Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. This is Unpacking Peanuts, and it's 1967 and in Hennepin County, nothing is real, and there's nothing to get hung about. There is, however, a Cheshire beagle, a masked marvel, and a bird hippie. And I can't wait to talk about all of it.
And who am I? Well, I'm Jimmy Gownley. I'm your host for this evening. I'm also the cartoonist behind Amelia Rules, Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up, and The Dumbest Idea Ever. Joining me, as always, are my pals, co hosts and fellow cartoonists.
He's a playwright, he's a composer, both for the band Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. He's the co creator of the original comic book Price Guide, the original editor for Amelia Rules, as well as the cartoonist of Strange Attractors, Tangled River, and A Gathering of Spells. It's 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 creator of Sweetest Beasts on Instagram, Harold Buchholz.
Michael: Don’t you have a script?
Harold: I meant hello.
Jimmy: Because I didn't say the instagram strips. Let's do that again.
Michael: You didn't say such great strips as. You just listed my strip.
Harold: That's my catchphrase now. Hello. That's all I got?
Jimmy: Yes, that's all you got. Hey, you had almost a year to come up with it.
Harold: I'm innovating in the honor of Charles Schulz, year 1967. I'm saying hi. Less formal.
Michael: Everyone was getting high in 1967.
Jimmy: So, guys, it's great to be back here talking Peanuts with you. 1967 was a pretty wild year. It seemed like Schulz was going off in a lot of different directions. To me, it felt very loose. It felt very fun and joyful and a period of time where he's just kind of following his his bliss. It's it's quite a long way from 1950, and I think perhaps because last week we spent our recording time looking at strips from the entire run of the strips thus far for our Valentine's Day episode. It really struck me, reading this, how much has changed since those very early days? What do you guys think? Michael?
Michael: I liked it a lot. I actually wasn't expecting to like it this much. I was wondering if all the pop media success was maybe going to his head somehow, and he'd start, like, relying more on things like the Red Baron strips and, Peppermint Patty stuff, so and and start dropping some of the old the old faithful concepts. But no, no, he I mean, it was a nice mix of newer characters and the old ones, and he even brought back some of my favorite schticks that he hasn't used in years.
Jimmy: Ah, you know, I saw that vulture, and I was I thought of you immediately.
Michael: Lots of vultures.I was really happy about that. Anyway. Yeah, great year and a, couple of really odd innovations on his part that definitely veer from his style.
Jimmy: Yes. Artistically, there are a few moments where he goes into pure cartoon expressionism, which I really enjoyed seeing, just every once in a while for when he plays with those outer reaches of his style.
Michael: I'd say it was cartoon Fauvism.
Jimmy: Oh, yeah. Well, at least on those Sundays, I guess it is. Yes. Harold, what are you thinking?
Harold: You said looser. I put down two words for this year. It was looser and freer. That's what I felt with this strip. And you think about, okay, Charles Schulz is how many miles away from San Francisco? This is 1967, Haight Ashbury. I can't help but think about that when I'm looking at these strips. I mean, Schulz is a guy from Minnesota who's become a Californian, and, I get this vibe that he's in the cultural zeitgeist. And it's crazy that Charles Schulz is at the epicenter of so much in 1967, given what's going on.
Michael: But he's not the old curmudgeon, right? Like some people, cartoonists we can name, and his this little little bit of mocking of of the counterculture is done in good humor, and it's not nasty at all.
Jimmy: and it’s actually weird. And we'll talk about it, I'm sure, in our bird hippie strip when we get to it, but it almost comes from a place of understanding. It's like, yeah, no one gets me either. I get it. And that has always been his genius, is that alienation, that pain you're feeling, or that joy you're feeling, whatever that's so personal to you. Yeah, I get it, too. It's different, but I get it. And that's amazing because, like I said for the last couple of episodes, he should be well into crank territory at this point.
Harold: But he's experiencing success like he's never experienced before. Like almost no one has ever experienced before. He's got kids this year, ranging nine to 17 during 1967. That's what, a year to be raising kids, right. He's got to be living this and feeling it and experiencing, that's what's so interesting to me is that, he's not locked up somewhere off in a corner. I just feel like he's a part of something. I mean, Determined Productions, which has been putting out the Happiness Is books, that sort of thing. A little hugely popular gift books. They continue to put out new editions. I think there's one that came out this year now that Determined is in San Francisco. And when I look at the design of those books, I think of the counterculture, because they're using those old classic fonts. It just seems like it's something that was, like, on the forefront of where a lot of the culture was going. And they swept Schulz into it with those gift books because they have a really 60s feel.
Jimmy: They do. And really like a psychedelic 60s feel. Because like you say, they are combining that old almost like poster style, like circus poster style. Typography and really bright colors.
Harold: I mean that's Sgt. Pepper, right?
Jimmy: Totally. Exactly.
Harold: And yet that first one came out in the early 60s, years before.
Harold: And yet that's San Francisco. Schulz is plugging into San Francisco that early. I don't know if Schulz ever visited their-- I bet he did-- their offices or whatever. Other than just coming to see him. But did Schulz witness this world firsthand? I don't know. It would be interesting to know if he did. Lee Mendelson Productions was kind of on the way to San Francisco, not far out of San Jose, just south of there. So a lot of Schulz's world is kind of moving in that direction. And I find that fascinating. As I'm reading these strips and talking about that looser and freer style, it seems like he is part of that. Like you were saying, he's not in reaction to it. Like an artist in New York who's in his fifties and not too happy with what he's seeing going on in the culture. Yeah. Schulz, he just seems to be benefiting from what's going on in the society.
