Jimmy: Hey, everybody, welcome back to the show. This is Unpacking Peanuts. And I didn't write a clever introduction, but I am Jimmy Gownley. I'm a cartoonist as well as your host for this evening. The comics I make are 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.
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 behind such great strips as Tangled River, A Gathering of Spells, and Strange Attractors. It's Michael Cohen.
Michael: Hey there.
Jimmy: And he's a writer and executive producer for Mystery Science Theater 3000, a former vice president of Archie Comics, and currently the creator of the amazing instagram strip Swedish Beasts, Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: So, guys, here we are. It's 1968. I actually really enjoyed this year. I mean, I enjoy every year, of course, that's why we're doing this podcast. But, for me personally, I felt that he had achieved a really nice balance between the old and the new in 1968 here. It felt that he was integrating his new, themes, motifs, characters with the old stuff, the classic stuff. And it made a really nice mix for me and a really, enjoyable reading experience. Harold, what do you think?
Harold: Yeah, I enjoyed this one as well. I think visually this year and last year just seemed to be so quintessential. Peanuts. Everything looks so beautifully designed. It's what I remember Peanuts being this is a great year of Peanuts to me, and I really did enjoy it. And this is also another big year for Schulz. He's really taking off, all around the world. I was looking at the list of books that had come out this year. He had 17 come out, which is amazing.
Jimmy: 17 books in one year.
Harold: Well, that was last year. This year it’s 42.
Jimmy: Oh my God.
Harold: Now, these are foreign translations. They're not all US.
Jimmy: Yeah I know.
Harold: I mean, he's in the US. He's in England, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Spain, Norway, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy this year. And it's only going to get crazier next year. He's really getting, becoming this international force, and it's exciting to see. And, there's other stuff going on in his life. The Redwood Ice Arena has opened this year, so he's been working hard on that as his donation to the community, where he is in California. And that's a huge part of his life going forward, for really the rest of his life. he's gotten Snoopy in the manned flight awareness program, getting ready for outer space. So that's really exciting. And the kids are now, ten to 18 years old. So that's a really good period of time, to be around kids. I think that's a great range. And I think Peanuts again, I think I'm just guessing, but it seems like the dynamism of Peanuts, is really high during the time that he has kids growing up with him, and they're such a huge part of his life. And, so it's great to see that vibrancy in this strip. And this is also the year when, there are, like, about four punchlines that essentially you're stupid saying, how gauche. That's my recap of this year.
Jimmy: I love a good how gauche. Yeah. Vibrant is a way to describe it. And you're talking about the fact that he has these kids ten to 18. Well, you know, there is an immediacy or a currentness to the to the last few years of Peanuts where it feels like maybe the earlier stuff is a bit more reflective.
Jimmy: You know, and that might be why he's able to stay in the Zeitgeist.
Harold: It has to be.
Jimmy: Right. Right.
Harold: He's got kids all around him. They've got this amazing place in Sebastopol. We know that the kids are inviting other kids onto that. Essentially, it's a campus. You could just call their home a campus because it's got the little golf course area and tennis courts. And, I mean, there's a lot going on, in that space. So it's not just his own kids, but there are other kids that are visiting that, you know, he's coming in contact with because of where his kids are at this point in their lives.
Jimmy: Yeah. And it's definitely I don't think it's some instance where they're wandering in and out and giving him punch lines and
Harold: Hey Sparky,
Jimmy: you know what I mean? Yeah. Here's a good one for you. I skinned my knee. No, but I think, you're just marinating in all this stuff, and it just seeps in, because clearly that's part of his gift is that he's also able to just assimilate what is going on around him and express it through the strip. So, Michael, this would have been your graduation year.
Michael: Oh, I know. I get misty just thinking about it.
Jimmy: You pull out the old year book from the shelf.
Michael: Good old days. And we used to gather, me and my pals, every day and talk about Peanuts. Discuss the daily Peanuts strip.
Jimmy: So you were saying this might be the point where you sort of drift away from it as a reader, because you're about to go off to college, the newspaper, and your college doesn't have it in the paper, so life goes on. So what was your take on this? Do you remember this as well as some of the earlier ones? Was most of this new for you? Where are you landing in 1968?
Michael: There were some big ones this year that I hadn't seen before. So definitely the percentage is going more and more towards new for me, which somehow made it a little less satisfying because I'm not hitting all those punchlines which have been a part of my life.
Harold: So the nostalgia factor is not as great.
