Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. It's Unpacking Peanuts. We are going over 1966 today. Guys, and I don't know about you, but I'm picking up some good vibrations from our buddy, Charles M. Schulz. Peanuts is at the top of pop culture. Schulz is casually reinventing the comic strip form on seemingly a daily basis. And in a year where Peanuts is the biggest thing in the world, Peanuts itself is getting a little bit bigger, and I honestly can't wait to talk about all of it with you guys.
How are you doing? We're back. This is our first recording session after the new year, and I hope you guys are having a great, 2023. I'm your host for this evening. I'm Jimmy Gownley. 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 is a playwright, a composer, both for the band complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. He's the co creator of the very first comic book price guide, the original editor of Amelia Rules, 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 executive producer and writer of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a former vice president of Archie comics, and the current creator of the instagram strip sweetest beasts, Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: Well, welcome back. It's 1966. This was a huge year. it feels to me like our pal, Mr. Schulz is just, almost like the comic strip isn't enough to contain all of his creativity. He just seems to be bursting at the seams at this point. Michael, what are your initial takes on 1966?
Michael: Well, it's a year of big things. Schulz is definitely open to moving in new directions. And then the phrase I came up with while reading these is, breaking the mould. He had certain patterns that he created that he was sticking with, and it seems this is the year that he decided that, no, he doesn't have to stick with the old formulas, and he can really jump in and try something new. And so there are lots of, maybe they didn't start this year. There might have been hints the previous couple of years, but this is the year, I think, that clearly initiates an, entirely new phase of the strip.
Jimmy: Yeah, I would have to agree with all of that. In my sort of mental memory of the strip, from my last reading of it, I thought it was 1965. I actually sort of thought 1965 was the year Peppermint Patty showed up, too. but that was this year. And, yeah, I definitely agree with your take. This is Schulz branching out in some pretty intriguing new directions, not just for himself, but really for comics. Harold, how are you?
Harold: I'm fine. Doing well, thanks. Yeah, this year, I agree, is going into new places, and he's dwelling there. He's not just, like, trying something. Sometimes he's just diving right into these new areas. It's not like he did, like, one strip of something. In certain cases, he's doing a lot of stuff of something new. And that does give the strip a different feeling than it did, say, from 1964, 1965. Just, to give an update, everybody on the ages of his kids. Jill is eight, Amy's ten, Craig is 13, Monty's 14, and Meredith is 16 years old. And that's, hard to believe, because she's just a baby. When we started reading these just a
Jimmy: Few episodes ago, it seems.
Harold: Yeah, right. And, this is a big year for Schulz outside. I got the sense of these strips that Schulz is extremely busy. I got also the sense it's weird I said that he goes with an idea and sticks with it in certain cases. In other places, he takes some amazing ideas and he just he goes through very quickly and then drops them. Like, my gosh, this could have been a six week series. But it seems like he's just got a load of ideas and maybe not a whole lot of time to think certain things through. And so the strips seem to be they don't have the continuity, in some cases, of what we had in previous years. But I think it's because he's got so many ideas and his world is so full right now. To have kids that age range eight to 16, that's a real sweet spot. I get the feeling of teenagers in this year in particular, with some of the things he's doing. And this is the year that he wins the Peabody and the Emmy Award for, Charlie Brown Christmas. So that's a huge deal.
On a sadder note, in June, his father, Carl, passes away, so I'm sure that was, very sad for him. And, he goes on, and he's doing an additional two animated specials, which is pretty amazing, given that they didn't think they'd do another one after December of 65, and they do with the Charlie Brown's All Stars, and then, yes, the Great Pumpkin, which we talked about earlier. And that it just yeah, it just seems like there's a wealth of creativity coming out. And they say the Great Pumpkin was outlined, like, in one morning. And when you think about all this stuff fromSnoopy, and the Sopwith Camel and Red Baron, how new that is, but he's not using something that's like everybody knows from the strip from five or ten years ago that he's built up. He's dropping something very new into that Halloween special with Snoopy. It's like he's not riding on the laurels of how people have gotten to know him over the years. He's putting the new stuff in. He's obviously very excited about where he is.
Jimmy: That never even occurred to me, but that is a huge risk. It's just a little over a year since the first appearance of the World War I Flying Ace, and suddenly he is a huge animated segment of that second special.
Harold: It's a third special. Sorry. It's a major part of it. And what's interesting also, you were saying that this is the year of Charles Schulz. I mean, he's just exploded Christmas the previous year. People discover that special, and they said that he got, like, a 50 share or something. 50, percent of the TV's tuned in for the Halloween special. So, obviously people are can't get enough of Peanuts at this point.
Jimmy: And it really, to me, like, you say some things, he drops, some things, he's exploring. It feels like a really good double album by one of your favorite bands right. Where it's just like, okay, maybe everything isn't a masterpiece, but they're all really great ideas, and it feels like he's trying to get them down on paper almost as fast as they're coming to him.
Harold: I agree. And I think a little later on in here, I'm going to be asking you guys a questions kind of related to that whole Beatles/Peanuts, that they're both having these moments, around this time. And I'm just really intrigued.
Michael: This is definitely a Revolver year.
Harold: Yeah. Right.
Jimmy: Well, sure. And also in the sense that, all right, one of my New Year's resolutions should be maybe to talk less about the Beatles in a Peanuts podcast, but since you brought it up, the Revolver box set, that came out a few months ago. And one of the things I've always thought my whole life is, boy, this album is just so coherent. It just all hangs together. It feels like it has a similar tonal quality. It has, like, almost a color to it in the mood, but it does it in some ways. It's all over the place. I mean, Yellow Submarine and Tomorrow Never Knows and Eleanor Rigby are all on the same album.
Harold: Maybe that's it. Maybe it's the fact that it is so colorful. It is a full palette, like we haven't seen in music before. Maybe that is what makes it stand out so much.
Jimmy: Yeah. And a full palette is the way to describe this year. That's a great way. And he's a master using every color he has on it.
Jimmy: We have a wide selection, of strips to get through, so I'm happy to just get right to it, if that's what you guys are saying, I think.
