Jimmy: Hey, everybody, welcome back to the show. This is Unpacking, Peanuts, where we're discussing 1962, a banner year for Charles Schulz, who is riding high off the success of his book Happiness is a Warm Puppy, and his comic strip is going from strength to strength as it appears in newspapers all over the country and all over the world.
How are you guys doing out there? Are you doing good? I hope you are. I'm Jimmy Gownley, the cartoonist behind the Amelia Rules series of graphic novels, as well as my memoir, The Dumbest Idea Ever. My latest book is from Scholastic, and it's called Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up.
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 podcast. He co-created the first Comic Book Price Guide, and was the original editor for Amelia Rules. And he's the cartoonist behind such great strips as Strange Attractors, Tangled River, and A Gathering of Spells. Michael Cohen.
Michael: Hey there
Jimmy: and he's the executive producer and writer for Mystery Science Theater 3000, a former vice president of Archie Comics and the creator of the instagram strips Sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: Guys, we have so much to discuss, about half of 1962 strips to get through. How about we just get back to it?
Harold: Sounds great.
June 13. Lucy is flying a kite. Linus is behind her, and he's yelling, “you made a kite out of my blanket?” Linus is freaking out. “Do you mean to tell me that's my blanket flying around up there?” Now he's screaming at the top of his lungs, “how could you do such a thing?” Lucy says, “it was easy.” And she spreads her hands open wide to illustrate this. But as she does, she lets go of the string of the kite, which flies away into the sky. And Linus screams “AAAUGH” with his hair standing on the end. And Lucy says, “Good grief,” as we see the kite float away.
Michael: To be continued.
Jimmy: It's a long sequence where, Linus's blanket, in the shape of this kite goes missing. It's pretty interesting. I mean, I kind of like this as a story, and it gets kind of meta in places and almost feels almost like it's a bit of like, ah, a PR stunt almost, to get people to write in.
Harold: And apparently it was very successful.
Michael: But one has to question, why does he only have one blanket?
Jimmy: Well, forget that if you get into that, because clearly he's obsessed with one blanket. But that blanket gets cut up, buried, burned. It's a magic blanket. Clearly, it's been turned into a flannel graph where it's been cut up, and somehow it always comes back. But you were saying it was successful in getting people to write.
Harold: That's my understanding. I don't remember where I heard the story was probably in one of Schulz's books, anniversary books or something. But I did hear that a lot of people did write to their local newspaper and said, well, I just saw it floating over my town in Branson, Missouri.
So it really engaged the readers. They got involved, and, they were very into it and they were very concerned for Linus, and they were writing, please get Linus's blanket back. I'm cracking up.
Now, of course, all of this he wouldn't have known about, until after he'd finished the sequence because he's working four or six weeks ahead. But there is a specific strip that says that we'll get to like Jimmy says, it does sound like Schulz kind of knows what he's up to and that he's going to create quite a stir with this.
Jimmy: It's a brilliant idea. It is a brilliant idea to draw attention to the strip. And actually, it's the next strip that does it.
June 23. Charlie Brown is writing to his pencil pal. “Dear Pencil Pal, how, have you been?” He continues, “I have been fine. I've been getting good grades in school this year. The weather is nice. Well, I must close now. Please write soon. Your friend, Charlie Brown.” We see. Linus has sidled up to Charlie Brown as he closes the letter. And then Linus interjects, “PS. If you see a light blue kite in the air, write to Linus Van Pelt in care of your local newspaper.”
Harold: Apparently they did.
Harold: I think that is really brilliant on his part.
Jimmy: It is that every newspaper that has Peanuts would suddenly start getting letters about Linus's kite.
Harold: Yeah. And if they weren't aware of how big Peanuts was in their own newspaper at the end of this little segment, they would know how beloved it was.
Jimmy: It's such a strange thing to have one art form or one medium, I guess, completely subsumed inside another medium.
Jimmy: And they exist in this symbiotic relationship. But in some ways, it feels like the newspapers, I think, thought of it more as a parasitic relationship. From what I understand, at least from reading interviews with cartoonists, the newspaper people felt sometimes a little bit aggrieved about the comics and the popularity and the success of the comics because it wasn't the news. It was looked at as something less than.
Harold: Yeah. If you got into journalism, it probably wasn't because of comic strips. You were there because you wanted to report in your local community or you're trying to make a difference in a certain way. If you have any idealism in you, that's what you're there for. It's not to reprint something that every other newspaper in the country is printing that, you have really no say over other than you picked it up and now you're stuck with it. Because if you take it out of your paper, you will have an insurrection on your hands from your readers.
Jimmy: The reality, though, is that because those newspapers were sold by these comic strips, there's no question.
Harold: They did polls and clearly, the comics were the most read part of the newspaper.
Jimmy: Well, I mean, I don't know if this is the same, but when I worked in TV news, there was always a little bit, and we're going back 14-15 years now, but there was always a little bit of resentment towards the local sports. Right. Because at this point, now you can get it online, and then you would do a poll. What do you like? And it would be sports and weather. That was what drove people.
Harold: Yeah, it is pretty crazy. And it's so nice that this lasted as well as it did for over a century is pretty remarkable, given that it wasn't on its own feet, like you say. It was nestled into something else that relied on its success, that really had a different purpose. Things could have turned in history, and they are now, because newspapers themselves are going out of style in their own right. It's a physical thing that you're going to be able to read through and then find this page. Now everything that's online, they're starting to split away, and everything is splintered in its own thing, and we don't have the benefit of it going into millions of homes the way it used to. That world of comic strips was this golden age that had its day. And then as the newspapers were shrinking in size and shrinking in readership, the comics got smaller and smaller to fit the needs of the newspapers. It didn't serve the comic strips, and it was a slow and painful depth to watch.
Jimmy: Yeah, it really was.
June 28. Linus comes running up to Charlie Brown. He's brandishing a piece of paper, and he says, “look, Charlie Brown, I got a telegram from the air rescue service.” Linus continues, “they found my blanket floating in the ocean. Two paramedics dropped from an SC 54 and saved it.” Charlie Brown is looking at the telegram and says, “wow.” Charlie Brown says to Linus, “that air rescue service is right on the ball.” Linus says, “I'll say.” Then he walks away clutching his telegram close to his heart, and says, “Lieutenant Commander Carpenter and my blanket, both within five weeks.”
Jimmy: I sense an obscurity
VO: Peanuts Obscurities Explained
Harold: And it's interesting that he's ending this on what was extremely topical. Again, he's very much in trying to engage with the readers, and he ends with a topical joke that in a way, kind of diminishes the whole sequence, because if you're going to read it in a book later, the happy ending has a reference to something that most readers probably don't remember.
What it's about, this Lieutenant Commander Carpenter? So, from what I understand, he was the second American to orbit around the earth. He went up as part of a NASA program.
Michael, do you know more about this?
Michael: Well, unless my memory fails me, he was the first American, and it was a sub orbital flight.
Harold: so he's the first American.
Michael: John Glenn was the first to orbit.
Michael: So it was basically up and down. But he got into space. I think he was the first after Yuri Gagarin.
Harold: It was like a 164 miles. Right. And what I had heard was that basically what he was doing, he was kind of trying to test how an astronaut could maneuver in space, without the gravity, and just see what was possible. So he was kind of moving the whole space program forward by that. By what he did.
Michael: Yeah. And the capsule, of course, was parachuted into the ocean. It was on the news. It was like the biggest news. Everybody was watching the rescue of the capsule.
Harold: It was huge, and apparently it was really touch and go. I mean, a lot of things went wrong on that mission. He barely made it.
Michael: I think the airlock didn't work.
Harold: He spent a lot of the fuel, not realizing it. Every time he was pressing a button, he was releasing fuel, and he didn't know it. And once he figured it out, the amount of fuel that was left to safely get him back into the atmosphere, it was like, down to the fumes. It was very-- once the story I got out about it, I think people were like, oh, my gosh, this guy just made it.
Jimmy: if anybody out there hasn't read the book, The Right Stuff, that talks all about the early, space program, it is a crackling good read. And, boy, the life and death stakes that these guys lived with every single day, it's wild.
Interestingly. I wonder if this puts Peanuts and Snoopy on NASA's radar in a specific way, because seven years from now, Snoopy will be on the moon.
Jimmy: And he's an early booster. See, for you young people out there, we used to do things. We as a society, occasionally we would do a thing, and it would move us a little bit forward. It was nice. I don't think it'll ever catch on again, but it was a good time.
Harold: And for you young people out there, when we were young people, the old people were saying stuff like this to us as well.
Jimmy: Yeah, but they were wrong. That's the only difference.
Liz: I have to interrupt, because we would watch-- they would bring 400 little kids into the all purpose room to watch this on a 19-inch television screen and watch the splashdown. You couldn't see anything, but it was a big deal. And we would all come and watch.
Harold: So as kids, were they able to pretty much kind of paint the picture of what was going on and what the significance was? So even though you couldn't see it, you got the electricity or you just kind of sitting there like, why are we sitting in this room with 380 people in front of me?
Liz: Oh, it was cool. Michael was twelve. I was, like seven or eight when this was happening. So maybe it wasn't as cool when you're twelve.
Michael: It was cool. I mean, it was real life drama. This thing is bobbing in the water and they're racing these boats, trying to get there in time.
Harold: Yeah, because apparently he landed like a couple of hundred miles off where he was supposed to land. I mean, he's nowhere near, so he had to wait for them to catch up to him and hoping he was going to keep a capsule afloat and stay afloat himself.