Jimmy: It's such a strange thing to think of though, because when you look at the 17 years from 1958 to 1967, just culturally, what a massive change. And we have gone through massive change recently. Not just things like the pandemic, but I mean just the onset of social media and the ubiquity of smartphones and all that stuff. But at the same time, if I looked at like a 30 Rock episode or whatever from 2007, it wouldn't feel, I don't think, quite as removed as a 1950 Peanuts strip from a 1967 Peanuts strip. And if he didn't find a way to constantly evolve, boy, it would have been dead in the water by now.
Harold: Yeah, it really is, just constantly impressive to see where he's going and finding these new places, in the sense that he does feel I feel he's got a confidence that's just been building and building and building and building and building, and it continues into this year, where he sees what he's doing is working it's resonating. And I think that frees him up, which then frees up the characters. And that's really fascinating. Yeah, this year is a really interesting one to look at.
And there's some new things coming on the Snoopy side eye where he addresses the reader directly, usually with the big grin, but not always is really going strong this year. And again, it just feels confident and direct. And that to me is one of the things that really sets Peanuts apart is that breaking the fourth wall that he does here I don't know what you guys think of that, but I mean that to me is just a jolt of energy every time Snoopy just looks at you and tells you something.
Jimmy: Well, yeah, for me too. I absolutely love that stuff. So with all that type of change going on both in the world and in the strip, I imagine we're going to have some fluctuation on the old tier list by the end of the year. But Michael, can you remind us, where are we at at the beginning? At the end of 1966, where was our tier list?
Michael: Okay, well, I'll remind myself, too. Okay, as you know, we have five categories. It's a hierarchy of characters. Category A top billing. It's been consistent since the beginning, except Lucy wasn't there Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, and Lucy, and Linus wasn't there. Category B, which is costarring. And I'm considering this to be people who actually drive the story and don't just react. So we've got Schroeder, we've got Frieda, Sally, and Peppermint Patty, who just showed up. Category C, which is also featuring and these are characters, I think, who are there to maybe comment or just be in a line when he needs a lot of kids and don't really drive the main story at all. so we've got Patty, Violet, Five, and the new kid Roy, who doesn't actually live in the neighborhood. Category D, which is with, are characters who have faded to the point where he'll use them a couple of times, and if he needs somebody to play second base, he'll put him in. We got Shermy, Pigpen and this character I'm going to call Bird X. There's a Bird X from last year, and then Category E, which is the graveyard, and some other characters are heading in that direction. Characters who are no longer in the Strip. And we're featuring Charlotte Braun here. But since we did consider, Faron the Cat as a character, I think Faron belongs in this category because he's never showed up again either.
Harold: All right.
Jimmy: RIP Faron. He may come back at some point, but never with, any gusto.
Michael: Yeah. Anyway, that’s the tier list, and at the end of the year, we'll update it.
Jimmy: Yeah, it'll be interesting to see where we end up. Now, before we get into all of this, we're talking about-- I didn't talk to you guys about this, that I'm going to bring this up and it's only tangentially related, but I think it's important. We're just talking about all the changes in the world and we're going through a massive one now with all this with AI art. I mean, that is all that my feed is about. all my artist friends and people I follow on social media are in tizzy about it. And I actually was listening to an interview with Billy Corgan, who's a songwriter from Smashing Pumpkins, and his take was that basically, once AI starts making art, it's going to be impossible for an intuitive, natural human artist to compete with them. And that's a pretty nihilistic take. And I'm looking at these strips and I'm just seeing nothing but warmth and humanity and personality. And I don't have so much. A direct question, but what do you guys think about the situation that we're in now? And how would an artist like a Schulz approach their career or their craft in a world where art’s instant?
Michael: Well, I just decided this is going to go away in, like, six months and we'll never hear of it again.
Jimmy: I have a feeling there's a little of that possibly too.
Michael: Yeah, maybe I'm in denial, but I have no interest in it. I can't imagine it appealing to anyone. And it's certainly no threat to, my career, since I don't have one anyway. I'm kind of blasé about the whole thing. Yeah, it's just another crazy-- those crazy kids. It'll pass.
Jimmy: What do you think, Harold?
Harold: It depends on what people are looking for in art, right. The way I put it, like a book is basically just an invitation into someone's mind. That's what I think of. And if there is no soul or mind attached to it, unless, it's hanging in my hotel room behind the bed. Because some of that art I'm always fascinated by the art in hotel rooms because it has to be inoffensive and it has to be somewhat aesthetically, generically appealing. And I'm always like, what's that going to look like in this room in this city? And you got to get this little hint of some buyer trying to find the most inoffensive thing.
Michael: Can I interject with a little story?
Jimmy: I think I know what it's going to be.
Michael: Yeah. No, this amused me no end.. I was at some convention with Steve Bissette and Rick Veitch, and I can't remember which one told me this. I think it was Veitch. But he said they used to travel together to shows and stay at hotel rooms together. And to amuse themselves they’d draw little monsters in all the beautiful landscapes on the wall.