Jimmy: All right, let's do it.
January 3. Lucy and Charlie Brown are walking outside in the snow. Lucy has a scowl on her face. She says, “I hate this year. Everyone said things would be better, but they're not.” She turns to Charlie Brown and says, “I don't think this is a new year at all.” Then she raises her fists and shouts, “I think we've been stuck with a used year.”
Michael: I've been using that line my entire life. And actually, a lot of these strips, when I read them, I go like, I'm getting a lot of mileage, these punch lines, for a long time.
Harold: Is this your sweet spot of reading them in the paper? Michael, how old are you when these strips are coming out?
Michael: 16. Yeah. No, I'm still reading them in the paper, and I'm still getting the books. But I think later in the year, we've gotten past the strips that I had collected in the collected volumes. And so some of these seem fairly new to me.
Harold: Yeah, me too.
Michael: But the beginning of the year, especially when I was going through every strip, and January just I could have picked every one. We could have done the whole hour. The whole hour On January.
Harold: the special cease and desist edition.
January 4, we see Lucy sitting very serenely at her psychiatric help booth. In panel two, though, she looks off to panel right. And in panel three, we see something has upset her greatly. And in panel four, we see what that is. It is Snoopy at his own booth. And it says, hug a warm puppy. One cent. The puppy is in.
Jimmy: So he's undercutting her. Not only is he in on her turf, but he's under selling her.
Michael: No, I think he could definitely charge him more.
Harold: The money is nothing to Snoopy.
Jimmy: That's true. Right. It's the principle.
Harold: Right. It's just the thing to cause Lucy trouble. Right. But doesn't this represent something that's actually happening in the strip? I mean, this thing has meaning in the sense that we've seen the psychiatry booth and we've seen Lucy dealing with Charlie Brown all these years, and now the warm puppy, Snoopy, he's doing his own thing, and he's kind of taken over in certain ways that we haven't seen yet, despite some amazing years of Snoopy up until now. This is really an amazing year for Snoopy and the nature of Snoopy. And I think his separation from the kids is a big deal this year. He's just going off and doing his own thing. A lot of the strips we see him, so seeing this strip with Snoopy sitting at his booth, where he's basically beating them at their own game is kind of interesting.
Michael: Yeah. So he sold out. And, this is a comment on commercializing a comic strip.
Harold: Those pennies add up.
Michael: He will not give it away anymore.
Harold: And you think about the happiness as a warm puppy that came out in what year was that? 63 or 62. They said it was on the bestseller list, like, number one of both adult and children's books. I didn't know you could even do that. But I guess. yeah, he sold more of any other hardcover book that year. And, you know, here we are four years later, and he's still referencing something that is part of the cultural phenomenon the Peanuts becomes in this era.
Jimmy: Yes. And that, again goes back to how many of these things just took on a life of their own outside the strip. It seems like every other thing he created and branched off somehow resonated with the public. Whether it's the warm puppy or the flying ace or the psychiatry booth or any of those things, they all work. They all work as avatars of the strip, even though they're all different and.
Harold: This pent-up demand for it. These people want more Peanuts in their life.
Jimmy: Yeah, I remember when the fourth Harry Potter book came out, the Goblet of Fire, and there hadn't been any kind of merch for it. And then that Christmas, they released the first Harry Potter merch. And everything was like really high end and slick and nice. It was before it became just a giant junk creation machine. And I remember it seemed like everybody I knew was buying it for people or getting it from people or getting it for their kids and stuff like that. Yeah, I think it's rare that because now it seems like all the merch and all the hype and all that stuff comes first. And then maybe you'll like the thing later if you're lucky.
Harold: Yeah, right. It's like the Matilda the boxing kangaroo shake that's being sold at McDonald's before the movie comes out that nobody goes to see. It's like, yeah, you gamble on the merch because that's how you're going to make your money. And here we've gotten to know Peanuts for years, really, before, there was any representation outside of the strip. But it's amazing how people, they love these characters and they want more of them. And if it comes out in another form, they are going to embrace it and go after it.
Jimmy: Since I just said that JK. Rowling presides over a giant junk machine, it makes me think, over the course of our rather innocuous little podcast about Peanuts, it comes to my attention I have insulted a few people.
Harold: Liz edited out 96% of it, too.
Jimmy: Right. But these are the ones that got through. It's a new year. It's a time for reflection. So I did make a list. These are the people I have insulted in the first 44 episodes. Just briefly. It's Winsor McKay, David Lynch as a cartoonist, Will Eisner, comic book editors, Pennsylvanians, Ernie Bushmiller, Mort Walker, newspaper editors, Arlo Guthrie, Sha Na Na, book editors, publishers, TV executives-- I literally said they have no soul, baby boomers, the Catholic Church, millennials, polka bands, all post-Tolkien fantasy writers, and Gene Simmons.
Michael: not to mention me and Harold.
Jimmy: When I started the list, it was going to be an apology. But I'm going to just double down.
Harold: Yeah, I was waiting for the resolution to show up and I don't think it's going to happen.
Jimmy: No. You know what? I will see you all in hell.
Michael: Curse you Sha Na Na
Harold: Bowser forgives you.
Jimmy: He does seem like a forgiving guy.
January 6. Sally with her eye patch and Linus are walking outside. Sally says, “you should have heard me today at show and tell time.” She continues, “I told the whole class all about Amblyopia and why I wear this eyepatch. I explained how my lazy eye is being strengthened by being forced to work while my other eye is covered.” She continues speaking with Linus. “Then I urged them all to go see their ophthalmologists for eye tests immediately.” Linus says, “did you get a good grade?” Sally says, “I got a B for my teacher and an A from my ophthalmologist.”
Michael: First of all, I love everything with Sally. I love everything with the eyepatch.
Michael: And Linus and Sally might be my two favorite characters.
Jimmy: They're great. They're great. And they're such a great duo.
Harold: And I love to see how the eyepatch kind of cuts into her her hair on the back of her head. It's really a nice look for her.
Jimmy: Schulz had to figure that out.
Harold: Yeah, right.
