unlike a comic strip, a banana rats mom always spill. I guess she means, well, the way he's in her.

Michael: This is Leopold Bloom

Jimmy: It's stream of consciousness. I actually was thinking of Strawberry Fields Forever, I think. I know. I mean you know what I mean? That stop start internal monologue you don't see in a comic strip.

Michael: If this was the strip and it continued as variations on this, it would have killed the strip. Yeah, he did it once.

Harold: He's revealing a lot just in this one strip, in that one little piece of dialogue that you called out. You know what I think of in comics when I think of that dialogue? I think of early Marvel Spiderman kind of self monologues. And it really is rich, and it works so well. you can hear the starting and stopping of thoughts in the mind.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Harold: And I think that's maybe one of the reasons why Spiderman resonated so much, because he's a loner and he has to be kind of thinking and talking to himself. As much as people have issues with Stan Lee and what he created didn't create and what he thought he created, I think in his dialogue, sometimes he would capture these kind of-- he wrote so much and so fast that sometimes he would just get into that little stream of consciousness, and it just rang true. And Schulz really nailed it here.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Michael: And please note, it's three minutes to midnight in the first panel.

Jimmy: The Watchmen reference.

December 2. Snoopy is watching Lucy write her letter to Santa Claus. Lucy writes, “Dear Santa, I'm looking forward to your arrival. Bring me lots of everything. The more the better. Regards, Lucy.” Then she seals the envelope up, and we assume she goes off to send it to Santa Claus. But Snoopy just sits there, puts his little face on the table where Lucy was riding, and thinks to himself, “tis the season to be greedy.”

Michael: that's the anti Hallmark card right there.

Jimmy: Yeah, it really is.

Harold: Yeah. And I love Snoopy’s nose just lying on top of the little rounded table. I found myself using that also in Sweetest Beasts, where you got a character who's sitting at the table, and my little lamb characters just popping his head over onto that curved line of the table. It's just so satisfying to draw well.

Jimmy: And it's funny, too, because, like, I think especially when you're doing a lot of strips or drawing a comic book or something like that, a lot of times you're just like, oh, God, I have to all right, Snoopy is at the table, or whatever, right? I have to draw this four times. And you're not sort of thinking, what's the optimal cutest or most compelling way to draw this? Because you're almost thinking of it as a real space. And where do you put them, the size and all of that stuff gets in the way. And Schulz is able to just eliminate those concerns. He just seems to know, like, all right, I'm just going to draw this cute drawing of a dog's face on the table, and it really works great. And also Lucy licking the envelope.

Harold: Yes, really nice. But what is it that's so satisfying about seeing a curved line broken by the muzzle of Snoopy? Just design wise, it's beautiful.

Jimmy: It is beautiful. I mean, you could use some of these panel compositions as the basis for paintings if you wanted to just say, this is the basic composition you're going to use for your painting. Make it about whatever you want. But he just has a real knack for making beautiful compositions.

December 13. Shermy is talking to Charlie Brown. Shermy says, “I got this whole Santa Claus bit licked Charlie Brown. If there is a Santa Claus, he's going to be too nice not to bring me anything for Christmas, no matter how I act. Right? Right. And if there isn't any Santa Claus, then I haven't really lost anything! Right?” Charlie Brown, now at the Thinking Wall, says, “wrong, but I don't know where.”

Michael: It's time for the Shermometer.

VO: Let’s check the Shermometer Charlie Brown.

Michael: Yeah. This is stunning. Shermy has got way more personality than I ever would have imagined.

Jimmy: What's he bringing to the game here in 1961.

Michael: Pure cynicism.

Jimmy: Oh, my goodness.

Harold: He's a pragmatist.

Jimmy: Yeah, he's a pragmatist. That's true, too. Well, no, I think cynical is better, because he's definitely gaming the system.

Harold: Yeah. And what is he missing? What is wrong there?

Jimmy: The spirit. He's, like, yes, you're right about all and actually, that's why this is cynical, too. but the point is, it's a reward for being good. Yeah. He might be too nice, or he might be nice and give it to you, but you should do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing, and that's what people miss.

