Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. This is Unpacking Peanuts. That's the podcast where we talk about the greatest comic strip ever to be named after a legume. I'm one of your hosts. I'm Jimmy Gownley. Other than me talking in your ear every week, you might know me as the cartoonist behind Amelia Rules, the Dumbest Idea Ever, or my latest book, Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up.
Joining me, as always, are my pals co hosts and fellow cartoonists. He's a playwright and a composer, both for Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. He co-created the first ever Comic Book, Price Guide, and was the original Editor for Amelia Rules. He's also the cartoonist behind Strange Attractors, Tangled River and Gathering of Spells. Michael Cohen.
Michael: Hey, there.
Jimmy: He's the executive producer and writer of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a former vice president of Archie Comics, and the current creator of the Instagram strip Sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: So I'm very happy to be back talking to you guys this week. It's 1963, and, a little behind the scenes info for you out there in podcast land. We took a few weeks off, so, I didn't have my regular outlet of talking to my friends about cartooning. But I did then have, like, three weeks to think about a question Harold asked me on a previous episode that I did not have a good answer for. And I thought maybe if you guys would indulge me, I can answer that now. What do you think? Is that okay?
Harold: It would be lovely.
Michael: Go for it.
Jimmy: All right. So, Harold, you mentioned I said something like, I always felt like Peanuts was drawn by hand just for me. And he said, what do you mean, just for you? And I didn't really have a good answer for that, but I thought about it, and I guess that what I'm saying is this. If you look at well, actually, the very first thing you should know is I went back and read the book What's It All About Charlie Brown, which was, the first Peanuts book I ever had.
Harold: Was it the actual copy?
Jimmy: No, it was not the actual I do have the actual copy, but it's in a nonreadable, ah, used bookstore, had a copy, so I picked it up for a dollar. And, yeah, the thing that it is, it's half someone's analysis of Peanuts at the time. It was written in 1968, and then it's interspersed with a bunch of comic strips as well.
So I thought, okay, well, the first thing I know about Peanuts is that someone is talking about it in a way that makes it seem important, and they're talking about Charles Schulz. I mean, even if I didn't understand the depths of what the person was trying to discuss or the societal things they were getting into. I got the point that this was something written by this man, Schulz, and it was important somehow, right?
The other thing you always know as, a Peanuts fan growing up, is Schulz did all the work. Schulz drew it. He didn't have assistants. If it was on that famous funnies special, from CBS in the 80s, or any interview, you knew these two things. So then when you go back and you look at the newspaper I was looking at, it had like, Moose was in it. Tiger, these are not that-- I love Tiger, actually, but the Phantom, which at that point was on its 15,000th artist or whatever, and Peanuts was on there.
And compared to those things, Peanuts is like getting a handwritten letter from your grandmother, right. It's that personal. And they're trying to tell you something that seems important to them, even if it's just a silly little joke. And Beetle Bailey is like getting an email forwarded you from your uncle. And you're like, oh, it's nice to hear from my uncle, but right. It's not personal. I don't feel that I'm learning about Mort Walker from reading Beetle Bailey, where I guess you do feel that from Charles Schulz.
And I guess that's what I meant by I felt that it was written just for me. It really does have the handmade personal quality that the other strips okay. And I think we see this. There's a strip this year where Snoopy is sitting out on a, and of course, this was done in 1963, so it has none of the connotations we would have today with it. But Snoopy is sitting out on his dog house with a machine gun, right. Because he's a watchdog and he's going to make sure that everyone is safe.
If you're thinking about your character solely as a means of telling a joke or a means of, being an ambassador of your brand, an icon, you're not going to do a strip like that. There's one in the 90s where it's just Snoopy and Woodstock saying, Snoopy is saying to Woodstock, you're emotionally bankrupt. I'm emotionally bankrupt. F. Scott Fitzgerald was emotionally bankrupt. You're not going to see that with Beetle Bailey or Mickey Mouse.
So I guess just that is what I meant. I meant that from the very first time I encountered this, it was framed as this is a handmade message from this very important artist to his audience.
Harold: Okay, that makes sense. I can totally relate to that.
Jimmy: Now that that's out of the way, where are we in 1963? Harold, why don't you tell us. Do you have anything about Mr. Schulz?
Harold: Yeah, so just get us up to date on where he is. He's still in Sebastopol. in this lovely compound that his wife has been gradually building out he's got a three hole golf course and just a lot of places for the kids to play and bring their friends over. So Jill is the youngest. She's five years old now. Amy is now seven, Craig is ten, and Monty is eleven. Meredith is 13 now. So he's got his first teenager in 1963. That might be interesting to think of as we're going through these strips.
And Craig, apparently got into a really bad accident. He wrote a letter to, Ruth and Marvin Forbes, and said the doctor said it was the worst break he had ever seen and was in the cast up to his waist for five weeks. And he said of Craig, he's complained almost none. So Craig apparently, is a daredevil kind of kid. I mean, he did motocross, in later years for quite a while. So this is a little bit of a picture of where the Schulz family is at this point.
In June he travels to Anderson, Indiana, to receive an honorary degree from Anderson College, which was related to the church he was at in Minnesota. And he's in close to 700 newspapers now, so he is really riding a crest. He's just about to, I think, peak on that in a couple of years. But it's an amazing life. He has about, I think, ten people that are living in this space with him, in Sebastopol. Although that is going to change, later this year.
Jimmy: As always, Harold, I'm always impressed, by your research and your knowledge. So thank you so much for that. Michael?
Jimmy: Give me your initial thoughts on the year. And then I thought maybe you could update us on-- I think this is actually really exciting. Michael suggested that we do this thing, what, ah, were we originally calling it?
Michael: I was just calling it a hierarchy chart.
