Jimmy: Hey, everybody, welcome back to the show. This is Unpacking Peanuts and we're talking about 1963. I'm Jimmy Gownley. You might know me as your third favorite host of this podcast, but I'm also a cartoonist. I do a series of books called Amelia Rules and also a memoir called The Dumbest Idea Ever. And my latest book is Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up.
Joining me, as always, are my pals, cohosts, fellow cartoonists, and let's face it, the two you like better. He's a playwright and a composer, both for the band Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. He cocreated the very first Comic Book Price Guide, was the original editor for Amelia Rules, and is the cartoonist behind Strange Attractors, Tangled River, and A Gathering of Spells. Mr. Michael Cohen.
Michael: Hey there.
Jimmy: And he's the executive producer and writer of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, a former vice president of Archie Comics, as well as the creator of the instagram comic strip, Sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: So guys, we have a great year. We have about 23 or 24 strips still to get through for this year. So how about we just get right to it?
Harold and Michael: Sure, sounds good.
Jimmy: And if you're out there and you want to follow along, remember, you can just go to GoComics.com type in Peanuts Search 1963. And we're going to be starting here right on May 5. And you can follow along with us and look at all the beautiful art as well. In lieu of doing that, buy yourself those Fantagraphics books. Treat yourself. You deserve it. Anyway, here we go,
May 5. Frieda is looking over the hedge at something. She says, “I knew it. Still sleeping.” Then she crosses the hedge and says, “What a dog.” And we see it is Snoopy on his dog house that Frieda is upset about. She yells at him, “All right, rise and shine.” Snoopy thinks, “Oh, good grief.” Frieda continues, “You'll never find a better rabbit chasing day than this. The sun is shining, the meadows are green. The rabbits await.” Snoopy is not into this at all. He thinks to himself, “I can't stand it.” So Frieda, though, points him off into the fields and says, “don't come back until you have pursued your quota.” Snoopy walks off. Then Frieda talks to herself saying “the whole trouble with him is he's never developed his inborn abilities.” She continues, “I think if he once saw a few rabbits, he'd realize what he's been missing. After all, the thrill of the chase is in his blood.” And he next panel, we see Snoopy leading a little bunny rabbit back home to his house and says, “this way, little friend.” The strip ends with Snoopy on top of his doghouse and the rabbit asleep on top of Snoopy. Frieda is not pleased.
Harold: Big smiles on the rabbit and Snoopy’s face.
Michael: Frieda still has two personality traits or schticks.
Jimmy: Naturally curly hair.
Michael: But she's become a pretty important character, and I'd be interested in seeing if Schulz gives her a little more complexity right now. She has naturally curly hair she's very proud of, and she's nagging Snoopy because he just lies around and does nothing.
Jimmy: And I like the fact that there's no point to him chasing rabbits. He's not hunting rabbits. She just wants him to chase his quota. There's no larger point other than get him moving.
Harold: I think Frieda is all about things that are innate. So she is naturally curly. Snoopy should be a bunny chaser.
Michael: Yeah. He's a beagle.
Jimmy: This is the first year he is officially identified as a beagle.
Harold: I think this is origin and first appearance of bunny. Right? Is this it?
Michael: Bunny 1
Jimmy: Well, it's funny because this is clearly a cute bunny. I think if Schulz was going to develop this into a characteristic around, I think he would have made it less a cute bunny and more a bunny in the Snoopy style if that makes any sense.
Harold: Or like a Woodstocky.
Jimmy: Yeah, right. Exactly.
Michael: It's a really cute bunny.
Jimmy: It is a really cute bunny.
Harold: It is. It's adorable. Yeah. That last panel, May 5. Check it out online.
Jimmy: And I love Frieda, actually. i, love the look of her character. Really good.
Harold: It's great. And a little moment of Peanuts history.
May 6. Charlie Brown is perusing the local newspaper, apparently the sports page, and he says, “0 for 5 good grief.” He's talking to Lucy and he says, “my favorite ball player went hitless yesterday and made three errors. When he suffers, I suffer.” Lucy and Charlie Brown walk. And Lucy says to him, “you and my dad should get together. Every year for 25 years, my dad has been rooting for Sam Snead to win the National Open.”
Jimmy: Now, is this the first reference of Sam Snead?
Harold: No, I can't say that it is.
Jimmy: and as we need, to point out, once again, Sam Snead’s a very, very famous golfer and clearly a favorite of Schulz.
Harold: Yeah, Schulz probably saw him first.
Jimmy: yeah, probably.
Michael: Even though he's unnamed this, I believe, It's the first Joe Shlabotnik.
Jimmy: Joe Shlabotnik, Charlie Brown's favorite baseball player. And the genius idea of this, other than being yet another great character, that we never see, is that Charlie Brown's favorite baseball player is apparently terrible at baseball, at least at the professional or minor league level.
Harold: He can relate.
Jimmy: He, can relate.
May 14. Lucy looks outraged, furious. Charlie Brown and Linus look on. Linus says to Charlie Brown, “oh, Lucy's got her mad face on. No matter what I say or do today, I'm going to get slugged.” Linus walks off panel and says to Charlie Brown, I might as well get it over with. Then from off panel, we hear “slug.” Charlie Brown is shocked by this. Linus walks back looking a little tossled and says to Charlie Brown, “now I have the rest of the day to myself.”
Michael: Yeah, that's very mature attitude. Get it over with fast rather than worry about it.
Harold: mature dysfunction
Michael: When Liz has her mad face on, I just walk over and get slugged.
Liz: But a couple of months ago, he was running away from things that he didn't want to face.
Michael: Well that’s true.
Jimmy: Some things, even in run-ism are inevitable.
Michael: You can't run away from the mad face.
Harold: No, she is not looking happy there.
Jimmy: The other thing about the Van Pelts this year, because once I said, I can't remember what strip we were talking about. I said, Boy, I wonder what it's like in their house. And now seeing the episode of Linus freaking out about the, honor roll and stuff like that. I know this is a stretch, but maybe Michael will back me up on this, because I'm going out on a limb here. But we know Schulz loved The New Yorker because that was, like, one of his ideals of cartooning. Do you think he ever read, like, the Glass Family Stories by Salinger?