Michael: Yeah, I think it's a very solid year, but I don't think it's on the level of the last few. And I suspect that at this point, either because it's new to me or we know he's heading to a big change and I think it's starting now. Yeah, he's relying more and more on, like, Harold was saying about repeating punch lines, which is still funny because they keep coming. But I think there's three sequences where basically it's the same joke every time. There's nothing wrong with that. But, I enjoyed it. I read it all in one day. I just found myself picking fewer than I usually did just because there were fewer that struck me as being brilliant. They're all really good.
Harold: How much of that do you think it's is, the memory of, say, 18 year old Michael versus 17-16 year old Michael, where you have a memory of the response to it versus experiencing it today if you have fewer of those experiences?
Michael: Well, there were quite a few that I hadn't read before that I thought were really good and I picked them.
Jimmy: Oh, that's a good sign.
Michael: Yeah, I mean, it's changing and of course, we always resist change. We always like the old stuff better, so it's definitely going into a new phase. I'm trying to be open minded about it. There's nothing that I hated. I'm not a fan of, as we mentioned before, I'm not a fan of the Red Baron stuff, so I haven't picked any of those.
Harold: Yeah, and there aren't as many this year.
Jimmy: No, well, that's what I mean by him integrating the new ideas and the old ideas better. I actually really enjoy the Red Baron stuff, but I don't need that much of it. Like, there were so many Sundays. I feel like this is a better level. You know, just in the, the recipe of the overall 365 days.
Harold: Yeah, I agree.
Michael: Yeah. As long as there's a vulture strip, I'm happy.
Jimmy: Gots to have a good vulture strip. Well, Michael, while I have your ear here, let's talk about the old, character tier list, our Peanuts. Okay, well, I'll give you your rundown and then you tell me what you so. Right now we got on level A, we got the big four, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, and Lucy. Right. B, which is Costarring. We got your Schroeder, your Sally and your Peppermint Patty. Level C. You got Frieda, Violet and the bird futurely known as Woodstock. God rest them soon Shermy,, Pigpen, Patty, Roy, Five and Jose Peterson. And beneath that in formerly with we got Charlotte Braun, Three and Four and Faron the Cat. Now tell me are we going to have some shakeups this year?
Michael: Yes, total shake up. I don't know where we're going to end up here. Definitely needs revision, but I'm going to give it another year and see how it sorts out.
Jimmy: Yeah. Boy, Pig Pen’s really falling off Schulz's radar. He just does not seem into that character anymore at all.
Michael: And I am a little confused about Woodstock because there were a couple of strips where I went like, oh, this is Woodstock. And then a bunch of other birds come out and you go like, whoa, I'm not sure that was Woodstock.
Harold: Did we mention in Rita Grimsley Johnson's Good Grief. Biography of Schulz. You said that it was said that Woodstock has already appeared.
Jimmy: Yeah, the two birds that are born on top of Snoopy, one of them sticks around and that's Woodstock.
Harold: It's interesting. In his 25th anniversary book where they have all of the highlights and the character introductions came out 1975, it says that Woodstock was introduced in 1970.
Jimmy: Yeah, that's when they name them.
Harold: But it says introduced into the strip. So I feel like I'm going to go with 1970 as the year of Woodstock is introduced. Because, I think Schulz was maybe a little bit more involved in.
Jimmy: But here's what I'll say to that. When they say introduced, he says the way he's introduced, he says, you won't believe it. I finally found out what that bird's name is-- Woodstock. So he’s not really introduced.
Harold: But were there strips getting into that sequence?
Harold: Or was there like a dead period and then he finally
Jimmy: no, he just named the bird.
Harold: Well, that makes it even more complex.
Michael: I think it's defined as Woodstock when the bird is helping Snoopy. Otherwise it's really not clear. There's some bird that goes south.
Harold: Yeah, because that's right, because the birds have not helped Snoopy. They've all been asking things of Snoopy needing something from Snoopy. But we haven't seen a bird being kind of a helpmate to Snoopy. That's interesting.
Jimmy: I think when Woodstock gets fully formed in the classic design of Woodstock, I think it's possibly the greatest cartoon design ever because I don't know how you get there. I don't know how at some point you're thinking of a bird and then you end up somehow you end up with Woodstock. And everyone goes, yeah, that's a bird. Sure. Absolutely right.
Harold: Isn't that amazing?
Jimmy: Yeah, that's amazing. And I painted Woodstock. I've tried to draw Woodstock over the years. I painted Woodstock on the side of my kids nursery, when they're babies. And it's hard to draw a good Woodstock. You get a little off and it does not look like a real Woodstock.
Harold: That's true for just about every Schulz character. Right?