Jimmy: Two very famous Swamp Thing artists, for those of you who aren't in the know. Yeah, and, Veitch said something like he would love to-- or no I think Bissette said he would love the thought that some drunk salesman at two in the morning would be staring at this painting and see this little gremlin staring back out of them and just get completely freaked out.
Michael: Okay, Sorry to interrupt.
Jimmy: Anyway. Go ahead, Harold. Sorry.
Harold: No, that is the thing. I think that a lot of people try to get out of art for inoffensive art that is there as background noise. Yes. I think because that's what AI does really well. I want to have this kind of generic mood, but it's not the focus of what you're experiencing. For background stuff. I could see the AI art could become very common, but when it comes to sharing the essence of a human being and what an individual, there's no way it can't do it. I mean, even if they were to say, well, combine all of the general thoughts of George Bernard Shaw and some group of people that you like and say, give me a new novel, even then, it can only take from what has already been created and mix it up. And I, suppose if that were a Hallmark movie, sure, if that's all we're looking for is an iteration of something that makes you feel good, but you're not really interested in the committee that made the movie. But when it comes to somebody sharing who they are and what they've learned of the world in their years, there's no way I mean, it's an impossibility, as far as I can tell.
Michael: Certain artists over the years have used randomness in their work, right. It's with intention, but they are putting the decisions in the hands of a roll of the dice, basically.
Harold: What do you think of, like, Jackson Pollock to some extent? He doesn't know where that strips falling.
Michael: No, I'm thinking of Phillip K. Dick Man in the High Castle, where the plot was driven by--
Michael: Yeah and Burroughs. And I, think in music too, the Beatles use, like, tapes lying on the floor, random noises, and they just put them straight into the composition of some songs.
Harold: Yeah. And then that's a statement. That's its own statement from individuals. So yeah.
Michael: But we have no thing to fear.
Jimmy: Who I feel bad for. Well, I, don't know if I feel bad exactly, but it's an awkward place. I think younger people say the generation after me have spent so much time trying to make their art look like it was created by a computer, in part because that's just where I, guess commercial art was. Especially comic art. Honestly, I know that we're supposed to be team comics these days and rating, but [bleep] Comics are hideous, offensive awful, aesthetically awful.
Harold: But what do you really think, Jimmy? You're just swirling downward
Jimmy: awful, crappy
Michael: I thought we weren’t going to insult one anymore?
Jimmy: But the point being, it was supposed to look that way. You didn't want any humanity in it. You wanted every aspect of it to be perfect. And it looks like a machine did it. And now that a machine is doing it, they're lost.
Harold: Well, it's interesting if you look at, I mean, I think the biggest thing that happened to well, there's a lot of big things that happened to art. I mean, one of them was mass reproduction. Right. That was a huge thing. And that changed the way people created because, who, the audience was changed because all of a sudden, there was a much broader group of people, including people who have fewer means, who all of a sudden could experience art. The other huge thing that I can think of that required artists to respond was photography. Right?
Harold: Because you could perfectly capture a Hudson river autumn. and then there's the school of art that was trying to go for that reality. And it's interesting that people went away from that and fought against the idea of, okay, well, that now is no longer the purview of the master artist. Now there's a thing that can capture this, and in a way that's solace somebody had to point the camera, and there's, obviously artistry and taking a photo. But if the image itself is the thing that's drawing people in and making them respond, an artist can't compete with the reality of that without adding something else of themselves into it beyond trying to capture what they see.
Michael: Therefore, photography is a hoax.
Harold: And it's interesting that over time, there were a number of artists who said, well, I can outreality reality now with these computers. It's like the magic realism of imagery or whatever, that now I can take this thing and make it even more perfect and move these perfect things together. There's going to have to be a response to AI from the next generation of people who are encountering it. And I think a lot of that may go back, similar to what happened with photography, where they take it back to something that's raw and just more about what they feel because they know that AI can't match that.
Michael: Have you seen there's a film about this artist who did the pen and ink portrait of Marilyn Monroe, which took him six years. Do you know this? It's it's life size pen and ink. You could he spent, like, two months on her, like, left eye. You can focus in as close as you can, and you can never actually it never actually resolves into pen lines. It's so perfect.
Michael: So, yeah, it was a statement about realism. He says, you want realism? This is realism. But it took him six years.
Harold: Yeah. And I want to ask you guys, this has not been a big part of my life, but it certainly has for many, many people. And that's video games. Now, to me, a video game is like a movie that you get to enter into, but somebody else programmed it. Right. So you're living out a story in, these more realistic video games where that's created by a committee of people to help you make some choices that they allow you to make. Right. And I don't know, as that becomes more and more versatile, that AI thing kind of plays into this. But I feel like a lot of people are already preconditioned to deal with the idea that, I'm living in an art world that has been generated for me, but I'm still finding a way to put myself into it. The video game is absolutely a visceral way of doing that. So maybe this is not going to be such a shocker to those who are now okay. Now I can make a painting by requesting this, but I'm going to find a way to put my own little odd spin on it because I'm messing with the AI. or they're taking the AI image and then they're owning that and then reworking it. So, I'm sure there's going to be some really fascinating responses to AI. It's just going to get absorbed into the personalities of these new artists.
Michael: Well, possibly. I mean, a lot of people are so convinced they are not creative and they could never be creative, that the thought of actually being part of a creation is a big deal to them.
Harold: and that might actually inspire them.
Michael: And we'll go, no, you just told the computer what kind of images to look for.