Michael: Oh, my God. But how does that relate to--
Jimmy: Because they're neurotic people that are expected to be the best at what they're doing.
Michael: Oh, you mean Linus would definitely be a Glass character. Lucy no.
Jimmy: All right.
Michael: I mean, I can't see Franny punching anybody.
Jimmy: Well, pre-Franny and Zooey. All right. Anyway, just a thought. We'll put that on the old idea bin. By the way, that's Michael code for. I'm not doing that ever. We'll put that in the old idea file.
May 24. Frieda is talking to Snoopy. She says, “now, pretend we're out in the woods. You're following a trail. See?” Snoopy seems to be following along. Then she says, “Suddenly you spy a rabbit. What do you do?” Snoopy stands up on his hind legs and walks over, offering a pleasant, inviting handshake to the rabbit.
Harold: The imaginary rabbit?
Jimmy: Yes. The imaginary rabbit. Yes.
Harold: Such a great drawing of Snoopy. Little hale fellow, well met.
Jimmy: And a great little drawing of Frieda. Not only is she looking frustrated, but sort of, like, leaning away from them. Like oh,
Harold: yeah. Twas ever thus.
June 10. Sally is out playing a sandbox. She says to herself, “My mother is watching me out of the window.” She goes back to playing and says, “Mothers feel secure when they see a child of theirs playing in a sandbox.” And Sally sighs And then she says “she's secure, and I'm bored to death.”
Michael: Okay, all you kids out there in Podland, what is significant about this strip?
Jimmy: Well, I know what it is, but only because you mentioned it, I believe. I don't know that I would notice it.
Michael: Okay, I'm not absolutely sure I'm correct on this, but, originally, when I put together the hierarchy, which is now the tier list, the top four were the only ones who could appear alone in a strinp. so there's been Charlie Brown, lots of Charlie Browns, lots of Snoopies, lots of Linus, lots of Lucys. This is the first time any of the lower tiered characters have a strip to themselves, which means that Sally might be a top tier character.
Jimmy: she certainly, moves in that direction over the years. For sure.
Michael: Yeah, there's never been a Violet or Schroeder. We'll see, keep an eye on it. But, you know, there's three this year with solo Sally strips.
Jimmy: It also works for her because she's slightly outside the group because she's just the baby sister.
Harold: So that's nice little arena, in Hi and Lois, was it Trixie?
Harold: Often had these little monologues to herself.
Jimmy: I think you mentioned Trixie in another episode and, it never occurred to me before. She is obviously influenced by Sally, even down to the little flips of hair.
Harold: I don't even know who came first.
Jimmy: Oh, that's true. I don't know. You know what's funny? What I find about the hair, too, is just how wild Sally's hair actually is. This is like Rhonda from Amelia level. It was originally meant to be like a flip, like the Mary Tyler Moore flip, like a baby would have off the back. And now it's just giant Viking wings that come off the side. I don't know why that works as a hairstyle for a kid, but she looks really cute with it.
Michael: But what does he do on a profile?
Jimmy: It, flies off the back.
Michael: It’d be hard to draw a profile.
Jimmy: He does it all the time. It's the same shape. It's just that you see one and it comes off the back of her head. It's the Mickey Mouse, syndrome.
June 30. Lucy looks angry. She's also leaning against possibly the weirdest looking beanbag chair I've ever seen. Linus comes up and asks her, “what's the matter?” Lucy pensively looks out a window and says, “my life is a drag. I'm completely fed up. I've never felt so low in my life.” Linus says to her, “when you're in a mood like this, you should try to think of things you have to be thankful for. In other words, count your blessings.” Lucy rants, saying, “Ha, that's a good one. I could count my blessings on one finger. I've never had anything and I never will have anything.” Lucy continues looking absolutely forlorn and says, “I don't get half the breaks that other people do. Nothing ever goes right for me. And you talk about counting blessings, you talk about being thankful. What do I have to be thankful for?” Linus says, “well, for one thing, you have a little brother who loves you.” Linus looks at Lucy, who looks back. Then Lucy bursts into tears, gives Linus a hug, and Linus says, “every now and then I say the right thing.”
Michael: I'm going to hand this over to Harold.
Harold: Yeah, this got to me as a little kid because, I had a bigger sister. And, I thought, wow, that's amazing. That's an amazing moment. I want to have an amazing moment like that.
Michael: It's a beautiful strip, but it never happened.
Jimmy: Never happened with you? Not even a couple weeks ago when your sister visited. No?
Michael: Well, I would never say what Linus said.
Jimmy: I'm an only child, so I can only view from the outside and be grateful.
July 1, a dramatic sequence. Frieda and Charlie Brown walk out to Snoopy's doghouse. Snoopy is nowhere to be seen. Frieda says, “Snoopy's in the hospital? Charlie Brown says to Frieda. “uh huh. Didn't you know? He's been there for about four days.” Frieda says, “Is he allowed to have visitors?” Charlie Brown says, “oh, yes, he's had a few close friends drop by already.” In panel four, we see Snoopy in the hospital bed with a smile on his face, being visited by two bunnies.
Michael: Cute bunnies.
Jimmy: Very cute bunnies.
Michael: Now, we've seen a lot of weird stuff in Peanuts but the fact that the dog goes to a hospital with a TV in a hospital bed and they let bunnies in… It’s one of the few times we've been out of the neighborhood.
Jimmy: Okay, so let me get to-- I want to explore the mind of Michael. Now
Michael: oh, no, don't
Jimmy: does the hospital--
Michael: it's a dark labyrinth.
Jimmy: Well, I already know that, so I know my way around pretty well, actually at this point. But my question is, do the bunnies in the hospital and Snoopy in the hospital and all that stuff, does that rub you in the same way Snoopy flying with his ears, or is this more acceptable?