Jimmy: that is true.
Harold: Oh my gosh. Yeah, it's interesting. And that's given me a lot of freedom. I think in the cartooning I've done is I just abstract these animal characters I'm drawing. And it gets to the point where I'm like, I'm so far off of any photo reference I could find for a Lamb or whatever. But I think Schulz gave me a lot of boldness in that regard because it's like, well, you know, I want the Lamb to have black ears because that just looks good and the way that they typically will draw them. But it's a lamb. People can tell it's a lamb. So that's all that matters. And the aesthetic of Schulz being so designy with the characters at this point, Snoopy in particular, it's just a joy to see these poses that he's created that are these iconic poses where Snoopy is different in every single one of them.
Jimmy: Yes, different in every single one. Iconic poses for Snoopy. Iconic character designs across the board. I love seeing some of the especially in this year now seeing some of the 50s characters kind of resurging, and you'll see their 50s style. But in the 60s Peanuts I think Patty particularly for some reason, she looks extremely 50s for me. But I think she also looks great in this current 60s style.
Harold: Yeah, it's like you take for granted Lucy's dress with a little tie in the back. But for some reason, Patty, don't see her very often. That style just like, oh, that's a 50s dress she's wearing in the 60s strip.
Jimmy: Yeah, it is very strange. The other thing, he is a master of the Radio 914 at this point. At this point, I really feel the pen is just an extension of him. He is whipping through these things so quickly. And it's flawless for the most part. I mean, just flawless. Good stuff all around.
Is that all we got for the top, or should we just get right into, reading these comics?
Harold: Let's do it.
Jimmy: What do you guys think? All right, so if you guys out there want to join us, here's what you do. You go on GoComics.com. You type in Peanuts in a little calendar. There you go to 1968. And as I read out the dates, you follow along. Another even better way to do this. if you're a good student or just a hardcore Peanuts head, you can sign up for our newsletter, which is at our website, unpackingPeanuts.com. We do not spam you, but Harold puts together a beautiful little newsletter for you once a month. And that will tell you ahead of time what strips we're going to be covering, if there's going to be any special or bonus episodes, any guests coming up, you'll know, all of that. And, you'll just get to enjoy the strips that much more.
Harold: We basically give you a list of dates and little columns so you can kind of do what you need to do to be ready for the read. If you want to read along or read in advance, or you can read afterward if you've been listening in your car or whatever. And then there's some strips you want to go back and revisit. That's a great way to see the record of the strips, that we've been covering.
Jimmy: Absolutely. I would highly recommend, everybody do that. because if you think you remember it, it's not the same as really looking at it and really getting to experience that great cartooning. All right, so you guys do that. And we're just going to go ahead and start right now with
January 13. We see a classic side view of the doghouse. No Snoopy on top of it, though. But we do hear him or hear or read--
Jimmy: how do we say that? We read him thinking from behind it.
Michael: We think him.
Jimmy: We think that's true. We somehow grok and become sympatico with Snoopy.
And his thoughts are “Here's the creature from the sea (in unnecessary quotes) rising up to terrorize the world.” In the next two panels, we see Snoopy rising up from behind the doghouse, making a ridiculous scary face and then sliding back behind the doghouse to say, “I love science fiction.”
Michael: This was a big laugh for me. It's weird that's coming in 1968, which is like way past the big monster
Jimmy: Way past right.
Michael: era. this would have fit better in 1958, probably.
Jimmy: Except a bunch of teenagers would be watching them on late night TV at this point.
Harold: Yeah, there's a lot of movies that are a little bit older. I don't know if he's-- I'm not sure where he's seeing them. Not all of them have made it to television yet. But he's got a lot of movie references this year. Like he's sitting down and watching more stuff on TV and maybe the local stations. you think he can get San Francisco from where he is? Probably. So that's probably the TV stations he's watching. And I'm guessing those movie packages are getting better and better every year.
Michael: Yeah, there's a lot of pop culture in this year. And it probably has to do with his teenage kids, but lots of references. It's not like he's trying to be hip by dropping current references. I think he actually just enjoys keeping up with things.
Jimmy: Yeah. Okay, but expand upon that because that's a really interesting point in that sometimes when someone of his age, at this point, he's in his 40s, is doing pop culture stuff, it's going to come off like he's trying to sound hip and not being hip. Why doesn't that happen with him? What is the difference? There is a difference. I don't know if I could put my finger on it, though.