Harold: Right, but that could be a loop of feedback loop where that inspires them to find something unique in the world.
Michael: Here's a thought experiment to get us back to Peanuts. Okay, imagine some crazy person decided to scan every square Peanuts panel who, knows how many of those there are, and created a program to randomize so it would pick four, without the words, just the four images. Do you think those could be set ups for new strips?
Jimmy: Oh, absolutely. I mean, not 100% across the board, but yes, I do think they could be. When I was offered a development deal for an Amelia comic strip from the Washington Post syndicate years ago, and I wasn't able to do it because of Simon and Schuster contract, I mean, that sounds like I'm blaming them, but just because the legality of it wouldn't work out, I couldn't do it. But while the contract stuff was being worked out, I started thinking, well, can I even do this? One thing I did was I took a notebook and made like, a random sequence generator where it was just like, these are all the possible topics I could cover. these are all the possible panel combinations. These are all the places I could put the punchline. and then I just would randomly select them and it would give all the parameters for a strip. It's a four page strip with the punchline in the third panel. And it features Reggie and Pajama man talking about school. And it was shocking that once you had all of that, you could really come up with a joke very quickly.
Harold: Yeah, and I can see that with Peanuts, because so many people know so many aspects of Peanuts that just the idea of putting it into a generator and some of the non sequitur that would come out of it actually would be absolutely hilarious, because we're just seeing all these mix ups of things that we know came from Charles Schulz.
Michael: I think you'd have to specify the main character. Some character has to appear in at least three of the four panels.
Harold: But then to have a random thing where Snoopy just shows up and after something between Lucy and Linus, it's a Long Way to Tipperary.
Michael: Anyway, let's get out to the strips because we've been babbling long enough.
Jimmy: All right, well, we're going to get on with the strips then, because as Michael says, we've been babbling long enough. But before we do that, we're going to take a break. But before we take the break, here's what I want you to do. you can go on Gocomics.com. You could get that fired up type in 1967 Peanuts and you can follow along with us. Now, if you're a really good student and you want to prepare ahead of time, you can subscribe to our newsletter, which, comes out once a month, and it'll tell you in advance what strips we're covering, what special guests are coming out. We don't spam your inboxes for just that email once a month, but it'll give you a heads up about what strips to read. So, yeah, we're going to take a break now, and then we'll come back and we'll start with the great strips of 1967. Be right back.
VO: Hi, everyone. I just want to take a moment to remind you that all three hosts are cartoonists themselves and their work is available for sale. You can find links to purchase books by Jimmy, Harold and Michael on our website. You can also support the show on Patreon or buy us a mud pie. Check out the store link on UnpackingPeanuts.com.
Jimmy: And we're back. Did you miss us? It's 1967. Let's get right to the strips.
January 4. Linus and Lucy are sitting in some chairs in what looks like a living room or a hallway, but it's actually a waiting room. Linus says, “a measles shot. Good grief.” He continues. “Why get vaccinated? Why not just wear something red or drink some elderberry blossom tea?” Lucy unimpressed says “those are old wives cures. Linus says “some of those old wives were pretty sharp.”
Michael: I'm going to interject here. I just proposed a new feature, a new segment, called the Best Sequence Award. And we're going to this year anyway. I've kind of catalogued the longer sequences over a week or more of dailies, and I think I have nine this year. And, at the end of the year, we're going to each vote on our favorite. So this one is the Linus Measles Sequence, which runs for a couple of weeks and is very current dealing with vaccinations and such art wise.
Jimmy: Great 1960s plastic waiting room chair. I love. I mean, I never, ever get, get sick of seeing, his little mid century brickabrack and, and how nicely he draws it. What do you think overall of this, sequence, Michael? Will this be one of your contenders for Strip of the Year or for, Sequence of the Year?
Michael: I already made up my mind.
Jimmy: Oh, you did? All right. I don't want to spoil it, then.
Michael: No, this is very good. But it definitely gets into things that people are talking about now, because basically everybody just accepted the fact that, yeah, a couple of times a year, you're a little kid, they're going to stick this huge needle in your arm.
Jimmy: You still do if you're going to--
Michael: You can’t fight it.
Harold: And this feels a little bit like a PSA by Schulz, because he knows he can only go a certain direction with this strip without getting himself in a huge amount of trouble. So basically, he can't just do it for laughs. He's going somewhere with it. Linus couldn't come out victorious on this.
Jimmy: It's funny, though, because he does have this with Snoopy and the rabies shot. And I do sort of feel like when it is one removed, it adds a little bit of extra poetry or spark to it, you know what I mean? Where it's rather than it's Linus and a measles shot, it's a dog and a rabies shot. Kind of like the Great Pumpkin versus Santa Claus or whatever. But I do think, we have to go back to the fact that he does have these kids this age, and this is clearly stuff that they're dealing with, like Michael said, constantly.
January 18. The World War I flying Ace is atop his Sopwith Camel. He thinks to himself, “here's the World War One flying ace escaping.” And no, I lied. It's a stolen Fokker D. Suddenly, something catches his attention. Snoopy says. “What's that? Newports!! I'm being attacked by my own buddies.” He's now screaming, “hey, it's me. Don't shoot, don't shoot.” In the last panel we see, they have indeed shot his dog house is littered with bullet holes. And he says, “give my regards to Unter den Linden.”
