Jimmy: Alright. Hey everybody, we're back. It's 1965. This is a year of big swings from Mr. Charles M. Schulz, and I am here for it.
How are you guys doing? You're doing well? Everything good in your universe? I really hope so. Everything's good in our universe because we're talking about 1965 and the work of Charles M. Schulz, our favorite cartoonist.
I'm Jimmy Gownley. I'm one of your hosts for this evening. I'm the cartoonist behind Amelia Rules, The Dumbest Idea Ever and Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up. Joining me, as always, are my pals, co hosts and fellow cartoonists.
First, he's a playwright, he's a composer, both for the band Complicated People as well as for this very podcast. He's the original editor for Amelia Rules, the co creator of the original Comic Book Price Guide, and the cartoonist behind such great comics as Strange Attractors, A Gathering of Spells, and Tangled River, Michael Cohen.
Michael: Hey there
Jimmy: And he's the former vice president of Archie Comics. He is an executive producer and writer for Mystery Science Theater 3000, and he's currently drawing the Instagram comic strip, Sweetest Beasts. Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: Guys. We have so many comics yet to discuss. How about we get right back to it?
Jimmy: And if you guys are out there and you want to follow along, here's how you do it. You go to GoComics.com, you type in Peanuts, and, then you go to the dates as I announce them. If you want a heads up on what dates we're going to discuss before the podcast drops, go to Unpacking Peanuts.com right now. Before you play this, sign up for The Great Peanuts Reread. And then every month you'll get a newsletter from us that tells you what we're doing and what strips we're going to be discussing so you can get a head start on everybody. Other than that, let's just get to it.
April 18, Charlie Brown is on the mound. Lucy comes running in from the outfield. “Wait,” she says. Then she climbs up on top of the pitcher's mound, stares down towards the batter and says,”Hmmm.” This vexes Charlie Brown. Lucy says to Charlie Brown on the mound, “brush this guy back, Charlie Brown. Give him the old bean ball.” Charlie Brown says, “no, I can't do that. It wouldn't be right.” Lucy's outraged. “It wouldn't be right?”. She calls to Frieda, who is coming in from the outfield as well, and says, “listen to who's gone moral on us all of a sudden, old Wishywashy here is too moral to throw a beanball.” Frieda crawls up on the mound now and says to Charlie Brown, “what about the way the early settlers treated the Indians? Was that moral? How about the Children's Crusade? Was that moral?” Patty gets in on it. “Yeah, and how about those awful movie ads you see nowadays?” Frieda's ranting? “Do you call those moral Charlie Brown?” Suddenly, everybody is crowded around the pitcher’s mound. Schroeder says to Patty, “do you think that incident at Harper's Ferry was consistent with morality?” Patty says “define morality.” Frieda is now talking to Five and Lucy, and she says, “our whole system of freeways is a perfect example of what I'm trying to say.” Violet says to Sally and Pigpen, “have you listened to radio lately?” Pigpen says, “how about this whole conservation situation?” Charlie Brown takes it all in, looks out to us, and says, “we never win any ball games, but we have some interesting discussions.”
Jimmy: Hall of Fame comic strip.
Michael: He could have used a little more room, though, I think. So what about Harper's Ferry? Do you think it was consistent with morality?
Jimmy: Well, define morality. What I want to know is the leap in logic from the Children's Crusade in Frieda's brain to our whole system of freeways.
Michael: What is it with Frieda and freeways. Maybe because it sounds like her name or something.
Jimmy: It's such great free association from Schulz that he's just going from one thing to the other, putting it in the mouths of all these little kid characters.
Harold: So Lucy is saying to Frieda that she's kind of chiding Charlie Brown for being moral.
Jimmy: Right, right. And then Frieda. Yeah.
Harold: And then Frieda-- is Frieda trying to say, because these other things wrong going on in life, you should be able to throw a beanball? Is that her--
Jimmy: threw a beanball etiquette. Right. Look, they slaughtered the Indians. What's one kid with a bean ball?
Harold: This is an amazing strip. And only Schulz would have done this and pulled it off as brilliantly as he does. This is classic Peanuts. This is why we talk about Schulz all these years later.
Michael: But where’s Snoopy?
Jimmy: Well, where's Linus?
Harold: Wow, that's a good point.
Michael: There's ten people.
Jimmy: There's ten people. But, I thought deeply about it.
Jimmy: Sally is not playing because Sally does not have a hat on, which all the others do, except for Pigpen and but that can be explained by Pigpen.
Michael: And Violet
Jimmy: oh, yeah, but that's the ponytail. But Sally does not have a glove.
Michael: All right
Jimmy: So she is there because Charlie Brown is babysitting her, and that's the rest of his team, and for whatever reason, Snoopy and Linus aren't there.
Harold: I love that Pigpen is concerned about the conservation situation.
Jimmy: What I wonder, though, is why isn't Linus here? Obviously, Snoopy has no place in this because he can't talk. But Linus this is right up Linus’--
Harold: I think Linus would have undermined the gag.
Michael: Oh, perhaps you had to have Shermy in there so there was no room.
Jimmy: Yeah, there is Shermy, doing what Harold pointed out he does so well. last year, standing by.
Harold: Yeah, but Five shows up. That could have been Linus, right?