Jimmy: I was saying this, before, the show started, I was just talking to Michael and I said, I really wish that she would have kept the eyepatch the whole time. The next 50 years, just Sally with an eyepatch would have been amazing.
Harold: This is an interesting question when you think of what level grade are the kids in this strip? So Sally may be a B student. Charlie Brown is what, a C student?
Jimmy: Yeah, probably C is I would imagine.
Harold: Linus is an A. What is Lucy?
Jimmy: Oh, I think Lucy's straight A's. No question.
Michael: Oh, really?
Jimmy: Yeah, no question.
Harold: Schroeder straight A's, too.
Jimmy: You've never met a stupid person that got straight A's. I think if you're working to get straight A's, that actually kind of makes you a stupid person.
Michael: Whoops, You just insulted straight A students.
Jimmy: Okay, so let me add to my list. Students, conscientious students. Right after Gene Simmons.
January 11, Lucy is reading from a book to Linus, and she says, “I knew I was right. I knew it. There was a day just like today, back in 1935. This isn't a new year at all. This is a used year.” Now we see Lucy writing a letter. She says, “I'm going to write a strong letter of protest.” Linus says to her, “who's in charge of years?”
Harold: That attitude will get you A's.
Jimmy: Yeah, exactly. Not worth arguing with her.
Harold: But, yeah, I mean, the fact that, before even thinking where she's going to send it, she's going to put out this letter, that's so classic Lucy. And, Linus's response is, pretty classic Linus, too-- who is in charge of years.
Jimmy: He gets a great expression on her face of her writing an angry letter. And when you realize the shape he's given himself and how little room he has, that's a great little drawing of an angry Lucy writing a letter.
Harold: Yes, it is. That's great.
Jimmy: All right,
February 9. Now, before we read this one, though, should we set, up? Because this is part of a long story of Charlie Brown deciding to enter, the spelling bee. Does anyone want to give kind, of a rundown of what happens?
Michael: Well, he's taking a step forward. He's trying to be brave. He's doing something that's challenging and risky. And the solution here is just brilliant because you know he's going to lose, right? But how he loses is just wonderful.
Jimmy: Alright. And here's how he loses.
So Charlie Brown is up at the chalkboard. It's the day of the spelling bee. And he thinks to himself on February 9, “oh, here it comes. It's my turn next. Here's my first word in the spelling bee.” Charlie Brown receives his word and he looks excited. “Maze. Yes, ma'am. That's an easy one.” And then with all the confidence in the world, he proudly spells out M-A-Y-S. And then in panel four, he screams to the heavens. He confused it with Willie Mays.
Michael: Oh, thanks for explaining that. I didn't understand. No, I, of course, love every strip where he name checks Willie. And there's another one later in the year.
Jimmy: I have said in the past that sometimes he doesn't stick the landing on the stories, but he does in this one. I love this whole sequence. I love it's bookended with some Violet strips where Violet is, telling him not to do this. He's only going to humiliate himself. And then, of course, he does. And then it goes into a whole longer sequence where he ends up being sent to the principal's office before it. But then he comes back at the very end and spells, Maze correctly with a ton of confidence. I thought it was a great little short story.
Harold: Yeah, that's really cool. And it's interesting to see that, Shermy's been held back a grade, I guess because he's now in the class with, Charlie Brown. And I always thought he was like a year or two older.
Jimmy: Yeah, he starts mushing all the characters together. Now maybe in Hennepin County it's very sparsely populated and it's the kind of thing where they have two classes or two grades in one class. I had that in first grade.
Harold: It looks like a big school from the corner of the building. But-- you always see-- but there's no way of knowing.
Jimmy: There's no way of knowing. Looking at this February 9 strip. This is just four drawings of Charlie Brown standing in front of the classroom. but boy, does he get every ounce of the emotion out of what Charlie Brown is experiencing in those drawings. The first one he's very rigid. He's just waiting for his word. Then the absolute subtlety, you see him almost relax and be happy in that second
Harold: slight lean in drawing.
Jimmy: Yeah. Lean in just slightly and then lean back with pride in the third one. It's, really, really good cartooning. And none of this is stuff that Schulz spent more than two minutes thinking of, I'm sure.
Harold: Yeah. I was reading, no, I was listening to, the audio from was it called A Man Called Charles Schulz or whatever that documentary that Lee Mendelson did before the Christmas special back in 1963. And he was talking about especially on the Sundays when he got a good idea, he would like, burn through the strip. He would make it as fast as he could because he couldn't wait to see it. Yeah. And I thought, wow, you know, I don't think I've heard many other cartoonists say, I'm speeding through my own strip, creating it just so I can see the thing in my head come to life on the paper. But you get that sense of excitement in some of these strips. He's saying, oh, the lettering. I got to get through the lettering so I can get this thing done.
January 13. Charlie Brown looks like he's making, the bottom part of a snowman. He's rolling a large snow boulder. Snoopy is on top of it. Panel one, he looks pretty calm about the whole situation. Panel two, Snoopy looks a little more upset about it because we see he is starting to slide back underneath the giant, snowball. Panel three, we see Charlie Brown continuing to push the snowball completely, rolling Snoopy underneath it. Panel four, the ball makes its complete revolution and brings Snoopy face to face with Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown is shocked and a ridiculous smile is on Snoopy's face with his.
Harold: Little ears curled over like a, like a bunny rabbit. It's yeah, this is just a visual gag.
Jimmy: Charlie Brown's hat is sent flying.
Harold: As much dialogue as there is in, the 1966 strips, just seeing a wordless strip like this, it's so charming. It's really fun to see. I love Charlie Brown in the third panel. His -- we don't even see his eyes. He's so deep into pushing this, this, this ball that's getting larger and larger, which then leads into this look of surprises. His hat’s flying off his head. That's a classic cartoon thing, right? The, hat flying off the head in surprise. And Schulz does it as good as anybody.
Jimmy: many times myself.
Michael: This is a good time to interject something. We haven't done any Sundays.
Michael: And this is a change of topic, but the first bunch of Sundays, we're talking about four in January, 1 in February, were totally Snoopy and the Red Baron.