Jimmy: I don't think that needs comment.
Michael: I think that-- Harold, why did you pick this one?.
Harold: It's a Peanuts obscurity.
VO: Peanuts obscurities explained
Harold: I guess I apologize to our listeners in Germany. Maybe it's not so obscure to them, but I didn't know what Unter den Linden was, so I'm not sure how many people do. So I decided to bring it out.
Jimmy: It's under the something under the Linden, right?
Harold: Yeah. Named after Hal Linden, who was, Barney Miller-- no,
Jimmy: Underrated 70s show, by the way,
Harold: and one of the most depressing comedies ever,
Jimmy: it is drab to say the least
Harold: Oh, my gosh, they define brown, 70s brown. But yeah, under the Linden trees. It's a boulevard in the center of Berlin. And we've had jokes about giving my regards to Broadway. So now that he's considered, I guess, you know, part of the German group being fired on by his own people, he's mixing it up. So I didn't get that one. I had to look it up. So I didn't know if others would be in the same position I was.
Liz: I was. I was in the same position.
Michael: I knew it.
Jimmy: I knew two thirds of it. Thanks, Frau Ruschnoch
Harold: So I wanted to, do a little callback here. I think last, episode, we had mentioned that there was something missing in the December 14, 1966, comic strip, and we invited people to comment on social media.
Jimmy: Oh, yes, our cliffhanger.
Harold: We were recording this before we put this out, so we don't know who has responded, but
Liz: But through the magic of editing, we can call you out. And the first people to spot it and let us know were Craig Higgins on Facebook, David Shair on Twitter, and Joshua Stauffer on Instagram. Congratulations, Craig, David, and Joshua.
Harold: To reveal the thing that's missing in the second panel of the December 14 episode. Pause it right now if you haven't looked already and you want to do the puzzle here, but it's in the second panel of the 1966 December 14 strip. The thing that is missing is Charlie Brown's ear. I'm assuming that that is actually on the art that Schulz forgot to put it in, and the syndicate didn't catch it, or they didn't want to tick off Schulz because they thought artistically didn't want Charlie Brown to have an ear. But it's the Van Gogh moment of Peanuts. It's not just in Snoopy's doghouse. Charlie Brown is missing and ear, in that second panel. And to up the stakes, what is missing in this strip with, on January 18, 1967?
Jimmy: Let's see.
Michael: It struck me that-- this isn't anything missing, but he seems to be going the wrong way.
Harold: I think that's why he got shot at.
Michael: Doesn't he doesn't he fly left to right?
Jimmy: I think it's because he's he's escaping and heading home.
Jimmy: I really do think that's what it is.
Harold: I think so, yeah.
Jimmy: What is missing? I do not know.
Harold: Look at panel four.
Jimmy: No idea.
Harold: look at the lettering.
Jimmy: Give my regards to unter den…
Michael: oh there’s only one...
Jimmy: The quotation mark?
Harold: Yeah. He, didn't commit. He couldn't decide whether he wanted to put that in quotes or not, so he's got it on one side and not the other. Is that like, the two period ellipse? I don't know.
Jimmy: I think that's just a straight up mistake. There's no possible reason to half quote something. And I actually think it would have been better with the quotes, because it would have registered as a title.
Harold: Yeah. I think that would have helped you.
Jimmy: One of the things that's interesting to me is that Snoopy has all these fantasies where he's able to do these amazing things, but he's also a failure at them. He doesn't get the Red Baron. Like, anything could happen in his imagination, but he's always riddled with bullets. And maybe it comes from being Charlie Brown's dog. That's his model of humanity.
Harold: Well, that's a lot of the whole Peanuts strip. We said that before. That it's something that's unrequited, something that there's failure rather than success. And it seems to endear you to these characters. And and this whole, Snoopy is in World War One a lot this year, but nothing like last year. I think he was in 13 Sundays. Now he's in seven. And the dailies, I think he was 27. So almost 10% of the strips from 1967 are Snoopy, in World War One, in one form or another.
Jimmy: I have to say, I love the helmet, the World War I flying ace helmet, the whole look, I love, especially when the goggles are pulled up like they are in three and four.
Harold: Yeah. and I love his little scarf that's like he's in the high winds going straight back.
Jimmy: Yes, right. Exactly.
January 19. Linus and Lucy are playing tic tac toe. Lucy, has put an X in the upper right hand corner. She says, “there's my X.” She hands the paper to Linus, saying, “now, don't mess it all up. Try to be neat.” Linus is drawing on the paper. He hands it back to Lucy, and we see he has placed an o in the upper left corner, but is an ornate, calligraphic, gothic o.
Harold: I remember this strip from my childhood. I don't know why, I just found such delight in light. Again, you can't tell if he's being sarcastic or if he's just like, oh, I'll take advantage of this opportunity.
Jimmy: Well, his version of sarcasm is to just do what agree with someone some way or do what they ask, but do it in a way that is so unbelievably over the top that, it becomes sarcasm. They get what they want and still aren’t very happy.
Harold: It's the most sincere sarcasm. I'm thinking Linus should be sincere in that pumpkin patch and maybe the Great Pumpkin would show up.