Michael: It could have been four or three.
Harold: Yeah, that's true. I do have a question for you guys in the kind of hidden pictures. What's, wrong with this picture thing? This is a very busy strip for text. But is there anything that you notice is missing visually in this strip other than Snoopy and Linus? Something Schulz forgot to draw.
Jimmy: Visually, that Schulz forgot… I'm fascinated. Let me see.
Michael: See stripes are there.
Jimmy: Liz, can you queue up some Jeopardy music?
Michael: boy, you got me. Dandelions on the mound?
Jimmy: Oh, that's a good guess. But now, I don't know.
Harold: Take a look at panel two.
Jimmy: Oh, Lucy's hat. Yeah, he forgot the seams on Lucy's hat.
Harold: He was so busy with this incredibly complex strip.
Jimmy: I wonder if that's also what I find, in a few instances where something that has happened to me, it's usually because I penciled it too dark and I thought it was inked. huh. And then just erased everything and never went, but never noticed it after the pencils were erased.
Harold: He seemed to work really light in the ones that I've seen him draw. Yes. But yeah, who knows?
Jimmy: Yeah. Anytime you could get to see a whole crowd of his characters in one panel, the joy. I just love it. I just love it. Hall of Fame for me. I can't wait to see which one you guys pick for a strip of the year. That'll be really interesting.
May 4. Snoopy is sitting out staring into space in a field. Charlie Brown and Linus are kind of walking by in the background. Linus says, “I wonder what a dog thinks about when he sits and stares like that.” Charlie Brown says, “I can't imagine. That's just one of those things. We'll never know.” Then there's a wordless panel, Snoopy just sitting there. And in the final panel he says, “sometimes, I miss the old puppy farm.”
Michael: This is kind of a breakout, even though it's pretty quiet little strip. But we haven't gone into the past of any of these characters before and this is eventually going to lead to a big mess, I think, of Snoopy and all his brothers and sisters and family. It's a nice standalone, but it actually opens up the door to a whole lot of change. Which, you know me, I don't like change.
Jimmy: Well, generally when people criticize the Snoopy family stuff, it's because it undermines the uniqueness of Snoopy. Is that what you guys feel about that or not?
Harold: I would say so.
Jimmy: Are you too Michael?
Michael: I am not really familiar with that era of Peanuts. I've seen a few and I go, what is going on here.
Jimmy: But now let's ask this. If it stays in the level of the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, which is what this eventually becomes, and Snoopy is going off and seeing and there's letters back and forth, but you never actually see any of that. How does that sit with you guys.
Harold: I'm better for that.
Michael: No, it's fine. But he does go on. I didn't pick any of the strips because I don't particularly like these. But he does go off on a journey.
Jimmy: Yeah, but you don't see him
Michael: well, you see him walking along.
Harold: Right. But you don't see the character.
Jimmy: You don't see the family.
Harold: I like the off screen character idea for this. It just keeps it alive in the imagination. And just to actually see other characters, I don't even think I wanted to see the female beagle that he was romancing earlier this year. I'd be let down.
Michael: Oh I do, in a bikini, I look forward to that.
Harold: That’s disturbing
Jimmy: Michael, it's been fantastic having you as a guest sorry.
Michael: Annette Funicellio as a beagle
Jimmy: I love it. Funicellio with some cream sauce.
Harold: That's right. They changed it, for the Disney work.
Jimmy: I got to spend, some time out at the Disney Studios and stuff, years ago. And one of the old timer guys there who's like an art director, was talking about how they used to have to hide her and get her out through underground tunnels because there were so many fans around, because she was such a pop phenomenon. Just looking to get an autograph or whatever.
Harold: You know, if Disney ever bought Peanuts, you know, there'd be like an Olof miniseries and the Spike show, they'd just be spinning it off like crazy.
Jimmy: Right. Peanuts-verse. The Schulz verse, which I guess would be interesting. Well, I would just say something-- if that happens. I am 100% appalled, morally opposed, and Judy Hansen is my agent. You can call her. And, I would happily work on any of this, but I would be outraged the entire time.
Harold: I am the one person who could give it some moral authority, integrity.
Jimmy: If someone’s going to screw it up
Harold: Let it be me.
May 26. It's a fight. Snoopy and Lucy are having a fight. She takes a big swing with a right, but Snoopy ducks a goofy grin on his face. Then he jumps up and counter punches or counter licks. “Slurp, slurp, slurp, slurp.” He gets Lucy right in the face. Now she swings with a big left hook. Swish. She misses. Snoopy attacks back with the tongue. “Slurp, slurp, slurp.” Lucy screams. “What in the world kind of stupid fight is this?”
Michael: This is the era of Cassius Clay.
Jimmy: That's right.
Michael: She's the big, Sonny Liston character. And he's dancing around like a butterfly.
Jimmy: Yep. Cannot be hit.
Harold: Yeah. This seems also to be a year where Lucy is getting as good as she's giving. I don't think that if Schulz is at some point where he's like, I got to give Lucy some come-uppance, and so she's got to have some stuff happen to her. But yeah, this year there's some real amazing conflicts, with Lucy in that blanket and, Snoopy finding a way to kind of one up.
Michael: Hey, Harold, how about the Anger Index? Where are we at?