Michael: He's comfortable being a square and he's not threatened by the fact that times, they are changing and he knows what's going on. He never gets political to the point where he'll be talking about the anti war movement and draft dodging and stuff. But he doesn't see it as a threat. He's not getting angry, but he can make a little comment about it.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's interesting. I guess that is just he's comfortable in himself. I think you're right. That comfortable being a square makes you obviously, instantly not a square.
Harold: That's a good point. Yeah. I noticed there were like three movies that were four years old that I at least made reference to in my mind. One of them is the next strip we're going to read. And then there are yeah, I think he does, well, Dear Heart is something I don't know if we selected any of the Dear Heart episodes where, Lucy decides to call Schroeder Dear Heart, which is to his great chagrin. But that was a movie from 1964 with I think Glenn Ford was in it. And not very well remembered today. And and then Muscle Beach comes into things, in this one. And that makes me think of Muscle Beach Party,
Michael: which is like four years in the past.
Harold: Four years in the past. However, Muscle Beach was still a big thing. And it's not far from where Schulz was in California. It actually was a place where people
Michael: yeah it is
Jimmy: like 5 hours.
Michael: It's like 8 hours.
Michael: I have to make a true confessions at this point.
Jimmy: Oh, no.
Michael: My dad used to go to Muscle Beach. My dad was at Vic Tanny. He'd go to Muscle Beach. And I was the skinniest kid in the world who was ashamed to take his shirt off at the beach. So I had a body builder dad.
Harold: Can you describe what Muscle Beach was Michael?
Michael: It's a beach in Venice, California. And all the guys would come all the wannabe Schwarzeneggers, and pump iron. And they had like I don't even know what the equipment is called. It's right on the beach.
Harold: It's like open air?
Liz: it's really small.
Michael: Yeah, it's small. But he'd go there and work out.
Harold: So what year would that have been? Do you know what years he would have been going?
Michael: All through the late 50s, through the 60s.
Harold: Wow. Because that thing dates back. I was reading about it, just getting ready for this. It was like 1934 was a Works Project Administration thing. They were trying to get people to do physical fitness. And because it was public, I think that was something that never been done before, where you can pump iron and have people watch you. And I think there was something to that.
Michael: That was the point.
Harold: Yeah. And Vic Tanny became famous, who opened all those gyms. he became famous, I think, through Muscle Beach. And so did Jack LaLanne.
Michael: and kicking sand in the face
Harold: for those younger people. Another huge health and fitness guy, and had a TV show and all sorts of stuff. Both those guys were just super popular. And they say that all this can be tied back to the fact that they put exercise equipment out on the beach in California and just started this national movement.
Jimmy: I am blown away that Michael, that your dad was a body builder. I would like to watch an A-team style show with all three of our dads. They're shutting down highways, beating people up. and we're like, here's a really interesting thing about Snoopy. Did you see this Snoopy?
Michael: Yeah, my dad broke his hand because my dad punched the guy out.
Harold: Oh my gosh. Oh wow. Yeah, Let’s get our dads in on a conversation about the letter W.
Jimmy: You know what, though? It's good to have someone that's different than you. Because like, the famous story when Will Eisner wrote to tell me to give it up and my dad would not care at all. He's like, forget it, who cares? The hell with this guy if you're sensitive, gentle souls like us, we need a little the other way sometimes. Yeah.
Harold: Well, it is interesting the three of us had those type of father. It is interesting that I look at my own father. He showed me what was possible in the world that I don't think I would ever have come close to attempting the things that I have if I hadn't had a father like my dad. I had everything seemed possible in his world and he accomplished so many different things. There was a quote he would make, there was one time when he was replacing a door on a car, which is not an easy thing to do, he did it single handedly. And he came in, I remember he came into dinner and his knuckles were just bruised and bloody and he was just taking it all in stride. And he quoted a relative of his, who would always say, when someone said, you can't do that. And he said, well, somebody did it.
Jimmy: My car had vacuum locks. I had this little sports car, which I had no business having when I was in my twenties and the door broke and my dad took the door apart, fixed the vacuum locks. He didn't even graduate high school. Fixed the vacuum locks, put it back together. It's like, yeah. There you go, buddy.
Harold: What? Wow.
Jimmy: I'm still to this day, slightly nervous, pumping gas.
January 15, Snoopy is doing his happy dance on top of the doghouse in panel one and in panel two. But in panel two, he goes for a little more of the Cossack style, arms across the chest dance. And panel three again, a little more upright and stiff. And, good old Lucy walks over and she sees him dancing and then says to him, “Zorba the Greek, you aren’t.”
Harold: There's a 1964 movie for you four years back, I don't know why Zorba the Greek was
Michael: and the musical that year starring Herschel Bernardi, my friend Barry's uncle.