Jimmy: Well, true, heroes, they were amazing guys.
June 29. Linus has his blanket back and he is walking away from Charlie Brown and Lucy in classic thumb and blanket position. Charlie Brown says, “well, Linus got his blanket back again, didn't he?” He continues talking to Lucy, saying, “you sure caused him a lot of trouble. How does it make you feel knowing that you've made him go through all that grief and anguish? Does it bother you, Lucy?” Lucy is already leaning down and looking intently at the ground and she says, “bugs are fascinating. I could watch them for hours.” Charlie Brown looks out at us and says, “no, I guess it doesn't.”
Michael: There's valuable lessons to be learned from Peanuts. Basically, if somebody's saying something makes you uncomfortable, just pretend they didn't say anything. That's my strategy.
Jimmy: So now, you know, if there's these big long pauses in the podcast, that's what's going on.
July 16. Sally is, standing outside and she's holding a balloon. In panel one she's just standing there holding it and kind of looking out with a thousand yard stare. Then in panel two, she looks up at the balloon. In panel three, she goes back to staring in panel four, she says, “so what's so much fun about a balloon?”
Michael: And balloon sales just plummeted all across the country because people finally realize this is boring.
Harold: We have better uses for helium.
Michael: Sally has a very slow start this year. Actually, she hardly appeared last year. She hardly appeared this year. And then from this point she starts moving up and she's going to become a major character. I think Schulz is getting a handle on what makes Sally funny, and especially when she has to go to kindergarten. It's like a brilliant sequence.
Jimmy: That's my favorite long sequence of the year, for sure. I'm looking at this and I'm thinking of Schulz, as someone who drew a cartoon character, Ronda Bleenie, whose hairstyle got away from them in the early episodes. You can see this is what's going on. When she was just little, it was little wings, right, that would come out on the side. But by the end, these will be full on, like Thor wings coming off of either side of her head, but it works great. Great cartoon design.
July 22. Lucy is standing, eating something out of a bag. Little pieces of candy. We assume Snoopy is sitting next to her, paying some attention. Lucy says to Snoopy, “sit up Snoopy, and I'll give you a nice piece of candy.” Snoopy turns up his nose and looks away, saying “hmmph.” Then he walks away thinking to himself, “sit up Snoopy, and I'll give you a nice piece of candy. Phooey. Who needs it? I get sick and tired of their condescending attitude.” He climbs up on top of his dog house, still scowling and being grumpy about this. “Why should I have to beg for everything? I'm as good as they are. I don't need them. I can get along by myself.” And he lies down in his dog house in classic Snoopy position. But then he gets up and says, “or can I?” Last panel. He is back by Lucy's side in a perfect good puppy position, sitting on his haunches and begging for candy with a very knowing and sly smile on his face.
Michael: Yeah, he's still a dog, unfortunately. He's really offended.
Jimmy: He's trying his best to bridge this world.
August 3. It's Shermy. Shermy comes up to Charlie Brown and throws his bat to the ground. He says, “I'm sorry, Charlie Brown, but I guess I'll quit, too.” (Because we're in the middle of a long sequence where everybody is quitting Charlie Brown's baseball team.) Shermy says, “It's hard to play on a team that always loses. It's depressing. I'm the kind who needs to win now and then. With you it's different. I think you get sort of a neurotic pleasure out of losing all the time.” Charlie Brown, shaken by this, I would say, looks out at us and says, “Little League psychiatry.”
Michael: He should have the booth.
VO: Let's check the Shermometer, Charlie Brown.
Jimmy: Alright, well now, what do you think? Does this add something to Shermy? Is he a quitter?
Harold: I don't know. This is like the 1960s. This was probably one of the more annoying things people did in the 1960s. Everyone becomes the armchair psychologist for everybody else. And they try to explain away everybody else's actions, based on what they understand about psychology. As if that changes anything.
Jimmy: The first book I ever read with Peanuts, What's It All About, Charlie Brown is basically that, it's just 60s pop psychology gobbledygook.
Harold: There are so many movies and television shows where this is the plot, where, there's some major revelation that oh, this is because I'm this way because of this. And it doesn't really add anything to the movie or the character because it's like, okay, so you've labeled it, but why are we focusing on this?
Jimmy: Do you think he's right though? Do you think there's any truth to that with Charlie Brown?
Jimmy: What about you, Michael?
Jimmy: I think he genuinely loves baseball, and it has nothing to do with whether he wins or loses. He would much rather win. I think he would much rather win, but he doesn't, it doesn't affect the game, though. And I think that's also a little bit of Schulz and how he would feel about cartooning. You know, Schulz would have sat cartooning for his own pleasure for decades if he had to be a barber or whatever.
Harold: Yeah. And this is a really good use of Shermy, I think, in the strip, because he's an older kid, he has been kind of the voice of reason, in previous strips now and then. But the fact that he's older and is speaking something that's untrue to Charlie Brown even as he's quitting him, I think there's no other character that could have this much half to what he's doing to Charlie Brown than Shermy, because he is the older kid on the block.
Jimmy: Well this begs the question, does this add something to the Shermometer? And if so, what is it?
Harold: How do you put a name to this?
Harold: He's a pop psychologist. Explainer away or well, it's condescending, but.
Jimmy: We have, I believe maybe we don't have condescending. We have pedantic, we have knowledgeable, patient, compatible. Maybe we don't have condescending.
Harold: What's the word for that? Someone who has, someone who has pat answers about other people. What do you call that?
Jimmy: Glib? Is it glib? No, not quite glib. No.
Harold: That's a tough one.
Harold: Maybe our listeners could help, us out here.
Michael: Well, he's a complex character, so you can't label him.
Jimmy: All right, you know what, there's no rule. We could just say that Shermy's holding steady. He does not have a new character trait. So that just leaves him as an ombrophobic, cynical, philosophical, history loving, empathetic, aggressive, compassionate, patient, pedantic, knowledgeable, emotional, good listening, vain, friendly, hypocrite.
Harold: That will do.
Michael: And he has two strips this year.
Harold: Maybe it's another chance at adding something.
Michael: which is double his usual.
Jimmy: Oh, he's coming back, coming back. Going to finish out strong. But first we got to visit Linus and Snoopy for a bit first
August 5, Linus is playing second base. He says, “okay, Snoopy, let's take two this time.” We're now out a little bit wider, and we see that Snoopy is in fact set up at short stop. Linus says to him, “we can do it ol’ buddy. And the next panel, Snoopy is ready. Then in the panel after that, he fields a ground ball. He spits it out of his mouth “PTUI,” to Linus, who catches it at second, who turns and makes the play the first. Then Linus and Snoopy walk off the field. Linus saying, “well, that ended the game, Snoopy. You and I are getting to be a great double play combination. We really work together. By the way, would you like to come over to my house? I've asked Charlie Brown and Frieda and Violet. And I thought we could--” Snoopy walks away, leaving Linus a little surprised by this. Snoopy gets on top of his dog house, lays down and thinks, off the field, I make my own friends.
Jimmy: Jeeze Snoopy.
Harold: This is that Snoopy cool attitude that we have really not seen before so much this year. He's just kind of aloof and above it all and too cool for school kind of character. That's something new and there's something about it that's kind of electric.
Again, I think Schulz is kind of pioneering some attitudes in the comics. I'm trying to think of a comic where this type of character this type of attitude is where a character actually gets away with it. I can't think of one. There are characters who are iconoclastic and their own thing, but in their own weird way, like Wimpy is kind of like that. He's this moocher who is unfazed by things. But there's this kind of cool to Snoopy where he's above the characters of the strip and he's above you and me too, huh. And we still like him for sure.
Michael: Well, he's been put down as a dog, and he's dealing with it by actually feeling superior to them in some way because this is a snobby thing to do. So rather than feeling I'm just a dog, he's using that to his advantage by thinking, well, I'm not going to associate with you off the field. you're not on my level. That's what it reads like to me.
Harold: Yeah. To do that in a character that people genuinely like is a little surprising. There is this whole concept of cool. There was a book called The Birth and Death of Cool. And there is this era starting in the think it dovetails very closely with, the rise of the Beatles, who could kind of keep their cool in the maelstrom of publicity that went around them. If you hear them interviewed, they were somehow able to stay above it all. And, Snoopy seems to predate that he's like he sees where things are going in the he's presaging what's about to happen in the country.
In the US. In particular, there's this concept of cool that really kicks in. You see it from the Beatnik era, which is really kind of on the fringes of things. And then it's maybe parodied in television shows and movies. But the actual Beat movement is not really mainstream. But Snoopy is mainstream. And Snoopy is introducing this concept of cool. And you see it in jazz. You see it and there's all these different things that are kind of coming together. And then there's the cool rock star. It's like Snoopy. He's on the cutting edge of something that's about to take over the country for about 20 years.
Jimmy: Does the term cool come from jazz? Cool jazz. Is that predate the concept of cool?
Michael: Well, Birth of the Cool is the Miles Davis album sessions because jazz was before was classified as hot. That's really hot. And he kind of just lowered the temperature and made it fashionable to be kind of distant.
Harold: kind of laid back and above it all.
Jimmy: Yeah, that's something that well, and as someone who never fully, was able to appreciate jazz, that album is the way to get people interested in it because it's approachable. Because it's laid back. It's not crazy time signatures and insane solos that you're really listening intently. You can actually just sort of vibe with that record.