Michael: So let's discuss this because the year is totally dominated by Snoopy and the Red Baron.
Michael: Clearly, it was a huge success, and I think it gave Schulz an easy way to come up with strips. Now, I'm not a big fan of these strips. The thing is, they're very predictable in the fact that they don't-- most of them do not have punchlines, that they are telling a little bit of a story. And then somebody either Snoopy is doing a curse you, Red Baron or Charlie Brown is saying, like, I wish I had a dog that wasn't crazy. But I do have a theory. Okay? What I did is, I did a very difficult calculation. Since last year was his 100th anniversary, I did the math. I came up with Schulz was born in 1922.
Jimmy: Nailed it.
Harold: That checks.
Michael: His first exposure to popular culture was probably silent movies. And I think that in the late 20s, early 30s, getting into sound movies. There were lots of movies about World War One. There were also lots of movies about pirates and Foreign Legion people running off to join the Foreign Legion. These were the kind of things that adventure stories a kid would have been exposed to. And the first three incarnations that Snoopy is coming up with this year is lots of, the Red Baron in World War I flying Ace. And Schulz probably thought these were fairly equally good ideas. Foreign Legion, Snoopy’s in the Foreign Legion, and the Pirate. And those were all big themes of movies in that period when he was a little kid.
And it turned out that the Red Baron ended up dominating it, and the other ones kind of dropped away. But I think Schulz found it very easy to just kind of run through the cliches of the World War I movies and without much-- it’s not like he was trying to be funny. I mean, it's the dog, of course, but you're starting to see what's going on, and he's talking about all the little towns in France and all the cliches from the movies and then tagging on an ending, either Curse You or somebody referring to him being nuts. it's more of a drawing challenge, I think, but less of a writing challenge. Like, he doesn't need a brilliant punchline.
Jimmy: I will say, to that point, we were just talking about how great it is, those four subtle little drawings of Charlie Brown standing in front of the chalkboard. It's also exceedingly boring to draw. I think Schulz's style, he was limited to those four panels. The panels had to be a certain size. So much of it comes out of that. If he would have had, like, a more illustrative style and had to still do the content of Peanuts, I think he would have burned out so fast. Right? But at this point, I think he is looking at those Sundays and going, I just want to draw something fun. And there was a part of him that probably did always want to do an adventure strip or whatever. so I think you're right on with those observations, for sure.
The only other thing I'd add to it is that clearly Watterson was wildly inspired by the World War I flying ace. Right. The whole Snoopy thing, I mean, that's Spaceman Spiff and almost all well, it's the Walter Mitty thing, really.
Harold: Right. Yeah. Calvin and Hobbes is full of those flights of fancy.
Jimmy: That then get deflated in the last panel. Which is also actually, if you're going back even further, Winsor McKay.
Harold: Who was a wonderful, wonderful artist. Right, Jim?
Jimmy: the best.
Michael: Terrible letterer. Terrible letterer.
Harold: That's a really interesting insight, Michael. I think there's definitely something to that. I think he did grow up with that. And we know he read like the big little books in the there were lots of adventure and, you know, Tailspin Tommy kind of stuff. And the movie Wings came out in 1927. They say that was like the first film to get an Academy Award. And it was like the very end of the sound, the silent era. Yeah. That's, that's got to be a part of Schulz, growing up.
And the story goes how he got to it. There's a little controversy in the Schulz family, because Monty, his son again, who's 14 years old this year, he's the, the, oldest son, was well, I'll just give this quote. This was in a Peanuts a golden celebration. Schulz said, my son Monty claims to have been the one who gave him the idea for Snoopy chasing the Red Baron in his World War I flying gear while atop his Sopwith Camel doghouse. I, of course-- I like the of course-- deny that he actually gave me the idea, but I admit that he inspired it for at the time, he was very much involved with building plastic models of World War I airplanes.
So he's seeing it in his own son at the age of 14 that he's into this. And I'm sure it's taking him back to his childhood. So Schulz is like, yeah, well, if my 14 year old is into it, I think this has got some broad appeal. Yeah.
Jimmy: I will say those models of biplanes and triplanes and stuff were way popular, even into my childhood in the late 70s, early eightys. I remember kids making them, and mine were World War Two ones. I think my dad would make them with me because he was a World War Two vet. But yeah, I definitely remember those models for sure.
Harold: Since we're talking about the Red Baron and all of that, going back to this concept of 1966. So I tried to count the number of strips with Snoopy in World War One because it's all over this year. And we're not going to be reading a ton of them because I, too, am not a huge fan of these. You can appreciate them and you can appreciate the audacity of what Schulz is doing here. But I'm kind of like Michael, when I'm reading them. It's a world that I'm not particularly interested in, except through the lens of Schulz. It's a step removed. It's not something I'm interested in. I mentioned because Schulz is interested in it, but that only takes me so far.
Jimmy: You mean World War I in general?
Harold: Yeah. A soldier in World War One who's a fighter pilot, or in some cases a nurse or a doctor, he mixes it up a little bit here. But a fully one quarter of the Sundays, 13 of them, have Snoopy in his gear, which is amazing. I mean, we've never seen that before. I don't think baseball strips or anything. We've had that many of something for a Sunday that that just kind of dominates that way. And 36 of the of the daily, so that's like 49 strips out of 365 that are that are related to this World War One topic. And he just dives in and it's pretty amazing.
But I wanted to ask you guys, again, for, some reason, I did think of the Beatles. You two are the huge Beatles fans. You say 1966 is the year of Revolver, a huge year for the Beatles. How does the era of the Beatles coincide with with Schulz and Snoopy and the Red Baron? Do you have any thoughts on that?
Jimmy: I mean, I do, and I think I mentioned this once before. It's so tied to Sergeant Pepper for me, even though this is a year ahead of time. Right. It's that weird looking backwards to something that it's the era right before the modern era. Right. Radio exists or whatever, but there's no television, the movies aren't around, none of the pop culture that's happening in the 60s is around. But you look back to that with some sort of nostalgia, even though you yourself, it's a nostalgia for something you never experienced.