January 22. Snoopy, clothed in what looks like a beat up old like sheepskin from biblical time, is, wandering around, thinking to himself, “unclean, unclean, unclean, unclean.” In the next panel, we cut to modern day suburbia, where Sally is yelling, “mom says to wash your hands for dinner.” In the next panel, we see Charlie Brown doing just that. Then he pats Snoopy on the head and snout and says, “excuse me, Snoopy, I have to go eat dinner.” Sally, though, says, “and you have to wash your hands again because you touched the dog.” “Oh, good grief,” says Charlie Brown as he goes back to the sink. Snoopy is shocked by this. His ears shoot straight up in the air and he says, he thinks, rather “touch the dog.” “Stay away from me,” says Sally. “My hands are clean.” But Snoopy is on his hind legs and pursuing her. “Look out, I'm covered with disease. I'm filthy dirty.” Sally runs away, yelling, “Stay away, I said.” Snoopy is still pursuing her. “Here comes the bubonic plague. Pat my head and get a handful of germs. Here comes the walking disease carrier. Beware, beware.” He chases Sally up to the top of the back of a lounge chair, where he continues thinking to him, vocalizing to himself, I guess, “look out for me. I'm diseased. I'm contaminated. I'm--” Sally yells, “help.” Snoopy then walks away on all fours, looking completely annoyed, thinking to himself, “touch the dog. Good grief.”
Michael: This one really bothered me.
Harold: Oh, really?
Michael: Okay, this is very upsetting for a number of reasons. I never saw this in Sally before. This is just kind of hysterical behavior. I mean, she freaks out about school and math and things, but she didn't strike me as a person who would be freaked out about germs.
Jimmy: I think this one's too hilarious. This is one of my favorites. I love this one. Oh, God, yes. I just think it's hilarious. Yeah, I mean, she's a kid. You're supposed to wash your hands, then go to dinner table. She doesn't want to do that. Yeah, it works for me. Totally. And I think the drawing’s awesome.
Michael: well, there's a little bit cartoony for cartoonier than Schulz 1234-5678, panel eight, where he's jumping up and waving his arms. I wouldn't think that was Schulz if I just saw that figure by it.
Harold: this is again, childhood strip. I had a run of these 1967 strips in one of the books I had as a little kid. And boy, I remember this one. I'm kind of with you, Jimmy. This one makes me laugh and laugh and laugh, and the maniacal look on Snoopy’s face going after Sally is very funny to me.
Jimmy: Yeah, I love that one
February 3. It's a snowy day, but Charlie Brown is standing atop the pitcher’s mound. He has a look of quiet but pleased contemplation on his face. Panel two, he just sighs, a wry sheepish grin on his face. Schroeder comes up and says to him, “reliving past glories Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown says, “yes, I've been thinking about the day I threw my strike.”
Michael: I wonder if we could go back and research and find where that strike is.
Jimmy: I love that. I just think that's so funny. His one strike, and he's such an optimist. He doesn't think about the thousands of balls. It's just his one strike there. That's great.
February 13. We're in the middle of a long sequence again. this one is an arm wrestling sequence between Lucy and a character known as the Masked Marvel. We see five, and he's yelling, “hey, come on. It's the arm wrestling championship.” Patty, Pigpen and Shermy are running to it and Shermy yells, “it's Lucy against the Masked Marvel.” Now we see Sally, Linus, and Charlie Brown all looking on, and Linus says they've been going at it for 2 hours now. And then in the last panel, we see the Masked Marvel, who is in fact, Snoopy and Lucy locked in a very tense, and almost violent looking, arm wrestling competition. Snoopy thinking, “give up, you stubborn female.” And Lucy thinking, “crack, you stupid beagle.”
Michael: Wow, outside of the fact that Shermy’s in this...
Jimmy: Shermy! All right.
Michael: I mean, everything is all about this last panel. I've never seen Schulz go far out like this.
Harold: Yeah, this is a first
Jimmy: Look at the like lightning bolt marks coming from the lower...
Michael: This is an entirely alien drawing style, as far as I could see. But this is the only dialogue Shermy's got this year. So that leads us to--
Jimmy: time for the Shermometer.
VO: Let's check the Shermometer Charlie Brown.
Jimmy: All right, what do we got? Does anyone have a suggestion here's?
Harold: My word for Shermy this year is expository. Shermy is just saying it's Lucy against the mass marvel. He has to be the one that kind of fills the audience in on what's going on.
Jimmy: Well, with slim pickins this year, that's the only thing we got for Shermy. But it does make him an expository. Cool, straggling, cynical, philosophical, history loving, empathetic, aggressive, compassionate, patient, pedantic, knowledgeable, emotional, good listening, vain, friendly, hypocrite.
Harold: Is Shermy growing his hair out just a little bit to match what's going on in the 60s?
Jimmy: It's 67, and Shermy is letting it all hang out. He's got a full quarter of an inch on top there. Yeah.
Harold: and Five is wearing a shirt that says five on it. It's like Schulz saying nobody knows who this character is. I have to remind them by him having his own name on the front of his shirt.
Jimmy: This continues
February 14. The arm wrestling competition is still going on. Snoopy thinks “yield, you rascal.” Lucy thinks, “Surrender, you dumb dog.” Snoopy “succumb, you dark haired fiend.” Lucy, “quit, you long haired monster.” They're getting wilder and wilder in their arm wrestling competition. “I can't hold out another second.” thinks Snoopy, “I've got to do something.” While Lucy thinks, “I can't hold out any longer. I think I'm going to faint.” Then Snoopy goes to his go to move, kisses Lucy on the nose. Smack. Lucy screams, “Augh.”