Jimmy: Yeah. Oh, that's a really good thing.
Harold: Very good time to bring that up. Yeah. So as I always do. So for those of you who are new listening, we have this Anger index and Happiness index where we look at the strips for the year and we compare them to the previous year to see if, the amount of strips that can have a character showing some form of anger or some form of happiness has gone up or down in the year. So, Michael and Jimmy, do you feel that the amount of anger that we have seen shown in the strip has gone up this year, gone down, or stayed the same?
Michael: I think this year fits in very nicely with 1964. Like, they were one year, so I'm going to have to go with it stayed the same.
Jimmy: I'm loath to disagree with Michael, because I am never right about this. I think I was right once.
Harold: Look at this way, Jimmy. If it's off by one, you have a 50% chance of outdoing Michael.
Jimmy: That's right. Okay. Then I'm going to say it is angrier.
Harold: Okay, well, last year, there were 106 strips. 29% of the strips. Schulz had a character showing anger. This year, there were 106 strips exactly the same. Michael, you are amazing.
Jimmy: Wait a minute. Is it exactly right?
Jimmy: Right. I can't stand it.
Harold: I'm sorry. I set you up. I’m sorry. Oh, my goodness. Wow. Okay, well, let's see. We can read you can redeem yourself here. Well, in the Happiness index, we had 96 strips in 1964 or 26% show the character showing happiness. Do you think that's gone up or down?
Jimmy: I'm going to say it. It went up.
Harold: Jimmy, you got it this time. 116 strips, 32%, 20 more strips that show happiness. So there you go.
Michael: All right.
Harold: I will say the subtlety in the strip just continues in terms of how the characters express. He was already a master at this. But it's crazy when I'm looking at strip and I'm trying to parse out, can I count that as happy?
Michael: Well, the one we just count that as angry is clearly happy, and she's clearly angry.
Harold: That, was an easy one for me. But there were other ones where it's like, oh, man, can I count that as one? Sometimes they're two strips, and I'll like, okay, they're each a half, so I'll give them one. If somebody else went through these, they would come up with a different number than I do, because he is so subtle. He is so subtle. And I think that's part of why the characters are so real to us, is in cartooning, people traditionally would often go over the top with their expressions. Not always. I mean, think of, like, was it, Otto Soglow-- I don’t know if I said that correctly-- who did The Little King-- super, everything stoic, but Schulz is all over the map, and the subtlety of some of the expressions on these characters when I'm looking at them for this particular project absolutely blow me away. Because they're so perfect. They're so perfect for the mood of the strip. he can get like, if you talk about degrees of subtlety, he's able to get in these shades that I don't see other people hitting.
Jimmy: No. The thing that was occurring to me as I was reading this year, actually, and there was a big gap for you guys out there in podcast land. There's a big gap in our recording sessions because I was really paranoid that we'd get behind and never, be missing episodes. So I forced everyone to record a ton really early. So we're, like, way ahead in terms of episodes that were recorded. So we took a little break, and I read 1965. Then we took the break, and then I read it again.
And while I was sort of thinking about it, is that the subtlety is amazing. The breadth of it is amazing. The big swings, the things that the invention is amazing. Is there even a legitimate contender for second place, best strip? There are geniuses that work in comics and people who have done amazing life works. And I'm talking specifically comic strips here, not comic books. But there's nothing that approaches this. Even the greats, even Krazy Kat, even Pogo.
Harold: Calvin and Hobbes.
Jimmy: Calvin and Hobbes, which is a great strip.
Harold: For what it is, and it's not entirely my cup of tea, but for one that was just consistently, remarkably its own thing, excellent. The other thing I can think of that's along these lines is Gary Larson's, The Far Side. Right? But even that, it's all over the map in terms of subject. But the style of humor stays in a vein. You kind of know what you're going to get. That's the one thing that Schulz does that Gary Larson does not do, is he goes all over the map with emotion.
Jimmy: If Gary Larson started the same time Schulz did, we would now be saying Far Side was five years in the past. I mean, Schulz is on year 15 here.
Harold: He's just yeah, Bill Waterson has that advantage. And he said, I know when to get out. Ten years of Calvin and Hobbes. And he was like, I do not want to be here all these years later, and people say, why are you still here? And, frankly, I would love to have seen years more of Calvin and Hobbes. and who knows, he might have surprised himself, what he would have come up with.
Jimmy: Well, and I said that in one of our previous podcasts. I said something like, I wanted to see another 20 years of Calvin Hobbs, even if it's not as good as the peak years or whatever. And the one thing I was thinking about that he really didn't take into consideration generation is Waterson was going to be working those 10-20 years in a really declining field.
Jimmy: The newspaper industry itself was just going away. In the instance of people that were getting out in the 90s, like him and Larson, you can definitely understand why.
Harold: Yeah. Another strip I'm in awe of, and I have mixed feelings about as an adult reading it as a kid, I was just totally immersed in it. Is is, Little Orphan Annie again, this strip that a lot of people have not seen, or, they've seen, like, the early the newer versions of it. And to them, Annie is a musical. that strip is so rich and so its own world, and so utterly surprising with these weird philosophical detours. He's got a character who's like God named Am. I mean, there's stuff in there that for its time, there was nobody doing anything, what he was doing, and nobody's been able to kind of replicate what he was doing. So he's the other artist that I think of as he lasted until his death, I think it was like 44 years doing that strip. And it's one of those deals where later on, in the later years, it goes in certain directions, where you're like, that's not peak Little Orphan Annie. But I'm so grateful that we've got the 44 years.