The other thing, like you said, Snoopy and these Peanuts strips is looking forward in a way and presaging some stuff. It's contrasted by the fact that really the other gigantic comic strips that were going around at the time are all based on essentially stereotypes that are now 30 and 40 years old. Yes. L’il Abner seems to make sense up to a point. And then suddenly it becomes not like a little out of fashion. It becomes something that looks ancient in its attitudes and, the drawing style strange line thing. Yeah. And Peanuts just feels of the moment, whatever that moment is.
Harold: It's like it's making the moment.
Jimmy: That's what's so crazy. Yeah. Well, and that goes back to the Beatles, too. Were they leading it? Were they reflecting it? Both it's very weird position to be in I would imagine.
Harold: And we do know that Schulz is listening to jazz, or at least around this time. We know he was hugely into classical. And I think that's where Schroeder comes from. But then people like Vince Guaraldi come out, a musician who kind of has his own thing going with an intellectual kind of approach to jazz. Obviously, Schulz is into that because Schulz is the one who says, hey, if we're going to use music for our, animated specials, let's use Vince Guaraldi music.
Jimmy: Although that was actually Mendelson's call.
Harold: Now did Mendelson introduce him? Because I do know that, I mean, Schulz was into Guaraldi, right? or did that happen through Mendelson in the first place?
Jimmy: I believe I read this in that Schulz and Peanuts book. But it's definitely somewhere Mendelson was driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was probably in 1962 because that's the year the song came out. And he heard Cast Your Fate to the Wind by Vince Guaraldi
Harold: Beautiful song,
Jimmy: which is beautiful and eventually used in Easter Beagle. And he pulled over to the side of the road after he got across the bridge and called the radio station and said, who is that? What is it? And then I think he hired him to work on the Charles Schulz documentary. That didn't come out for years. But yeah, like that Cast Your Fate to the Wind has exactly the vibe that Guaraldi’s Peanuts stuff goes on to have.
Harold: It's beautiful. So I'm wondering if Schulz, with this version of Snoopy that we're seeing how that dovetails with his first exposure to Guaraldi.
Michael: The next strip, actually. Continuation of that theme of Snoopy being super cool because it's really hot.
August 16. Lucy comes up to Snoopy. She's wearing a little bathing suit, which is absolutely ridiculous and adorable. She says, “good grief.” And she walks past him saying, “anyone who would wear a fur coat on a hot day like this must be crazy.” In panel three.Snoopy silently contemplates this and then says, “some of us prefer to sacrifice comfort for style.”
Michael: That's cool.
Harold: And the little closed eyes with the high eyebrows. Again, that's the look that's so classic from the 1960s era and into the 70s. Just so Snoopy. And it's like, yeah, it's just so new and fresh and funny. I can see people seeing this attitude and wanting to kind of embody it themselves and imitate it. There's something about it. To certain people, it would be incredibly like, what the heck is this attitude? I've not seen this before. This is like, you get to be above it all and apart from it, and you can't be hurt by it. It was really attractive for certain people to see this. And you definitely see it in musicians and rock musicians. At a certain point, it just goes in this direction. You see all the angst of Schulz in the early 60s where he's worried about the bomb he's worried about, and all of a sudden it's like people hit some tipping point. And then they're like, okay, I'm not going to be fazed by this. And he's playing with it, with Snoopy, with the snowman, the idea that I can't be hurt by this, it's too much to want to lean into something because it's so easy to be hurt. and then after a while, Snoopy kind of moves into the space where he's above it. He's aloof, and yet he's kind of mysterious at the same time.
Jimmy: And if you raise the eyebrows a 32nd of an inch, you change the angle of the eye two degrees and it's aloof. It's snobby.
Jimmy: But this is cool. It's just he's not phased by it.
Harold: He's invented something here, as far as I can tell. I can't think of where he would have gotten it from. The closest I can think is Wimpy. I just think of Wimpy. He's such an odd character, mooching off of everybody.
Jimmy: And he would have the eyes closed look too.
Harold: Absolutely. And he's unfazed that he is basically mooching off of everybody and, he doesn't care.
Michael: Didn’t Jughead have his eyes closed all the time?
Jimmy: Oh, yeah.
Harold: Jughead is definitely another iconic character that I think is probably the most-- having worked at Archie, we thought about this stuff a lot. Jughead was the most original character of the bunch. To try to go and find a Jughead before Jughead, I think Bob Montana captured something. And, yeah, there's definitely some of that feel to Jughead that he's outside of things and he's kind of judging them on his own terms and yeah, Jughead is like that.
Now you'd have to go back and see when certain aspects of Jughead really kick in because there's a little bit of a Sad Sack to him as well.
The thing that really stands out to me about Snoopy is that Snoopy is its aspirational character. All of a sudden it's like, I want to be like Snoopy. There are some, maybe some people say I want to be like Jughead. But Snoopy is like somehow creating this universal aspirational character out of a dog.
Jimmy: Well, the dog is part of it. The fact that it is a dog Is one of the secrets.
Harold: the underdog.
Jimmy: Yeah. Well, ah, just the fact that he's not a race, he's not really a gender. really anybody could project themselves into Snooping and that works really, really well. And this idea of an animal character that has this level of complexity to it that's existing within a comic strip that's primarily humans, that's totally unique. Right. I mean, there's funny animals in human strips, but they're not anything like this.
Harold: Yeah. Another cool character, I think, when you're mentioning animals is Bugs Bunny. Right. So Bugs Bunny is a character who usually won't give anybody their comeuppance unless they've entered his world and start causing him trouble. Not always. And that predates I think this Snoopy cool, but there's also, I don't know, there's something about Bugs that is a little less accessible, maybe as Snoopy is to a reader. Bugs Bunny is not us.
Jimmy: No. Snoopy is a masterpiece of design. There's just no way to get around that. That is a beautifully designed character that we got to watch just emerge just through repetition and slow, subtle adjustments. And genius, little bit of genius goes a long way.
August 21. Linus and Sally are hanging out at the thinking wall. Sally says, “isn't there any way I can get out of starting kindergarten?” Linus says, “I doubt it's, Sally. Everybody has to go to school.” Sally is not having it. She says “there must be some way of getting around it.” Then she asked Linus, “do you think maybe I could get a deferment?”
Jimmy: bone spurs Sally, that's what you need.
Michael: this is probably the first time I saw that word. I probably did not know that word.
Harold: Can you explain what deferment means to maybe some of our younger listeners?
Jimmy: If you are going to be drafted into the military, but you have some extenuating reason as to why you cannot like flat feet or bone spurs or a psychological condition or whatever it is, you can get a deferment that says you do not have to be in the military.
Harold: So in the 1962, what is the state of the military for a young person?
Michael: The draft was coming up soon. It was coming up soon because of Vietnam. I don't think it started yet, but people were talking about it. The irony here is you go to school to get out of the army, and she wants a deferment to get out of going to school.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's two years. The draft for Vietnam started in 1964. It went between 64 and 73. So he's two years ahead of this. But also he would have been thinking as a World War II guy. A lot of guys wanted to sign up for World War II, and, they got deferments for whatever. If anyone has seen the Captain America movie, I'm sure you're familiar with that.
Harold: Are you saying that there was not an active draft, say, throughout the 50s or during the Korean War?
Jimmy: Wait, no, hold on. Maybe I am wrong. Okay, hold on.
Harold: Because I thought it continued out of World War Two and young men were, at the age of 18, had to register for the draft and they would go to basic training. Is that right?
Jimmy: Well, you still have to, register for conscripted service even though there is no draft.
Here is, according to Michigan World History, Resistance and the Revolution, the Anti Vietnam war movement, it says conscription during the 1960s took place under the legal authority of the peacetime draft because the United States never formally declared war in North Vietnam. Legal authority for peacetime draft came from the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, signed by President Franklin Roosevelt in order to mobilize American civilian soldiers in anticipation of entering into World War II. During the Korean War, the selective service began the policy of granting deferments to college students with an academic ranking in the top half of their classes, but also, medical reasons would be considered. So it was a peace time draft, that inducted 1.4 million Americans. Wow. It did grow out of World War II, but, the bulk of the actual people being drafted and sent to Vietnam occurred between 1964 and 1973.
Harold: So there was a draft in the early 50s when the strip started, where people were being sent to Korea. go. Sally, she's thinking of all of her options here.
Jimmy: She is a very interesting character because she's very smart. Even though she does not do well in school, it's established that she does terrible in school. She hates school, but she's clever and thinking, and she seems to also know herself. I really like that.
Harold: Yes. She has a very strong sense of self.
Jimmy: Here she is talking to her brother.
August 22, Sally says to Charlie Brown, “I think I can get out of going to kindergarten, Charlie Brown, if you'll write this letter for me.” She hands him a piece of paper and a pencil. She begins to dictate “to whom it may concern. Please excuse Sally Brown from kindergarten. She is needed at home.” Charlie Brown says “I can't write that. Don't you realize that this is what is wrong with society today? This is evasion of responsibility. This is what is eroding our society.” Charlie Brown is doing a Jimmy Gownley impersonation. Then Sally says, “I don't know what you're talking about. I'm too young and innocent.”
Harold: Charlie Brown rolls his eyes. I love this strip.
Michael: yeah. She's a smart cookie. She's working the system. She absolutely is. Yeah. Just moving up. She's becoming a real major character.