Harold: The little heart sticking out.
Michael: He doesn't actually pin her arm.
Jimmy: That's true. He still didn't win, but he did get relief from the pressure.
Michael: This, by the way, is sequence number two up for nomination for best sequence arm wrestling.
Harold: Now, do you think that Schulz, Michael, do you think that Schulz, was like, thinking of what he was going to put into his Valentine's Day and he started with this final picture and moved his way backward?
Michael: It's possible. I also think he asked one of his kids to draw the first three panels.
Jimmy: What do you think he's inking that with? It looks like he's almost using the lettering pen on Lucy's hair, because it's not quite a brush. It doesn't taper on the end. It comes to almost like a rounded point.
Harold: Yeah. maybe it's the one he uses for bold lettering.
Jimmy: Yeah, that's what I think.
Harold: I forget. What is that? The C? The C ball?
Jimmy: yeah, because it's so weird. The scribbly little lightning bolts are really the thing that strikes me as way outside of well, I mean, everything is way outside of Peanuts in those first three panels, but pretty wild.
Harold: if you don't go to many of the strips this year, you who are listening in, take a look at this one. This will surprise you, I think, if you are familiar at all with 1960s Peanuts, it does look rough. I would have guessed that if you hadn't told me, and you just said, hey, Harold, when do you think this strip was done? I would have thought it was, like, in the early to mid 70s. It's got such a roughness to it. It makes me think of that era when he was doing Snoopy playing tennis and getting all upset, and the lines just get so disturbingly rough.
Jimmy: Yeah. This was drawn violently, meaning he was really attacking the paper with that ink to make those marks. It's almost a scribble. it's not concerned at all with being attractive looking. I mean, that's the point to make. It unattractive looking. I mean, Lucy looks like a completely different character by the third panel.
Harold: And that everything in their bodies, including in their clothing, for Lucy, is looking rougher than it normally would.
Michael: Don’t you think Lucy looks like Peter Bagge art in that, third panel?
Jimmy: Oh, wow. You are right about that.
Harold: Or vice versa,
Jimmy: whatever it was-- Lisa.
Harold: This is really remarkable art and I wanted to bring up, the anger index while we've got such an intense moment here, the happiness index. Where do you think we are this year overall? Do you feel like this is happier, or more angry for anger? Do you think there's more or less than last year?
Michael: I would go slightly up on the happiness, slightly down on the anger.
Jimmy: I'm going to agree.
Harold: We had one, hundred and eleven angry strips out of 365 or six I don't know what the leap year was. 1966, which was 30%. This year it's 40%. 146 strips have characters angry in them.
Harold: Isn't that amazing?
Harold: that's up there with some of the ones he did in the think he had some angry years in the 50s. But that's a lot, a lot of strips with characters showing anger. Happiness index is actually slightly down.
Jimmy: Wow we were wrong, Michael, the one time I agree with you,
Harold: from 132 To 123, so it's not a huge difference, but it's down 2%, so 36% to 34%. And I look at these as well, and I was trying to think before I added them up, where are we? And I said, well, it's pretty much about the same as last year, isn't it? And it's like, well, no, there's a lot going on here, and maybe, I can talk a little bit about some things I'm noticing in the characters as we go along, where characters are allowed to be angry. I've noticed like when Peppermint Patty shows up, she's usually happy, so she helps add to the happiness, in the strips.
Jimmy: Well, there's also this thing just with art in general, where the content of it is only one part of it. Even though a character may be expressing anger in a strip, it does not necessarily mean that that particular strip is angry. It might be actually a super joyful strip because that's right. Reacting to Lucy being miserable. Right. And that would be a strip that contains both anger and joy.
Harold: That's correct.
Jimmy: But, the overall tone of the strip the tone of the strip, rather, is that it would be a joyful strip. So you could have, technically, a year that has much, much more anger in it, but that, to the reader, is actually a more positive, more joyful experience.
Harold: Yeah, I think so. And that's why I did anger and happiness. I was trying to kind of see how they balanced out. I do have a general feeling that when you see these kinds of swings that, just knowing myself as an artist, if you see a significant shift, it's probably also going on in the life of the person. He's not in a certain space, and then the strip goes a different place, I would think. It's not, obviously, one to one correlation. There's a lot that goes into these. But I would guess that Schulz was dealing with anger this year.
Michael: I don't know about that.
Harold: Maybe. Well, but maybe dealing with it well, but just experiencing it well.
Michael: Would you consider this last thing the wrestling strip anger? I don't see any anger in there.
Harold: there’s dumb dog. Yeah, they're angry.
Michael: Yeah. But it's sports.
Harold: You can be angry in sports.
Jimmy: Well, you can be compared as someone who did cause a near riot, where the police had to show up. I can tell you. You can.
Harold: The police had to show up.
Jimmy: Three cop cars. The Staties. Yeah.
Harold: Were you playing basketball or what happened?
Jimmy: Yeah. This is a high school basketball game, and the guy that, I got into it with ended up being a professional wrestler, of all things.
Harold: So how did that turn out for you?
Jimmy: Oh, I fled.
Michael: So the police were looking for you?
Jimmy: Michelle Borzok stood up for me. A girl came--. It was embarrassing. Really funny, though.
Harold: Jimmy was looking at your calendar to do the statute of limitations. They figured it all out.