Michael: Yeah. Well, it's kind of jumping generations. it's sort of like kind of writing off our parents generation and thinking about our grandparents, because also girls were wearing granny glasses and granny dresses, and it suddenly became kind of hip to think back on our grandparents. And certainly it was reflected in the Beatles music, especially. And McCartney had always had a thing for this kind of 1920s music hall kind of thing. And you know, the Sergeant Pepper costumes are kind of early 20th century. Yeah. I mean, it's just a nostalgia for a time before you were born.
Jimmy: And the other-- yeah-- which is-- I've actually had editors talk to me about this, and they claim that kids can't be nostalgic, and I don't think that's true.
Harold: What do you think they mean by that? What are they getting at?
Jimmy: They're equating-- Maybe the word nostalgia is the problem, because nostalgia implies that you're having an unrealistic longing for something that from your past. Right. But I think people can yearn for something or have a draw to something that they've never experienced--
Jimmy: Through art. And one of them can be something like that. You look at, just photos from, say, like, the World War One, if you're a kid this age, and it's going to inspire this whole sort of possibly romantic, adventurous thing that you can put yourself into.
Harold: What we think of, like, that Davy Crockett thing that was so huge in the 50s, that every kid was introduced to a world that they didn't live in, that they said, I want to bring that into my world. And certainly when I was growing up as a kid, the thing that was not of our era, that was just huge, was, Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley in the late 50s, early 60s, that the kids were just-- I mean, that was it. That was the thing that kids loved.
Jimmy: It's hard to overstate how huge Happy Days was in the 70s. Gigantic.
Harold: Yeah. It's so funny because it's not nostalgia in the sense that it's someone's childhood, because we're going back, what, 15 years, I think, where the thing starts, and yet it felt like miles away. Absolutely miles away. Yeah.
Jimmy: That would be like having a show now set in 2005.
Harold: Right. And it seems like where kids are right now, or kids becoming adults, it seems like the are particularly interesting to them. And I'm sure that's for a whole host of reasons, certainly that was a very colorful era, and was certainly an era where the teenager was this prime, kind of character and culture. It's like the hope of the future kind of thing was baked into that in ways I don't think we have now.
Yeah, I agree. Maybe nostalgia is the thing that makes people stumble, and maybe there's another term for that, that if we came up for, we can talk back to the editor and say, well, look at this. What is this if it's not nostalgia? There's certainly loads of evidence that kids love to find something relatable in a world that they're not in. Like fantasy-- fantasy is obviously--
Jimmy: I was going to use that exact right. I could have a desire and a wistfulness to live in the Shire.
Harold: Right. To a child, something 15 years ago is fantasy.
Jimmy: Exactly. Yes, exactly.
Harold: But the reason I asked you the question about the Beatles was the thing that stuck out to me here is that in these strips with Snoopy, fighting the Red Baron, or just being involved in World War I, these are monologue strips. Mostly. It's just Snoopy in his own world, and I think those are particularly hard to do. And he just keeps coming up with a new angle every single time. And Snoopy is so out on a limb in his own creative world. And that's what I think the Beatles were starting with Revolver. I mean, they're doing something nobody else is doing, and yet they're figuring it out alone. They're at the top of the and they are alone. And that's what I think of when I think of Snoopy. He's alone, he's lonely.
Michael: What I found interesting about those Snoopy strips, the Red Baron strips, is the fact that he is so totally into this fantasy world, that he doesn't see reality anymore. But the strangest thing is, if you're coming up with a fantasy world, you control the narrative. But apparently he doesn't, because he keeps failing.
Jimmy: That's right.
Harold: Or is that something in Snoopy's personality that's coming out.
Michael: Then why wouldn't he kill the Red Baron if he's making up a story?
Jimmy: Well maybe he's acting out, sort of different, dimensional version of Charlie Brown. But the thing he sees the most is failure.
Jimmy: Yeah. And if he's imitating a human, maybe that's his model is the one closest to him. I don't know.
Harold: And again, because again, I think of the idea that Snoopy is at this pinnacle in pop culture. He's not essentially aware of himself in he's at the top of the pop culture in the 1966, but Schulz is. And the idea that that Snoopy goes to these places and I think this is actually very, very true, and I, see it in our culture now more than I've seen it.
If you look back historically, any other time, there are just no boundaries on what you can be. And in one way, that takes you to these dizzying heights, in another way, it just guts you. Because if I can be nothing, then where are my boundaries? How do I define myself? And there's not a rich way to define yourself. It's like I'm this thing. This thing is the thing that defines me. And it actually makes you less because there are no boundaries. And I feel like Snoopy somehow Schulz is taking Snoopy to this. Snoopy can be anything now, and yeah. And there's this sense of, vulnerability to that that comes out, I think, in Snoopy losing when he goes that far afield. Yeah.
Michael: But he still doesn't want to be a dog.
Jimmy: Yes. Correct.
Michael: Right. And so it's sort of amazing that in this year, he runs into someone who doesn't recognize him as a dog.
Jimmy: That's right. That's right. That's really an interesting take here. Just to close off the loop on the Beatles thing. The other thing about it with Schulz that reminds me of this era of the Beatles, is that if you're looking at something like Revolver or Pepper, there's like I said, there's the Indian music on it, there's classical music on it, there's rock on it, there's psychedelic, whatever griping it. But it's all also ranting about taxes.
Jimmy: And George, pay your taxes. Come on, man. All right. I know it's a lot.
Harold: 95% is not that much. Come on.
Jimmy: Look, it's not from the first dollar. You know, this is why this is why Revolver is my number two album, just Shut Up and Pay Your Taxes.
No, but it's all Beatle's music, right? Even though it's all this somehow it's filtered and it's all Beatle music when it comes out. These are wildly-- it's a Foreign Legion strip. It's a World War I aviation strip, but it's not, it's all Schulz. That's the magic of it for me, is that, like you say, I'm not particularly interested in World War One either, as just a topic, but seeing it through him. I'm not interested in in Edwardian concert bands either, but, when the Beatles are, that's, the only place I want to live. And that's very much how I feel with this era of Schulz.
