Jimmy: Hey, everybody, welcome back to the show. This is Unpacking Peanuts, the podcast where three goofballs, discussed the greatest comic strip ever to feature a schizophrenic dog and a young boy suffering from alopecia. I'm one of your hosts. I'm Jimmy Gownley. I'm the creator and cartoonist behind Amelia Rules, Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up, and the Dumbest Idea Ever.
Joining me, as always, are my co hosts. He's a playwright and a composer, both for the band Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. He co-created the first ComicBook Price Guide, was the original editor for Amelia Rules, and is the cartoonist behind Strange Attractors, Tangled River and A Gathering of Spells. Michael Cohen,
Michael: Hey there
Jimmy: and he is the executive producer and writer for Mystery Science Theater 3000, a former vice president for Archie Comics, and the current creator of the Instagram strip Sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: How are you guys doing? Are you ready to discuss 1962 with me today?
Michael: An important year.
Harold: It really is.
Jimmy: I really enjoyed this year. This is definitely into the sweet spot of things I read when I was a child. And, we're still well in the era of strips that I've read many, many times over. Things I enjoyed this year. I really enjoyed that. We got a couple of these long stories which become more and more essential part of Peanuts. We have things like Sally going to kindergarten for the first day. We have a nice, long Great Pumpkin sequence. And, I'm really enjoying those in particular. Guys, what do you think, Michael?
Michael: Yeah, no, this was a great year. It looks like Schulz was pretty much totally relying on his main cast, the Big four or the A list cast, which would be Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, and Charlie Brown. Very little activity, on the other players. And I, think we're going to have to adjust the hierarchy chart when we get to the end of the year. I think some people are going down. Yes, it's looking like it. Anyway, I really enjoyed this. I noticed that of the strips we picked, we don't discuss every strip. We each make a selection. But I noticed that we have a lot more dailies happening. The last couple of years were really heavy on the Sundays, and it looks like maybe because he's doing longer sequences that the dailies are starting to stand out again.
Jimmy: Yeah, that's definitely something I noticed as well. Harold, how about you? General impressions.
Harold: this year seemed a lot more more, subtlety. I, think there's, a little bit more stoicism and nuance in this year than in the previous years. He's going, like Michael was saying, deep into the characters and characterization. And he's got a really rich character set now. And so this season, year of Peanuts, seem to be I don't know how to describe it, it just seemed a little bit more low key, but rich.
Jimmy: Yeah, very rich strip. and this was a big year for Schultz. I think this is where he starts to hit his imperial phase, like, what a pop act. Like the Beatles. Sergeant Pepper year. This is, Taylor Swift on her 1989 tour. This is the moment where he just begins to stride across pop culture like a giant. This is the year that Happiness Is a Warm Puppy, is published as a book.
Michael: I think it's Rubber Soul.
Jimmy: Oh, about the Beatles, I thought, wait, no, it's definitely Happiness is a Warm Puppy. Well, pick your album. But you know what I mean? It's that moment where they just, start, branching out, into areas of pop culture that previously were foreign to them and seemingly can do no wrong.
Harold: And there seems to be something going on with-- Snoopy is the avatar for Schultz. Really starting to kick in here where Snoopy is somehow he's showing what I'd have to call it a, cool. There's a coolness to Snoopy that really starts in this year, where you see a lot of the little closed slant eye version of Snoopy, where instead of him reacting in some major way, he's making his comment while he's lying on his back on his dog house. And this element of he's almost like this little Beatnik cool character all of a sudden, who, we've seen it growing and building, but it really comes to the fore here. And I think part of that cool. And what you're saying, Jimmy, about where he is that he's breaking out, he's a rock star now. Snoopy seems to kind of be evoking this confidence, like, yeah, I got this completely.
Jimmy: Yeah. First glimpse very, early on when he did that ice skating move where he skidded in, front of Patty and Violet, who are talking about famous dogs. And he was going to make the list. And he's definitely made the list at this point.
Harold: Absolutely. And the drawings of Snoopy this year, it's like, what makes him one of the greatest comic book characters, if not the greatest comic strip character of all time. He's a joy to behold. He's just amazing as a character.
Jimmy: Absolutely incredible. This is where I start to think, like, gosh, someone created Snoopy. I'm still amazed by that. That seems like one of these things that Snoopy has always existed. Right. You find, like, ancient idols, Snoopy in Mesopotamia or whatever. Definitely evolved, right?
Michael: He had to evolve from being a cartoon puppy? Very fairly realistic cartoon puppy.
Jimmy: Yeah. And yet at the same time, as we read it day by day, it's an almost imperceptible change.
Michael: But it's huge. Yeah. And even the look. This is like, totally classic Snoopy. This is in the hall of fame.
Harold: Yeah, for sure. Every drawing is just this iconic, beautiful thing to view from a cartoonist perspective. It's like you're just in awe that Schulz nails this character in this beautiful, iconic, full of life way that is so hard to do.
Jimmy: And it just seems like he has not gotten to the point where, he's just using the same poses over and over again, but he is hitting all those iconic poses. But what's strange is, even if it's a pose that he's clearly never done before, like Snoopy standing on his head, it's instantly iconic. Right.
Harold: How does he do that?
Jimmy: I don't know. That is absolutely you think about, like, the elements of it. One of the elements is, ah, you have to put your 10,000 hours in. Isn't that the Malcolm Gladwell thing he's done? That right. He leans into his situation, he leans into his sort of limitations. Right. He's only using these very minimal tools in this very spare style, in this rigid format.
And speaking of the tools, I found a book, in my studio that I believe Michael bought me. it's an old book from 1970 called Charlie Brown and Charlie Schultz. And it's mostly like, a little reminiscence for the 20th anniversary of Peanuts, put together by, Lee Mendelson, who was a producer for, the TV shows. And it was in association with Schulz, so it's an authorized thing.
But what's cool is there's a whole chapter where you visit the studio, so you get to see him at work in, that little photographer studio that we talked about that he was working in on his Sebastopol estate. And you get to see an exterior of the building, which is cool, but he talks specifically about the tools he's using. And, I'll read this paragraph to you where he, discusses his equipment. Okay, so this is Schulz in 1970.