And it tells you something about the artist, because you don't stay in the same place. I think we often think of an artist, and they're creating something that the characters are timeless and the comics are timeless, but the people aren't. And so Schulz is growing and changing and experiencing new things every year, and the strip changes for that. And it's interesting how you can grow so easily out of the sweet spot of the culture when you do that. And it's not like maybe you don't want to try to keep yourself there artificially. You just have to be grateful that you hit it at a certain moment. And if you're out of it, that's just life. There's nothing you can do about it.
The idea that I think did Schulz say at one point that he never went for counseling because he was concerned that he might lose a piece of-- and I feel a little bad for Schulz in that regard, because he might have had a better life if he had allowed himself to happier.
Harold: I mean, this is just theoretically, if based on what he's saying is actually true. But the idea that he could have gotten, let's say, aid or help to make himself a better person or a stronger person, and if he actually did choose not to do that for the sake of the strip, that's when I get a little sad for Schulz. Or concern for Schulz. Because if that were true, I'd feel badly that I'm reading a strip by a guy who could have grown, but he chose not to because he thought that would harm my experience of his strip.
Jimmy: One of the things I know I only have three interests. so we'll talk about baseball later, but this is the Beatles again. One of the famous Beatles arguments is, between Paul and George. And Paul brings in Hey Jude. And George is like, you know what? It'd be great, is after every line, you sing--Hey, Jude-- I do an answering guitar line. [sfx] don't make it bad.[sfx] It's not a good idea, right? It's terrible. But now you have a choice. If you're Paul, you go-- to be the Beatles-- Not to be a good band, not to be an okay band, not to have this to be a top 40 hit, to be the greatest band of all time and to maintain our absolute pinnacle position, I'm going to have to tell you that you should not do that on this song. And by doing that, I'm, also breaking the Beatles.
Harold: Yeah. Oh, boy, that's tough, right? I think of It's a Wonderful Life and Frank Capra, I'm going to be presenting-- this thing is probably going to come out after I've done it, but I'll be presenting at the It's a Wonderful Life conference in Seneca Falls, New York, in December. And I'm doing this piece on basically kind of Frank Capra in in his own words. And in any case, as I'm studying this, I'm learning that he did tick off, like, the original screenwriters. And he ticked off the Dimitri Tiomkin who did the music for the movie because, you know, at the last minute, I can just imagine, having produced some TV, he's at the last minute, and he's got Dmitry Tiompkin score. And then he's like, no, I got to edit this. I got to cut this out. And so he starts moving around pieces of the score that's already been recorded. And Tiomkin was like, you butchered my music. I'll never work with you again. And Capra was like, even I think if Capra knew that that was going to happen, he still would have gone in and tried to make the movie as good as he possibly could in the time he had, because that's what he was trying to serve. And if you can't control someone's response, you can't control how George would take that. But yeah, the idea that, you know you've got something that's absolutely amazing and you know, that you've got a sense of what's good and you couldn't live with yourself if you didn't absolutely do the best thing you could possibly do, and you could possibly take somebody off or lose a friendship over it. for the sake of the art. Wow.
Jimmy: Those are tough choices. People that get to Schulz's level make those choices. And it's, very interesting. I find that we celebrated David Foster Wallace, for talking about being a disturbed person. And he brought this out. And then we find out he did some disturbing things and we're shocked. And want to say no to it. It's like all of that. It's all of the piece. It all comes together, from that. These people couldn't be who they were without doing this kind of art. And this kind of art couldn't exist if they didn’t...
Harold: Right. Could you tell the listeners…
Jimmy: David Foster Wallace, a writer that pretentious people like me like. He wrote the book Infinite Jest, which is possibly my favorite book of all time. And, he wrote a lot about depression and a lot about, lots of very philosophical, issues. And he unfortunately died, by suicide in 2008, I believe, when he's, like, 48. It's very sad.
Michael: We had spaghetti at our house three times this month.
Jimmy: Can't stand it.
May 28. Charlie Brown has come between Lucy and Snoopy. He has clearly broken up this fight. He says, “I'm surprised at you two.” He continues yelling at Lucy now “brawling in the streets like a couple of hoods. What's the matter with you?” Lucy turns to Charlie Brown and says, “he was standing where I wanted to walk.” Charlie Brown rolls his eyes to the heavens and says, “the ultimate crime.”
Michael: Classic punchline.
Jimmy: I have stolen that punchline much throughout my life. The ultimate crime.
Harold: Charlie Brown, the voice of reason character is really getting established here.
Michael: Next one, too. Classic punchline.
June 1. Charlie Brown and Lucy are walking along outside. Charlie Brown says, “as soon as school is over, I have to go to camp for two weeks.” He continues in panel two. He looks upset about it. He says, “I don't really care much about going to camp. I'm afraid I'll get lonesome.” Then they end up at the Thinking Wall with Charlie Brown continuing head in hand, saying, “I'm afraid that when I'm miles away from home, I'll start to miss my friends.” Lucy looks at him and says, “what friends?”