Jimmy: that doesn’t answer the question
Michael: putting a dog in a bed is not as weird as flying around as a helicopter with his ears
Harold: Yes. Well, I wanted to mention something that's going on in Schulz’s life at this point that makes this it's a long sequence. It's almost three weeks long of dailies. So we find out--This is July 1, and there's a sad letter that, Schulz wrote, the same letter where he was mentioning Craig's broken leg. He wrote in August 28 to Ruth and Marvin Forbes, again, talking about his honorary degree. But he mentions that, Marion died about three weeks ago after lingering far beyond the time given her. It was a very difficult experience for Bus, but he has come through it all quite well. And Bus was her husband, and they were living with the Schulzs, in Sebastopol. Bus is continuing to live here with us, and this helps him, for otherwise it could be lonesome. Our kids like him a lot, so it's good for us to have him around. So this whole time that Schulz was doing Snoopy in the hospital, he's enduring the loss of his second, mother, you could say, in Marion. So I'm guessing he was processing some of those hospital visits through Snoopy being in the hospital.
Jimmy: Wow. At the core of all of this, it's great, that this is a wonderful work of art, and it's great that it's funny and all of that. It's also great, though, that at the core of it, seems to be a decent guy, an actual decent human being who tried his best. Flawed as we all are. Everybody makes mistakes, everybody screws up. But it's just nice to know that Schulz felt things deeply. He had connections, family and friends that really mattered to him, and that maybe all of talking about all of these strips doesn't, matter. And the real reason that it resonates is just because of who he was.
Michael: And that's what's good old Charlie Schulz.
Jimmy: He's. Good old Charlie Schulz. Yeah.
Harold: And even the fact that he wrote so many letters, and we have so many stories of him writing letters to people. He was a correspondent. If you sent him a letter, as big as he was, he would tend to send one back, and it was often personalized. I see Charlie Brown writing his pen pal, or his pencil pal, I think Charles Schulz.
Jimmy: Now, this is, to be a little less sentimental, I made a tactical error as a child in fourth grade. we had to learn how to write letters and address on maybe it wasn't fourth grade, it was earlier than that. Write letters and address envelopes and all that kind of stuff. Right. And the way they did it was you would send a letter to your favorite celebrity, and then if anyone got a response back then, we'd put it up on the wall of the classroom. And I was torn between Charles Schulz and Willie Stargell, who was my favorite Pittsburgh Pirate at the time. And I went with Willy. And you think Willy wrote back? No. So I'm still bitter. And then you hear he actually would send some kids original strips if they express interest in being a cartoonist and stuff. Like, I mean, a really generous person, but I thought he'll never write back.
Harold: It also kind of colors when you see the stories of Lucy, two months later, writing back, thank you to Grandma for the Christmas present, and you see Violet feeling guilty about the Valentine's card. It's like you get the impression that Schulz, you expected correspondence to be, a back and forth thing. You should write that letter. That was the right thing to do.
Jimmy: And I'll tell you the other thing. The correspondence between him and his audience, in a few years, will have massive consequences, for the strip and basically for comics in general. So it's another great thing that he was open to that sort of back and forth with his audience in a way that it was not like I don't think he would have dug it on social media where it's just people just deliver their hot takes in 2 seconds. You had to think about it to write someone a letter. You had to write it by hand and put in an envelope and mail it. It was a big thing.
Harold: yeah, it wasn't one of those, like, Ken Burns letters from the Civil War, but still, there's been good.
Jimmy: Letters. Oh, speaking of back and forth with our audience, actually, it's funny. during our little break, I came back early and Liz said, why don't you talk to our audience and ask them, to tell us what they think about the show? What do you like? What do you not like? Now, I will warn you this. If you tell me you don't like something, I will do it five times as much. But the other two and Liz are reasonable people. So if you have a thought about what you like about the show, or maybe you'd like to see us do something different or do something new, why don't you, send us an email? You can send it through the Unpacking Peanuts.com website, or you can check us out on social media at UnpackPeanuts, on Instagram and Twitter and send me your compliments and the others your suggestions. I'm very insecure.
July 18. Charlie Brown is outside. Lucy comes up to him and says, “has Linus told you about the dangers of looking at the eclipse?” Charlie Brown says, “yes, he's told me all about it,” which he has on previous strips. Lucy says, “I'm heeding his warning. I don't want to do anything that might harm my beautiful eyes. Do you think my eyes are beautiful, Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown says “yes. They look like little round dots of India ink.”
Jimmy: That's definitely meta. And I have referenced this strip many times. It's always stuck out to me, but it jibes with my personality and interests in art.
Harold: Yeah. And this whole solar eclipse thing goes on for quite a while. And the punchline is Lucy's walking out in the rain toward Linus, who's just standing there with his hair totally against his face, just drenched saying How’s the eclipse.
Jimmy: One thing I've, said over the course of a few episodes is that sometimes he doesn't stick to landing on the long sequences. That one he sure does.
Jimmy: You're not expecting all this build up. We're going to look at the eclipse. We're not going to look at the eclipse. Look at it this way, look at it on a pie plate, all this stuff. And then it's just raining the day of the eclipse. The eclipse is so funny.
Harold: And you don't even know what it's about. And you don't need to have read any of the previous strips for that to be hilarious.
Jimmy: Brilliantly done.
July 21. Lucy is walking off, holding a balloon. Snoopy follows her. Lucy then looks at the balloon and says to Snoopy, “I'm going in for lunch. Snoopy, hold this for me. Whatever you do, don't let go of it.” Then we have a few panels of Snoopy just diligently holding the balloon. Unfortunately, he falls asleep. Then he yawns and lets go of the balloon. Two panels later, he realizes what's happened. Then in the last panel, it's night, and we see Snoopy running away from home with, his belongings, in a bag. What do you call those things? The old hobo sacks over his shoulder. And he says to himself, “make one mistake and you pay for it the rest of your life.”
Harold: I like the touch of him walking the railroad tracks.
Jimmy: Don't think I've ever noticed the railroad.
Michael: Yeah. Do you think that still reads in the present day? Because we grew up with that cliche. if you're going to run away from home, you get to have a stick with a bag.
Harold: I think the reason you want someone track someone might not get it because there are no polkadots.
Jimmy: You got to have the polkadots. I don't know. Yes. Otherwise, it's not an official running away. If you don't have those elements.
Harold: That's a really good question to our younger listeners. If you see someone holding a stick over their shoulder and having a little tied handkerchief, that has stuff in it at the end of the stick behind your back, does that read as someone running away from home or a hobo? Is that something you know, have you seen it enough? Is it still floating out there in the culture?