Harold: And she is so distinct from the other characters. She's kind of in her own world, in her own head. seeing this final joke here with Sally where she's saying, I don't know what you're talking about. I'm too young and innocent, with this kind of blank stare. It brought me back to that famous statement, or famous for me, anyway, from Charles Schulz. He said, I wanted to prove that there was a market for innocence when he was making Peanuts. And I was thinking about that in light of this strip where he's not talking about the characters, the kids, he's talking about himself. He approached these little sinful characters with his own innocence. It's like he was practicing innocence in his strip. There were certain places he wouldn't go with the strip and certain content. There were certain things that were just not appropriate in his world. And he's not talking about the characters. The characters are we know, but we're seeing all these different facets of them. They're very rich, they're very complex. They have their dark sides, they have their light sides. He's talking about himself. And I didn't realize that until I was reading the strip.
Jimmy: Oh, I completely see it that way. I've always felt that. I really feel the strong presence of him in all these strips.
That actually makes me sort of-- I have this weird question. When you're remembering a comic that you have read many times of your life, when you try to whatever, and I say to you, do you remember that, comic strip where, Sally said, she's too young and innocent to understand what Charlie Brown is saying? What do you remember? Do you remember it as a platonic ideal of this comic strip? As if it's an event that's occurring that you could recall? Do you remember yourself sitting and reading it in a book? Do you remember it if it was in the newspaper? Like, what do you remember? Do you remember the meta part of you reading it? Or you do just remember the content?
Michael: A lot of the strips around this time and for the next few years, I remember because, like I mentioned before, me and my, friends used to meet at school during lunch, and we discussed that day's Peanuts. And quite often the punchline got into our, lingo, and we’d parrot the punchline all the time. So for me, it's generally the punchlines.
Jimmy: I remember things because I've said them my whole life. Your memory of Peanuts, then, is inextricably linked to not just as a part of your life, but inexplicably as a work of art that you've experienced to the fact that you were talking about it with your friends. That's, like, right there next to it. Right?
Michael: Yeah, I mean, there was part of every group has its little dynamic, and our dynamic was we were the Peanuts fanatics, and that was the one thing we wanted to talk about when we got together for lunch.
Jimmy: Harold, what about you?
Harold: I mostly remember reading them in a solitary way. It's just me with these characters, and when I haven't read a strip since I was maybe ten years old. I love when I encounter something that there's been a gap of decades between the time I read it, because that's when I uniquely have the sense of who I was at that age. There's nothing that triggers it better than to read something that I read or experienced at that age and haven't since. Because all of the additional memories that kind of pile up as you experience it over and over again, mute that one experience. But if I know I haven't read this since I'm ten, I'm taken back to the memory of what I was thinking and feeling at the age of ten, and that's a huge gift for me.
I mean, Jimmy, you've often said you pretty much remember exactly what it was like to be ten years old. I'm not that way. I have to be triggered to kind of go back there, and the only way I know how to do it is to find something that I haven't looked at for 40 years or whatever and experience it again. And that takes me back.
Jimmy: The reason I'm sort of asking about this, because this goes back to what you were saying about Schulz talking about himself. If I were to think of a narrative or an art form, not an art form, but a piece of art that, I experienced and was immersed in and believed in it as a world and completely became engrossed in it, it would be like the first Star Wars movie at age five. What, I'm thinking about when I'm seeing these strips is I really did think of it as drawings that Charles Schulz made for me in a way I didn't think of, like, oh, I never thought Star Wars as a movie George Lucas made for me. You know what I mean?
Harold: No, explain that more. What do you mean by made for me?
Jimmy: Well, maybe it's just that I'm an egomaniac, but I felt like there was something, like, in the first round when I was a kid, look at this and go, oh, there is Sally and Charlie Brown hanging out in their living room. I mean, I would but I would be aware that this is a drawing of Sally that Charles Schulz made. And I'm, probably not explaining this well. And all these words are also what Charles Schulz wants to say to me. But this does not make it less immersive for me. It makes it more immersive for me because for some reason, there is. And it might just have to do with the fact that I found out there were cartoonists at the same time I found out that there was a thing called Peanuts. And that just got stuck in my head together that these are drawings by this guy. But that extra narrative on top of it makes me weirdly, more involved than if it was just a well told story, beautifully drawn.
Harold: Well, I can relate to what you're saying. I just wrote down something, a couple of weeks ago that I was trying to process again, after having read some Peanuts and thinking about why this had such a huge impact on me. And one of the things that came to me, I just wrote it down. I said, everybody who read Peanuts felt seen. Yeah. it's like they saw themselves in the characters and with the struggles, and they were given dignity. there was like a gift of dignity that Schulz was giving to readers who could relate to these characters. And I think maybe if you experience that as a child, when you're seeing child characters who are speaking with such a level of insight, sometimes there's something about that where there's something in you that no one else has yet acknowledged. And Schulz was somehow doing it. And even your follies acknowledged they're not celebrated, but they're understood.
Jimmy: It's like he's constantly which is more important for you as a kid? You know, when you make a mistake or you do something wrong or you just have some sort of horrible, embarrassing accident or whatever.
Jimmy: you know, it's not something that you want celebrated, but you do want to be understood, right?
Harold: And so he's just constantly saying, I see you with this respect and this dignity that I think attracted audiences in a way that didn't diminish, them, but built them up. And all our art, in a way, says I see you sometimes. It says, I see you as a sucker. someone who wants a cheap thrill or who wants their brokenness to be celebrated because that's all they think they have. But good art says, I think I see you. The potential, the good in you. I love you, even if you consider me your enemy. I mean, I see you. I witness you. And so we witnessed the art back, and we honor it for honoring us.
And I think Schulz did that to a remarkable extent. I think if I said this to Schulz, he'd probably look at me with a blank Sally stare. But I really think he was doing something like this in a way that very few other artists ever did, and it's just a part of who he is. He was constantly dealing with his own memories of his rejection, trying to redeem something from his past in a way that was done with goodwill and innocence. And I'm just in awe of it.
Jimmy: Absolutely. Me too.
August 26. A little bird approaches Linus, who's sitting outside. Suddenly, Linus is patting the bird on his head. Charlie Brown looks on, in confusion. He goes back to Lucy and says, “your brother pats birds on the head.” Lucy, who is skipping rope, says, “what?” She confronts Linus, yelling, “are you out of your mind? Are you trying to make us the laughingstock of the whole community? At this scene the bird walks off, a little embarrassed by the whole thing. Lucy continues, “how long do you think will last round here if word gets out that you pat birds on the head? Now cut it out.” Then we have a solitary panel of Linus thinking about it. And then another panel as Snoopy walks past him. Linus then yells to Lucy, “well, how about dogs?” And Lucy says “dogs are all right. You can pat all the dogs you want. In fact, society approves of patting dogs on the head.” Linus kneels next to Snoopy and pats him on the head, saying, “there are many things I don't understand,” while the bird stands off, neglected, sighing.
Michael: It's so hard to learn the rules because there's no book. So Lucy is doing him a favor by showing him, telling him, society expects certain things of you, and you can't violate the rules or you'll be ostracized. That's what it's all about, conforming.
Jimmy: This goes back to my worry, about the Van Pelt parents, because that sounds like something Lucy's picking up at home that got, to keep up with the Joneses, or not even keep up with the Joneses. Just keep your head down, don't get noticed.
Harold: Yeah. And yet this strip is also heartbreaking again, just like Snoopy with the snowman. It's like someone makes this really strong argument against why you shouldn't do this thing, and he doesn't understand why it should be. And he would have continued patting birds on the head if someone hadn't come along and told them that it shouldn't be done. And you see that the impact on this little bird, who shows up again in the last panel to sigh with us that he's not going to get patted on the head anymore. It's like, oh, my gosh, it's tragic.
Jimmy: Love it. A great last panel. Snoopy getting patted on the head. It's just a great drawing with a blank look on his face.
August 30. Charlie Brown and Linus, are discussing Sally, who stands in the foreground, looking very upset. Linus says, “I think your sister needs help. Charlie Brown.” He continues, “this fear she has of starting kindergarten is beyond the normal fears of preschool children. I really think she needs professional help.” Charlie Brown looking at Sally looking forlorn says, “Perhaps you're right.” The last panel, of course, we see the help that Sally is getting. She's at the psychiatric care stand with Lucy.
Michael: Wow. Do you think insurance covers this?
Jimmy: You would have to be on the phone for a long time explaining it. Lucy's definitely out of network.
Michael: You know that he's in the black.
Jimmy: That's a joke only our American listeners will get to--
Michael: Well, I want to see, how the session goes.
Harold: But I'm thinking is if Lucy had to do a lot of paperwork if she was with some insurance company, it would be much more than 5 cents.
Jimmy: That's true. It would get pricey quickly, like 7 or 8.
September 2. Linus is excited about something. He says, “this is the big day.” He's looking at a calendar and he's saying, “999 days, one to go. This is it.” Linus and walks up to Lucy, who is watching television and he says, “Lucy, may I read your new comic book?” Lucy says, “no, you can't, and stop bothering me.” Linus is jubilant. He says “you did it. You did it.” He shakes Lucy's hand, saying, “My heartiest congratulations. You did it.” Lucy doesn't understand what's happening. Linus continues, “you have been crabby for 1000 days in a row. You have just set an all time record. I knew you could do it.” Linus points at the calendar saying, “see, I've been keeping track on this calendar since Tuesday, December 8, 1959. Remember that day you threw an apple core at me? Since then, you have gone 1000 days without failing once to be crabby. Let me shake your hand again.” Then Linus presents her with a scrolled up piece of paper and he says, “I'd also like to present you with a specially inscribed scroll commemorating this historical event.” He shakes her hand one last time, saying again, “May I say congratulations? You are an inspiration to all the crabby people in this world.” Lucy, holding her scroll, looks out at us and says “one rarely gets a chance to see such carefully prepared sarcasm.”