Jimmy: And then we accidentally got, we stumbled into something that's actually popular, what apparently with the Gen Z, they are into this thing called the Tier List, which is exactly what Michael described. So Michael, you are up to the moment hip in suggesting this. I thought a we could call it the Peanuts Tier List and b you could give us an update. just remind us where we are at the start of this year.
Michael: Okay, there should be a graphic on the site, the Unpacking Peanuts website. So this will be a graphic presentation of the characters.
But we've got five tiers and we're looking at it like you're casting a movie. So we won't go into too much detail, but basically the top tiers, top billing. And you have four characters. Charlie Brown, Snoopy Linus, and Lucy. Tier B is co starring Schroeder, Sally and Frieda. C is also featuring Violet and Pigpen. Then we have D it's with Patty and, Shermy and then the bottom tier is called formerly with which you wouldn't see in a movie. But we put in a good old Charlotte Braun who disappeared after appearing a few times way back.
Jimmy: Well, and as we know, she was axed in the head by Charles Schulz.
Michael: Yeah. Anyway, so we're going to be updating this at the end of the year, and this year there will be some changes made. And, keep up with it because it's nice to have something that we can look at and see how Schulz is dealing with his characters.
Jimmy: Well, it's especially interesting when you think of the fact that Schulz did describe them as notes on a piano and he needed all these notes to play the perfect piece. But the fact is, some of the notes get used a lot more, and some of them eventually aren't used at all.
Michael: Your B sharps are not very popular anymore.
Jimmy: Your B sharp? Well, right. If you eliminate that, you're going to write different types of music. Right. If you eliminate your bluesy notes, your music is going to have a different tone. It's going to have maybe less of an edge or something like that. Well, other than the tier list, what are your initial thoughts on this year?
Michael: I'm seeing it as a fairly consistent run all the way from 1960.
Michael: A few shifts in focus, but generally I think it's fairly consistent. Flashes of brilliance amidst the everyday brilliance.
Michael: I'm not seeing it going in any particular direction yet. I think he's pretty solidly got the cast he needs. There are a few introductions this year which turn out to be not very significant. So generally, I'd say I'd put ‘60 up to ‘63 is pretty much equal.
Harold: One of the things I was seeing is that the characters seem to be maturing and kind of getting set in their ways a little bit more. And this is the familiar Peanuts that I grew up with. This is like the sweet spot beginning the sweet spot, really, for me, in terms of the strips that I read as a kid and that I thought, this is Peanuts.
Jimmy: Yeah, it really is. And it's difficult to describe it as well. It's another consistent year when you do have to acknowledge that his idea of consistency is so far beyond what else would have been appearing in the newspapers at this time. And it's not really to slam things. There are some great comic strips still around in 1963, but, he's soaring pretty high above them.
Jimmy: What do you think about the art this year? I think we're seeing a little bit of loosening still continuing. And I'm also starting to see a little more evidence of the hand tremor that eventually becomes so prominent. And I think it might just be because I have one and I know what lines caused it to come out, so that you can see it. So maybe I'm just looking at it through that angle. And maybe it's just a general loosening of the style, but I sort of see that.
Harold: It's funny, I see it most in the lettering. The lettering is what jumps out to me. That he takes real liberties with what you would traditionally think is acceptable lettering for a comic strip. It really become this kind of professional thing that everybody had to do it in a certain style or a certain way, with a certain consistency that Schulz really kind of ignores. He creates his own set of rules and he works within those rules, but there is a looseness. I think at this point, we're clear that he's not even ruling these things out anymore, is he?
Harold: Which is unheard of. Most every cartoonist had this little Ames lettering thing that you ran against T-square or a ruler, and you have exactly the amount of space between the top and bottom of a certain letter, and you would be consistent every single time. That was really becoming common by the 60s in comics. And Schulz is not doing that. And his lettering is functional. It's organic, it's a little earthy, and it just kind of nestles into the strip in a way that I think as a reader, when I was young, I didn't think about it at all. And that's probably the best thing, best compliment I could give for his lettering. Because you don't want to be thinking about lettering, you want to be thinking about what it's saying and how the characters are feeling and all that.
Michael: I just noticed something because I don't pay a lot of attention to lettering, but I'm just glancing at the strips who are going to be going over. And he's not putting periods yeah. When there's not another punctuation mark, like an ellipse. He's not just
Harold: yeah, you know he's sealing it. Because sometimes it's just two ellipses instead of three.
Harold: And we know he’s sensitive. This if someone's like, oh, you missed one Sparky, we'll put it in for you at the syndicate. That's like the last thing you want to say to-- those two dots are there for a reason. There's no period, is there for a reason. He obviously is thinking through the emotional chances of hitting a target of what he's trying to do by putting a dot in or not putting a dot in, which is pretty crazy.
Michael: But is that new to this year? Or could I just--
Harold: Yeah, he was doing it before. I think he's really at the top of his game here, for sure. He seems to know what gets across to his audience, even like the little lines for a smile or a half smile or this or that. Everything just seems so masterfully played by him as a cartoonist. I look at, why didn't he have the character smile there? And then I was like, oh, that's why I'm learning from him as I'm going through these strips.
Michael: Do you think the lack of period is to imply that they're not dropping their voice on the last syllable?
Harold: It's so subtle. I can't even put into words what it means to have a period or not have a period. Yes. Jimmy, do you have any ideas about how to answer that question? Because I feel what he's doing, but it's really hard to put into words.
Jimmy: To me, it's his version of stream of consciousness. it's not this statement and then New Thought, this statement. It's this statement that drifts away. Because if you're going to actually do an ellipse well, we could look at this as we go into the strips, one by one. But if you're going to end an ellipse and the next panel pick up the same thought, you would have to have ellipse at the beginning of that piece of dialogue. And he's not doing that all the time. Right. It's just like the two ellipse or the three ellipse that go off into nothing, and then a new thought starts up. Or you enter into the middle of a new thought.