Jimmy: It's weird because there's so much pop culture from the generation before us that still was in our generations, like the Looney Tunes stuff. It's wild to see some of these things that were, like, how much anvil humor was around in the 30s and 40s. You know what's hilarious? A frigging anvil. It's bizarre. And now you'd see it. I don't think anyone would-- no young person would necessarily know what an anvil is. I'm not sure I know what an anvil is.
Michael: Well, they know that if they know who Mal Evans is. Yes, that's true.
Jimmy: If you watch the Beatles Get Back on Disney, you have seen an anvil. There you go.
Harold: It is amazing when I think about, people who are into pop culture today because it's so fragmented now. A lot of the references that are common are from our era, and so they have the burden of understanding their own fragmented culture, where things are happening now, being created by people now their age. But they also have to kind of know almost a century's worth of stuff when mass culture was mass culture in America. And I'm amazed what some people know that covers, like, a century of pop culture. That half of it I've lived. And they're just, like, picking it up. It's amazing what some people know. It just blows my mind.
Jimmy: As long as it can be translated into a meme, I guess it can be passed on for generations yet to come.
August 4. Charlie Brown is fleeing Violet, who looks furious, and she says,”it's no use running. I'll get you.” She says. Charlie Brown is now hiding behind a tree. She still chases him. He's running in the opposite direction. And she's yelling, “I'll get you, Charlie Brown, I'll get you. I'll, knock your block off, I’ll--” Charlie Brown stops and says, “wait a minute. Hold everything. We can't carry on like this. We have no right to act this way.” Violet stops. She actually seems to be considering this. As Charlie Brown continues, “the world is filled with problems. People hurting other people, people not understanding other people. Now, if we as children can't solve what are relatively minor problems, how can we ever expect to?” Violet hits him right in the face. Charlie Brown is knocked on his butt. And Violet says to Patty, who apparently has witnessed this, and she says, “I had to hit him quick. He was beginning to make sense.”
Michael: Yeah, he's definitely playing the adult here.
Harold: Yeah. Boy, this is just over and over again. He has these home run strips where some characters is speaking wisdom, and, one way or another, someone's responding. And these are really memorable strips for me.
Michael: And I'm a little sad that poor little Patty doesn't have anything to say.
Jimmy: He could have given her a little exclamation point word balloon? Maybe a question mark.
Michael: Something. But, she's been dumped. She's down at the bottom. She's in the basement.
Jimmy: Poor Patty.
Michael: Well, she needs a new agent.
September 2. Lucy is hanging out at Schroeder's piano. She leans over and says, “why don't you ever call me cutie?” Schroeder says “what?” Lucy says, “Why don't you ever come up to me and say, Hi, cutie?”Schroeder says, “Because I don't think you're very cute.” He goes back to playing the piano, and Lucy says, “I hate reasons.”
Michael: It's got to be the greatest punchline.
Jimmy: I hate reasons. Right. Well, it continues.
September 5. Charlie Brown says to Lucy, “you want someone to call you cutie? Ha. that's a laugh.” Charlie Brown is ranting now. “You've never acted cute in your life. You're crabby, you're bossy, you're selfish, and you're inconsiderate. You're just about as uncute as a person can get.” Charlie Brown walks off looking annoyed. Lucy looks after him, then says out loud, “I'm an ‘uncutie’.”
Jimmy: In quotes again, unnecessary quotations.
Michael: Do you feel sorry for Lucy?
Harold: Has Charlie Brown ever been that specific toward his opinion of Lucy?
Harold: That is-- in a daily strip. It's both barrels. And, it's harsh.
Harold: I feel for Lucy, and we just saw her kind of being down in the dumps with Linus. The things that she tries to come across as. That she's oblivious to all these things in life and that she's queen and everything's fine, but she's revealing a side of herself that says, I don't really feel that way. It's a show. Or at least a lot. Sometimes it's a show.
Jimmy: Yeah. And oftentimes that is the case when someone is bluster and it seems full of themselves. It comes from a place of insecurity.
Harold: Yeah. If you have a hard candy shell you got a marshmallow center.
Jimmy: The other thing is, all Charlie Brown and Schroeder are doing is exactly what Lucy does. What Lucy doesn't like is being treated the way Lucy treats others.
Harold: Yeah right. See dishing comma taking
Jimmy: Exactly. He who liveth by the put down dieth by the put down.
September 14. Snoopy is sitting atop his dog house and he is asleep. He's actually perched at the very edge of the doghouse, and he begins to lean forward as he sleeps. His word balloon, holding the z, which indicates sleep, is also tilting. In the third panel, the word balloon actually falls from the sky and hits the ground, saying, clunk. In the last panel, Snoopy bolts awake and not sure what has happened.
Michael: Is it a dream?
Jimmy: it is interesting because do you ever have that moment where you just bolt up from sleep for no particular reason? You're not sure what happened? this sort of evokes that for me.
Michael: Yeah, but it's a noise. It’s the clunk that woke him up.
Harold: It makes me think of flying on a plane with Diane, and I'm snoring away and she can't sleep on any travel. And then you wake up (snort) and going and the joke is, the second I do that, I look around and point at her whenever I wake up. That's now my reflex.
Jimmy: One of my superpowers is I can fall asleep on an airplane instantaneously. And once I was traveling across country to the great city of Los Angeles, and, it was around the St. Patrick’s Day, so I had my Irish music playlist going, but I accidentally had hit, I guess, loop on one song and I fell asleep instantly. My ear bud out of my ear, and I played Finnegan's Wake. Lot of fun at Finnegan's wake. For five and a half hours. The other person just looked at me like they wanted to kill me. I have no idea if it was because of that or some other reason, but I bet it was not. Lots of fun at Finnegan's Wake for that guy. Five and a half hours later.