Michael: It is brilliant. It's a great strip. It's like the Beethoven's 9th of sarcasm.
Jimmy: It is a masterpiece for sure.
Harold: We were talking about how Snoopy kind of kicks into this remarkable level in 1962. I kind of get the feeling that Lucy does as well. It seems for years we've seen Lucy the humor is from Lucy being crabby or doing something, that's a little outlandish. And there seems to be a shift now where Lucy's personality is established and it's kind of a matter of fact element of Lucy. And it's not necessarily the joke itself anymore. It's baked in. People know Lucy's personality. And so Schulz isn't going for the obvious gag. It's just now a part of the fabric of the strip. And I think that's, again, what kind of adds to the subtlety of 1962. There's, even like a little bit of stoicism in Snoopy is embodying. And it's not as much of these people just kind of going at each other. They're just living their lives. And Lucy's Crabbiness is just a piece of the whole puzzle.
September 5. Charlie Brown is putting on his coat. Sally is already dressed up and ready to go outside. Charlie Brown says, “well, Sally, today is the first day of school.” Charlie Brown continues with Sally as they're walking to school. He says, “we'll soon be there. Just a little way to go now.” Sally looks completely horrified by this. Then in panel three, they arrive, and Charlie Brown says, “there it is. There's your school.” This sends Sally running in the opposite direction, screaming.
Michael: People forget well, at least I forget what it was actually like to go to school for the first day. But it's really like one of the major breaks in your life. It's an absolutely major event. More so than graduating high school, I think. Suddenly you're not a free person anymore. For the next 15 years, people are going to be telling you what to do. You have to be here. You have to do this. And I don't recall being prepared for it. I didn't go to kindergarten, but I don't think anybody sat down and said, here's what you do in school. This is what it's like. It's just like, there's the door. You have no idea. It's like you're going in the army.
Jimmy: What's going to happen? I remember the first day at kindergarten like it was yesterday. I wore a powder blue leisure suit my first day in kindergarten.
Harold: Jimmy: That was your choice, right?
Jimmy: Absolutely. And, my dad that morning because I didn't have a lunch can because we were just going to put it in my book bag. I was only there, like, 2 hours or whatever, but I looked and saw the morning classes because I lived right across the street from the school. I saw the kids had lunch boxes, too. And I was very upset by this. And my dad went out and he bought me a Snoopy lunch box so I could have one for my first day at kindergarten in my powder blue leisure suit, which I'm sure there are pictures of.
Harold: You said lunch can. Is lunch can a thing? Actually, you would reuse a can. Some people would. I never heard that term.
Jimmy: Oh, lunch can. Yeah. Maybe that's just a, coal region thing. But a lunch box, a regular metal latched box that you put your lunch in and has a thermos.
Harold: I could imagine a can. It's like a paint can type of thing before they had, like, licensed lunchbox product that you could buy with a thermos and all that.
Jimmy: My daughter, Anna, for her art supplies, uses my dad's lunch can we call her lunch pail from when he was in the mines. It's like just a silver tin, like just looks like a little bread box with a leather handle.
Here's something about this strip, in the aaugh the line that's in the middle of the I think that's actually the first evidence of the hand tremor.
Harold: Oh, you're kidding.
Jimmy: No. I don't think that is a scribble. I think that is the first instance of it. And as we go through the 60s, it's very rare, but you will see it, and it occurs in certain ways. And he would be holding the pen at an almost 90 degree angle from the way he would be normally to go inside those if he did the lettering first and then decided to put the little lines inside, which is, I think, what happened. And that put that pressure right on that point in the wrist. And I think that's what causes it.
Harold: Wow. Well, that's an insight boy, because that is going to be a big part of this comic strip going forward.
Jimmy: Yeah. As Art Spiegelman once put it, a literal mark of dedication to his craft. Very true.
September 11. Linus and Charlie Brown are looking at a little sapling. Charlie Brown says, “It's a beautiful little tree, isn't it?” They kneel down and look at it. Linus says, “yes, it is.” Charlie Brown says, “It's a shame that we won't be around to see it when it's fully grown.” Linus says, “Why? Where are we going?”
Michael: This is really profound. I mean, how do you explain this to a little kid?
Jimmy: Linus, you’re going to die one day.
Michael: Why is this funny?
Harold: Yeah. And yet Charlie Brown is philosophical enough to think about it and say it again. There's this level of maturity to Charlie Brown that even though it's not recognized or appreciated by the people around him, he is a very thoughtful guy. He's not the smart alec we knew when this all started.
Jimmy: No I would think that maybe the constant beat downs and beratings and all that he has gone through has given him this more contemplative side because he spent more time thinking about things and he certainly probably spent more time alone. And it's actually served, him well.
Harold: Yeah. And again, that's relating to Charles Schulz again, that you're seeing all of these hurts and slights that he's never forgotten that he's turning it over into the strip, into something that's golden.
September 21. Charlie Brown and Shermy are walking along outside. Shermy says, “Nothing makes me more mad than wasting a good haircut.” He continues, “Last Saturday I got a haircut so I'd look nice for school Monday morning.” Then he continues at the thinking wall saying to Charlie Brown, “then on Monday I got sick and I couldn't go to school for three days.” With frustration, he leans on the wall and says, “I wasted a good haircut.”
Jimmy: Shermy gets to talk four panels in a row.
Michael: I know. This is really unusual, but Schulz must have remembered that very early strip where Shermy was really concerned about his appearance and was kind of a natty dresser. Now Shermy hardly ever does anything. He's usually just a sidekick and maybe set up a joke. But yeah, here he gets his own strip and Schulz remembered the personality trait. He's the one who would think about this.
Jimmy: That is 100% true. And not only that did he think about this and notice this. So did we, because we put it as his third personality trait. Shermy is vain. I think that confirms the validity of the Shermometer. Right? This is not just us making stuff up, right? Just to talk, just to hear ourselves talk.
Michael: We are going to publish our thesis here. Yeah, we will publish it in Science News.
Harold: Good old Shermy.
Jimmy: Good old Shermy.
October 15, Charlie Brown says to Lucy, “well, did you take your feeding of Sabin oral polio vaccine?” “Oh, yes,” says Lucy. “They put the drops on a sugar cube and I chewed it right up. Of course, this was after I got into the argument with the nurse.” Lucy continues, “well, it wasn't exactly an argument, it was more of a discussion.” She concludes by saying, “my dentist is against eating sugar cubes.”
Harold: Now, do you have any memory of this, Michael? Do you remember taking a sugar cube?
Michael: Oh, yeah, sure.
Harold: This was not developed until 1961. So this is like a big new thing. Yeah. And was used.
Michael: getting a shot was like the worst.
Michael: It means you didn't have to get the shot anymore.
Jimmy: I have never heard of this. That you would eat sugar cubes with medicine on it. Never heard that.
Michael: Yeah, this little drop of it on it. And I used to like sugar cubes. Because I'd eat them just raw.
Harold: Raw Sugar cubes?
Michael: Yeah. So this was great.
Jimmy: I may have once stuck a stick of butter and sugar and licked the sugar off, which I think I may have gotten from Peanuts or maybe a Peanuts special or something. Or maybe not
Harold: Yeah, well, I'm guessing whoever developed this probably got the idea from absinthe.
Jimmy: I don't know, if I was going to guess which of us was going to make an absinthe reference, it would not have been Harold.
Harold: Yes, but you always have to say absinthe makes the heart go fonder.
Jimmy: I knew that was coming. I was trying to get to the next strip before you could get.
Harold: Well, that's why we have a wonderful editor.
Jimmy: I don't know what's in there now.
October 21. Snoopy is lying atop his doghouse. He thinks to himself, “I hear footsteps.” And he sits up and looks off panel left and says, “oh, good grief.” It's Charlie Brown who's coming up and he has a leash in the next panel. He puts the leash on Snoopy, who is making a very put upon and shocked look that this is occurring. Panel after that, Charlie Brown is walking Snoopy on a leash. But Snoopy is walking on his hind legs, and it looks like he's in a chain gang. He looks very upset. The next panel, he's literally howling at the heavens as he grasps the collar, waving his arms in anguish. Patty looks on at this whole scene, wondering what's going on. The panel after that. Now Snoopy is just lying on his back on the ground, gasping for air. Gasp. Choke. Aack. Finally, Charlie Brown gives up and he says, “all right, have it your way. We'll forget the leash.” He takes the leash off, and Snoopy starts walking like a dog in front of Charlie Brown and looks super happy about it. Then in the last panel, he's back on his dog house, lying down, and says, “I'm the kind who'll do anything to prove a point.”
Jimmy: Amen Snoopy
Harold: There's that cool Snoopy again. Boy and Aaack, I think this is where Kathy Guisewite got the idea for Aack. She must have been inspired by Schulz with his aack. That's a great bunch of lettering right there. Beautiful. And balloon.
Jimmy: Beautiful. yeah, great balloon.