My equipment is extraordinarily simple. About all I need is four or five pens and a pencil. That doesn't give me very much for my income tax deductions. [I think the photographer studio probably, provided some deductions. Anyway,] I use a soft pencil and about three types of pens. I use a C five speedball pen for lettering and a writing pen for most of the drawing. [I thought that was really interesting, that he specifically calls out here that it is not a drawing pen, it's a writing pen. And he says,] this has, quite a strong point. It's one that will give you a fine line and also a very wide line if you want it. The speedball pen comes in handy when I want Lucy to yell a big You block head. The speedball pen I have now is only the second one I've used in my entire career. And I guess that's well over 20,000 drawings now.
That pen he's talking about though, is his larger lettering pen, for, like, Lucy yelling and stuff. So he's had one pen ah, for 20 years. And then other than that, a brush for inking in Lucy's hair and some of the night scenes. And that's about it. But what I thought was interesting is, he calls out the fact that he's drawing with a lettering pen, but also he does not say what it is.
Harold: He's not giving that secret away. Yeah, not yet.
Jimmy: I felt that was very intentional, very cagey on his part. But I think it's one of the secrets, because that line, especially as we see the line this year, it looks really iconic and beautiful.
Harold: Well, that's great. I also found, an interview actually, it wasn't an interview, it was him writing to a magazine was called Cartoonist Profiles. It was basically for cartoonists and people really into cartoons in December of 1971. And there were some things that he mentioned that made me think of what we've been talking about. If I can share some of that, I'd love to share a little bit of what he said here.
Jimmy: Please bring it.
Harold: He said that Peanuts started as a space saving comic strip, as we had mentioned long ago. If you want to go, Liz has put up on the Unpackingpeanuts.com site, some of the pages from the Chicago Tribune that kind of show how Peanuts look compared to other comic strips in the newspaper at the time, how much smaller it was, and how much less work space Schulz had to work in. So he's saying, “it started as a space saving comic strip. And although I'm sure this helped to sell it and keep it in some of the papers that otherwise might not have given it room, I have always felt guilty about it, because I am sure it helps to start a dangerous trend. It is a pity that we somehow cannot cooperate in spite of the tremendous rivalries that exist and produce syndicated material that would be of a standard size. I learned a long time ago that I was going to have to struggle for attention on the comic page when I had the smallest amount of space, and others were using black borders and all sorts of dramatic, heavy areas to gain attention. One of the best ways, of course, to counteract this was simply to use a little more white space.” He's saying that essentially, as little space as I'm having, I have to work with. I'm going to put less in it in terms of ink in order to get people to notice it.” So he has this extra layer of design responsibility, where he feels he can't use a lot of blacks because the strip is so tiny. He wants to draw the eye to a white little oasis on the page. That when others are trying to get the attention by using lots of blacks and shading.
Jimmy: And what's strange too is in so many instances, he doesn't sacrifice like a roundness of form. You look at little Linus's little body and it has a roundness to it. Even though there's no hatching indicating light on one side and dark on the other. There's nothing that's really indicating bulk or texture in that way. It's really an outline. But for some reason it's the quality of the line as much as anything else. It gives the characters a sort of a roundness and a bounciness.
Now, my other question about this, this being 1962, and this is the year of Happiness is a Warm Puppy of the book. I was on the lookout for more things like that. Are we going to see a bunch of the greeting card-style strips that we discussed in a previous episode? What I found is odd is that in a lot of ways it went the other way.
Harold: Yeah, he's saving it to the book.
Jimmy: Yeah, maybe he is. Because we're going into these longer sequences. Do you guys find that to be true as well?
Michael: I didn't see anything that stuck out is like one of the panels that would stand by itself.
Jimmy: Yeah, but that was something I expected.
Harold: Yeah. I do think if I were Schulz and I was making these things, I would be thinking, oh, there's a good one for the greeting card. Oh, there's a good one to put in the book. And it wouldn't wind up in the strip, unless if he would have done it originally because he thought it was a great strip, that's one thing. But if he's not putting on multiple hats, which we know he's been doing since the late 50s, he was doing It's Only a Game comic strip for a while. He was helping out with the comic books through this year. This is the final year that new, comic book stories are being made that he even sometimes pitches in on and helps to draw and possibly write. This is the end of that era, but he's now beginning this era where the comic book probably reached hundreds of thousands of people. But now Happiness Is a Warm Puppy is probably, I'm guessing, selling a million copies or more. It's just a huge phenomenon and it's now in bookstores and not just in the comic racks. It's kind of moving up in the echelon of publishing. He's having to, I think, maybe parse out some of his creativity into different slots that aren't necessarily the comic strip itself.
Jimmy: Well, guys, what do you say? Do you want to get to the meat of it and start discussing these strips?
Harold and Michael: Yeah, let's do it.
January 18. Snoopy is sitting atop his dog house, leaning over a beautiful, nicely built snowman, which is sitting next to the dog house. Snoopy thinks to himself, “I just want you to know that for me, this has been a very happy week.” He's speaking to the snowman now. Snoopy continues. “It's not often that someone drops by who is easy to get along with. So I hope you'll--” Panel three. We see just the hint of sun coming out through the winter haze, which Snoopy notices. Then in panel four, the sun is blazing. Snoopy looks directly out at us and thinks to himself, “oh no.”
Jimmy: Rarely do we see the Snoopy looking directly at us. That has to be one of those, one of the very few times he does that.
Harold: This is like a new one. He'll be doing it later, particularly in the late 60s. in the early 70s. He's got the little side eye when he looks at us. But this is him looking dead at us. And boy I feel it. I see Snoopy looking at me. I'm with you Snoopy. This is bad news.
Jimmy: I love the way he's drawing. I'm looking at the digital version from GoComics.com, which you should do too, if you want to follow along with us. you just go to GoComics.com, type in Peanuts and then we're in 1962, when I read out the dates, you can just type them in there and follow right along with us. But in this third panel, the sun coming out from behind the haze is a pretty clever drawing.
Michael: This is a longer sequence, the whole story with the snowman slowly dissolving. But what strikes me is Snoopy. We haven't seen him that affectionate to anybody. We've seen him angry at Lucy, angry at Frieda and her cat, kind of tolerant of the birds hanging around. He doesn't seem to have too many pals. And the way he's reacting to the Snowman. That whole sequence for a week is, it is heartbreaking. We haven't really seen Snoopy that close to anyone before.
Harold: Yeah, he's making himself a little vulnerable here.