Well, you know what, guys? We've, barely scratched the surface, but why don't we take a break right here and then come back and we'll continue it and we'll go on with, some more.
Jimmy: All right, we're back. Did you miss us? Just continue on with the strips.
February 27, we see, a kite with a portrait of Charlie Brown on it. Maybe it's one of the new Peanuts Merchandising products that are out. Panel two, we see him taking the kite out to a field with a Lucy following behind him. Panel three, he is getting set up to fly the kite. He says to Lucy, “now all you have to do is hold the kite like this and then let go when I tell you to. Are you ready?” Next panel, we see Charlie Brown just starting to reel out a little bit of the line as Lucy holds the kite in place and Charlie Brown takes off and yells, “okay, let go.” In the next panel, we see Charlie Brown running and a giant rip sound effect from off panel. The next panel, Charlie Brown is screaming “AAUGH” to the high heavens. And he comes back and sees the remains of his kite still being held in Lucy's hand, and the rest of the string and fabric just tatters on the ground. He says to Lucy, “My kite, my beautiful kite, you didn't let go. I said to let go, and you didn't let go.” Lucy says, “you didn't say please.”
Michael: It's the magic word.
Jimmy: It is the magic word.
Michael: She has her rules, I guess.
Harold: I think that's the best rip sound effect in comics history right there. You feel it in his lettering, these little tattery lines.
Jimmy: Good use of lettering. It's just crazy. Yeah. Also here's where you see where he's just trying to get, it done quickly, I think. And the lettering. It's all kind of bunched up in that next to last panel. It's spread out in the one where he's yelling, okay, let it go. Yeah, but it all looks great because it all adds to the motion Charlie Brown is experiencing in each of the panels.
Harold: And it always just looks yeah, I mean, the size of the lettering from panel to panel is all over the map.
March 13, it's another kite strip. It's a beautiful day. Charlie Brown seems to have it up in the air, even if it's only a few feet. The next panel, he lets out a little string and it seems to fly even higher. By panel three, it looks like he legitimately has this kite high up in the air. But in panel four, it all comes crashing down. So that two panels later, he is just surrounded by the ruins of the kite and the string. Then in the next panel, completely bounded up by the string. He walks away, goes home, takes off his clothes, still completely wrapped up by the kite string. Then gets in the tub, still completely wrapped up in kite string. Goes to bed, still completely wrapped up in kite string and says to himself, “years from now, when I get drafted, the army examiner will ask me why I have this kite with me. And I'll say, don't ask such stupid questions.”
Harold: Oh, man. his kite string tangles are epic.
Jimmy: I love the drawing of, in panel four, where we see the kite just starting to lose. We don't see the kite, we just see the string losing tension so we know the kite is coming down. It's beautiful.
Harold: It's just a beautiful yeah, that is a gorgeous that's one of those things you could just see on a wall, a giant blow up of that. Absolutely. And I also love, there's so much of this is wordless until you get to his long soliloquy about, his army examiner. But he's the second to last panel. He's sitting in a tiled wall tub and that, you know, he should spend a lot of time on that. And the gorgeous, the gorgeous little towel as well. I think he's spending a ton of time on that on this particular he knows it's all in the visual. But you don't think this I mean, that panel to me is he set rules for himself where he's got, I guess he could have done this all by hand, knowing how amazing he is. But did he actually get the ruler out for this one?
Jimmy: No, I think the tile is a zipatone pattern. That's my guess.
Harold: It's not that consistent. I don't think that's zipatone, I think that's his hand.
Jimmy: And he's going in there and doing little dashes. Yeah, like that, whatever, either way.
Harold: But the towel is gorgeous on the right too. I just have to point out the towel. Okay.
Jimmy: I was going to say the towel is on the list of amazing mid- century things that Schulz can draw better than anybody else. A hanging bath towel.
Liz: There's now a gallery of those on the website
Jimmy: All right. So check it out.
Harold: Thank you Liz
Jimmy: It’s on the obscurities page. And I do love that's a great one. The towels got to make the list. All right? So, yeah, I'm prepared. I mean, look. Yeah, he certainly could have, done that by hand. And, yeah, I do see that you're seeing that some of them are slight. Ever is a slightly narrower either way, looks awesome.
March 16. Sally still wearing her eyepatch, comes home from someplace and she throws her coat with a devil may care attitude just on the floor and says to Charlie Brown, who's reading a book, “my ophthalmologist just said that my lazy eye is doing fine.” She smiles and looks at herself in the mirror saying, “he said, I should be able to take this patch off in two months.” Charlie Brown says, “that's amazing.” With aplomb and confidence, Sally says, “My ophthalmologist and I regard this as a major medical triumph. With nothing more than a simple eyepatch, we have brought amblyopia to its knees.”
Michael: Oh, my God. Dramatic music.
Jimmy: I love that.
Michael: I'll miss that old eye patch.
Jimmy: Yes, I am pro Sally eyepatch, and I'm kind of agnostic towards Linus with glasses I can take it or leave it.
Michael: Oh not me
Jimmy: No? You're pro glasses?
Harold: I'm anti glasses. Schulz said-- did you hear why Schulz stopped having him wear glasses? He explained it was because, he couldn't get the expressions out of Linus's eyes that he needed.
Jimmy: Oh, that does make sense.
March 20. We see a little bird, and Linus is patting it on the head, saying, “good morning.” Charlie Brown, peeking from behind a tree at this scene, says, “Fantastic.” Charlie Brown then goes to inform Lucy of the situation and says, “your brother is patting birds on the head again.” Lucy says, “oh, good grief.” Then she gets up to go confront Linus. She says ”that blockhead.” Now we see Linus patting four birds on the head. Lucy is not pleased with this. She comes up and screams at him, “are you out of your mind?” sending him and the birds flying. Lucy continues yelling, “don't you realize what happens when you do stupid things like this?” Linus says, “Patting birds isn't stupid. They enjoy it. And I find it a source of great comfort.” Lucy continues ranting, “but what about me? I'm the one who has to face those kids at school who say, ha. your brother pats birds on the head.” Linus thinks about it and says, “I see your point. Well, I guess I'd better not do it anymore.” Then Linus walks away, looking resigned. From behind Lucy come the four little birds Linus was patting who yell “Bleah.” And stick their tongue out at her.