And I think that's what he's trying to do, saying these are not discrete blocks of what's happening. It's just kind of a conversational internal, drifting from one thing to the other. Especially when it's like Charlie Brown sitting there just talking to himself about the little red haired girl or something like that. Does that make any sense at all?
Michael: Yeah, I understand.
Harold: Yeah, I think so.
Michael: But he might be hearing what the voices would sound like in his head. And there might be a difference between my grandma'll be here Monday, and My grandma will be here Monday.
Jimmy: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I think that's another great point. Yeah, it's very subtle. It also goes to the why you cannot edit a genius. I mean, there are lots of reasons for editors. Someone in publishing has to get healthcare, but, that doesn't help a genius because you can't figure it out 100%. But if you mess with it, it's going to be less. If nothing else, then you're going to slightly diminish Schulz's enthusiasm and enjoyment. You just have to let someone like this go.
Harold: That's Peanuts you change one thing, you've changed seven things and didn't even know it.
Jimmy: Yes, exactly. And didn't even know the other thing.
That makes me think about just talking about you said something about the way the lettering is nestled in. Because at the top of his game I don't know if Michael remembers this, but about 26 years ago, we were in Pittsburgh at some oh, it was the Spirits of Independence tour. And John Totleben, who, famously was an artist on Swamp Thing with Alan Moore. And then later on, Miracle Man with Alan Moore came in and he had been working on a project with the, cartoonist Rick Veitch. And I don't even think it was ever published but it was fully oil painted pages that he brought in on canvases that hadn't been tacked up. So it was just like loose, rolled up canvases. He had, like, four or five pages of this gorgeous oil painting comics, which I generally am not a huge fan of, like, just the Alex Ross school of comics or whatever, where it's like, really realistic painting telling a comic book story. But these looked great.
And I kind of got the nerve up to ask and I'm like, I don't understand exactly why I'm connecting with this as a reading experience when I don't connect with comics which are painted normally as a reading experience. And he's like, well, the secret is, at least according to him, the line of the characters. There has to be some sort of holding line or replacement for holding line around the characters that has to relate to the word balloon. The line around the word balloon has to relate to the line that makes up the lettering and that has to relate to the box that goes around the panel because that's what makes it a language and it tricks your brain into seeing it as a language as opposed to seeing a series of unrelated images. That are just next to each other. That they have this internal consistency and essentially the consistency of things that are not necessarily considered important. Particularly the word balloon. The lettering and the panels.
And I think you can really see that in this year and the last couple of years with Schulz, the lettering bounces in the same way that the characters bounce and have life.
Michael: See, I don't generally pick things apart when I'm reading Peanuts. To me, it's like the gestalt. Yeah, it is what it is. I am not going to try to analyze why it works or why it doesn't work.
Jimmy: Well, that's a little late to mention that now. We've done, like, 50 episodes of this and you're like, you know what I don't like doing?
Michael: Well, notice that I don't chime in when you guys are discussing the letter W and how it is lettered, because I don't see that.
Jimmy: By the way, this episode is brought to you by the letter W.
Harold: Wow, they're becoming a regular sponsor.
Jimmy: They really are. All right, so what do you think? Should we just get to it, and start talking about…
Michael: yeah, enough of this nonsensical babbling
Jimmy: All right, well, we’ve bored the people enough. But you know what? Why don't we be professional?
Harold: It’s a little too late for that.
Jimmy: We're about 20 minutes into this. All right, so why don't we take a break now? we'll come back in a minute and, we'll start going through the strips one by one, 1963.
VO: Hi, everyone. I just want to take a moment to remind you that all three hosts are cartoonists themselves and their work is available for sale. You can find links to purchase books by Jimmy, Harold and Michael on our website. You can also support the show on Patreon or buy us a mud pie. Check out the store link on Unpackingpeanuts.com.
Jimmy: And we're back. All right, 1963, are you ready? First off, you're out there listening. I hope you're doing well. I'm saying thanks for listening. You can't know how much it means to me that you're here every week. and if you want to follow us along, there's a couple of ways you can do it. One way is to go on Gocomix.com, which is fantastic. You could just plug in 1963, and as we announce the dates, you could just type them in and read along with us, which I really encourage. Unless you're driving. If you're driving, don't do this. But if you're at home, do this, because you get to see the beautiful art.
The other way is to just stop being such cheapy and buy the hard covers from Fantagraphics or the soft covers. They do have soft covers now, reprints the whole run, and they are fantastic. Okay, so let's get started.
January 12. Charlie Brown and Linus are hanging out at the Thinkin’ Wall. Linus is in classic thumb and blanket position. He says to Charlie Brown, “well, my ‘blanket-hating’ grandma will be here Monday.” Charlie Brown says, “can't you hide your blanket before she comes?” Linus looks worried and says, “no, I've got to let her take it away from me.” He continues, “this will make her feel she has accomplished something. She needs understanding.”
Michael: The first thing I thought of when we picked this one was, I think one of the great points of Peanuts is she'll have different unique relationships between all the characters. So Linus is not always the same. When he's with Lucy, he's different, when he's with Snoopy is different. But here he's creating a relationship between one of the characters and a character we never see. And, I don't know if any other cartoonists would do this. The blanket-hating grandma has referred to. And here he's exploring the relationship between Linus and his grandma. He's, actually sympathetic to her, where she is actually kind of the enemy because she wants to take his blanket away.
Harold: And that's such a surprise. I mean, this is such a unique character with a unique perspective, and it makes him a richer character. We've seen him in previous years where he's going nuts when someone steals his blanket, whether it's Lucy or, Snoopy. And here he's resigned that he's going to let her do it, and it's, for her good. I mean, that's amazing. That's an amazing thing that Schulz just dropped into the strip based on what he's already set up with his character in his blanket.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's funny, I read too much, and, something I was reading recently, it was talking about how you can recognize an enlightened person, and an enlightened person does everything that they can out of compassion. And I had read that, and then I read this script and I thought, oh, wow. Linus is definitely behaving as an enlightened person, because this is the worst thing that could happen to him, that someone could take his blanket away. But he loves his grandma enough to let it happen, which is a beautiful thing.