Jimmy: and now there's no doubt that even though we're seeing the same snowman and doghouse in each panel, it is redrawn each time. Definitely pretty amazing. Pretty cool.
February 5, We join Linus and Lucy in mid conversation. Linus is wearing glasses and says to Lucy “and so the ophthalmologist said, I have to start wearing glasses. At first I was pretty upset.” Linus continues. “It was a real emotional blow. All sorts of things went through my mind.” Panel three, Linus continues. “But finally one thought seemed to stand out.” Lucy says “what was that?” Linus answers, “it's kind of nice to be able to see what's going on.”
Michael: I love the Linus with glasses thing. This is the one year it happened. I was thinking, boy that's a good look for a comic strip character look a little intellectual, which he is.
Jimmy: It is a great look for a comic strip character. It's weird to change it this far into the run, but…
Harold: I so related to it.
Michael: Yeah, this year he gets a lot of good jokes out of this. The ophthalmologist thing and the glasses.
Harold: Yes, I totally related to this. I got glasses at the age of five right before I went off to kindergarten. And, yeah, just totally related to how Linus was kind of taking it in stride, but at the same time, oh, wow, I can see things.
Jimmy: Were you ever picked on for having glasses? This is such a pop culture trope, but I didn't remember ever seeing some kid and going, oh, boy, he's got glasses.
Harold: You know, I'm guessing it happened, but it was like, so lame. Whatever someone was saying that, it didn't really like, oh, my gosh, I'm going to hide these things. I'm not going to wear them. Right. I'm sure somebody called me four eyes at one point, but it really didn't make a difference because whoever was saying that, there was not a lot of vitriol or anger in it. It was just in passing. But yeah, it wasn't like anyone was trying to dare me to not wear my glasses or anything, right? So I just like that I was able to see. That was kind of cool. Just like, Linus was saying here.
Jimmy: It does make a difference. I just got my eyes checked and there was a major change in my prescription when he put the little final lenses on. Wow, like the angels sing.
Harold: I was like, oh, I remember this.
February 18. Snoopy is lying on top of his doghouse and he's communicating with the snowman that is propped up next to it. He thinks to the snowman, “please try to understand.” Then he sighs as he looks away. Then he looks back to the snowman and says, “you're a fine fellow, but I can't risk your friendship. Every time I become close friends with one of these snowmen, the sun melts them away and I'm left broken hearted.” Snoopy continues, “I can't stand the agony, the terrible sense of loss. I've been hurt too often. Although I will admit you have been a good neighbor. You look quite handsome with your cold eyes and carrot nose.” Now Snoopy is down off the doghouse and leaning affectionately up against the snowman. “Oh, well, one can't deliberately avoid friendships, I guess, you can't keep to yourself just because you're afraid of being hurt. Suddenly, in the next panel, the sun is out again. Snoopy again looks at us in absolute shock. Then in the next to last panel, with the sun blazing, he sobs while he hugs the melting snowman. Then in the last panel, we cut to Charlie Brown and Linus, who are looking out the window at what's going on with Snoopy and snowman. Linus says, “poor Snoopy. I see he's lost another friend. It's too bad he's so sensitive.” Charlie Brown says, “huh. But I noticed he wasn't too sensitive to eat the carrot.”
Jimmy: I love that joke. I think that's really good. It is great and very Snoopy.
Michael: This is a very rare instance of the Sundays referring to a previous daily.
Harold: Yeah. And that's a big deal, apparently, in the comics world. And if you don't mind, I'll share another little piece from that 1971, essay he wrote for Cartoonist Profiles.
Jimmy: That's what we're here for
Harold: He brought up something that-- he was conscientious. He was certainly conscientious toward who he thought his intermediary audience was, which were editors of newspapers. He was trying to sell newspapers. That's why they let him into the strip. And he seems just to be very aware of that. And you see that here in one of the things. He's basically speaking to other cartoonists about this, and he's talking about, he says, “I'm not that pessimistic about our medium, but I do think there are many areas that need improving. I think one of the worst things is the system of trying to please readers who subscribe only to the daily or only the Sunday feature. By duplicating, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, you punish the reader who follows the strip all the way through. I know that syndicates vary in their approach to this, but I think it is a foolish system. There is enough flexibility in our medium either to run separate stories or not to worry so much about the continuity. I'm also convinced that there should be a lot less crime in comics.”
And he goes on with that. But essentially, he's like, you don't want to punish the person who's reading all seven days because we're reading these things, looking backward in books and reading it on GoComics.com. But there was this weird reality in the newspaper world where, let's say I work in the city, and I go into the city, and every morning on my way to or from work or whatever, I'm picking up that newspaper, and that's Monday through Friday. So that's your Monday through Friday reader. Then you've got the people who subscribe, and so they might subscribe for just the dailies, and so they get the Monday through Saturday paper. Then you've got the person who only picks up the Sunday paper because it's big and fat. It has color sections in it, has the coupons. And so you may have a reader who only reads the Sunday paper, and then you've got the person who gets all seven days of the week. And editors did put this on the cartoonist and said some of the things that Schulz is talking about here, and these are things that he's kind of weighing when he's creating these strips. As Michael was saying, this is a rare occasion where you see him revisiting something.
He's also working, usually about a month ahead on the Sundays because it takes a little bit longer to prepare the Sundays for color. They have to go to engravers. They have to be printed at other printing plans because most of these local papers don't have a color printing press. And then they have to ship those to the newspapers to put them into the paper at a later date. So you're working ahead on the Sundays, and this Sunday is like, just, about four weeks after the daily. So I'm guessing he probably pretty much did these in sequence, and he didn't come back to revisit it. It’s just the reality of it. He had to work, ahead with the Sundays.
And this is a case where you don't have to have read the first sequence at all. He basically lays it out for you in a lot of detail of what Snoopy is going through. And it's just so beautifully done. What Snoopy is saying is really well thought out. The idea that you can't give up friendship, the idea of friendship is you might get hurt, and you're kind of going through his process. Every drawing of Snoopy, as we've been saying, is just iconically beautiful, as he's going from one pose to another, thinking this all through, and then the final one, when the snowman's melting, is heartbreaking.
Jimmy: Not only is every drawing of Snoopy iconic, the character, every panel is composed beautifully. You could separate just the panel and show it to somebody, and it's just a great composition.