Harold: There's so much to love in this strip.
Michael: Now, this is a St. Francis reference. I assume.
Jimmy: I can definitely see that.
Michael: Well, we'll get to it. But he goes from being St. Francis to, at the end of the year, where he's a fascist.
Jimmy: That's why he's the most complex character.
Jimmy: Yeah. And what's amazing is they both seem completely in character to me. Like, I don't bat an eye, either of those.
Harold: Yeah, that was that was another thing that that stood out in the, in that 1963 Lee Mendelson documentary on him. he's he's talking about Linus. He says that he's his favorite character, I think, to write for. And and he was he was thinking about, like, how these characters would grow up to be adults. And he said, I think of all of the kids, Linus is going to be the most successful. I thought that was really interesting that he made that statement about Linus, how much he enjoyed writing for him. And you can totally see it because he said he was so versatile. And you definitely see it in this year. He is completely versatile and totally real.
Jimmy: You know what? He is at least more real than your next door neighbor.
Harold: Well, they are to me.
Jimmy: Speaking of people we've slandered over the air, your poor, half imaginary next door neighbor. We got to get them on the show. Now we definitely got to get them.
Harold: I'm doomed.
I love the second panel of Charlie Brown looking from behind this tree and saying, fantastic. But then what is going on with Charlie Brown? From being absolutely amazed at the phenomenon of Linus patting birds on the head, and then he goes and narks on them to Lucy. What's Charlie Brown's motivation to just like that's? The very next thing he does is go and tell Lucy when he knows what's going to happen.
Jimmy: Right? Yeah. I think that's just him thinking, like, oh, wow, I just saw the weirdest thing-- not thinking that one through Charlie Brown.
Harold: And the little birds. There's one sighing in the fifth panel. He's like, he's just their hero. But this is how good things get ruined in life. Right. Somebody comes in and for no good reason, talks them out of doing a good thing.
Jimmy: Yeah, Charlie Brown, snitches get stitches.
Harold: Oh, boy. And then the fourth to last panel is classic, with the tiny little bird head in the lower right corner, just kind of listening, to this helplessly.
Jimmy: I have seen this strip a thousand times, and I think yesterday it was the first time I ever noticed that little bird.
Harold: Oh, it's heartbreaking.
Jimmy: Really. We are moving towards Woodstock, the official design of Woodstock. As he's slowly morphing these bird characters, we're starting to see, like, the rogue feathers on top of the head, the more rounded beak. But I do really like this version of these birds. They're very cute, and they feel very 60s.
Harold: How do you make a 60s bird? Well ask Charles Schulz, because he figured it out. And the last panel, when they're all sticking their bird tongues out at Lucy and she kind of has this little take. She's not looking at them, but she hears the bleah, and her feet are up and she's floating over the ground. But I love that the birds are all floating above the ground with their wings down there's a little--
Jimmy: Like they hop.
Harold: Yeah, like a few inches. They're birds, so they can do that. And he lets them have that little moment of revenge on Lucy.
March 24, Charlie Brown is sitting on the bench, at lunchtime, his sack lunch next to him. He says to himself, “I'd give anything to be able to talk with that little red haired girl.” He throws his crumpled up bag into the wastebasket and says, “the amazing thing is that I know I'm the sort of person she'd like. I mean, I'm not rough or crude or anything. I'm not the greatest person who ever lived, of course, but after all, who is? I'm just a nice sort of guy who--” Then in the last panel, we see him walking back to class, slumped over, and he says to himself, “who never gets to meet little red haired girls.”
Harold: This is a lovely strip. And Charlie Brown's come so far in 16 years, hasn't he? And he's got this evaluation of himself that we don't normally hear from him, at least not up until this point in the strip, that he's got a pretty sober evaluation of himself, and it's not all negative. And yet, at the end, he's still defeated. But, you know, you say, I'm not rough, I'm not crude.
Jimmy: That's such, to me, that sounds so much like Schulz talking about himself.
Harold: Yeah, And and the strip. Right.
Jimmy: Not rough or crude.
Harold: I mean, that that's something he so did not want to have happen in his own work, and, certainly not in the things that came out of his work, like the animation specials. You see that?
Jimmy: Well, yeah, because to him, his work was himself.
Harold: And that's what I'm wondering, because this is now he knows he's on an ongoing relationship with people who are going to take his characters and tell stories with them. And for some reason, I feel like this strip came out of the conversations he's having with Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson and the people that are making the specials because they're proposing things to him, and he's probably saying no. And so this is just obviously conjecture, but it just seems to me like this is something he's got to think about now. And he's kind of defending the stake he's placed in the ground of what Peanuts is and isn't.
Jimmy: Yeah, I'm thinking he must have also been observing some stuff around, taking the kids to school, because he's got a tetherball, he's got the trash can, he's got the water fountain, all these nice little objects. I mean, I’m not saying, all of these will go in the hall of fame on the website, like the towels. But they're all great. And nonetheless and you know what's sad is that he could meet the little red haired girl.
Harold: It's so easily. Yeah.
Jimmy: Right. The only thing stopping him is himself.
Harold: Right. And he makes that abundantly clear in the strip, which makes it all the more heartbreaking that he's holding himself back.
Michael: No. And then, of course, he's almost forced to encounter her later on.
Harold: Right And he refuses. But you're right. I keep bringing up this, documentary I saw, but that was his morning, at least back in 63 was he was driving, picking up the kids from around the area and getting them to school. I don't know why that was his role, or there was the school bus situation in Sebastopol. But, yeah, he had and he talked about this he got so many ideas and got so energized by having this pack of kids in, like, a station wagon. And he gets to hear their conversation, and he said, I get so much out of that. And again, you get that feeling in this era that he is around kids a lot, and he's getting to eavesdrop when he's doing, his driving jobs. That's a really interesting time to pick up on kids, because you're not driving the conversation like you would be if you were a teacher. You are the driver and you're outnumbered, and, you know, the kids are just having this free conversation and you have to listen to it. Right. it's a great way to get ideas is to be the driver for a bunch of kids.