The other thing-- Here's a great secret. If you're out there and you're thinking, maybe I want to be a cartoonist and I want to do something funny, here's a freebie before you-- excessive quotation marks. Always funny. If it was just, well, my blanket hating grandma, that's one thing. But “blanket-hating” is in quotes, not blanket hating grandma. Just blanket hating in quotes totally adds to it. And every time it appears blanket hating is in quotes. So take that letter. W.
January 20th. It's a, Sunday strip. Charlie Brown is sitting at his desk at school. He says to himself, “Rats, there goes the bell. I can't stand it.” He says that as he's walking out to the schoolyard with his sack lunch. Charlie Brown sits alone on a bench and talks to himself as he eats his lunch. “Oh, how I hate these lunch hours. I always have to eat alone because nobody likes me.” He looks at the little sandwich in his hand and says, “peanut butter again.” Then as he eats it, he looks out across the schoolyard and says, “I wish that little red haired girl would come over and sit with me. Wouldn't it be great if she'd walk over here and say, may I eat lunch with you? Charlie Brown.” The next panel he has a shocked look in his face and says, “I'd give anything to talk with her. She'd never like me, though. I'm so blah and so stupid. She'd never like me.” He continues, “I wonder what would happen if I went over and tried to talk to her. Everybody would probably laugh. She'd probably be insulted too, if someone as blah as I am trying to talk to her. I hate lunch hour. All it does is make me lonely during class. It doesn't matter.” Charlie Brown looks down at his sandwich. His tongue is sticking out, and he says, “I can't even eat. Nothing tastes good. Why can't I eat lunch with that little red haired girl? Then I'd be happy.” Charlie Brown stands up and says, “rats, nobody is ever going to like me.” Then he walks back to class saying, “lunch hour is the loneliest hour of the day.”
Jimmy: It is a knee slapper.
Michael: This is essentially a remake of a previous strip from a couple of years ago. Nothing new added, and it just hits home. And this isn't something that happened once, right? This is every day.
Jimmy: Yeah, right.
Michael: Including the fact that there is no joke here.
Jimmy: That's actually a super bold thing, especially on a Sunday. It's kind of one thing when you give up four panels on a weekday strip. There'll be another one tomorrow. But, a Sunday is a huge piece of real estate. They only come once a week and it's a fight to be able to stay relevant in the top of these things. It was a big deal for Schulz. He wanted to be on the front page of these Sunday sections all across the country. But he's willing to try something which is just not have a joke at all. Just have a very melancholy strip.
Harold: And it seems like it's creating this connection between the audience and the character in a monologue, like almost like a Shakespearean monologue. that really works. I mean, I think at this point, these strips, those people who are going to sit and read all the way through this, their connection to Charlie Brown is just deepened. And like Michael was saying, even if they read the previous one from a year or so ago, it's deepened again. That he's still going through it, and coming up with new things to doubt about himself and question about how he fits in with others. It really works to galvanize Charlie Brown's personality and why we would empathize with him. I'm in awe of that, that he did even try that. But he's after that, obviously, he's really wanting, I think for people to know this character as deeply as you can know a cartoon character.
Jimmy: Yeah, this is also one of the examples where I think you can see the hand tremor, the box around the word Peanuts in the first panel. The lower two lines when you're going left to right is really when that sort of thing happens and you get that sort of it's not really intentionally done roughness. It gives it that weird sort of almost wave like effect. Like it's really sharp point and you'll see that a lot. And it's really under control at this point. I think later on, when he has a heart issue, it becomes more, much more prevalent. But it's there then and again, that adds to the hand made quality, which, especially today, when everything isn't handmade, it's really nice to see. Yeah, you have to fight to put that in these days.
Harold: And for, our discussion of dots after a statement, this is a master class one kid's stream of consciousness. Yeah, there's one segment where he has no dots, he's got four where there's two dots, he's got eight where there's three dots, one with four dots and three exclamation points and a couple of question marks. I mean, it's crazy that this is where we are with that. He is adding these little pieces and these little things that he is thinking through, like, oh my gosh, he's got a method to how this should be read that is beyond a traditional strip.
Jimmy: As someone who uses punctuation as an abstract expressionist, I highly, approve of this experimentation. In my case, I just don't know what I'm doing. This is a little tip. If you want to know if someone went to Catholic school, they over comma. They will put a comma after almost every word in the sentence. That's how you can tell. Why, I don't know.
January 22, Snoopy is out walking in the rain, walking on all fours as it is. He walks up to Charlie Brown's house. Charlie Brown answers the door and says to Snoopy, “I can't let you in, Snoopy. My mother doesn't like the smell of a wet dog.” Then Snoopy is just left out in the rain. He then turns away from the door and thinks to himself, “my mind reels with sarcastic replies.”
Michael: Just a little thought experiment for all you would be cartoonists out there. Take the first three panels as is and write a new balloon for the last one.
Jimmy: That is actually great.
Michael: I say 99% would actually come up with a sarcastic reply.
Harold: um hmm
Michael: But Schulz goes way beyond that. There are so many sarcastic replies, he can't even think of one.
Jimmy: Well, he often said in interviews, is that to be a success, you have to eschew the obvious gag. Because you're right, I would come up with sarcastic reply. Of course I would. Right. And then it becomes, well, how good is my sarcastic reply? He eliminates that right off the bat. No, we're going to go with something completely different. And it becomes this meta joke, which is really funny. And you see people use versions of this in decades since I don't know that it originated here, even, but it really works.
Harold: Well, it's funny. When I read this one, I thought, okay, Schulz couldn't come up with a good enough sarcastic reply. He wrote down eight of them. And so he came up with this to replace the 8 that weren't good enough, and yet it was very funny.