September 22. Charlie Brown is walking outside. He looks upset. He says to himself, “I'm in sad shape.” He walks up to the famous psychiatry booth. Lucy invites him over and says, “Good morning, sir. Sit right down.” Charlie Brown says “fine. I was afraid I might need an appointment.” The next panel, Lucy's listening as Charlie Brown says, “what can you do when you don't fit in? What can you do when life seems to be passing you by?” Lucy takes him away from the psychiatrist booth and says, “follow me. I want to show you something.’ They go out to a hill. Looks, very similar to the hill that they once were observing, clouds on. And she says, ‘See the horizon over there? See how big this world is? See how much room there is for everybody? Have you ever seen any other worlds?’ Charlie Brown says, ‘no.’ Lucy continues, “as far as you know, this is the only world there is. Right?’ Charlie Brown says, “right.” “There are no other worlds for you to live in. Right?” Charlie Brown says, “right.” Lucy continues, “you were born to live in this world, right?” Charlie Brown says, “right.” Lucy turns to Charlie Brown and screams, “Well live in it.” Then sending Charlie Brown flying. Then Lucy says, “$0.05, please.”
Michael: That was well worth it.
Jimmy: A very famous one.
Michael: That's worth five cents.
Jimmy: Oh, that is worth $0.05. That's good advice for $0.05.
Harold: yeah. This is the year of those long speeches where people are speaking their wisdom and moving into great insights.
Jimmy: It's amazing that he has the characters that can sort of do all this sort of thing, too. Like I said earlier, I really like the strip Tiger by Bud Blake, but you know yeah, Tiger by Bud Blake is not going to be visiting, these sort of themes. Although it's time for Bud Blake revival.
Harold: Yeah, he was the only one who had a crazier ball cap than Schulz.
Jimmy: Yeah, that's true. definitely something I would think about when I was trying to draw Pajama. Man, I never quite got it as successful as I…
Harold: yeah. Although Winthrop's was kind of weird too, come to think of it.
September 27, Snoopy is lying on top of his doghouse at night. Suddenly he bolts away and says, “good grief, I'm doomed. I've forgotten my zip code number.
Harold: So this is maybe not so much of an obscurity because everybody knows the zip code, but might be interested to know that zip codes were introduced on July 1, 1963.
Michael: I remember that day well.
Harold: So apparently this is a big deal to Charles Schulz as the correspondent. I don't know. All of a sudden, he's got to remember to put his zip code number on every one of those letters he sent.
Jimmy: There were PSAs, but don't forget your zip code into the remember this? Very strange. Also pointing out unnecessary quotation marks. Always funny zip code, as we're going to see in the next strip, which is
September 30. Linus is talking to a new kid. He says, “Your name is what?” The new kid says, “My name is Five.” With unnecessary quotation marks. Five continues, “my dad says, we have so many numbers these days, we're all losing our identity.” Five continues to Linus as Charlie Brown walks in from behind. Five says “he's decided that everyone in our family should have a number instead of a name.” Linus says to Charlie Brown, “Charlie Brown, I'd like to have you meet five. Charlie Brown says, “oh no.”
Michael: First new character in a couple of years. Little kid with a mohawk.
Jimmy: Interesting. It does look like a mohawk from the side.
Harold: I like his look. It's a nice look for a character.
Jimmy: He gets such a variety in body types and faces with making like four shapes. It's actually amazing. You would never
Harold: like Taco Bell, right?
Jimmy: That's exactly right.As a matter of fact,
Harold: four ingredients make 18 different
Jimmy: I mis-ordered Taco Bell just yesterday.
Harold: And yet you didn’t.
Jimmy: I loved it just as much. Exactly. Because what difference could it possibly make.
Michael: New characters are very rare, precious things in Peanuts. And we've had one joke wonders who didn't last very long. And, we'll see if Five gets Beyond his name because.
Harold: it doesn't look promising, does it?
Jimmy: I probably have said this before, but Schulz has many times said he doesn't like the idea of just giving a character a funny name and having but he does it again and again. I mean, Charlotte Braun is essentially that. Five and his upcoming sisters are that. Peppermint Patty to a degree is that.
Jimmy: Woodstock, right. Exactly. So he does do it sometimes. it hits, sometimes it doesn't. It really depends on what is added beyond the name.
And unfortunately for poor Five not much does. But he does appear in the famous Christmas special, in particular in the famous dance sequence. So Five and his upcoming sisters are immortal for that. Speaking of which,
October 17, two twin girls come up and talk to Lucy. They say “hi, big girl. My name is Three and this is my sister. Her name is Four.” The girl continues, our brother's name is Five. I believe you've already met him. Our last name is 95472.” The little girl says, “numbers and more numbers.” Then she says to Lucy, our dad gets upset easily lately.He says his head hurts now.”
Harold: By the way, 95472 is a zip code for Sebastopol, California.
Harold: That's very good. How does it remember his zip code? He's going to name one of his characters with his zip code. He'll never forget.
Michael: Good research Harold.
Jimmy: Yeah. I did not know that. That's really cool.
Michael: This was going around. I think this whole thing with lots of numbers like zip codes was kind of a fodder for comedians. I can't think of anything in particular. I guess you like Bob Newhart and kind of those guys who did like comedy albums talking about everything’s a number these days.
Harold: It's interesting to me that Schulz couldn't bear to have the father name him and his kids numbers because he believed in it. He's doing it in protest, which doesn't really make sense.
Jimmy: Well, no, because there is a joke where they say, no, this is his way of giving in. But I don't know when that comes, if that's this year.
Harold: But they also say another place that he's against it. So it's like Schulz can't quite land the logic behind it. So he just plays up the absurdity, goes ___ with it.
Jimmy: Right here's a famous strip.
October 20. Sally comes up to Charlie Brown, who's watching TV. Then she says to him, “guess what.” Charlie Brown says. “What?” Sally looks around to see if the coast is clear. Then she motions for Charlie Brown to follow him. They go into another room. Then from that room they go into another location. Then Sally looks out the window to make sure no one is paying attention to them. Then they sneak behind the couch on all fours and Sally whispers to Charlie Brown “we prayed in school today.”
Michael: This is as topical as Schulz ever got.
Harold: Yes. So for reference, there were two major Supreme Court rulings, I think in 62 and 63. And Stephen Lind’s in his Charlie Brown religion book kind of covers this, the story behind this. And so they were basically restricting in public schools the use of prayer. That was led by authorities in the school and that was kind of getting tightened down to keep a separation of, I guess, church and state is the term that most people have used. And it's interesting that there is this story that the guy who was kind of the go-to as a vice president of United Features was not comfortable with this with Schulz. And, when they started getting the letters he was even more uncomfortable and they were coming from both sides of the issue.