Michael: And Charlie Brown says, Linus.
Jimmy: Ouch. Yeah, Charlie Brown. Come on, man.
Michael: Well, they're clearly friends.
Harold: but he doesn't think Linus is a friend, right? Didn't he, like, he's claiming to Linus he has no friends in front of Linus. But, yeah, hopefully he knows by now.
Jimmy: That's the thing, though. If you're a creative person or whatever, and you are dumb enough to Google yourself on Goodreads or whatever, and you have 95% good reviews, people just love your work. And one person that says no, that's the only one that matters. So Lucy is, saying that he has no friends is the only thing Charlie Brown is going to take from that. He just can't possibly conceive coming back and saying, actually, no, I do have friends.
June 7. Charlie Brown is at camp. A camp where everyone wears little sailor hats apparently. He's he's standing in line and says, “well, here I am at camp, standing in my first chow line. Lunch is going to taste good”. Suddenly, the kid standing behind him in line says, “what's your name, kid?” “Charlie Brown.” says Charlie Brown. Then this kid yells to the entire camp, “hey, get a load of the kid with a funny name.” Leading the other kid in line to smile condescendingly at Charlie Brown. And then Charlie Brown, who is very upset by this, says, “lunch is going to taste awful.”
Michael: No, this is probably the least Peanuts-y strip we've seen since the beginning
Jimmy: because of the two other characters?
Michael: Well, it violates a lot of his unwritten rules. Like, you don't see other kids, generic kids. You never see them. Right?
Jimmy: The last time I think I can think of one would have been when Charlie Brown ended up playing in another baseball game. In like, a different neighborhood baseball game.
Harold: I was thinking of that weird sequence when Lucy's playing golf.
Michael: Yeah, yeah. Of course. That was an abomination. This is a door opening into, like, another phase of Peanuts.
Michael: And they're drawn sketchy. I mean, they don't look like they're drawn in the same style as he is.
Harold: They look older, right?
Jimmy: Yeah, they definitely look older.
Michael: It's not the same line width as far as I could see anyway.
Harold: The thing that's interesting to me about these camp strips, again, reading them as a little kid, I was convinced just by reading Peanuts that I never, ever wanted to go to camp because he equates it with army, these are like army memories. It seems like that he's being shipped off to this place. He's got to take a bus somewhere, be around all these strangers, and be in this tough environment where you don't know any of these kids. And, yeah, it just was so unpleasant that, as a kid, I never, ever wanted to go to camp.
Michael: And I never went to camp, and I was happy about it.
Harold: Yeah. My one experience is we went up to the Adirondacks, I think, and whatever reason, the thing we signed up for, the parents were in one space for, like, events at night, and we were in this other place in the Adirondacks in some cabin watching Hogan's Heroes with a bunch of kids I'd never met before. And it being entirely unpleasant. And I thought, this is what camp is like.
Michael: This is what TV is like.
Jimmy: I grew up in the coal region, and we couldn't do camps and stuff like that was very fancy… Our whole life was sent you down in the…
Michael: They sent you down in the mines
Harold: Mine camp.
Jimmy: That was next level. Harold bravo. That's a multilingual pun people. You don't get that on other podcasts. You don't get that on The Nerdist.
June 11, One of these strange new kids is sitting on a little stump at camp and he's he's sniffing. He looks very upset. Charlie Brown's behind him and notices this kid, and he walks up to him and says, “excuse me, but I couldn't help overhearing you crying. What's the matter?” This kid says, ”I don't know. I guess I'm just lonesome.” Charlie Brown reaches out his hand, shakes the new kid's hand, and yells, “friend!”
Michael: This is new.
Michael: Here we have a named well, not yet, but a named character looks like a new entry into the Peanuts lineup. And, after, like, a week, he's gone. You never see him again. Well, do you?
Jimmy: You do.
Michael: Oh, you do.
Jimmy: Okay. Yes. Because this is actually super momentous, because he actually becomes our link to Peppermint Patty.
Michael: All right, so, does he get placed in the tier list now?
Jimmy: In the tier list, yeah, he needs to get a place. I don't think it'll be very high ever, but this is Roy, people, and Roy will, be coming back, so, he definitely deserves a place in the tier list.
Harold: I like his design, I like the design of Roy.
Jimmy: Okay, this is what I wanted to talk about. Michael was pointing out that the kids in the previous strip don't really kind of look like Peanuts characters to me. They look a little bit like a cross between a Peanuts character and one of his Young Pillar characters.
Harold: The church strips that he was doing with teenagers in this time.
Jimmy: Exactly. But yet, when we introduce Roy here, Roy is clearly a Peanuts character.
Michael: Yeah, he's got a shirt.
Jimmy: Yeah, he's got a distinctive shirt. The body type is more like a Charlie Brown body type. The head is more like a Peanuts head. Yeah, it's really interesting. I really like that first panel, the way Schulz uses the very spare incline to just define those trees in the background. Clearly, Jeff Smith learned a lot from strips like this, masterfully done here. I think it looks beautiful.
Harold: Yeah. Roy is wearing, like, what you call a Hawaiian shirt. Very Californian kid. And again, I'm wondering is he may be inspired by a kid or a couple of kids that were showing up all the time in Schulz's life, Through his kids.