Jimmy: That could be it, too. But again, it's still the same thing, which is assuming the easiest thoughts. Right.
Harold: But he had to get there, too.
Jimmy: He had to get there somehow. Right? Exactly right. And he draws great rain, as William Pepper pointed out.
What do you think about the way Snoopy is drawn in that first panel? Is it because he's, like, hunched over in the rain and it's unpleasant, but he looks like a little pudgier? Or maybe he hasn't drawn him as a dog in a while.
Michael: What are the two little lines coming out of his head?
Jimmy: I think it's supposed to indicate that his hair is messed up because it's wet. Right? Yeah, I don't know.
Harold: I think so. And actually, Snoopy, there's a couple of weight jokes in this one for Snoopy's getting a little fat this year. So I don't know if this is all something that Schulz is thinking about his character, that something is changing with Snoopy. I don't know.
January 25, Lucy is hanging out at Schroeder's piano. She says to Schroder, “you can stop worrying, Schroeder. I'm not going to talk to you anymore about marriage.” She continues, having gotten Schroeder's attention. my Aunt Marion and married a trumpet player. And she says, one musician in the family is enough.” Schroeder is ecstatic and screams, “Hooray for Aunt Marion,” sending Lucy flying.
Harold: Now, Aunt Marion, we had mentioned in a previous episode, is living with the Schulzs. She is the younger sister of, Deena, his mom. And apparently, she kind of became a second mother to him when he lost his mom so young, just as he was going off to war in, World War II. But Marion is only about 14 or 15 years older than Schulz. And, she is married to a guy who played the trumpet, Bus Reed. And apparently, Bus was a guy that was very affable. The kids loved having Bus around. And so I think this was an affectionate joke, between, Marion and Bus. So it's interesting that Schulz honors Marion over and over again. Violet, mentions an Aunt Marion. This is from, Derek Bang, who has a wonderful website called FiveCentsPlease.org. And he's also the author of 50 Years of Happiness tribute to Charles M. Schulz. But he lists out-- he knows his Peanuts. And he says, Violet mentions an Aunt Marion. Charlie Brown mentions an Aunt Marion. Sally mentions her Aunt Marion. Lucy mentions Aunt Marion. So does Snoopy. So, obviously, Schulz had a tremendous love for his Aunt Marion and was wanting to kind of celebrate her on the strip.
Harold: And apparently, this Aunt Marion joke with Schroeder and Lucy is a thing. And, of course, it continues. There are other more ant Marion jokes. This, I believe, is the first one between Lucy and Schroeder. But it's really something that a lot of people have remembered from the strip.
Jimmy: Oh, Harold, there's your fraction date-- 1/25.
Harold: That's 4%.
Jimmy: Pretty exciting.
January 27. It's night. It's snowy, and Snoopy is out on top of his doghouse. He thinks to himself, “I think my nose is frozen. If I knew how to hibernate, I'd do it.” The next morning, Linus, Charlie Brown, and Lucy come out to visit Snoopy, who's lying on top of the doghouse. Charlie Brown says, “I worry about Snoopy. He still seems to get cold at night.” Charlie Brown continues, “I've tried just about everything I can think of to help him. I've given him blankets. I've given him straw. I've done everything I can think of.” At this point, Linus goes over and looks at Snoopy, who is lying on top of his dog house. Then Linus says, “I have an idea. Why couldn't he sleep inside the doghouse instead of on top?” Next panel. Charlie Brown, Lucy and Snoopy all roll their eyes at Linus. Then Linus walks away saying to himself, “I guess it was sort of a ridiculous suggestion.”
Michael: Is this meta or not?
Harold: I see it that way.
Michael: You do?
Michael: I'm noticing I think there's four or five that we picked that you're conscious that it's a comic strip.
Jimmy: Yeah. The famous India ink is coming up. Actually, I don't know if you selected that one, but India ink--
Michael: I did.
Jimmy: Okay good.
Harold: Snoopy actually has the classic round, kind of animated eyes. In panel five, looking at Linus, I don't remember seeing that any other time, but I'm guessing maybe it's somewhere else. But it's kind of a unique look for Snoopy. Give them the side eye.
Jimmy: It is really, a unique look, but I do like it. There's a character that comes out in the late 80s, early 90s, who has big, round eyes like that. I can't remember her name. She does not get a lot of play, but it is one of the funniest character designs. I like to see Snoopy there in that one, even if it's only a one off.
Okay, so now we are going to February 3. I always pick a Strip of the Year last, and, Michael and Harold are the ones who pick the individual strips that we go over week to week. But I'm telling you right now, I'm calling dibs on this strip. Boy, is this a funny strip.
February 3 So Linus is sitting in his living room, and he looks down at his tongue, which he's sticking out of his mouth. The next panel, Lucy, looks over at Linus, who looks very concerned, and he says, “oh, no, not again.” Lucy says, “what in the world is the matter with you?” Linus says, “I'm aware of my tongue.” Lucy says “you're what?” Linus continues, “I'm aware of my tongue. It's an awful feeling. Every now and then, I become aware that I have a tongue inside my mouth. And then it starts to feel all lumped up.” Then Lucy says, “that's the most stupid thing I've ever heard.” But Linus continues, “I can't help it. I can't put it out of my mind. I keep thinking about where my tongue would be if I weren't thinking about it. And then I can feel it sort of pressing against my teeth. Now it feels all lumped up again. The more I tried to put it out of my mind, the more I think about it.” Lucy walks away, raising her hands in, frustration, saying, “Good grief.” But then, over the course of three panels “oh, no.” It happens to Lucy. She returns to Linus and says, “I oughta knock your block off.”
Michael: I would always prefer to skip this one.
Jimmy: All right.
Harold: It reminds you.