And that, again, we talked about this before is the genius of Schulz is that he had people asking, can I reprint this? To back up both sides of where the Supreme Court cases landed. And, they ultimately decided they wouldn't let anybody reprint it because they didn't want to kind of come down or suggest that there was a side that Schulz was on.
And actually, Schulz he did write a letter to I think it was a small publication called Vital Christianity. And Schulz wrote that the fears that Chief Justice Acor (I think it's Acor) and others who have written in our weekly magazine concerning Supreme Court rulings against school prayers show a profound lack of faith. The success of our Lord's teaching and the survival of the early church was due to its holiness. It needed no government approval. If our spiritual lives need the support of governmental laws then we are already doomed. The basic teachings of the Book of Revelations is the triumph of God's true church. In spite of all that goes on around it. Our faith must lie in the ability of the gospel to save the individual. The gospel does not need the law on its side. If God be with us, who can be against us? Sincerely, Charles M. Schulz.
Well, it sounds like one of his Sunday rants he gave his other characters, but he never put it in the strip. And he does leave it open ended. You can read this however you want as to whether it's appropriate in the strip itself, which I think is genius, again, that he's able to touch on a topic that people were thinking about, but not really take a side that would divide his audience.
Jimmy: Well, I have three things I want to say about this strip. The first is that decades later, Gary Groth asks-- Gary Groth, who is the publisher of Fantagraphics, and, also publisher, of the Comics Journal, so he's now the publisher of the complete Peanuts comics. But he, at the time, was interviewing Schulz for the Comics Journal, and he asked him about this strip.
And Schulz basically said what Harold just said, and still felt that way, saying, I'm against the idea, even of prayer in school. Because his funny thing, he's like, oh, I'm not catholic. Who's going to lead it a catholic? And as someone who is catholic, that's a smart choice. You don't want those people in charge. So he stayed with that.
The second thing about this, though, is I used to not like this strip at all. And what it reminded me of, was the, Saturday Night live skits, about George Bush and, George W. Bush, rather, and Al Gore and the gist that they were going with for basically the whole season leading up to the 2000 election. Was there's no difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush? That was like, the common wisdom in the world. Like, oh, they're just different versions of the same thing. Boring, boring, boring. And I always felt like, well, if you're going to go ahead and make a political statement, have a point of view, rather than just have some milquetoast, nothing.
Having gone through the strip with you guys seeing it now, now I see the reason it doesn't come down on the side is because this is from Sally's point of view. That's all he's interested in, which is, we prayed in school today. This is making everybody upset uptight. I don't even really know why, but I have to go to the one person I really trust and say something about this, and it's her brother, Charlie Brown. And I think for those reasons now, I think it's a great strip. I think it's a real emblem, of like, you say what his genius is.
Harold: But it doesn't begin and end with Sally, because Charlie Brown doesn't have the blank stare like you would expect. Yeah. he's got his hands against his mouth, and he has these two little motion lines, like, it's kind of this horror, like, oh, my goodness, he's kind of in a line with her.
Michael: No, I think his horror is that, he's a rule follower. He's not a rebel.
Jimmy: Oh, interesting.
Michael: So if they prayed in school, I don't think he's reacting to that. He's reacting to the fact that they did something you're not supposed to-- not supposed to do.
Harold: Well, that's kind of what I'm saying. I don't think we're disagreeing there. He's got his own response, but it's not new to me.
Jimmy: Right. Yeah. He's not looking at Sally like, oh, what are you worked up about? He indicates that, oh, this is something that's controversial, or whatever.
October 22. Lucy is standing out in a field. Panel two. We see Charlie Brown approaching her with a football helmet on and a football tucked under his arm. Lucy just smacks the heck out of Charlie Brown, sending him flying. Then Lucy looks out at us and says, “I love touch football.”
Michael: It's kind of a wimpy little hit, though, for Lucy. I mean, where's the slug?
Jimmy: Well, I guess she's technically playing by the rules and just tagging him with the open palm, right?
Jimmy: Okay. Although I think it's two hand touch, so I think she's still wrong.
October 29. Good old Linus is out in the pumpkin patch with our new pal Five. Linus says to Five “he knows which kids have been good and which kids have been bad.” Linus continues, “and on Halloween night, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch and flies through the air with his bag of toys for all the good children of the world.” Linus looks at Five, who's thinking this over, and Five says, “Linus, how long has it been since you've had a physical checkup?”
Michael: So Five, gets a punchline.
Jimmy: Yeah. A zinger, no less.
Michael: But I think it has nothing to do with his personality. I think Schulz just needed somebody who didn't know about the Great Pumpkin before, so it had to be the new character.
Jimmy: Oh, yeah, right. So Linus could explain it. Right.
Harold: So how do you think about this little nascent character compared to Shermy?
Michael: Well, Shermy would have known about the Great Pumpkin.
Harold: would he?
Michael: So, yeah, this guy has no personality.
Jimmy: Maybe not.
Michael: Well, yeah, I mean, Linus has been going on about this for, like, five years.
Harold: Shermy seems like he's nowhere to be found for so much, unless he's playing baseball. So I guess Linus could be talking about the Great Pumpkin around the baseball field
Jimmy: In just regards to Shermy. I would like to say, since, we don't have really, any Shermy strips this year, this is a good a place as any to, check the Shermometer, because I'm afraid I have an update.
VO: Let's check the Shermometer Charlie Brown.
Jimmy: So, here's the thing. In our special with Todd Webb, we added ombra phobic, which is fear of water, to Shermy's character traits. However, while I was putting some of my books back on the shelf, I came across some earlier strips where Shermy was indeed playing in the water. [GASP] I know. So I'm afraid if I can ask a, unanimous, consent, I think we have to strike, ombraphobic, from the Shermometer. What are our thoughts?
Michael: So be it. Do it.
Harold: could we say he's evolvingly water sensitive.
Jimmy: No, because I want to sell this as a T shirt someday.