Harold: And the good and the fact that you were inspired by the goodness of Santa Claus right. That you want to, like yeah, right.

Jimmy: All of that. All right, so that's cynical. Shermy. Poor Shermy. We're adding cynical to the list. So for those of you playing along at home, that makes Shermy a cynical, philosophical, history buff who is empathetic, aggressive, compassionate, patient, pedantic, knowledgeable, emotional, good listening, vain, friendly, and a hypocrite.

Michael: No wonder Schulz cut him from this strip. He was taking over.

Jimmy: He was taking over.

Michael: Interesting.

Jimmy: Right here at the end of the year, we can sneak out another character trait for Shermy. So I love that.

December 17. It's Christmas time rolling around again, and Linus is worried. Lucy comes up holding a piece of paper, and Linus says, “oh, no, don't tell me. Not again.” Lucy hands over the piece of paper and says, “here's your piece for the Christmas program.” Linus reads it. “So the words spoken through Jeremiah the Prophet were fulfilled. A voice was heard in Rama, wailing and loud laments. It was Rachel, weeping for her children and refusing all consolation because they were no more. Good grief.” “Memorize it,” says Lucy, and be ready to recite it by next Sunday, she says. As she walks away, Linus yells after her, “I can't memorize something like this in a week. This is going to take research. Who was Jeremiah? Where was Rama? Why was Rachel so upset? You can't recite something until you know the who, the where and the why,” he says to Lucy, who looks beyond annoyed by it. Lucy turns and says to him, “I'll tell you the who, the where and the why.” She raises her fist to him and says, “you start memorizing right now, or you'll know who is going to slug you, and you'll know where she's going to slug you, and you'll know why she slugged you.” Linus drops the paper, clutches his stomach in fear, saying “Christmas is not only getting too commercial, it's getting too dangerous.”

Michael: Now, isn't that something they teach you? I never took a writing class, but that sounds like something they would say. You have to show the who, the where and the why.

Jimmy: Well, definitely in journalism class. The who, what, where, when, why, why, and how if they can.

Harold: This is so wordy that the balloon actually leaves the panel and attaches to the next two panels as he's reading that quote. So that is a lot of text that he's not afraid to put in there.

But this is a famous twist on what people now know in the Christmas special. That line of Christmas is not only getting too commercial, it's getting too dangerous. And yes, again, this kind of wraps up, again, this feeling I don't know why, but just feeling of isolated Schulz. He's a little dismayed by where things, are and what he's seeing, but he's just having to process it himself. That's the vibe I get this year. And this strip is not unlike that.

And I love the little Linus in the opening panel, where he is a wreath around him, and the holly leaves and the berries, and there's a candle, and he is the flame of the candle little head of what do you call that? Is that non plussed?

Jimmy: Yeah, that would be non plussed. It's a shade lighter from chagrined.

December 29. Snoopy is lying atop his doghouse. It's a very snowy day. Suddenly, two snowballs fly it above his head, one in one direction, one in the other. Snoopy stands up, calmly raising his paws, and thinks to himself, “Peace,” as he's urging the snowball fighters to lay down arms. The last panel, though, is Snoopy just being pelted by dozens of snowballs.

Harold: Same deal. I feel like Schulz is just yeah, he's just a little dismayed by what's going on in the world.

Jimmy: And that's also childhood. I can see one kid being like, hey, let's take it easy. Oh, really?

Harold: Right. Exactly. No Man's Land is the worst place to be. Right.

Jimmy: Right.

Harold: I think the joke is hilarious, the way he plays it out, but if you just see the last panel, it's a little disturbing.

Jimmy: Oh, yeah. It's an odd drawing of Snoopy, for sure.

Harold: Yeah. It just makes me think of like, a Feiffer drawing or something where something really terrible and angsty is happening. He's genuinely he's feeling it, really beautifully drawn.

Jimmy: So, guys, that's 1961. Michael. Where are we at? We want to talk a little bit about the cast he has now and where it is as we wrap up 1961.