I love that first panel up there. The trees on the far left, which are drawn so sparely, and, just an outline and a few scribbles for some texture. And you're not even supposed to really look at it. Right. It's really just some noise to draw your attention to the more classically composed second half of the panel, where you see Snoopy and the snowman. But if you just take a minute and look at those trees, they look great. I’d love to draw a tree like that.
Harold: Me too.
Jimmy: And obviously, I love the next to last panel because that looks like an Amelia lettering balloon with the drips coming off, indicating the crying and the different fonts and stuff. Yeah.
Harold: And then a funny, funny joke at the end, which shows these two other characters we've come to know, Linus's empathy and Charlie Brown's kind of seeing the world for kind of what it is, even though nobody gives him a lot of credit for it..
Jimmy: Right. Love it.
Michael: One thing I just noticed, we haven't really known how far that dog house is from the houses. huh. It was really weird. One time he had the series of strips where the dog house is under the eaves and the big icicle is coming. But I think this is establishing a little bit the layout, the set of the strips.
Michael: You can see it from the house. We didn't know that before. Also, another thing I was thinking about, I'm sure the strip expands a lot, in later years. But I think up to this point, with a couple of exceptions, the entire Peanuts strip takes place within a block or two, depending on how far the ball field is from the houses.
Harold: And how far someone hits the ball.
Michael: There's one strip where, it was like Snoopy as being like Joe Cool hanging out on the street corner. So they're clearly in a town, and there's one where they go to a toy store, and one where a couple where he goes to a comic shop. But basically, I think the set, if there is such a thing, is like a block or two. Everything takes place within a block or two.
And later on, I know when we get to Peppermint Patty and all that, it's going to move down the street or into another neighborhood, and then you get into-- again, I'm not that familiar with the later strips, but Snoopy traveling to visit relatives and stuff, so the strip expands a whole lot. But at this point, it's really compact. If you're doing a stage show, you could do it well. Two locations or three locations.
Jimmy: And one of the brilliance about when he brings Peppermint Patty and stuff in is keeping her and Franklin and Marcy and all that in their own neighborhood. And that's just a master stroke because it's there when you need it and gone when you don't. And it's a built in why they're not around all the time. It's really a clever way to handle it. And if, you want if you like for instance, if you don't like Peppermint Patty or whatever, in some ways, you could lift her out, and still have the original neighborhood. I don't know if that was intentional, but it has, a great side effect for him, the way it worked out.
Michael: Well, I'm curious to see it happening where he starts expanding the landscape a little bit more.
February 24. Charlie Brown walks up to the dog house in panel two. He sits down on his haunches and looks in the dog house. Panel three, he's standing back upright again, and he's looking out in sort of, vague contemplation. Then he walks away saying, “it always seems so quiet around here on the day he goes to visit his grandfather.”
Jimmy: Oh, well, there you go.
Michael: There's an example. Yeah. No, that's it. I picked this one because I think this is the first hint that Snoopy’s got a family somewhere, which becomes a big deal later on.
Jimmy: Yeah, the Daisy Hill puppy farm and his brothers and sister. Yeah. A lot of people hate the Snoopy siblings. That's a lot of people's least favorite part of Peanuts. But we have decades until we get there.
Jimmy: Well, no, I guess Spike will be coming up before you know it.
March 8. Linus and Charlie Brown are at the old thinking wall. Linus says to Charlie Brown, “of course, I realize that there will always be criticism.” Linus continues, all mediums of entertainment go through this. Even our higher art forms have their detractors. The theater seems especially vulnerable.” Linus continues talking to Charlie Brown “and goodness knows how much criticism is leveled at our television programming. One sometimes wonders if it is possible ever to please the vast majority of people.” Linus continues in the final panel, saying, “the most recent criticism is that there is too little action and far too much talking in the modern day comic strip. What do you think about this?” Charlie Brown says “ridiculous.”
Jimmy: Someone's feeling a little touchy
Michael: as the talk balloons just totally crowd them out of the page.
Jimmy: I love it when he draws tiny little figures in the panels. I think that the little delicacy of the tiny little Charlie Brown and Linus being crowded out by the word balloons in the last two panels is great. I think he's feeling a little touchy here?
Michael: It's a little postmodern in here. The comic strip is talking about itself here.
Harold: And I like, Linus's formality in pronouncing theatre.T-H-E-A-T-R-E.
Jimmy: The theatre seems especially vulnerable.
April 15. Charlie Brown and Lucy walk up to Snoopy's dog house. Snoopy is on top of the dog house, but instead of lying in his classic position, he's standing on his head. Lucy says “what's this?” Charlie Brown says, “haven't you heard?” Then Charlie Brown continues in explaining to Lucy what Snoopy is doing standing on his doghouse on top of his head. Charlie Brown says “he's standing on his head as part of a protest movement. He's protesting the way humans are ruining the world for all the animals. He's going to stand on his head until these wrongs have been righted.” And sure enough, through all those panels, Snoopy stays on top of his head. Then Charlie Brown continues. “He feels that this is one way of attracting attention to the animals plight.” Charlie Brown asks Lucy, “well, what do you think?” Lucy walks away saying, “Pretty stupid.” This shocks Snoopy. But then in the final panel, he's back to lying on the dog house, and he thinks, “that's what I thought all along, but I didn't want to say anything.”
Michael: Okay, we're in the 60s and so Schulz's taking a little jab at protesters, but it's not nasty. This is the free speech movement. This is the ban the bomb movement.
Jimmy: Yeah, one always wonders about that. Well, now that I've attracted attention to the cause, now what?
April 26. Charlie Brown and Lucy are standing on the pitcher's mound. Lucy says to Charlie Brown, “no wonder you want to be the pitcher. Charlie Brown, it's cool up here on the pitcher's mound. You should feel how hot is out there in center field. We don't get any breeze at all.” Lucy yells out to the rest of the crew, “hey, girls, come up here. Feel the cool breeze.” Then in the last panel, we have Charlie Brown standing on his pitcher’s mound, surrounded by all the girls Frieda, Lucy, Violet, and Patty are just enjoying the cool breeze. “Mmmmmmmmmmm”
Michael: This is funny. I have to point out something. We're in the end of April here. This is the first appearance of Patty and Violet this year who were really prevalent in all the other years. Schroeder has not appeared yet this whole year and the next strip is the first Schroeder that's the next day. So this is where I started noticing that he might be phasing out some of the characters who were previously really important in the street and I think Frieda and what may have been taking Patty's place because Patty just about disappears this year.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's interesting though, because he'll keep them around in these little bit parts. He does not keep Shermy past 1969. But you'll still see I think Violet probably lasts longer than any of them, but never in a role that's prominent.