Harold: And this may be a good time to, we see an angry Snoopy, and then we see a very happy Snoopy at the end. By the way, I love the third to last panel of Snoopy lying on his back with his ears splayed out looking at Charlie Run throwing away the leash. That is so great.
But, this is maybe a good time to do our Anger and Happiness Index for the year. Now that we've been through most of the year, what's your guys take on? Whether this year, 1962, had more strips in it, where we saw, at least one character in that strip showing the emotion anger, or at least one character in the strip showing the emotion of happiness. Has that increased or decreased for anger, you think?
Michael: This year? I think anger has got to be way down because we do have a certain coolness descending over the strip.
Jimmy: But, we also have the Sally strips where she's upset about a lot of different things, so that could skew it.
Harold: What do you think, Michael?
Michael: The school thing isn’t anger. It's fear. I’m down on Anger
Jimmy: I am going to say it's the same.
Harold: Okay, so we had 126 strips in 1961. At 35% of the strips, just over a third. This year, it's down to 101, less than 30%. This may be the first time we were less than 30%, for anger. How about happiness? Do you think that's up or down?
Michael: I'm not seeing a whole lot of that either.
Jimmy: I'm going to say that's the same, too. Of course, I was wrong about the last one.
Michael: I'll go down on happiness, too.
Harold: So last year, we had 127 happiness strips, compared to 126 anger strips. Almost identical. 35%. This year, the number of happiness strips is down to 105, which is 29%. Almost again, identical to this year's anger strips.
So like Michael was saying. I do think that there is this kind of cool stoic thing happening with the strip where it's getting a lot more subtle and it's just kind of getting a new vibe that may survive through a lot of the 60s. I'd be interested to see. Because that's kind of how I remember, this is kind of the version of the strip that I really remember the most. There's something going on here where the extremes are not. And even as I was reading through these strips, there's one like he's got a little bit of a smile there. Is that happiness?
Jimmy: It's like he's getting so subtle, for sure. And so subtle with a drawing style that is already so subtle. There's so few elements and he makes express the most subtle emotions. It's really amazing.
Harold: Yeah, I'm in awe of how he's able to capture, there's rarely a dud. Like we were talking about that Schroeder Lucy one where Lucy says something and then Schroeder says something back that kind of is cracking her a little bit and her smile kind of becomes wavery. And usually, there's no discussion about this. Like we just say, boy, he nailed every single expression to really subtle extremes. I mean, every single panel works.
Jimmy: Every single character expression works. Absolutely.
November 1, we're, at the end of a long Great Pumpkin sequence. One of the best, actually. And at this point, Linus and Sally have stayed out in the pumpkin patch all night. And Sally's very upset. She says, “Halloween is over. I've missed it.” She's yelling at Linus, “you blockhead, you've kept me up all night waiting for the Great Pumpkin and he never came. I didn't get a chance to go out for tricks or treats. It was all your fault.” And she screams at the heavens. “I'll sue!”
Jimmy: famously adapted in the Great Pumpkin special.
Harold: Yeah, this is quite a sequence. And anybody who knows the animated special is where it came from. There's a lot of 1962 in that special.
Jimmy: We could have certainly read this entire sequence and some of the other Great Pumpkin related stuff, like Lucy, who has a very hypocritical pumpkin patch. I think that when we get into the 70s, because you'll notice as we're progressing here, we're getting into more and more of these longer sequences. So for some of the famous ones in the 70s I think we should instead of just picking strips from the whole year, maybe take an episode and focus on a whole story and see if it works as a short story. So that could be something we could talk about later. But for now, we're sampling this one. And it's a really good one.
Michael: Well, what bothers me about this strip, I never heard anyone say tricks or treats.
Jimmy: No, I never did either
Michael: In my world it was trick or treat.
Jimmy: But he insists upon it being tricks or treats. And I always think of it in the Peanuts world, it has to be tricks or treats. But no, I never would have said it would have been trick or treat.
Michael: Yeah. One word trickortreat.
Jimmy: Yes, exactly.
Michael: All right.
Harold: I wanted to ask you guys about, something that we didn't read, but it's earlier in this whole sequence that kind of didn't ring true for me, or it seemed like it may be a misstep, is where, Linus is writing a letter to the Great Pumpkin, but he's using a form letter. And given where Schulz went with this and this whole concept of, sincerity versus hypocrisy, and that's kind of coming throughout this whole year, it's odd to me that he has Linus being insincere and a hypocrite even as he's judging Lucy's space. It's a side of Linus toward the Great Pumpkin that I was kind of surprised to see.
Jimmy: Yeah, I feel that that was a misstep. It would have been much better to have-- Much better. The guy is a genius, greatest comic strip of all time. Whatever. But in this instance, I think it would have been, possibly, more fruitful to have Lucy trying to get on the Great Pumpkin bandwagon. And she's the one that does the form letter, because she could get involved in all of these things and do it easily. But the other thing is weird about it is that you write a letter. No one writes a letter to the Easter Bunny. I've never heard of that. The Easter Bunny brings you some candy or whatever. That's it. I think the Easter Bunny is low stakes. He's not getting into you writing a letter.
Harold: Oh, you never wrote a letter. That means you probably got plastic grass.
November 12. Lucy is brandishing a new baseball bat. She shows it to Charlie Brown, and says, “Look, Charlie Brown, I got a new baseball bat for my birthday.” She takes a mighty swing and says, “I can hardly wait for next season to try it out.” Charlie Brown says, “Whose name is on it? Mickey Mantle? Willie Mays?” Lucy looks at it and says, “it must be a girls bat. It says, Rachel Carson.”
Jimmy: I'll admit I don't get this. I know who Rachel Carson is. She wrote Silent Spring. I don't get why her name is on a baseball bat.
Michael: Well, it's absurd.
Jimmy: Oh, that's the joke. Okay. Got it. But I should have figured that out.
Michael: But as a female celebrity, she was pretty big.
Harold: And I think that's maybe where Schulz is going with this, because this book, Silent Spring, which was kind of you could argue that Rachel Carson was kind of the founder of the pop ecological movement. She really made a huge impact by writing this book, Silent Spring, which is essentially saying how we have to take into account the rest of creation around us, and we can't constantly just use it to our end and abuse it. And it caused a great stir. Schulz was obviously reading this, and he probably thought a lot of Rachel Carson to, give her baseball bat. It's like he's wanting an excuse to bring her name up to kind of honor her in the strip, which is kind of neat.
Jimmy: That's interesting. I mean, I obviously knew the book. We had to read it in high school, I think, or at least an excerpt from it. But, I didn't realize that it was that big of a splash.
Harold: I didn't realize that she was, like, celebrity level. Yeah. And she didn't live for terribly long after, she died very young. I'm not sure how many years she was in the public eye, but that book really created a major splash and I think was the launching point for a lot of other writers who were trying to reach the general public, like Alvin Toffler and a, lot of that.
Jimmy: Albert Payson Terhune
Harold: Yeah. So it's interesting to see that Schulz, in a non gag gag is just calling her out and honoring her.
Jimmy: Right. And rest in peace. Rachel Carson. And now the environmental thing is under control. We got it. 150 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, today. No problem whatsoever.
Harold: There's, a very rare instance of, Schulz making a grammatical mistake that has stayed in the strip for over 50 years and never got fixed. Charlie Brown asks, who's name is on it? Mickey Mantle or Willy May’s? And it should be WH O-S-E instead of WHO’S. But one of the stories we heard was, Schulz got really upset when editors would change things on his strip, but they would go in and just change a line like, oh, that's not supposed to be there. It's a mistake. And he's like, no, I meant it to be there. You put in too many, Ellipses dots after something. He's like, no, there's supposed to be four there and two there and three there. He did not like anything to be changed. And it's just interesting. I don't know if this is just slipped by everybody, in the process of getting this published. I'm guessing they would have come back to him and said, hey, look, you got to change this. If they had seen it.
Jimmy: Well, as someone who spells and uses punctuation like an abstract expressionist, I say more power to you, Charlie Schulz.
November 29. Charlie Brown is writing to his pencil pal. He says, “Dear Pencil pal, I'm sorry I haven't written. It seems as if I'm always apologizing, doesn't it?” He continues to write, saying, “Well, I'm sorry that I haven't written before. I guess I'm a poor correspondent. Please forgive me for not writing sooner. How have you been? Yours truly. Charlie Brown.
Michael: Some people do this. Some people apologize for the sentence they are saying. They apologize for apologizing.
Harold: This is such an interesting-- I mean… this is a gag. It's a non gag. It's a gag. Depending on how you look at it. The reason I nominated this one was because if. You look up this November 29 strip in your book or online. He does something that I don't remember him doing before. Since he does experiment with that black space.
Jimmy: What is going on with this?
Harold: He kind of borders the first strip at an angle. Like we're watching Charlie Brown on a sheet of paper that's over a black background at an angle. And then he does the reverse on the fourth panel so that there's this little framing device of black around the strip. And it's interesting because one of the huge handicaps that Charles Schulz had for years and years was that he couldn't use the upper left hand corner of the first panel because certain, papers were printing the strip with the word Peanuts white on black letters in the upper left hand corner. So if you ever look at, like, the Fantagraphics books, you'll see that there's never a word balloon like he loves to have in the upper left hand corner of every other panel. He, can't do it because that little Peanuts logo would block it out.