Michael: Thank you, whoever picked it.
Harold: I can't even talk now. It's like people that talk about tinnitus. I hate that. And it's like I've been living my whole life with tinnitus. I don't think about it. Tinnitus. And they're like, oh, no, my ears.
Jimmy: Me, too. That's same thing with me. The other thing. I tried for years to find a type of meditation that I could do, and every type of meditation is focus on your breathing, which to me, that causes absolute existential panic.
Harold: That was a recipe for disaster.
Michael: Yeah, for me, it's relax every muscle in your body.
Jimmy: Oh, my God.
Harold: I can see what you call dibs on this one. This is just fantastic.
February 17. Lucy is chasing someone and she says, “Come back here, you coward.” Linus hiding from Lucy and a great drawing of him just peeking out from behind the corner of their house. Then he runs, seeking refuge at Snoopy's place. But Lucy finds him, and she yells, “you little sneak.” At this point, Linus is on top of the dog house with Snoopy. Lucy continues, “don't think you can get away from me forever. I'm going to knock your block off. I'm going to mangle you. I'm going to annihilate you. You're in this too, Snoopy,” she says, pointing at the beagle, “If you protect him, I'll give you just what I'm going to give him.” Linus looks at Snoopy, who looks back at Linus. And then Snoopy pushes Linus off the doghouse.
Michael: Now look, people say Peanuts is about friendship. No, this case in point, it's like saying the Beatles are about love.
Jimmy: right. It’s an over simplification.
Michael: I am the Walrus is not about love.
Harold: This is such a funny strip. The last panel is priceless. If you look one image up this year, look up, February 17, 1963, to see Snoopy pushing Linus off the dog house. It's priceless.
Jimmy: Here's, another argument I regularly have with, book editors. This podcast might make them sure I never have another conversation with an editor. Here's another thing I hate about these people trying to explain the importance of a beat panel. They're like, well, it doesn't really advance anything, this panel. Can't we cut the panel where Linus looks at Snoopy right before the end? It's a totally different strip without that. It's that one moment where Linus is looking like, what are you going to do? Snoopy is not thinking about it all. Snoopy knows what Linus has to get the heave ho, and it's all in that panel.
Harold: Yeah. With Linus's little sincere look at Snoopy. It just makes the last panel that much funnier.
February 27, Charlie Brown and Linus are walking outside. Linus says, “I don't like to face problems head on.” He continues, “I think the best way to solve problems is to avoid them. This is a distinct philosophy of mine.” He says to Charlie Brown, “no problem is so big or so complicated that it can't be run away from.”
Michael: Is there a book of Linus's philosophy?
Jimmy: Oh, I'm sure, I have no direct knowledge of that, but I guarantee
Harold: It might have been a Hallmark gift book or something.
Jimmy: Yeah. Hallmark gift book, probably.
Michael: Okay. Because this year there's a whole bunch of these mottos which you could definitely put on your embroidery on the wall. This is one. The next one is another one.
February 28 Charlie Brown and Linus are still walking outside, Charlie Brown says, “what if everyone was like you? What if we all ran away from our problems? Huh? Huh? What then?” Charlie Brown is ranting at Linus now and says, “what if everyone in the whole world suddenly decided to run away from his problems?” Linus says, “well, at least we'd all be running in the same direction.”
Harold: I was not expecting that word of wisdom at the end. I thought, Linus is going to get his complete comeuppance but there's something to that. I don't know, it kind of makes sense to me.
Jimmy: I makes sense to me. I see no flaw in this philosophy, actually. I think Harold and I may have had some business plans that are based entirely on this philosophy.
Harold: Oh, wow. This is just a, really interesting strip. Also, it's reflecting an aspect of Charlie Brown that is really settling in, where he becomes a voice of reason in the strip. And, even though he does get a good challenge back from Linus, that is an aspect of Charlie Brown, I think, that is growing even further in this year. He's speaking wisdom. He doesn't always, win out among, his fellow compatriots on the block. But there is something about Charlie Brown that's becoming kind of stalwart and admirable, tying into him being the brother, big brother now. And it's an aspect of Charlie Brown, I think it really does start to make you you admire him, you feel for him. He is a little bit wishy washy. It's the Charlie Brown that we know. He's really a rich character, even though I think in other hands he'd be kind of bland.
Jimmy: Yeah. This year is the year I've liked Charlie Brown the most, going through. Really like him. And if Charlie Brown doesn't have any friends, it's their problem. Although he does have some friends.
March 12, Linus is rooting around in a lower drawer in his living room in some sort of desk. Lucy says to him, “you're looking for writing paper?” And she holds out writing paper that she just happened to have concealed about her person and says, “what's wrong with this?” Linus says, “Well, I'm going to write a poem for school. A work of such magnificence demands the proper piece of foolscap” to which Lucy throws all of her loose leaf paper at Linus.
Jimmy: Is this an obscurity?
VO: Peanuts Obscurities Explained
Harold: Very quick obscurity-- foolscap is a sheet of inexpensive writing paper, 13 and one half by 17 inches in size. And I'm sure Schulz probably learned about it for the first time when he did this. He said that's great. I've got to use the term pools cap. And it's a wonderful way to introduce this new level of pomposity in Linus that you're seeing more in 1963 than you ever have before. It's just a great match.
Jimmy: Yeah. And in panel three, where he says he needs to grab a piece of foolscap, he has his eyes closed and just how dare you hand me what is that, a yellow legal pad or something? Please.
And foolscap just a great word. he just knows these words that are perfectly funny for a comic. Like they were talking about mushed up last year, or maybe not last year, a couple of years ago. He just knows exactly the right words to pick to make it optimally funny.
March 13. Snoopy is sitting on Schroeder's piano as Schroeder begins playing. In the second panel, notes begin emanating from Schroeder's playing, but Snoopy apparently sees them and is shocked by them. Then he sees them coalesce into actual sheet music with a top, and a lower stave, which then Snoopy rests his head on in the last panel.