Michael: Okay. At the beginning of the year, I gave a little run down of a concept I had, which is the Peanuts Hierarchy chart, which lists all the, characters in six categories, starting from a category A which is characters who appear in almost every strip. B, characters who appear fairly regularly, C characters, who occasionally appear, D, characters who very rarely appear. And then E, as characters who actually never appear but are part of the strip, and F, characters who have been kicked out of the strip, never to appear again. When I talked about it earlier, it was an analysis of where we were at the beginning of the year.

So this would be in 1960, and I'm not going to recap the whole thing, but basically, I noticed that Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, and Linus, one of them at least, appears in every single strip this year.

Jimmy: Wow.

Michael: So that categorizes them as A list characters. Schulz does not build any of his strips around any of the other characters. Now, I haven't gone back, and someone might want to go back and see if there are any strips at all that do not feature Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy, or Linus. And possibly at the beginning there are some, but at this point, no.

Harold: I certainly can't think of one. Yeah, that would be super unusual to even think of how that could happen the way this strip is right now. Right.

Michael: So what I'd like to do with this chart here is for the three of us to discuss at the end of each year if we're going to make any changes in the chart. And, there is at least one because we have a new character, and.

Harold: We hinted that there were two. Right. And I don't know if we mentioned in our going over the strips who that second was.

Jimmy: Right. We did not pick a strip. It's the cat. It's Frieda's cat Faron.

Michael: Right. So we can debate whether Faron is an actual character or merely an animal, like the birds. even though he's named.

Jimmy: I think he is a character.

Harold: once you name him.

Jimmy: Yeah, because the birds are at this point, they might not be the same bird it's just birds.

Michael: Okay.

Harold: I can think of there was one strip where Faron kind of shows that he's aware of what's going on in the conversation. I think he gives a really smug little look to Snoopy at one point. Yeah, but generally you don't have no idea what Faron is up to other than he's a lump that someone has to carry around.

Michael: Right. So we have to place Frieda, first of all, because she has a very significant role in, this year, including some of the best strips. And the ones with Faron, I think, are some of the best strips. So I would put her right away, at least in C and possibly in--

Harold: B. I give her B for this year.

Jimmy: Yeah, I do too.

Michael: Okay, so we're putting Frieda in as a B level character, which means she appears often, usually with one of the A list characters and one of the personality traits or one of the traits of B list characters. They do not evolve much, they do not change much. The other three are Schroeder, Patty and Violet, who I think pretty much stayed fairly consistent throughout the strip. Schroeder has probably evolved the most of the three.

Harold: You'd say that Violet in particular changed, but she changed quickly, right?

Michael: Early on. Yeah. So I think alright, so we're putting Frieda in on level B and now

Faron. Faron showed up in several, strips, but not, regularly. I would say between C and D. I don't know.

Harold: I'd say he's a D-lister with Shermy.

Jimmy: Well, considering we just had to vote as to whether or not he's a character, let's put him in the box. All right.

Michael: See where he goes. We've got Shermy and Faron and D rarely appears. We'll see what happens with Faron if he can work his way up. And I don't think anybody drop has been dropped down. So, that's our list for 1961.

Jimmy: And by the way, the Peanuts Hierarchy chart is a terrible name, so you leave listeners out there need to come up with a name for this. I suggested, Batting Order, but, you know, Batting Orders does not exactly fit, Michael's concept of a hierarchy because, as we know, the best batters are in the middle of the order anyway. You don't need us to get into all that anyway. If you have an idea, come up with something.

All right, well, that was 1961. I had a fantastic time going through the year with you guys. And if you guys had fun listening to us, we hope that first off, I hope you'll go on and I hope you'll rate and review us, particularly on Apple, if you're an Apple podcast listener, because I guess that matters. So if you could do that for us, that would be a huge help. Also, we'd love for you to follow us on Instagram and Twitter. We're at unpackpeanuts. You could check out the website Where you can vote for strip of the year, whether you agree with Michael, Harold, or I as we pick our favorites for each year. You can check out some transcripts of previous episodes and listen to all your favorite past episodes. And we'll be back next week, of course.