So he's handicapped. He can't use even a portion of one of his tiny frames for that thing. So he kind of plays with that and uses that to his advantage. And he just kind of extends out the black around this white lettered Peanuts in the first panel and then frames it on the other side. if I think of this, I'm always trying to find a way to get someone to notice my tiny little strip. They've always aware that my strip is so small and he's messing around with, okay, I'm going to try using those blacks that I was talking about in the last episode that he didn't use. He used so much white space here, he's saying, well, here's something I could do, and I don't really lose a lot of real estate for myself. I can still fit this thing in, and it's going to catch someone's eye on the newspaper. They're going to be drawn to my strip. But he doesn't do it again as far as I know.
Jimmy: Now it feels a little Krazy Kat where the decorative borders. It feels like maybe he was thinking of that. The other thing, it almost feels like it's a Ken Burns technique, right? Almost like it's being pushed in on the first panel and then being pushed out on the last panel. It's a really weird effect, but I actually kind of like it in this panel. I think it looks pretty sharp.
Harold: Just kind of hear that Ken Burns voiceover-- dearest Ethelrude.
Jimmy: Exactly. I'm sorry, I haven't written.
Harold: With that music. Little violin.
Jimmy: A little fiddle. Exactly.
December 2. Snoopy is on top of his doghouse and it is snowing at night. By panel two he is completely covered in snow. By panel three, it is now morning, and he wakes up realizing he is covered in snow. He thinks to himself, “It snowed last night. I can tell. How disgusting. I go to sleep at night, and when I wake up, winter has come. Now I won't be able to find my dog dish or anything. Rats. What does it have to snow for?” Through all of this, Snoopy is still just encased in snow and lying still in his dog house. He continues, “at least I think this is snow. I can't see. Maybe there's something wrong with my eyes. Maybe I went blind during the night. Maybe I” He erupts from the top of the snow, looking around to make sure he's not blind. And then the last panel, we see him doing his little Snoopy dance right past Linus as he thinks to m himself, “Ah snow, snow, beautiful snow.”
Jimmy: It's all matter of perspective, Snoopy.
Harold: Another little mini masterpiece of Snoopy going through the emotions. Look how high his eyebrows are in that second to last panel. When he pops up out of the snow, they're, like, floating about eight inches.
Jimmy: Over his head there-- I once was doing a school visit, like a bunch of 8th grade kids or whatever, and I was drawing Amelia and someone raised their hand. I go, what's the question? And he goes, Why is her eyebrows over her hair? And I had no answer for this. I don't know. It’s the way it is.
Harold: What do you think it means?
Jimmy: What do you think? Why are Snoopy's eyebrows six inches off his head? Because it looks cool. That's fine.
Oh, and here's a call back.
December 22, when we had our guest, Alexis Fajardo on, we discussed this trip. Hey, Liz, can we go to the Snoopy time Machine and, go back to that episode and hear what we had to say about it then?
VO: It's time for the Peanuts Time Machine.
December 22. We see three identical panels of Charlie Brown and Linus sitting on the curb, their head in their hands. Finally, in panel four, Charlie Brown stands up and yells to the sky, “why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball just 3 feet higher?!
Michael: This was really important to me.
Jimmy: We, have an ongoing segment called Peanuts Obscurities Explained. And I think this would qualify for that.
Alexis Fajardo: Michael, do you want to explain this one?
Michael: So you guys do not understand?
Jimmy: I understand it, but only because I looked up when I was reading through the Fantaraphics books the first time I looked up to see what it was.
Michael: This was, like, my life. I grew up in LA. So of course everybody I knew was a Dodger fan. I decided at age nine to be a Giants fan, and I became totally obsessed. It was like my greatest love was the Giants.
And in 1962, they got into the World Series, amazingly, against the Yankees. And in my lifetime, the Giants had never been in the World Series. And of course, they were underdogs but they managed to get the game seven and only one run behind in the bottom of the 9th. If some baseball fans out there correct me if I'm wrong on the details, but basically I think they had runners on second and third with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, which meant any single or any hit would bring in the two runners. They'd win the World Series, and their second best hitter, or third best maybe, came up-- Willie McCovey and hit this screaming line drive. I was watching this on TV, and at that moment, it's like, they won! And then the second basement for the Yankees, Bobby Richardson jumped up and caught it. And so it went from absolute ecstasy to total pain and failure in, like, a half a second.
It's funny, I remember this strip. I was just telling Harold this story, before we started. I said, yeah, it was amazing because that's how I felt. And then the next day I read Peanuts, and there it was. And clearly, the date is 12/22.
Alexis Fajardo: It's two months later. And that's the thing. Michael, your play by play is perfect.
Michael: Is it right?
Alexis Fajardo: So, I'm much younger. I grew up as a lifelong Red Sox fan, but somebody who has felt the pain, and now, the second team would be the Giants. But I love this strip because, again, it's one of those visual ones. You kind of have to look at it as Jimmy described it.
It's three identical panels. Charlie Brown and Linus is sitting at the curb. They're not changing. Their expressions are the same. They are lost in thought. They're lost in deep thought. And then that final panel Charlie Brown screams to the heavens about McCovey hitting it just 3ft higher.
And it's just like, as a baseball fan, I totally get this. And then as a cartoonist, I think it's really kind of a bold gag to do. I mean, it's so specific. And the other thing I love is the date. Like, Michael, you call it the date, the 22 December, the same year. So that just sort of puts in my head, like, these kids have been there for months just thinking about this play. And it just makes it all the more perfect. And all of these strips, I think, the other thing I wanted to point out is that the humor is in the specificity. And he's so good at being specific about whatever topic it is.
Jimmy: Yeah, like Michael said, it was a screaming line drive. You should, check it out. It's on YouTube. It is hit hard. That baseball was smoked.
Michael: My stomach still hurts.
Jimmy: Are you still scarred about this, Michael?
Michael: I’m still traumatized by this. I'm still very upset.
Jimmy: All right, well, you know what? in deference to your feelings, we'll move on.
12/23 Linus is sitting at a table, doing some sort of intent drawing, writing, crafting. Behind him, we see what looks like Hebrew writing. Linus picks that thing up and they're walking, with Lucy and Charlie Brown. And Lucy says, “oh, no.” Lucy continues, “this is show and tell day at school, isn't it? Rats. I forgot to bring something.” She turns to Linus and says, “did you remember that this was show and tell day, Linus?” Linus says “yes. I have a couple of things here to show the class.” He takes out from a manila envelope which you can clearly see as a manila envelope, what he's made. And he says, “These are copies I've been making of some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. See, this is a duplicate of a scroll of Isaiah, chapters 38 to 40. It was made from 17 pieces of sheep skin and was found in a cave by a shepherd.” He continues as Lucy looks on in wrapt attention as Charlie Brown rolls his eyes. “Here, I've made a copy of the earliest known fragment ever found. It's a portion of one Samuel, chapter 23, verses nine to 16. I'll try to explain to the class how these manuscripts have influenced modern scholars.” Lucy says, “Very interesting.” Linus puts the pieces back in his manila envelope and says, “I thought it might be at least faintly appropriate to the season.” Lucy says to Charlie Brown “are you bringing something for show and tell?” Charlie Brown? Charlie Brown says, “Well, I had a little red fire engine here, but I think maybe I'll just forget it.”
Michael: This is Ducky and Horsey Part two.
Harold: Correct. Exactly. And it was worth a second dive, definitely. It just takes it to another level. And knowing Schulz, I think there's probably some, actual Hebrew that he has copied onto the very first panel, which is, pretty remarkable.
That was kind of Schulz's way. And the Dead Sea Scrolls had been discovered, I think, in ‘46 for over a decade, from 46 to 56. They're apparently finding these scrolls out in the caves just like Linus is talking about.
Pretty remarkable what Schulz puts into this strip, which you would not expect in a comic strip back in this day. And he probably got some heat for it, too. I mean, some people are like, hey, what are you doing putting this in a comic strip? But it just adds another level, to that amazing Ducky and Horsey comic.
Jimmy: And this year, I've really been fascinated, over the last few years watching Schulz have the perfect cartoon iconography for things which no one has ever drawn in a cartoon before. We had the bottle warmer, we had the incinerator out back. We now have not just a manila envelope, but one of those inter office manila envelopes where they just have two rivets on it and string that keeps it from, opening up. And it's drawn with, four lines. And you can clearly see that's what it is.
Harold: So cool.
It is December 28. We see what looks like a perfectly drawn plush Snoopy sitting there on the ground in a room. Sally comes up, a smile on her face. She picks up the plush Snoopy, then takes the plush Snoopy to a bed and plops it right on top of the bedspread. In the last panel, we see what looks exactly like a plush Snoopy thinking to itself, “I hate playing teddy bear.”
Jimmy: Snoopy with another dead on imitation, this time a Plush Snoopy.
Michael: It's this reversal thing that Schulz does, the purpose of the stuffed animals so you can pretend it's alive. And here she's taking something alive, having to pretend it's a stuffed animal in the drawing. I mean, that last drawing is so funny.
Harold: It's so funny. So, Michael, were there Snoopy plush animals.
Michael: In oh, I have no idea. I was into dinosaurs. I never had a Peanuts toy ever.
Harold: Really? Ever?
Michael: I've never had a Peanuts toy or product.
Harold: Wow. I'm seeing online that there's, like, supposedly 1958 ones, but they don't really look like 1958 Snoopy. So I'm highly suspicious Snoopy.