Michael: No, she has more appearances than Patty this year, but none of them are focused. There's a couple focused on her being nasty, but not a whole lot.
Jimmy: Yeah, I think he's just found better ways to articulate the themes and emotions that they were previously useful for. One thing I would say about the drawing on this is that last panel where they're all standing on the pictures mound. It's hard to draw groups of Peanuts characters. Schulz has even mentioned this himself. It's tricky because their proportions are all wonky and it gets to start being a little bit cubist because if you notice if you look at the feet, Violet's in the foreground and Charlie Brown is behind her. But if you look at the heads, Charlie Brown's head is in front of Violet. So it works. But if you actually looked at it it's definitely a little Cezanne-like where the perspective’s--
Michael: Yeah it’s just a line of the cap is in front. That might just be a mistake.
Jimmy: Well, it is a mistake.
Jimmy: And that's why I'm ending the podcast.
Michael: I can't believe in this world anymore.
Jimmy: It's all over. But at least we found out that Charles Schulz wrote Rubber Soul. So there's that.
April, 29th, Schroeder is playing piano and Lucy is hanging out on the piano. Lucy, says, “Schroeder, how would you like a job playing dinner music. How would you like that?” She says in the second panel, in one of the rare instances where it's really clear and awkward that he had to allow for those top two panels to be cut off, the strip continues on the next tier with Schroeder answering, “how would I like what?” Lucy says, “A job. How would you like a job playing dinner music?” Lucy continues, “you don't have anything against playing dinner music, do you?” Now she's actually standing up and leaning on the piano. “You're not a snob, are you?” Schroeder's offended and says, “of course not.” “Then come on,” says Lucy, “this may be your big break.” Now, they're outside with Lucy leading Schroeder somewhere. Schroeder has actually picked up his piano and is carrying it with him and he says, “actually, some of the greatest pianists the world has ever known got their start playing dinner music.” And in the final panel, we see Schroeder is a commission to play dinner music for Snoopy, who is eating his dinner out of his dog bowl. And Schroeder says to us, “however, this isn't quite what I had expected.”
Michael: Lucy is starting to act very resentful about Schroeder not falling for her like she planned. Their relationship is getting pretty nasty and great sarcasm. This is not a particularly sarcastic strip, but I think we need a sarcasm meter because these guys are really good at it.
May 8 Schroeder and Lucy again hanging out at the piano. Lucy leaning on the piano while Schroeder practices. Lucy says, “Schroeder, do you think a pretty girl is like a melody?” Schroeder says “I can't say. I've never known any pretty girls.” Then in panel three, it's a silent panel with Lucy smiling and Schroeder going back to playing piano. Then in the last panel, Lucy says to Schroeder, “may your stupid piano be devoured by termites.”
Michael: She's not just smiling in that third panel. That little wobbly mouth line. Her composure is starting to slip.
Jimmy: I think in the last panel, though, she should look angry. I think that's the wrong expression.
Jimmy: In the last panel? Yeah, because she's coming off aloof, but the change in smile from two to three, to me, makes it seem like she's losing confidence. So I think she should have completely lost it by the last panel.
Harold: I think she's wavering and we don't know which way she's going to go kind of thing.
Michael: Yeah, she doesn't want to show that he hurt her, so she's trying to pretend that she's unfazed. That's a pretty nasty thing.
Harold: And it does seem to be that this is what's going on in 1962 again, as the characters are a little cooler toward each other in more than one meaning of the word. I think cool in that I'm unphased, but also just kind of being casually cruel.
May 9. Still with Schroeder and Lucy. Lucy says, “I have a friend who plays the accordion. He can play polkas, waltzes, and schottishes, all sorts of things. You know, the kind of tunes that people like to hear.” Schroeder is not having any of this, and in the third panel, he jumps up and runs away screaming. “AAUGH!” Then in the last panel, Lucy, quite pleased with herself, leans back on the piano and says, “I knew that would get him.”
Michael: Yeah, she's out for vengeance now.
Harold: Polkas, schottishes and walzes
Jimmy: Is this an obscurity?
Michael: Well, you can fill us in on this because you come from an accordion family.
Jimmy: I do.
Harold: I'm guessing that polkas and waltzes, right. We pretty much know what those are. But Schottishes are the obscurity here. Right. So, Jimmy, do you know what they are?
Jimmy: It's, basically a Scottish polka. Right? It's like a two step, they would call it in the Schuyk where I grew up.
Harold: So you're essentially dancing with someone. You need a partner for it.
Jimmy: Yeah, like a square dance
Harold: and it's like a country dance. And they say it came from Bohemia. They said that it also was kind of big in California, which you think of polkas and waltz. I think more of like, northern Minnesota area for that. But apparently the schottishes were a big deal in California at the time.
Jimmy: Well, polkas cross pollinate with Mexican culture, too, because a lot of Mexican culture plays, or music rather, plays, accordions and stuff.
Michael: Welcome to Polka Pod.
Harold: It's crazy where the accordion got to all over the world. It's like this portable piano kind of thing that you can take with you anywhere.
Jimmy: And as we said, my mother could rock the polka. So yeah. Who are the great polka artists I saw? I had your Jac Tam Billy Urban. He used to come through. You had Stanky and the Coal Miners.
Harold: Stanky and the Coal Miners?
Jimmy: Stanky and the Coal Miners. They were great.
Harold: so they have an album.
Jimmy: There was a guy-- there was a blind guy that lived down at the end my-- Oh, Stanky and the Coal Miners. Yes, I'm sure they have an album. I'm sure. We'd have to google that you blockhead, but they must. But Whitey lived down the street from me. It was a blind guy who drove a truck for a living. That’s another story.
He had Whitey's orchestra. That was when everyone could show up. Some people were too drunk to show up. Then it was just Whitey's combo. And then it would get all the way down to just Stepping Back, featuring Whitey.
Harold: Whitey and his circus in a suitcase when he couldn't get the instrument. yes.
Jimmy: So there you go. And my uncle's drummer did double duty and played drums for Whitey.