Harold: Oh, I see.
Jimmy: All right, so should we cross out ombraphobic or no?
Michael: I think we should cross out Shermy.
Jimmy: No, he's got six good years left. All right, but if we're crossing out.
Harold: Wait I can give him one for this year.
Jimmy: Oh, great. What is it?
Jimmy: Bystander. He's a bystander. He's present. So if that's the case and we cross out ombraphobic. We now have a character who is a bystanding. Cynical, philosophical, history loving, empathetic, aggressive, compassionate, patient, pedantic, knowledgeable, emotional, good listening, vain, friendly, hypocrite.
Harold: What a guy.
Jimmy: Shermy 1963
Michael: And he went on to get his strip.
Harold: with NEA. They always had those types of strips.
Jimmy: Yeah, right.
December 8, we see Linus's head floating amongst a variety of little chocolates, the kind you would find in a box of, candies.
Harold: Russell Stover.
Jimmy: Right. Russell Stover, for example.
Lucy comes up with the box and says, “hey, you want a piece of candy?” Linus looks in it and says, “Chocolate's eh. How nice. Let's see now. I must make sure I don't get one with coconut in it. I can't stand coconut. Let's see now. hmmm, that one looks like a cream, but you never know. That one could be a caramel. There's no divinity, is there? That one's probably coconut. The light colored ones are usually good, although the dark colored ones are sometimes creams. I don't know about those square ones. I wonder if--” Lucy just loses it and screams, “Take one.” Linus is sent flying, and then from his place on the floor, he selects one candy, which he then tastes and looks out at us and says “Coconut.”
Jimmy: again, the anti coconut propaganda continues in Peanuts.
Harold: Yeah, that's a big, loud take one from Lucy. That's one of the, largest, letterings you'll ever see in a Peanuts strip. It is, and she is not happy. And speaking of that, maybe we should do our anger index and our happiness index
Jimmy: because we are coming up to the end of the year fast. Let's see where we are.
Harold: Yeah. So last year, for a recap, those of you who have not listened before, for no particular reason, I've been going through each year's strips to see, how many strips contain at least one incidence of a character being happy or one incidence of a character being angry and just trying to see how that flows throughout the strip. Is it consistent? Does it make changes across the years? And, anyway, last year, we had 101 strips, or 28% of the strips showing the character showing anger, and we had 105. Just four more showing, happiness. So where do you think we are this year compared to last year?
Jimmy: I think it's angrier.
Michael: I think it's less angry.
Jimmy: All right, I'm going to say it's 5% more angry.
Michael: I'm going to say you're mistaking anger and frustration.
Jimmy: Or that could be. Harold, what is the answer?
Harold: So, 101 last year. There are 85 this year. Michael is correct. 23% of the strips show anger, which I think is an all time low.
Jimmy: Wow. first I have to say, Michael, you nailed this every time.
Harold: Michael knows his strips.
Jimmy: I have not gotten close once. I think the only time I got close was, when I went price is right rules.
Harold: And happiness. So, 105 strips, slightly more than the anger strips in 1962. Are we up, down, or the same as last year?
Michael: I’d say around the same
Jimmy: Michael, what do you think?
Michael: Around the same.
Jimmy: I agree with Michael. Thought about it a lot, and I agree with Michael.
Harold: You show great wisdom.
Harold: 96. So we're down, just nine strips. 26% of the strips are showing happiness, so both are down. And that is the Peanuts I remember the Peanuts that was kind of even keel. You earned the happiness and you earned the displays of outrage and anger. When they happen, they seem to count more. That's my take of this year, is that the characters are kind of settling into who they are. They're settling into being around each other. They still have those friction points, and they still have those moments where they really connect, but when they connect, it's stronger.
Jimmy: I was going to say, it also applies to, what we were talking about earlier with him issuing the obvious gag, because I think the obvious gag, a lot of times, maybe, is a funny, happy joke, or a mean, nasty put down or whatever. And he is moving into these other realms more and more each year. And we're at a real peak of that now, clearly.
Harold: Yeah, I think there's definitely something going on with Schulz where he's building, he's building these characters into these levels of relationships and subtlety to it. And, it's like, if he doesn't need to have a character happy, he's going to have them more neutral. he's done that all along, pretty much, but he's really holding back from that. It's almost like if you build up tension in the strip and when there is no response, I see other strips where there's no response and the characters are just dull and dead. But it's here. It's almost like a pressure cooker. And you see it occasionally in the strips, like when Lucy is just going off about how terrible her life is, and then Linus says, this kind word to her, and she just explodes in tears. It's great.
And Schulz has earned that by doing what he's doing with these characters and with the emotions, and how he doesn't play something up with an emotion. He doesn't take the air out of the characters by constantly showing them angry or happy. You have to have a reason for it.
Jimmy: Yeah. Like when you see Charlie Brown push back against Lucy this year, too, that has, a real release to it because you haven't seen him do it before, right? Yeah, I think all of that makes a lot of sense.
December 18, Linus looks forlorn and he's sitting in an easy chair in his living room, and he says to Charlie Brown, “Lucy volunteered me to sing Jingle Bells at the PTA Christmas program.” Linus continues, “I can't sing in public. I'm a terrible singer. I never have been able to sing.” Charlie Brown says to Linus, “don't worry about it. In Psalm, 98, we read, make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” Linus screams at Charlie Brown. “This is the PTA!”
Jimmy: This whole sequence of Linus having to sing Jingle Bells, I also really related to because we would have to do the Christmas pageant every year in grade school, and it was always a source of stress.
Harold: And I think this strip gave me an irrational fear of PTAs up until my adult life.
Jimmy: That's not irrational, that's a well placed fear. That brings us to the end of the year. What a great year. I really enjoyed this and I enjoyed talking to you guys.
So, Michael, as we come to the end of the year, we've had a couple of characters, we've had some changes. Let's take a look at our possibly accidentally current and popular feature of the tier list. Has anything changed in your, regard with these characters?
Michael: Let's discuss it. It won't be finalized until later. Clearly we've got some new characters who have to go in somewhere, so I guess you put them in the bottom and see if they can float up. Five seems to be a legit character. I'm not sure about this three and four. They look like one shots to me. I don't know if they're worthy.