Jimmy: When you would see Snoopy products and stuff, there was, like, two different copyright dates and stuff.
Harold: Well, this is the weird thing about Peanuts and United Media. It just shows maybe that they kind of didn't know what they were doing with licensing. They just didn't do it a whole lot. And so, yeah, whenever you'd see a Peanuts character in the early days of actually for a number of years.
Jimmy: Well into the 70s I would think.
Harold: You would see this long copyright notice on the edge of your T shirt or your plush toy or whatever it was. And, yeah, it would have a copyright date of, like, the date of first appearance and then maybe the date of redesign. and they probably did indeed say, hey, Schulz, we're going to register some of these images and, copyright them. And those will be as, like, designs.
Jimmy: Oh, I see. So they're saying that drawing was copyright.
Harold: Let's say, but it wasn't like you say, that year would, I think, always be consistent with not the year he drew that particular drawing, but when he designed-- they sent in some sheet of Peanuts designs. And at that point, it was kind of set in stone, close enough to whatever it is that they're selling as a licensed product. But everybody else was either putting a little TM, which meant an unregistered trademark, or an R with a circle around it that is a registered trademark. So that Peanuts was somehow registered as a trademark and not a character design. It was a very unique approach to things. And I don't know why they chose to do it, but it always was weird.
Jimmy: Yeah, it seems very confusing.
Well, guys, that brings us to the end of the year. I think this was an absolutely fantastic year. This is my favorite year so far. Michael, do you have a summary? Any final thoughts on the year before we close out here?
Michael: It's very consistent. As a matter of fact, when it comes to picking a favorite, it's really difficult. Nothing really jumps out.
Jimmy: It's a very difficult year to do that. How about you, Harold? Do you have any final thoughts?
Harold: Yes. Before the show, I was saying to Michael that I was having a hard time just like you're saying. There's such a consistency to them. There are fewer strips that stood out to me, and usually I check off a bunch of strips like, oh, I'd like to talk about that, I’d like to talk about that. But this year, I just barely got to 15 by the end of the year because I was waiting for the one that would really jump out at me. And they're just all on this even keel of excellence, more so than probably any other year I've read so far.
Jimmy: Well, I tend to agree with those thoughts. I'd like to hear what you guys think, though.
So if you're out there and you're listening to, this podcast and you want to continue the discussion, why don't you follow us on social media? You can check us out on Instagram and Twitter. We're at unpack peanuts. You, can also check out our website, unpackingpeanuts.com, where there's transcripts of old episodes, where you can listen to the old episodes and where you can vote for who you think got it right when they picked the strip of the year. and that's what we're going to do to close out the episode.
Guys, what is your pick for a strip of the year 1962? Michael, you take it first.
Michael: Well, like we were just saying, very consistent. Nothing jumps out. I'm pretty much picking one at almost random. I really like the one with Sally and the balloon. It sort of defines her character. It says something that I think is so obvious, but I've never heard anyone say it before. Balloons are boring. Maybe if you're, like, two months old they're exciting, but I'll go with, July 16.
Jimmy: Harold, how about you?
Harold: My nominee is February 18. It's the Sunday strip with Snoopy and the snowman melting and, him eating the carrot. I love where Schulz takes us in this strip. You get all of this philosophical thought from Snoopy kind of working through what he's thinking, and he's going to try again to care about somebody and be a friend, and then he loses them. It's heartbreaking. And it's funny at the end to see Linus and Charlie Brown with their observations and it's just all just brilliant.
Jimmy: I love it. Okay, this is tough. I have three choices. I hate playing teddy bear. The masterpiece of sarcasm. or Linus getting people to write into their local newspaper. And you know what? I'm going to go with that. It's June 23. The reason I'm going to go with that, because of the meta fun of just knowing all these newspapers getting flooded with unsolicited, from them anyway, letters about Linus's blanket. I think that has a little prankster and a little impish quality that you don't often see from Schulz. So for that reason, I'm going to go with that strip.
Harold: That's great.
Jimmy: All right, guys, this was so much fun. This is my favorite day--
Michael: Wait, we're not done. We're not done. You've got two important end of year event.
Jimmy: Oh, we have to talk about, your hierarchy, and we have to talk about the, most valuable peanut. Yeah.
Harold: All right.
Jimmy: Well, Michael, do you see any shifts.
Michael: In the cast this year? Yes, I do. Let me just go over this real quickly for any new listeners. we've created something called the Peanuts Hierarchy chart.
Jimmy: We're looking for new names, by the way, so if anyone is out there can come up with a better name.
Michael: We've got six categories, from A to F of characters according to their importance in this strip. So we have the A level, which this is from last year Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, and Linus. The B level has Schroeder patty, Violet and Frieda. Frieda was new. C level, Sally and Pigpen. D level Shermy and Faron the cat, who didn't even show up this year. E, which are basically characters who are never actually seen, would be Miss Othmar. And the bottom category F are ex characters who have been kicked off the strip and are now in cartoon heaven.
Jimmy: That'll be a sad day when Shermy gets--
Michael: That’s Charlotte Braun.
Jimmy: Rest in power Charlotte Braun
Michael: So this year shakes things up. Things haven't changed much in the last few years since we started this. The big four Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, and Linus appear in every strip as befits their importance.
Harold: Not every strip, right?
Michael: every strip. At least one of them
Michael: Well, no, wait, we, have the Sally.
Harold: That's right. Yeah. We nominated Sally as by herself.
Michael: Yes, I did.
Harold: Unless you already met her up to the top tier and we didn't know about it.
Michael: No, I didn't. But that's the first time I think, which shows that she is going up fast. Yeah, I think that's the first time, maybe since the first year, that one of the other characters appeared alone.
So, first of all, Sally has a big part in this, and, I vote to move her up to level B, which means she appears often, usually with one of the A list characters. I think she's a B character now, moving up, do you guys agree?
Michael: I have to demote Patty. She appears, maybe three times this year. She's just kind of a background character. She has a few lines. I got to knock her down to level C - appears occasionally. I hate to do it because I love Patty and Violet. I think Violet is in between B and C. I think she has to go down to be with Patty together
Harold: down to C?
Michael We gotta move Violet down to C. Schroeder didn't even appear till, like, the end of April, but then he comes on strong with the strips with Lucy.
Harold: Yeah, and then you have that whole Beethoven’s birthday thing.
Michael: Yeah, I don't want to bump Schroeder down to C, so I'll leave him there. And Frieda didn't have a whole lot to do this year. She could go down to C with Patty and Violet, but she actually is more active this year than either of them.
Harold: Yeah, I think that makes sense.
Michael: I'm okay with leaving her at B.
Harold: I don't think she deserves to be at B.
Michael: All right.
Michael: If we leave Frieda just to give her another year to gather herself. We've, got the A level, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy Linus. B level Schroeder Frieda and Sally. C Level. Pig Pen Patty and Violet. D level Shermy and Faron. And, do we add the Great Pumpkin to e?
Jimmy: No, I don't think the Great Pumpkin’s a character.
Michael: And the birds are not characters. Okay, then we have Ms. Othmar as the E still, and Charlotte Braun's still the only one who's totally banished
Harold: after twelve years. That’s loyalty
Michael: That's where we stand.
Jimmy: All right, who do you guys have as your most valuable peanut? Your MVP, Harold?
Harold: I got to give it to Snoopy this year. That cool factor is some ineffable force that Schulz is placing into his strip that's going to be there for a long time to come, and I really see it coming out this year.
Jimmy: Michael, how about you?
Michael: Wow, I'm wavering. Now, first I thought Linus, just because I like his glasses so much. but he did lose the glasses later in the year. Then I thought Sally, just because she deserves some credit for coming up so fast and some really funny. I think the funniest sequence is the kindergarten.
Michael: So that makes a ___. Ah, but like Harold said, Snoopy is just-- how do you top Snoopy, I don't know if you can. I'm wishy washy washy.
Jimmy: Wishy Washy!
Michael: I can’t do it.
Jimmy: I'm going to go with Sally. So you don't have to feel bad. I'm going to go with Sally because I think she brings a new coloring, some new tones to the strip. and I think it's going to be a direction that he finds really fruitful going forward. So we got two Snoopys and a Sally, and that'll bring us to the end of 19 well, 62.
Michael: Well, Wait a minute. You might have convinced me to go for Sally. Totally wishy washy
Jimmy: Wishy Washy! All right, here's what we're going to do. We're going to let Michael think about this for a week, and then we'll come back and we'll see if he makes a change at the top of next episode. All right? Until then, follow us on
Michael: Let's leave it. But next year, she'll make her move.
Jimmy: Anyway, thank you all for listening. Thanks to my buddies for hanging out with me and, going over this strip, by strip. It's my favorite day of the week. I hope you guys enjoyed as much as I enjoy, producing it for you guys. And I'd also quickly like to thank Liz for all her hard work.
Harold: Yes, thank you, Liz, for making us sound good.
Michael: No editing needed. It was, like, absolutely perfect.
Harold: Yeah, flawless. The seven hour episode is just perfect as it is.
Jimmy: We started recording this in 1962. Anyway, but we will see you guys next week. until then, for Michael and Harold, I'm 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 by Liz Sumner. Music by Michael Cohen. Additional Voice over by Aziza Shukralla Clark. For more from the show, follow @UnpackPeanuts on Instagram and Twitter. For more about Jimmy, Michael and Harold, visit unpackingpeanuts.com. Have a wonderful day and thanks for listening.