Harold: That's great. So pretty rich musical culture in Girardville?
Jimmy: If you like that sort of thing. I like how at the end of every polka, the title tells you it's a polka. As if that would be something you couldn't figure out on your own.
Harold: Yeah, it was like the Chubby Checker twist thing. It's got to be in every song that someone's twisting, you have to mention that it's the twist. Exactly. That was very effective for a number of years. I think those polka people knew what they were up against. They needed to keep promoting.
Jimmy: So thank you all for listening to another episode of Polka Pod.
May 10, Lucy is back at the piano with Schroeder, only this time she's brought a friend. It is Snoopy who has a little squeeze box. Lucy says, “you want to hear some real music? Listen to this.” Snoopy plays the squeeze box tap in his toes. Music notes are flying everywhere. And we just see lettered above his head polkas, schottishes and waltzes, polkas, schottishes and waltzes. In the third panel, Lucy continues explaining to Schroeder, “See,, that's real music. That's the sort of music that people like. Not that old Beethoven stuff again.” Schroeder walks away, covering his ears with his hands, a look of utter distress on his face, and he says, “I can't stand it. I just can't stand it.” Behind him, Snoopy continues to play polkas, schottishes and waltzes.
Michael: The last panel looks a little funny, like it's maybe not the original. Doesn't it look a little blurry?
Jimmy: Like the lettering and stuff at the end?
Jimmy: Ah, it might be just bad...
Michael: The Schroeder just his outline looks a little fuzzy.
Harold: Yes. If there's a strip, you look up, those of you who are listening and not necessarily following along with all this, this is a fun one to watch simply because of Snoopy’s. This is classic 1962 Snoopy, where he's got those closed, eyes and slits that are just kind of at angles. How would you describe that? What is that look? And he's got his eyebrows slightly raised.
Michael: It’s blissful.
Jimmy: It's Zen. Yeah. He is totally into whatever he himself is doing. He's not worried at all throughout this. Whether Schroeder likes polkas schottishes and walzes. He's just going to keep rocking them.
Harold: It’s almost-- and yet you wonder if he's doing it to tick off Schroeder as well, just like Lucy is, is he in on this with Lucy or not? You can't exactly tell.
But one thing that I remember about this so vividly is that I had a Peanuts, bedspread. And one of the images in the bedspread was of Snoopy, in the second panel with polkas, schottishes, and walzess. Weird. And it was like one of multiple images that they had. But that one is so ingrained in my mind because I saw it every day, every night.
Jimmy: Well, if my, family had ever seen that, I would have had it. There's no way they would have not gotten me a polka themed Snoopy blanket.
May 20. Charlie Brown is out getting ready to fly his kite. By panel three, he has it in the air, but by panel four we hear “Aaugh.” And in the following panel we see he is hanging upside down in the tree, all tangled up in the kite string. As he hangs there, Lucy and Linus walk up, and Lucy is explaining to Linus, “it's a story I've been reading called The Pit and the Pendulum by Poe, and it's about this man, see, who's a prisoner.” She continues explaining this to Linus and saying “he's tied to a table, and this big pendulum keeps swinging back and forth above him, getting nearer and nearer.” To illustrate this, she pushes Charlie Brown, who's hanging from the kite string, and he swings back and forth like a pendulum. As they walk away, Charlie Brown slowly comes back to rest, and Linus says, “it sounds like an exciting story. I'll have to read it.” Lucy says, “I think you'd enjoy it. I really do.” And in the last panel, Charlie Brown is alone, hanging upside down from the string of his kite, and he says “that Edgar Allen Poe was a riot.”
Michael: What's with the advertising?
Jimmy: For Poe? Oh up at the top for service bonds.
Michael: I mean, this is from GoComics. I remember. It's a, buy US Savings bonds with little picture of the Statue of Liberty. Now, that's not Schulz drawing that, is it?
Jimmy: No, it looks like something that is statted in.
Michael: So yeah, I remember seeing those. I mean, that's kind of like a World War II thing. They plastered those on the cover.
Jimmy: I didn't think they existed in the 60s like this. Do you know anything about that?
Harold: I don't know. No, I don't know anything about the savings bond. It looks like it's coming up on, Memorial Day. I don't know if there was some move by the syndicate to, try to promote things that Sunday.
Jimmy: I don't know. Yeah, that could very well be it. Put it all out for Memorial, although you think it would be the next week.
Harold: Right, yeah. Well, I guess you need some time to purchase, because they were often gifted. Right. You'd buy a savings bone and give it to a child, that sort of thing.
Jimmy: Right. And then it would come to maturity along with the child. So, yeah, what it is, is in the second panel, above Charlie Brown playing with his kite, we see a very sketchy drawing of the Statue of Liberty, just, like, from the chest up, focusing on the torch, and it says, Defend freedom buy US Savings Bonds..
Michael: Okay, so we should assume that is not like a hologram in the sky. and tell Charlie Brown rather than flying a kite, he should buy US Savings Bonds.
Harold: Jimmy: No, but have you ever heard of Project Bluebeam, Michael? You must have.
Michael: No, I know Project Blue Book, but not, Blue Beam.
Jimmy: Ah, well, this is less funded, less real cousin. We'll discuss it some other time. Great conspiracy theory, if anyone's out there.
Michael: Ah, then I’m the_____
Harold: I can imagine back in the 1800s, Edgar Allan Poe out there doing those savings bond rallies.
May 22, Linus is out in the field saying-- baseball field, that is. And he's saying, “come on, Charlie Brown. Pitch it to him, boy.” He continues in panel two. “You can do it, Charlie Brown. Show him your stuff. You're a better man than he is, Charlie Brown.” He continues in panel three. “Throw it right past him, Charlie Brown. You can do it. We know you can do it.” Panel four he says, “Boy, am I a hypocrite.”
Michael: Oh, God. Yeah. Hypocrisy plays a large part in this year. This is hilarious. Now did he--
Jimmy: But we haven't seen Shermy yet who is the original hypocrite.
Michael: but he will show up. Now, did this stuff ever show up in the Specials this whole sequence is really funny.
Jimmy: I don't remember I can't think of off the top of my head. The second one is Charlie Brown's Allstars-- that's the baseball themed one. I've only ever seen that, like, once or twice, so maybe it's in that.