But until then, guys, I need your picks for Most Valuable Peanut and for your strip of the year. Michael, why don't you go first?

Michael: Whoa. Okay, Most Valuable Peanut. I'm going to be a little off the wall here. I think it's Frieda.

Jimmy: Whoa, bold choice out of the gate.

Michael: It is a bold choice. It just said that she injects something new in the strip, which we haven't seen in a long time.

Jimmy: Comes at it hard.

Michael: Comes at it hard. But since she's carrying Faron, it brings along some of the best Snoopy stuff. I mean, what's funny-- Faron is not particularly interesting, but Snoopy's reaction to Faron is hilarious. So I'm going to give it to her. I was going to give her a rookie of the year, but I think she deserves an MVP.

Jimmy: MVP. There you go. All right. And what about your strip?

Michael: My first instinct when I came to the Charlie Brown on the bench strip was, okay, that's the best strip of the year. It's probably the most significant strip of the year. But to my mind, even though this is genius and one of the great Peanuts strips, it doesn't really show, some of the other sides to show, especially as humor. So I'm going to go with something else. I'm going to go with 4/16, where Frieda is sitting next to Schroeder's piano and Snoopy teaches Lucy how to pummel her. It's wordless strip. It's just total mastery, of the cartooning form, some great funny visuals, and he does it without any words. So that's my pick.

Jimmy: It's a great pick. Harold, MVP and strip of the year.

Harold: Okay, this year is the hardest of the years we've done it so far. I voted for, I think, Linus the last two years, and that was he was a pretty clear winner. But I think I've mentioned it multiple times throughout this year's discussion that I keep finding Charlie Brown moving into this role of kind of being the anchor of the strip in ways that he never has been before, in terms of the amount of empathy he inspires, in terms of how deep he's going with a character. Charlie Brown, is going to places he's never been before, and I think that's very significant. And I wasn't expecting to just to experience a year where you kind of get this isolated character, which, again, I kind of equate with Schulz being isolated himself. He's finding new things to share with Charlie Brown. And when I looked at my picks, I was almost equal in terms of Linus, Snoopy, and Charlie Brown all being in, the same amount of strips. But Charlie Brown was just coming up so fast. I think he deserves it.

And I had the same pick that Michael had initially of Charlie Brown at the bench. That, to me, just sums up where Schulz is going this year. And he surprised me with the depth that I had forgotten was in the strip. Now that I'm revisiting, it that was always there as a kid reading and said, oh, yeah, that's what I haven't experienced yet in the strip. And it makes it so much richer and deeper. So, yeah, Charlie Brown and then Charlie Brown at the bench, which is the November 19 are my picks.

Jimmy: Great picks. Well, I agree with Charlie Brown. I am also picking Charlie Brown as my Most Valuable Peanut. I think ultimately he is the most valuable peanut overall, but this is where he starts to become the hub that the rest of the wheel spins around in a different way. He is sort of achieving this almost paternalistic quality, or this saintly is not there, but his long suffering and kind and patient personality is really coming to the fore. So I give it to Charlie Brown.

And for my Strip of the Year, I am going to go with Great Art Should Never Be Mushed Up. Because, I agree with Linus. This is July 2, and this is just one that's beautifully drawn that I remember really clearly from my childhood. And, who in the world could draw a perfect little incinerator with, like, eight lines and a bunch of dots? So, great art should never be mushed up. That's my pick.

Harold: Now, if I were to give this one to Linus for this year, my strip would have been am I buttering too loud?

Jimmy: That was my second pick. Buttering too loudly, for sure. Funny.

Harold: They're both great.

Jimmy: You know what else was great? Just getting to spend the time with you guys talking about Peanuts. And I'm so grateful for all of our listeners out there who check us out every week.

Come back next week where we get 1962 and even more fun times with Charlie Brown and the gang. Thanks for listening. So until then, for, Michael and, Harold, this is Jimmy. Be of good cheer.

Michael and Harold: 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 Have a wonderful day, and thanks for listening.

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