Jimmy: Yeah, it could possibly be. So, he spends some time becoming friends with Roy. And then, on June 17, it's time for camp to end.
Charlie Brown and Roy are saying goodbye. Outside the cabin, Charlie Brown shakes Roy's hand, and Roy says, “well, so long, Charlie Brown. It's been nice knowing you.” And Roy hoists his suitcase on his shoulder. And Charlie Brown says, “it's been nice knowing you, too, Roy. Have a good trip home.” As Roy walks away, Charlie Brown watches as Roy leaves camp. And he says, “for the first time in my life, I feel I really helped someone. He was lonesome, and I became his friend.” Then Charlie Brown walks out to the dock of the lake and says, “what an accomplishment.” And he looks very pleased with himself.
Harold: Yeah. It was a small victory for Charlie Brown. I think it's really cool that Schulz gives this to Charlie Brown, and I think it's time for Charlie Brown to kind of have this kind of experience because we keep seeing him as the perennial loser and yet he is again becoming the voice of reason in the strip. There's reason for us to believe that Charlie Brown should have more of an impact with other kids. And I think Roy in a strip we don't mention here specifically is, writing home and we get to see Roy's perspective on this. And he basically says he's a good temporary friend. He's not the kind of friend that you would want if you were back home in your own environment, but for somebody who's going to be with you just for a time, yeah, he's a good friend.
Jimmy: And what I like is we're seeing Charlie Brown and we will continue to see him as the strip goes on, succeed at various things. Not necessarily the primary things that he's always on about, which is baseball and the Little Red Haired Girl and stuff like that. But he does have these successes. And what's cool about it from a writer’s point of view is that the successes he has comes from his own pain. He understands what it's like to be lonely. That's why he reaches out to Roy. He becomes a good friend to Roy for this because he has complete and total empathy. And he has that empathy because he's gone through hell with Patty and Violet and Lucy always coming down on him and his failures on the things that he wants to see that he wants to be the hero and maybe he can be.
Harold: It's just going to be and the things are more the thing that he actually is a success in is quite admirable, right?
Jimmy: Very, very admirable.
June 19, Charlie Brown is back in the neighborhood. He says, “oh boy, is it ever good to be back home.” He walks up to Lucy saying, “Hi, Lucy, I'm back.” Lucy looks at him blankly and says, “you're what?” Charlie Brown says, “I said, I'm back.” And Lucy says, “have you been away?”
Michael: The ultimate putdown.
Harold: That little sincere look on her face.
Jimmy: you know, and that's another thing that we'll see as things move on with Charlie Brown is a lot of his successes come when he's outside of his neighborhood, he's outside of the group. And you do find that a lot of times, especially in a small knit community, people have a viewpoint of you and they want to hang on to that, especially if that viewpoint of you makes them feel better about themselves.
Harold: Jimmy, as somebody who grew up in a place your whole life, I moved around a lot as a little kid and so I was always trying to kind of reinvent myself when I'd go from one place to another or even just one school to another. It seemed like, here's my chance to try to be seen differently by somebody every year. I was always in that position, but as somebody who had much more continuity growing up, it's interesting that you say that, that you say it's hard, I guess, to break out of the way people see you, because you've got this continuity and people have known you, like, your whole life.
Jimmy: Yes, it's very hard. I mean, even to this day, when I go back home, people remember the 15-year-old me, and that's nice, but they think I am also still that person. And sometimes there's a resentment if you're not that person, and it's hard to be that person, hopefully. Actually, like you were saying earlier with Schulz, hopefully you're constantly growing, hopefully you're constantly changing. But it seems to me that in a situation like we're seeing in this strip, people like Lucy, and Violet, and Patty, they get a lot of their self worth by putting Charlie Brown down.
Harold: So you can relate to that.
Jimmy: He's going to have his successes elsewhere. Not to say that that was my-- I'm not complaining about the people in my-- no one's trying to keep me down, man. That was one of the things I definitely wanted when I did the book, The Dumbest Idea Ever. The only thing I wanted to make sure I didn't do was write the story of how I was the lone soul with a deep understanding, and this whole harsh world was against me. If anyone was going to be portrayed as an idiot in the book, it was going to be me.
Harold: It makes for a very endearing read, the way you do it. It is done with this kind of humility, but also a wisdom to it. So, yeah, it's a very special autobiography.
Jimmy: Aww. thanks.
June 23. Charlie Brown is sitting at the psychiatry booth. He's the patient, of course. Lucy is listening intently. Charlie Brown says, “you know, I feel better already. You must use very modern methods.” Lucy, with hands behind her head in complete confidence, says, “oh, yes, absolutely. The latest techniques.” Then in the last panel, we see the entirety of the psychiatry booth, which previously has been covered by word balloons, and, it now reads, Psychiatry A Go Go. The Doctor Is In.
Michael: Anything with a go go in it is good enough for me.
Jimmy: I think we should bring back a go go.
Michael: I would go up to this booth yeah. With dancers. Especially.
Harold: Now, this was the big thing in LA. Wasn't it, in particular? It seemed like that was where it was coming from in the United States.
Michael: The Whiskey A Gogo. That was the big club on Sunset Strip.
Harold: Yeah. That's why I think of LA. When I think of a gogo in the US.