Michael: Okay, postmodern here
Jimmy: That is really not easy to describe, so I suggest you look that one up just so you know what the heck we're talking about.
Jimmy: Yeah, Postmodern, meta. Okay, this takes us back to whatever episode I was talking about the Schulz being character thing. And there was a strip in it where Snoopy plays the piano and after Schroeder plays it, and instead of notes appearing, it's notes with dog paw prints. And I was just thinking that joke in that context, whenever it appeared, really actually only exists for us, right? Because at no point previous has it been implied that the notes are visible to anybody else, right? It's just a representation of music.
Harold: Yeah, and I was thinking about that more when you're talking about Schulz being in the strip. There was one we didn't put in this year, but it was very funny, where Snoopy wants to have his dog dish filled and he goes to the little spigot that's outside the house and just holding his dish there. And then it starts to rain and everything fills up. And then he goes back to his doghouse with the dish and drinks the water. And he's like, I have to think about that one for a while. And I was like, oh, yeah. Did Schulz see that Snoopy was thirsty and give him the rain? No one was there to turn the spigot on right now.
Jimmy: Yeah, definitely. when he goes meta, that's the way I tend to look at it. And this also goes to my theory that Snoopy is one of the characters here that is closest to understanding it's a comic strip. Because he's, at this point, seeing the music nobody else is. Right. It's not indicated that Schroeder even knows that it's visibly there.
Michael: I think this gag goes way back, though, to like, the early Disney shorts.
Jimmy: Oh, really?
Michael: The Looney Tunes where people I could dance on the notes.
Jimmy: it's actually in the latest version. of it is in the latest Doctor Strange movie that, Sam Raimi made, where they had like a fight with musical notes. Yeah.
Harold: Ah, these have the singalongs and movie theaters with the bouncing ball and that was a big deal.
Jimmy: Follow the bouncing ball.
Harold: Then they switched to animation and the characters are yeah, you're tumbling over the words.
Jimmy: Nicely drawn strip as well.
March 16, three panels of Snoopy rocking out with his happy dance. He looks absolutely blissful and happy. And then in the last panel he thinks to himself, “to those of us with real understanding, dancing is the only pure art form.”
Michael: He might be right.
Harold: Yeah. This is Schulz at the great mug, and t shirt…
Jimmy: Wow, for sure.
Harold: This is like the classic strip. I've seen this all over the place. This is just a great funny strip that is worth saving and remembering. Not a throwaway one day strip.
Jimmy: And he's so confident. He's like, yeah, I could do three. it's just going to be this dog dancing for all four panels but three of them aren't even going to have words and it's still going to be the best strip on the page.
Harold: Well, I mean, think how this stands out. It's all this white space and this completely joyous character who Schulz has an excuse to just have bliss out on a page. That's amazing.
Jimmy: You know what? That actually gives me an idea. We looked at, October 2, 1950. Maybe we should look at October 2nd like 1965 or something like that in the newspaper and see how the funny pages change since 15 Years of Peanuts. I bet there's going to be a lot of people racing to catch up and a lot of people who used to look very hip suddenly looking pretty outdate.
March 17, Charlie Brown is standing outside with Schroeder and Violet approaches with a little smile on her face and it looks like she might be holding a valentine. She walks over to Charlie Brown and says, “Charlie Brown, I've been feeling awfully guilty about not giving you a valentine this year. I'd like for you to have this one.” Schroeder is outraged. He comes between Charlie Brown and Violet and he says, “hold on there. What do you think you're doing? Who do you think you are? Where were you February 14 when everyone else was giving out valentines? Is kindness and thoughtfulness something you can make retroactive? Don't you think he has any feelings? You and your friends are the most thoughtless bunch I've ever known. You don't care anything about Charlie Brown. You just hate to feel guilty. And now you have the nerve to come around a whole month later and offer him a used valentine just to ease your conscience. Well, let me tell you something. Charlie Brown doesn't need your--” Charlie Brown interrupts saying “don't interfere. I'll take it.”
Jimmy: that's kind of too bad. I think Schroeder was making an impact on Violet.
Harold: What a great speech. Wow,
Jimmy: it is a great speech.
Michael: Yeah, he stands up, but to me it's interesting. Schulz doesn't seem to have much use for Violet anymore, but she, of course, is the only one violent enough to do something like this. So occasionally he will use Violet. But Patty, who was equally horrible, is totally faded from the strip. So I think he figured he only needed one horrible girl.
Harold: But I give her points for trying to make amends. I'm kind of with Charlie Brown on this one.
Jimmy: Well, the problem is, she's like, I've been feeling awfully guilty about it, so I'd like you to have this one. I hurt your feelings. I have been horrible and I want to make amends. It's about her. She doesn't actually apologize. Right.
Harold: But the appropriate response, I think, is Charlie Brown's. Even though we're like, yeah, to Schroeder.
Jimmy: No. I'm for Schroeder. It is a great speech.
Harold: I must give you that. That is an amazing speech.
Jimmy: I would add about 50 panels to it. Keep it going. It would-- to be continued next weekend.
Okay, now we're talking comic strips.
March 22. Charlie Brown and Linus are sitting out in front of actually, a really nicely drawn suburban shed. Looks like that was referenced. And Linus thinks to himself, “everyone's so upset because I didn't make the honor roll. My mother's upset, my father is upset, my teacher is upset, the principal's upset. Good grief. They all say the same thing. They're disappointed because I have such potential.” Then Linus shouts to the heavens, “there's no heavier burden than a great potential.”
Michael: This is another classic motto.