Michael: I don't know. I just love the fact that he's skewering one of the first things that kids learn when they're playing sports is to imitate that kind of rah rah business. And it's just so funny that Linus, like, realizes what he's doing. We've all done that. Come on, we know you could do it.
Jimmy: Although, I don't know, because this whole thing builds to him worrying that he's being a hypocrite. And so I'll read the next one, which is
May 26. Now we have Patty out in the field, and she's saying, “come on, Charlie Brown. We're not really expecting much, but we can hope.” Then Linus continues in panel two. “Pitch it to him, Charlie Brown. Oh, boy. He'll probably hit a home run, but pitch it to him anyway.” Panel three. It's Lucy who says, “Come on, Charlie Brown. Oh, boy. We know you're no good, but we're right behind you anyway, sort of.” Then in the last panel, Charlie Brown just defeated on top of the mound, looks out at us and says, “lots of chatter in the infield. That's very inspiring to a pitcher.”
Michael: This is so funny.
Jimmy: But, here's how you just go, come on, Charlie Brown. Pitch it to him, boy. Come on, buddy, come on. Here we go. You don't have to say I believe. It's not about that. It's just about making noise and getting excitement going. Linus is overthinking this by quite a bit.
Michael: No, I agree with them. It's all hypocrisy.
Jimmy: So you're playing shortstop, and I'm out there on the mound, right. And you feel that not only do you have to encourage me, but you have to specifically indicate what you believe I can do-- not just tell me to pitch it?
Michael: Well, if we're going to be truthful.
Jimmy: But you don't have to be true. You just say, come on, buddy, let's go. Here we go. All right.
Michael: I can’t believe we’re having this argument.
Harold: Here's the ball. Take it and put it down toward that batter over there.
Jimmy: Come on. We just got to get three outs, three outs.
Michael: I know that you have to always be encouraging, but what you're actually thinking is the complete opposite. I mean, I used to give guitar lessons, and there were some people who are just absolutely hopeless. You just know, there's no way in the world I'll ever be able to do this. And you have to go, yeah, that was really good. Like I’m really impressed.
Harold: Come on, boys. Strum it.
Jimmy: Arpeggio, buddy. Arpeggio.
Well, my version of that that I hate is when people come up at a, convention and say, well, you look at my portfolio.
Michael: Oh God, that's the nightmare.
Jimmy: It's a nightmare because I don't know what to say. They legitimately want-- there's nothing
Harold: you don't know the context. You don't know if they're looking for actual criticism. They just need to be built up a little bit and encouraged.
This reminds me of a story. The names will be not, mentioned to protect the guilty, but somebody I know, ran into a musician in an airport. And really liked this musician's work.
Jimmy: Oh I know this story
Harold: and said to the musician, ohI had to stop and thank you for all. I love the music you used to do. And it's like, well, that's a lovely compliment, but I'm just hearing in the mind of the musician used to do, used to do, used to do. And the rest of my life has been repeating the same as six songs that I wrote when I was 17.
Jimmy: Right. Oh, man. When someone comes up in, a convention with a drawing, what do you say to them? This is an art form that has Bean World and Prince Valiant. So I don't know. Right. Maybe. You're a genius. I can't tell. You just have to put it out there and get beat up like the rest of us.
Harold: Well, that's good advice.
Jimmy: That's true. Yeah.
June 8, Snoopy is atop his dog house, and there's something else joining him up there. It's a little bird's nest. And Snoopy thinks to himself, “how about that?” Then in panel two, he looks a little annoyed, thinking, “I let them build their nest on top of my dog house. I babysit for them. I helped teach the little ones to fly.” Then in panel three, he's really angry, and he kicks the bird's nest off the dog house, thinking “and now, all of a sudden, the whole family just leaves. No thank yous, no goodbyes, nothing. Birds drive me crazy.” He's completely frustrated and lying down on his stomach in the last panel. And he thinks, “and the worst part of it is, they can fly. And I can't.”
Jimmy: This caps up a long sequence.
Michael: You know why I picked this one?
Michael: Because we had a huge discussion when Snoopy was flying around with his ears as a propeller, and I refused to accept the fact that he could fly. I said, this is beyond the pale. I cannot deal with this. And Schulz realized that now. He went, oh, god, I've got to establish that he can't fly.
Jimmy: Yeah, well, it is that only lasts for a little bit. But, you know, what's funny is that you can imagine it's like the kind of thing Snoopy did it the first time because he wasn't thinking about it. It's just effortless. And ever since then, he's had to think about it. Now he can't do it anymore.
Harold: It's like wiggling your ears. The other thing I'm noticing in this strip is, when I was a kid reading this, I didn't think anything really about the lettering much. it just did what it was supposed to do. But it's amazing when I look from panel three to panel four in this strip.
Jimmy: Huge difference.
Harold: It's a tremendous amount of lettering. And again, he's forced into this size panel. Every panel is the same size in the daily strips. And if he has something the character has to say, he's got to fit it into this space. There are fewer words in the final panel than there are by far in the third panel.
And Schultz, if I, as a cartoonist, were trying to do this, I would try to be consistent. That would be the first thing I would think. I've got to be consistent with my lettering. If I do it a certain size, a certain width, I pretty much want to keep that all the same within at least a particular comic strip, because I think I'm going to be drawing attention to myself somehow. But Schulz widens out the lettering, makes it taller, and just makes it bigger in the final panel. And it kind of fits the same space that the last three panels of the strip, fill.
And again, growing up reading it, I wouldn't have thought anything of it. And I'm realizing Schulz is doing something differently than what I would have as an artist, because he's smarter than I am. He knows that it doesn't matter. People aren't looking for that. And what matters the most is in that panel, what makes the most sense for the lettering and the reader and the previous panel next to it. As far as lettering is concerned, they don't care. They're not noticing it. If he can make it bigger, more readable, he'll make it bigger and more readable. He wants the punchline to be larger, he'll make the punchline larger.
Jimmy: Yeah, absolutely.
After talking about not knowing what to say, to artists that are up and coming, I actually do have a little maybe, anecdote that might be helpful. When I did my very first Amelia issue, before it was published, I sent it to some people. And one of the people I sent to was Chris Staros, who I had known for years and years and long before he was publisher of Top Shelf Comics. And, he wrote a beautiful thing back and saying what he liked about it and things like he thought I could work on it.