Jimmy: They do appear again, but not in any real meaningful way, certainly. Except again in the Christmas special where they do the dance.
Michael: Yeah, I mean, they're like walk ons. So, yeah, we're shuffling things around. I think we need to decide if Sally jumps to the top tier starring just because she's had three solo strips.
Jimmy: I don't think yet, but she's getting there. But I would say not yet.
Michael: Yeah, I'd wait too. The bunnies. Since we ruled that Faron is not a real character yet, I think the minimum for a character has to be a thought balloon.
Jimmy: Well, no, because you have Miss Othmar
Michael: You have to show some consciousness. No, I took out that whole tier of characters who we hear about, but we never see.
Jimmy: Okay, so I never listened to this podcast.
Michael: Yeah, you should. So I don't think Faron's a character. He might become one, but until he shows some sign of consciousness.
Harold: he's been smug.
Michael: Yeah, it was just a smile.
Harold: And specifically smug, too. He's been specifically smug to someone
Jimmy: I think he's naming aside, a very important character of Faron. How about some of the other characters?
Michael: I don't know. Well, Patty clearly has got a raw deal here. And if I were her, I'd be really pissed. But I think he gave it all to Violet and all the nastiness so...
Jimmy: Well you know what, she’s had 13 years to develop a second personality trait. So I do not have…
Michael: No, Patty, she was like, one of the first three characters, so it's kind of sad to see her degraded like this.
Harold: Yeah, Shermy and Patty, they're in deep trouble here.
Michael: Yeah. Serious. Anyway, do you have strong feelings about anyone moving up or down? Otherwise, it's status quo.
Harold: I keep Sally. She's had some really good moments this year, and she did show up a fair amount, but I think she's-- well, would she be in Schroeder territory?
Michael: Yeah, they're at second level. Yeah, that's why I put her yes. I mean, the big change is I don't know exactly when the big change comes, but this is probably the status quo for a while, I think.
Jimmy: You, know, what’s interesting when you talk about the top characters. It's Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, and Lucy, and it's like John, Paul, George and Ringo. it's always said in that order. Right. You would never say. Like Lucy Charlie Brown. Snoopy. It's always Charlie Brown, Snoopy Linus and Lucy.
Harold: That's interesting. Although I would put the bunnies in the top tier, but that's just bunnies.
Jimmy: Bunnies need their own Netflix show. Guys, I've had a lot of fun doing this year. This was one of my favorites. they're all my favorite. I know I say that every year, but it's also my favorite day of the week when I get to hang out with my pals and talk about my favorite comic strip.
So if you want to continue this conversation, I want you to go visit us on our website, UnpackingPeanuts.com. Drop us an email, tell us what you like about the show. Tell us what you would, like to see different, perhaps. Hey, and if you have any ideas for special episodes or anything like that, or things you want to see us cover, shoot us an email and let us know.
If, you're not an email person, if you're more one of these social media kids, if you're an influencer or whatever, you can hop on Instagram or Twitter and check, us out. Unpack Peanuts. That's where we are there. And of course, on our website, that's where you can vote for Strip of the Year.
And, that's what brings us, to the end of this episode. We have just our last two pieces of business. One, who is, the MVP or Most Valuable Peanut of 1963? And, what is our picks for Strip of the Year? Michael, why don't you go first?
Michael: Boy, I don't know. Nobody really stands out this year. It's real team effort, I guess. I have to do it. I always give it to Linus, so I'll give it to Linus.
Jimmy: Linus coming in strong for another year. Oh. Harold, how about you for MVP?
Harold: I have to give it to Linus as well by a hair. I think second is Charlie Brown, because there's a lot of great strips with Charlie Brown this year that cover quite a range. But I think Linus is just squeaking by.
Jimmy: and I'm going to give it to Charlie Brown this year. I think this was my favorite year of Charlie Brown. this is where he really fully embodies the character that I know and love. and, so I'm going to give MVP to him. So how about Strip of the year, Michael?
Michael: Okay, I've narrowed it down to two, and I can't find the second one, so I have to give it to the first one. It's not a significant strip in any way, but I'm going for January 27. I think the question about Snoopy is getting cold and sleeping in the doghouse. And everyone thinks the only logical thing is so ridiculous. and they even convinced Linus that it's an absurd strip, but it really sums up this world well.
Jimmy: It sure does. That's a great pick. Harold, how about you?
Harold: Well, this is an amazing year. We are at peak Peanuts, I think, as, far as I'm concerned. And I was just thinking strips that we didn't didn't even make it in that are absolute classics. Joe Shlabotnik never shows up. Charlie Brown trading, trying to trade with Lucy. sheep accidentally gets a Joe Shlabotnik trading card and Charlie Brown wants it so badly, and he's offering everything. And then she just says I think he's kind of cute. Got a cute smile. I want to keep him. And then, Charlie Brown is absolutely devastated that she won't trade, and then she throws it in the trash in the final panel. That stuff is all through this year. There's just so many amazing strips.
But I think the one that I will have to pick your pick that you took right up front, Jimmy, I thought is a brilliant choice, but my choice is June 30. It is probably the most, connection between Linus and Lucy you're going to see in the entire strip of 50 years where Lucy is complaining that she has nothing going for her, and Linus reminds her that she has a little brother who loves her. That strip just totally took years to get there, and it took years to earn that strip, and I'm just so grateful for it.
Jimmy: Fantastic pick as well. And yes, I'm going with February 3. I'm aware of my tongue. That always makes me really laugh. And yes, with all the stuff we didn't mention, we talked about it off mic but, also, this is the first year where Snoopy is confirmed to be a beagle. That was in July, but we didn't mention it. And by the way, for the few friends of mine who do. Listen to this or for people you don't know me and email me. Yes, I know that strip. And yes, we could have included it because we cannot include them all, but they are all deserving of it because it's just a masterwork.
So please come back next week where we're going to be discussing 1964. We'll see if Charles Schulz can keep up this level of greatness. I think I'm going to go out and limb and say he can, but, we'll find out next week. Until then, for Michael and Harold, I'm Jimmy. Be of good cheer.
Harold: Michael: 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.