Michael: yeah, but I suspect it has something to do with France.
Harold: Yeah. With that little accent on the A.
Michael: Maybe there was a Whiskey a Go Go in Paris or something. I don't know. Google It.
Jimmy: Le Whiskey. Well, it just means, like, modern, right?
Michael: Yeah, but that's a perverting English gogo. I mean, that sounds like somebody who doesn't really know English would make up something like that. Go Go doesn't really mean anything.
Jimmy: Here's a famous strip, one we've discussed already.
July 12, We see Snoopy lugging, what looks like a heavy suitcase of some kind. Then in panel two, he's pushing it. Panel three, he opens it up. We can't quite see what it is. Maybe it's the briefcase from Pulp Fiction. But then in panel four, we see Snoopy as atop the dog house. What was inside the suitcase is his famous typewriter making its very first appearance. And Snoopy types the first words of his masterpiece. “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Harold: You'd like a little eye on Snoopy there. He's kind of got the slit eye. How do you describe that expression?
Michael: The last panel?
Harold: Yeah, when he starts to type. But there's this look on his face.
Michael: He looks a little arrogant, I think.
Jimmy: Yeah. He's being a man of letters. Right. Yeah. It is an arrogance with which he is approaching this very high minded craft he's taking up.
Harold: Yeah, that would be a great photo on the back of the dust jacket or whatever.
Michael: So did this thing take off right away? I noticed there were a bunch more dark and stormy night strips in this year.
Jimmy: I don't know. Someone would have to make a podcast about that.
Michael: Yeah, I would like to know.
Jimmy: I was surprised to see that Snoopy has so much success as a writer.
Harold: Yeah. Right up front, he's really doing well. No wonder he kept at it. Once you have that taste of success, it's like when you play the first time in golf and you get below par, and then the rest of your life, it's over.
August 2, Lucy and Violet are both sticking their tongues out at each other. Lucy says “nyah.” Violet says “Nyah nyah nyah.” Then Violet storms away, looking very angry. She comes across, Charlie Brown in panel three and says, “and nyah, to you, too.” In the last panel Charlie Brown looks out from the panel and says, “this is a tough neighborhood. You never know when you're going to get hit with a stray nyah.”
Jimmy: Well, Michael, this confirms, your original thing. You would never say bleah in this instance. Schulz has made right by you here. This is a nyah situation for sure.
Michael: Well, I'm also interested in nyah as a cross cultural phenomenon.
Jimmy: Well, we have listeners from all over, this globe. So people out there tell us, what do you say? What is your onomatopia when you want to just annoy someone?
Michael: Well, but it's only kids. You're not allowed to say it over a certain age.
Jimmy: What is that age? What is that?
Michael: I think it's six.
Jimmy: Wow, you're hardliner. That's young. I was going to give all the way to nine, but I guess a nine year old. That would be obnoxious. Harold, you want to weigh in on the age limits for nyahs?
Harold: Yeah, I'd give up to nine.
Jimmy: Let's say seven and a half.
Harold: Okay. Yeah, I'm not going to fight over that, but I mean, I think there's more tongue sticking out this year than anything. Again, I don't know if that's because he's around so many kids. Although, to Michael's theory, the youngest we have in the Peanuts clan is seven. So if he's pulling it from real life, they're breaking your rules.
Michael: Maybe I'm wrong.
Jimmy: Well, before we move too far on, I'm actually looking at this as a whole sheet of comic strips. And I forgot to mention in the last one, great drawing of a typewriter. Great drawing of a typewriter case. Just in our list of bizarre things that no one ever cartoon before. Typewriter case has got to tell you.
Harold: Yeah, I love the sheet of paper that's sticking out of the typewriter, because you know how they have, like, the little they used to have, the little thing you could flip up to kind of hold the paper. That is not long enough sometimes. And the paper then falls over the edge of whatever has been lifted up. He's got that perfectly here.
Jimmy: Sorry to give you listeners, whiplash.
Harold: To go back a strip, but it's instantly making me think of Shoe as well. Anybody who read the comic strip Shoe, there was always a typewriter. There was always that rumpled look in the newspaper office. Just think of that.
Jimmy: Yeah. there were some very evocatively drawn characters in Shoe that really did feel like a newspaper office, even though it was birds in a tree.
Harold: It's amazing.
August 8. A Sunday strip. Charlie Brown and Lucy are just standing outside in the neighborhood, sort of staring off into the middle distance, when Lucy says to Charlie Brown, “you think I talk too much, don't you, Charlie Brown?” With no visible change on either of their expressions, Charlie Brown says, “perhaps .” That's enough to set Lucy off. She puts her fist up and says , “all right, Charlie Brown, I've had enough of your insults. Put him up.” She continues, in the next panel, even Charlie Brown is just confused as to what's even happening. She says, “Come on, we're going to have this out right here and now. Put ‘em up.” Charlie Brown says, “good grief” with his eyes closed in disgust. Then in the next panel, he just basically extends his right forearm and ever so gently, seemingly bops Lucy on the nose, barely touching her. Lucy freaks out. “He hit me. He hit me. He hit me on the nose. He damaged my great beauty.” She's freaking out. Charlie Brown is still standing there, frozen with his fist out in the air. The next panel, Charlie Brown is predictably, completely distraught. “I hit a girl. That's terrible. What an awful thing to do. I've never felt so guilty in all my life.” He takes his guilt where he probably shouldn't, which is the psychiatry booth. Lucy is already there, looking astoundingly annoyed. He says to Lucy, “and so I hit this girl see, and now I feel terribly guilty.” And the next panel, Lucy just reaches out through the psychiatry booth and lays Charlie out a good one. POW. Sends Charlie Brown flying. He's flat on his back, but he looks relieved, and he says, “I don't feel guilty anymore. Psychiatry has cured me.”