February 20, Sally comes up to Charlie Brown.
Jimmy: This is another sequence.
Michael: Yes. I forgot this one. Let's call this the George Washington sequence.
Jimmy: Yeah. In this sequence, Sally has, against her teacher's wishes, stolen a crayon and brought it home. And she's trying to get Charlie Brown to help her out. But Charlie Brown wants her to fix her own problems. And in this one, she says she has.
She comes up to Charlie Brown and says, “well, I solved my problem without your help. Stupid wishywashy, big brother.” Sally continues, “when my teacher asked me if I had taken that crayon, I merely said no.” Charlie Brown is shocked. And he says, “you mean you lied?” Sally says “of, course I lied. So what?” Charlie Brown, chasing after her, yells, “but that's wrong. It's wrong to lie. It's always wrong to lie.” Sally turns, raises her fists and shouts, “don't give me any of your middle class morality.”
Michael: Right on, Sally.
Jimmy: Yeah, baby. Stick it to the man.
Michael: Stick it to the man. Yeah. I like Sally.
Harold: Look at that Charlie Brown face. That Charlie Brown face is like that's, almost like Schulz editorializing a little bit there where he's like, okay, you got a side with Charlie Brown on this?
Jimmy: Oh, for sure. But, boy, you don't ultimately, because Sally is so compelling and charismatic in her strange, strange don't mess with her life outlook where she is looking out for number one. She is going to figure out this system and she's not going to become a victim. Yeah, but Charlie Brown cannot obviously handle his sister as a liar. So we go to
February 22, where this continues.
Sally says to her brother, “you've been telling everyone that I lied to my teacher, haven't you?” She continues, “don't you know that psychologists say children don't always know that they're lying to an innocent child like me? If a lie works, it isn't a lie. What do you think of that?” Charlie Brown has the perfect response and yells, “George Washington.” It sends Sally over the edge. She's crying, “you're right. I'll never lie again.” Then Charlie Brown, very sternly, with arms folded, says, “I hated to do it, but some problems call for drastic action.”
Michael: It's the atomic bomb of winning an argument.
Harold: Now, this is one strip whereI feel like it does feel a little dated because I don't think the George Washington argument would necessarily…
Jimmy: No, you'd go, George Washington owned slaves. Next. Yeah, that would be the end of it.
Michael: I don't know if this has persisted to the present day, but
Jimmy: I don't think
Michael: But that was clearly, if you had to write your little fourth grade paper on, the first president, you'd say he never told a lie.
Jimmy: No, I don't think it has persisted. I don't think my kids who are in college now would know that George Washington never told a lie. Maybe they would, but certainly not to the point that someone just yelled George Washington. That would be the first thing they thought of.
Harold: Yeah. And, the other thing in here that really did strike me this year and this is a good example of it is talking about anger-- Charlie Brown-- Schulz is allowing Charlie Brown to be more angry, more freely angry than I've seen in, say, since the he seems to have a bit more of a backbone than what he's had in certain ways. and we're seeing sides of Charlie Brown that we haven't quite seen before. And it's really fascinating to me because, I mean, Schulz relates to all of his characters, but Charlie Brown, again, is one that's, again, where I was thinking I'm guessing there's something going on in his life. He's obviously being a parent, in this era and has been. But, there's a side to Charlie Brown that is really fleshing him out and I think making him even more endearing than he has been before.
Jimmy: Yes. And what I'd say so you get to the end of the February 20 strip and Sally, don't give me any of your middle class morality and that's your punchline, your laugh, and she's our hero of the moment, sticking it to the man. And Charlie Brown only has his look of disgust and disappointment. if this was, say, five, six years earlier, I think we would have a sequence of Charlie Brown being ineffectual in the face of this argument. Right. And it would be something like, well, I know you're wrong, but I don't know where or whatever.
Jimmy: But here, because we have this accumulated Charlie Brownness and it has been changing over the last couple of years in the next strip where he does take on almost a parental or at least the big brother role and says no and Sally starts crying. We're with on Charlie Brown’s side, we get it. Because he is being like the responsible big brother and he has that very stern pose with his arms crossed. I love it. It's a really subtle switch of his-- not switch of his character, but evolution of his character.
Harold: Right. I mean, a few years back, this would have been Lucy and Charlie Brown.
Harold: Or possibly Lucy and Linus. But now Charlie Brown is the big brother. And, yeah, it's something we haven't seen so much of before.
Jimmy: It's one of my favorite roles for him. A couple of things. I love panel two on this strip I love because that's such a unique character, this innocent kid who is actually not at all innocent, but is playing up people's ideas of innocence to get away with whatever she needs to get away with and yet is really charming and sweet and we love her.
Jimmy: So that's really cool.
Harold: That's a rich character.
Jimmy: Very much. The other thing that all of this that is striking me is how fast this stuff is being drawn. And when you look at that last panel, it makes sense that her word balloon is wobbly because she's upset and crying, but Charlie Brown’s is wobbly. And also the lettering is all over the place in terms of size and shape. I mean, look at the word action versus the word for there's clearly no lines being done at this point. There's no spacing it out. There's probably very little pencil. he is just blowing through these things quickly.
Harold: Now, do you think that that's a wobbly balloon for Charlie Brown because of Charlie Brown’s emotion?
Jimmy: I don't know, it works fine if you want to think of it that way.