Jimmy: And if you guys have not seen that, it's available on DVD through the Charles M. Schulz Research Center. I don't know if you can buy it online. I bet you can. it's definitely worth searching, out, though. It's called A Boy Named Charlie Brown, which is not to be confused. There's a movie called A Boy Named Charlie Brown. This is the 1963 documentary, really great just for the scenes of him driving around in the, station wagon with the kids and then going back and working on the strip.
Harold: It's a great he had, like, a crew cut back then, didn't he?
Jimmy: Yeah, like about ten years after crew cuts were fashionable.
April 6. Lucy is sitting watching television. She has a little cup of something in her hand. Linus says to her, “Well, how do you like the hot chocolate I made for you?” Lucy looks annoyed and hands him the cup. She says “it's terrible. It's too weak. It tastes like some warm water that has had a brown crayon dipped in it.” Linus says “you're right. I'll go put in another crayon.”
Jimmy: I always remembered this strip and thought it was funny.
Michael: You always double down on insane beliefs.
Jimmy: Oh, absolutely. You can't just at least not first off, admit that you may have made a mistake. Right now we're just going to try second crayon.
Harold: But he's now used the brown, so he's probably going to have to switch over to the burnt umber.
Jimmy: Yeah, yeah. Or maybe go with red. And they'll have it like be a Peppermint mocha type.
Harold: Oh that sounds nice
April 21, Linus and Sally are sitting at a table. Linus is doing some writing on a piece of paper. He says to Sally, “now say we cut an apple in half.” He continues, “we have two halves, don't we?” Now, panel three. Sally is not falling for this. She's screaming “that's fractions. You're trying to teach me fractions? You know, I'll never understand fractions. What are you trying to do to me? I'll go crazy.”
Michael: I love her freaking out about school.
Jimmy: I do, too. The, third panel of her yelling is my favorite because her eye is just clear eyed. She's not like, squinting. Like, if you're yelling and you usually have your face scrunched up, she is just clear eyed screaming into the void.
Harold: I love his hair. It's just blown back like a Maxell commercial.
Michael: So this next sequence is really amazing that he did it. And the fact is you can almost believe he was going to pull it off because the, Linus and Lucy's parents decide to move.
Michael: I think in most strips you'd go, well, that can't happen. They're like the most popular characters, but you can almost believe that he'd do it. These heartbreaking goodbyes.
Jimmy: I remember reading this in the reprints when I was a kid. Even though I knew these were old strips, I knew Linus and Lucy did not leave and I was still upset.
Harold: Yeah, me too. The thing that struck me about this sequence was how short it was. I was talking about that earlier, that there are certain things he's got so many ideas that the idea of Linus and Lucy moving away is a throwaway. I mean, it's done like, in like, two weeks. And I would have thought this would have gone on like three times as long, but he just punches it with a bunch of great strips and it does give you a little bit of, when those ultimate chips are down, kind of situations happen. How is Lucy going to relate to talking to Charlie Brown for the last time? Or how does Schroeder feel about not having Lucy to hang out at his piano? And I do love that that he's able to do something like he'd never let Charlie Brown kick the football. But we do get to see a few glimpses of a little bit of where the characters are coming from when Finality hits the strip.
Michael: Well, this is something that I don't think is discussed much in children's books, but kids have no power.
Michael: Right. And, I mean, my personal situation, I had one best friend. I did everything with this person. And then one day it was like, oh, we're moving tomorrow. Yeah. And of course you say, well, we'll stay in touch later, but all of a sudden, your best friend is gone.
Harold: You'll never see him again.
Jimmy: Happened to me, too. Marnie Marquette for you Dumbest Idea fans out there. Marnie Marquette moved away when I was eleven.
Harold: I moved a lot as a kid. but we kind of settled down in Rochester, New York, when I was, I think, four. And then I, think we moved again when I was six to a different part of town. But I didn't really have any friends other than my family, because I was on this incredibly busy street. I once went down my tricycle, down the driveway and into traffic. And I think that's when my parents started thinking about maybe this is not the ideal place to raise kids. And so we wound up in one of those classic 1970s suburban subdivisions. It was called Hickory Ridge in Fairport, New York, and it's essentially a winding road that goes up this very tall ridge or mountain, and then you'd have these little offshoot circles and drives from this main road.
And that was my life from the age of six to eleven. And that, to me, is like, I think of my childhood, I think of living in that place. But then at eleven years old, we moved to Columbia, Missouri. And I thought, it's weird. I remember thinking at the time, well, we're moving to another place in America. It's going to be pretty much the same. And I was totally dumbfounded when I moved to Missouri from Rochester, New York, and how different the culture was and how unprepared I was as a little kid to navigate the cultural differences. And so, yeah, I totally relate to the idea that as a child, you are at the whim of things, that you have very little say in them. I'm not saying that parents don't take kids into account. I think they do in a huge way. But at the end of the day, yeah, just the, the helplessness of the kids just come out in the strips and, and it's, it is, it's kind of, it's heartbreaking.
Jimmy: Well, let's look at a couple of them.
May 13. It's getting down to the end here. Linus and Lucy are saying goodbye to Charlie Brown. Linus shakes Charlie Brown's hand and says, “goodbye, Charlie Brown, it's been nice knowing you.” Charlie Brown says, “this is really happening. I can't believe it.” In panel two, we see Lucy shaking Charlie Brown's hand with the, the slightest little quiver in her lip, and she says, “so long, you old blockhead. It's been nice knowing you.” Charlie Brown, totally shocked, says, “I, I don't know what to say. I can't believe it. I, I.” Then, in the third panel, we see the three of them, and Linus is handing his blanket to Charlie Brown and saying, “here Charlie Brown. I want you to have this.” Charlie Brown says, “your blanket.” And then in the last panel, we see a forlorn Linus and Lucy walking away, and Charlie Brown standing in shock, holding Linus