Michael: I think this is a rare case. I mean, it's very funny. It's a good punchline, it's a good thing. Seems a little forced. Like, he had this great punchline, great set up, but he had to make it happen. And making, if you notice in the middle panel, panel five, Charlie Brown is extending his arm. It's like, twice as long as his normal arm.
Jimmy: It's very weird when you see those instances where the character design just doesn't allow him to do the physical thing he needs them to do in those instances. That is definitely an example of that. You don't normally notice it, I think, when you're writing through it, but certainly when you're doing a close reading like that, that definitely jumps out at you.
Michael: yeah, certainly when you're doing a podcast, you have to be critical.
Jimmy: You have to notice these things.
Michael: Yeah. And also the fact that he's talking to Lucy and doesn't seem to be putting it all together that this is the girl he hit. That's a little weird.
Jimmy: Like a vaudeville routine.
Michael: Like the psychiatrist is somebody else or something.
Jimmy: You know what I found? and I might be misremembering this, but I think that I never saw the top two panels. I think in reprints I had, it, was only the bottom two tiers, because famously, of course, these Sunday strips, you can lift that top tier right out. It's ten times better with those two panels, because you get to see what upsets Lucy, which is Lucy getting a mild and honest answer to a question she herself asked. That's what starts this whole melee. I think that's the funniest part of this particular strip.
Michael: No, that really helps, because Charlie Brown there is not being mean.
Michael: He's actually trying to agree with her.
Jimmy: Exactly. Right.
Michael: I like to agree with her because she just said something well, and then.
Jimmy: The other thing is, if you cut those two off and you just jump in with, all right, Charlie Brown, I've had enough of your insults. I mean, we've never seen Charlie Brown really insult Lucy. One time he sort of pushed back against her. That's basically it. So it's jarring in that sense. Later, I believe Schulz does this thing where Charlie Brown has to hit someone by just sticking his hand out, and it works a little better when he goes the second pass through it.
Harold: I think in the third panel, which is the first panel, below that top removable tier, do you think that Schulz put the little question mark of Charlie Brown's? Like, Why, Lucy, are you upset with me in after the fact?
Jimmy: Well, I never thought about that, but when you mention it, it's very small and sort of crammed in there.
Harold: it's like his chin is confused.
Harold: But I have to say, I absolutely love the strip because of the flow of the elements that are only Peanuts. I mean, this strip could not have existed anywhere else because of the set up. Lucy seems to be innocently asking something. Charlie Brown innocently responds, Lucy overreacts. Charlie Brown is also, the second time around, also being agreeable by punching to put him up. I love that. And then she overreacts the second time. And then Charlie Brown is like, he feels so guilty, which is so Charlie Brown. And then he goes to the place where he deals with his guilt, and there's Lucy again. And then he says something to her as his psychiatrist. She overacts the third time, and it all, to me, makes sense. And then Charlie Brown at the end, just lying there, looking so relieved that there's been some retribution for his terrible act. So now he can feel okay. I mean, that is just classic Peanuts to me. That's all in these characters. And Lucy three overreactions in a row from Charlie Brown's innocent actions, is just hilarious to me.
Jimmy: It's pretty funny, actually. I could look at this as a whole metaphor for, like, Catholic school and confession if I really wanted to.
Michael: It's an act of contrition.
Jimmy: You are the source of all my problems. Let me go confess my problems to you.
August 9. Snoopy's at the beach. He's hiding behind a surfboard, a really well drawn surfboard, making our list of bizarre little 20th Century things that Schulz is a master of cartooning. At the first time he does it, Snoopy looks out in the ocean and says, “I got to show that beach beagle what a great surfer I am.” In the next panel, he is paddling out on his board wearing swim trunks, and he says, “I'll prove to her I'm no hodad. I'll impress her with some fast turns and hot dogging.” Panel three. He is up shooting the tube. He screams, well in his head, “Cowabunga.” We cut back to the beach where Charlie Brown is making a sand castle. And Linus points out towards Snoopy and says, “isn't that your dog out there, Charlie Brown? I think he's lost his mind.”
Michael: This is 1965. It's a little late for the surfer craze. It's, like, two years too late.
Harold: Well, you have to give it to Snoopy, though. He knows where to find the best waves in Hennepin County.
Jimmy: That's right. That's not an easy thing, I don't think.
Michael: Not a huge fan of the Cowabunga panel.
Harold: What don't you like about the Cowabunga panel?
Michael: It's just a Snoopy expression I don't think we've seen before.
Harold: That's true.
Jimmy: Yeah, well, that's a reference to the surfer culture, right? I mean, it's not like he's the one that coined the term cowabunga. He's just appropriating it for this.