One thing was he was talking about the consistency of the lettering and how it needs to be more consistent, which he was right about. But where I was at, I was realized I can't, if I had to, letter, like a professional Marvel and DC comic book letterer used to letter. I simply can't do it. I don't have the skills to do it. I don't have the patience to do it. I can't do it. So you have a choice then, to either, like, I could go with a font or whatever, or lean into the flaw. So I just thought, well, I'm just going to lean into the flaw. If I can't make it consistent, the lettering is just going to have to be as expressive as anything else. And if you do it intentionally, it's a feature, it's not a flaw.
Harold: Well, that's the thing. I think one of the things that I learned when I was dealing with all of my shortcomings as an artist and trying to put out finished work that I could share with other people. Was that when I look at my own art and I'd be critical of it. The thing I would always ask myself is, does this strip or does this art or the lettering or whatever, say I meant to do that. Right, and you can't put your finger on it exactly why it looks like you meant to do it. But that was the question I learned to ask myself if I can make it look like I meant to do it, even if I didn't know what the heck I was doing, then pretty much everyone was going to accept whatever I did.
I think there is something about consistency, but there's also something about there's a confidence in it. There aren't any really gross errors where it's like the lettering is crossing over into the border panel. right. And then you think Winsor McKay, you're saying Little Nemo, or he runs out of balloon space and he just curves the lettering down the balloon so it's 90 degrees where the first of the word began, to where it ended, even, that he didn't get kicked off the newspapers page because he was doing that, because he was doing some amazing work. And after a while you kind of feel like, oh, I want to defend Winsor McKay, because he knew what he was doing for everything else.
And in context, if everything else looks like you know what you're doing, and really good, consistent lettering does make a poorly drawn comic look intentional. Yes, it's amazing what good, consistent lettering will do. Now, a font, maybe not so much because the font looks like somebody typed it in Word Perfect or whatever, and pasted it in on top of an incompetent drawing. But if it feels organic to the comic, and it came from that same artist whose hand you're seeing draw, shaky character that looks inconsistent from one panel to the next, somehow the lettering does give that I meant to do that vibe which seems to help a lot..
Jimmy: Well, I know a very smart, cartoonist that way, way back in the early 90s was so hip that he and his partner figured out a way to design their own font for their science fiction comic way, back in like 1993.
Harold: Wow, you did that in ‘93?
Michael: It wasn't my decision. Mark Sherman, who was co-writing the book with me, probably realized what a horrible letterer I was. But he was also-- he's a technophile, so he was very early on jumping into he. Got a Mac, like the day the first one came out. Yeah, I guess he found some software where you could design your own fonts, and I think he modeled it on Mobius or something. But he basically created a Strange Attractor font, which saved me.
Jimmy: It's a really good looking font. It really works well, especially-- I love-- you don't like it. But I love the early issues that are really dense, which really does actually remind me of the early Hernandez brother stuff in the early or not the early, but the Mobius stuff as well. And if you had to do that with the hand lettering, it wouldn't have the visual appeal that it does with that font, which is just really sharp. And it has the exact same effect as a hand lettering thing, in the sense that you don't see it anywhere else because it was designed for that strip.
Michael: Yeah. But, I'm hopeless as a letterer. I just don't have the patience. So the whole font thing saved my life, basically, as far as a cartoonist goes, because I hated doing it. I was terrible at it. I can never get the spacing right. Yeah. So I'll accept whatever. If it makes the strips look a little bit more mechanical or unfriendly, I'll accept that just to have the ease of going in. And then the beauty of it is you go back and reread the page and you go, I can say that better.
Harold: And it's really easy to edit, easy to fix it. Yes. And, for our listeners, I do want to point out that Jimmy was talking about leaning into what was potentially considered a flaw. How many times were you nominated for best lettering for the Eisner award Jimmy?
Harold: four times nominated. And the Eisner award system for you guys who don't know, this is an award that's given out at the San Diego Comic Con every year. And the way the people actually judge this is to get nominated, they lock some people in a room for I don't know how many days, and they read every nominated comic. So it's not like the popularity contest where the nominations are coming from. People who already know everything that's already out there, they're actually reading the comic altogether in this concentrated way. Kind of like we're reading these Peanuts, like a full year of Peanuts all at once. You're reading everybody's comics that have been nominated for different categories, but by the publisher themselves, or somebody's nominated, this comic.
And so even if it's the least read comic or the most obscure comic, it gets a fair shake on the nomination side. But then after it's nominated, which is genuinely an honor to be nominated, because the people that are these are comic book shop owners and fellow artists and writers, and they love the craft. They know comics really well. So to get nominated for an Eisner is a huge thing. To win an Eisner becomes a popularity contest because then the vast majority of people who vote have not read all of the things in the categories that they're voting.
And so Jimmy's lettering. Take a look at Amelia Rules or Dumbest Idea Ever or Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up and see what Jimmy does with his lettering. Like you said, he leans into it and it is a thing to behold. There's so much personality in life that can go into lettering that adds to a comic. There's a lot you can, put in emotionally and just artistically. The way it all flows is really, really cool. And not very many artists do it, particularly in the world of fonts, because, like Michael was saying, it's so much more convenient and it's clean if you use the font. And I've done both, and, yeah, I see that there are definitely benefits for both, but there's so much you can do with lettering here. Charles Schulz has to be utilitarian because he's got the tiniest space in comics, and he has a lot to say.
Jimmy: He sure does. And you know who else has a lot to say? Us three. We have so much to say that I think we're going to break it right here. And, we're going to come back next week and discuss the rest of 1962, because this is just really interesting discussion.
This is my favorite year that we've covered so far. so I'm really looking forward to continuing it, and I want to hear from you guys. So if you're out there and you want to continue this discussion, you can follow us on social media, we're on Instagram and Twitter at UnpackPeanuts. You can visit us at our website, unpackingpeanuts.com, where you can vote for the strip of the year. Michael, Harold, and I each pick a strip every year that we think is the best and the most representative that year, and then you can vote. And at the end of all this, we can see who came out the best.
And other than that, I just hope that you have a fantastic-- oh, no. Also rate and review us, please. If you could do that, especially if you're on Apple podcasts, that would be hugely helpful. Other than that, I would just, love for you guys to come back next week where we get the rest of 1962. So until then, I'm Jimmy. For Michael and Harold.