Jimmy: Yes. Well, this is-- when you guys talk about relating to Linus, this “I didn't make the honor roll sequence,” with Linus is really it hits home for me, me, not making the honor, when there's a joke where he's like, so I didn't make the honor roll. That doesn't mean the world is going to end, does it? And he's like, wait, does it? That's my early…
Harold: Oh, my gosh, a window into Jimmy's, childhood
Jimmy: Grade school years. Yeah. I had to have straight A's until I realized around in 8th grade that my only power then was to not get straight A's worked out.
Harold: How did you wield this power?
Jimmy: By not doing anything for the next five years and still becoming, president of the National Honor Society.
Harold: Yeah. I had a really good friend in high school. He was destined to be valedictorian. And I remember his senior year, he had the same epiphany, and it was fascinating to behold where he’d skate by on the things here and there. And it was like, you could tell the teachers were like, I can't be the one. I can't be the one to break his streak. It was like he was running on the fumes of his excellence, and no one wanted to call him on it. You know?
Jimmy: Actually, that's going to be the title of my next memoir, Running on the Fumes of His Excellence. We might have to downgrade excellence. But anyway.
April 6. Charlie Brown is in despair. It's a post baseball game situation. He's walking home, dragging his bat behind him. He says, “Good grief, 184 to nothing. I don't understand it. How can we lose when we're so sincere?”
Jimmy: Sincerity is a big thing that they expect to be rewarded in the Peanuts world. Right? Great Pumpkin.
Michael: Schulz was very sincere in his comic, and he was rewarded.
Jimmy: Yes. I mean, that is a good point. sincerity is one of the things at the heart of it. It just no matter what quality it was at, it always radiates integrity. Because whatever he has, he is putting in.
April 7. Lucy is throwing a tantrum on the ground, screaming, “It's not fair.” When she yells, kneeling on her knees. Her feet seem to have disappeared entirely and she says, “you promised me a party. It's not fair. It's not fair.” Now she's pounding the ground saying, “you promised me a birthday party, and now you say I can't have one. It's not fair.” Linus comes up after witnessing this and says, “you're not using the right strategy.” Lucy says, “what?” Linus continues, “the more you fuss, the worse off you'll be. Why not admit it was all your own fault?” Linus continues further and says, “why not go up to Mom and say to her, ‘I'm sorry, dear Mother. I admit I've been bad and you were right to cancel my party. From now on, I shall try to be good.’” Linus concludes by saying, “that's much better than ranting and raving. All that does is prove her point.” Lucy sees the wisdom in this and repeats, “I'm sorry, dear Mother. I admit I've been bad and you are right to cancel my party. From now on, I shall try to be good.” Linus is delighted by this. Then Lucy walks off, stops for a moment and then shouts to the heaven,”I'd rather die.”
Michael: Lucy is, definitely, the Donald Trump stand-in. Have to apologize.
Jimmy: Well, yeah, I also sadly relate to that about Lucy.
Harold: And there are a lot of strips this year where you have characters that are kind of the soul of reason, the eloquent one, and then the last panel is another character responding in some negative one way to whatever wisdom was spoken. That happens a lot. But these are so well spoken. It's like Schulz is giving us these pearls of wisdom and then placing them in an incredibly funny context.
Jimmy: Yeah, it also gives a little insight. and maybe I'm projecting this into Linus, where Linus is advising Lucy to legitimately, sincerely apologize. That's the best approach of action, which it is the best course of action Lucy can take. But the apology is so over the top, it could lend into Linus's innate genius sarcasm, which allows him to be deeply and utterly sincere. But it's so deeply and utterly sincere that it's a little over the top.
Harold: Yeah, you get a sense of Schulz as parent in this year quite a bit. He's trying to make sense of stuff and he's having to be that voice of reason to a whole range of kids ages.
Jimmy: You could definitely see him having the Linus role in a situation between, let's say, Meredith or Craig or one of the kids and their mother and go, listen, you're playing this wrong, you just have to apologize. Which is as far as you can go without betraying your spouse too. Right?
Harold: Yeah. Only so much you can do to kind of get around to another side before you're undermining everything.
May 2. Linus is throwing a stick for Snoopy and he says, “here Snoopy, chase the stick.” Snoopy, is nonplussed by this and does not chase the stick. Linus says, “I'll bet if you tried it once you think it was fun.” Snoopy, walks away thinking, “that's why I don't want to start. I'm afraid I might enjoy it.”
Michael: This stuff seems so familiar. This line of thinking seems so familiar to me. It's like Harry Potter? What if I actually like them? Then I’ll have to read them.
Jimmy: I think that a lot. Whenever someone recommends a television, you will love it. I've never watched The West Wing and everyone goes, you would love it more than anyone. And then I see it's like 500 seasons. No.
Harold: You really should be the Silmarillion.
Jimmy: Yeah, right, exactly. yeah, I do understand that also. It's a great approach if you ever wanted to try smoking the cigarettes or something like that.
Actually the first time I ever had a cigarette was after a party or a wedding rather. And all our friends thought it would be funny to get cigarettes and I had one cigarette and thought I like that. Thought that's a good time to stop smoking cigarettes.
So hey, how about we just wrap it up there with that message kids, stay off the cancer sticks and we could come back next week and pick up with the rest of this amazing year. What do you guys think about that?
Harold: Sounds good.
Jimmy: Alright, so for the week, if you want to keep it involved, if you want to talk with us and keep this conversation going, you can check us out on Instagram and Twitter. We're at unpackpeanuts. You can also go to our website, unpackingpeanuts.com and that's where you can vote on your favorite strip of the year, see if you agree with Harold, Michael or I, and all the years that are up there. and also if you wouldn't mind, if you could give us a little review perhaps on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and just share us around in general, that would be hugely helpful.
We've been lucky to get thousands of downloads so far and I know it's because of the work of Mr. Schulz, but I. Can't help but feel very grateful and lucky that you guys are choosing to spend this time with us. So I hope that continues next week, when we will continue 1963. Until then, I'm, Jimmy for Michael and Harold. 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.