Harold: Are you saying that the musical was created the same year the movie came out.
Michael: No, I'm saying I think it might have been 1968.
Harold: Oh, so that may have been how Zorba the Greek was back in the public eye in 1968. Was that it was like was it on Broadway or?
Harold: wow. Well, we won't count this as an obscurity this year, but for those of you who are not familiar with it, it started Anthony Quinn with just an amazing over the top performance as this Greek man with a lust for life. And and there's another guy from England who comes over. I think he's trying to-- he's inherited a mine in Greece. And so, he's befriended by Anthony Quinn, who's you never quite know if he's on your side or not, but he's certainly a colorful character who teaches this guy a lot of things about life. Super exuberant. But there is a dance that apparently Anthony Quinn made up for the movie that is so famous and so iconic, which is what Schulz is referring to here, with Snoopy's dancing on top of the doghouse. And it made me wonder, who influenced who, given how big Peanuts was, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Anthony Quinn hadn't seen Snoopy's happy dance.
Jimmy: That would be amazing.
January 17, Charlie Brown's standing outside and Patty's walking towards him, and she does not look too pleased. Panel two, we see it's Patty and Violet. So we know that's bad news. Charlie Brown, quite foolishly says, “Hi, girls, where…” They both yell loudly, keep walking. And send Charlie Brown flying by, screaming, “Get out of the way.” And then, as Charlie Brown's lying dazed on the ground, Violet says, “we're on our way to a crab in.”
Michael: This is a flashback. He hadn't done this in a long time.
Michael: We haven't seen those two in years. Might be ten years being this way, just being nasty as possible. And plus the fact that he's riffing on a current pop culture trend here.
Jimmy: the sit in, the be in, the love in.
Harold: And of course, Laugh In, which was probably the most popularized version of it. I think it was like the number one show on TV this year, so it was big deal. And I guess he needed Violet and Patty to be the ones. Where are they going? They're going to Lucy's house, of course. She's the one holding the crab in.
Jimmy: Yeah. We should say this is part of a longer sequence because Lucy has said she hasn't really felt good since the beginning of the year, so she's going to hold the crab in.
Harold: And another sequence that appears multiple times this year is Snoopy smooching Lucy on the nose. And I think this is the first time this year. But we see it at the end of the sequence where he knocks on the door and Lucy pops her head out of that classic side of the house thing where you just see her head. Snoopy kisses her on the nose, and he says, that's how you break up a crab in.
Michael: I want to say a few things about sequences, if you don't mind.
Harold: Yes, please.
Michael: Last year, we were defining a sequence as, like, a week or more, not counting Sundays, I think eleven or twelve. Last year, there was 13 this year, but they're shorter.
Harold: that's a lot.
Michael: I think a week is about the max.
Michael: This is the first one, so this probably goes a week. But he's definitely not stretching him out as long as he did last time.
Harold: Yeah, I think he nailed the landing on this one.
Jimmy: Yeah, for sure. That's another interesting thing, talking about this repertory cast of characters that he refers to. You can only do that if you have the puppy character. Right. Like no other character. And not only a puppy, you have to have a puppy that's also kind of a person. If Charlie Brown walked up and just kissed someone on the nose, it's not going to break up the crab in. It's going to cause World War Three. Right. But Snoopy has that disarming quality because he is the cartoon animal.
Harold: Yeah. And it kind of suggests that he's above the forces that are so strong in the country. Like, Michael was talking about that something in thing was a big deal at the time, and yet Snoopy somehow transcends the biggest things that are happening in the culture. And I think that's part of the magic of him as people are living through 1968. Snoopy is he's coming into this world and all of these cultural things, and he's bigger than those cultural things.
Jimmy: Well, Schulz once, in an interview, said something like, people talk about the 60s and the 70s and the 80s, and he's like and I don't even really know what they mean. I was just living my life. Right. And I get it. I definitely understand what he's talking about in that sense. But he is plugged in. And I think this what you guys were saying earlier about how he's a square who doesn't care he's a square. I think that is the key, because that's Snoopy, too. Snoopy doesn't care if you like his dancing or don't like his dancing. You know, that aspect of Schulz plays out really well in the character of Snoopy, I think.
Harold: Yeah, it's very, it's very enticing, you know, to see something that, that's above it all, but also vulnerable. I mean, there's a lot of reasons to love Snoopy.
January 21. It's a Sunday. In the first panel, we see, one of those weird, metaphoric Peanuts panels. This is a snow globe with Charlie Brown's head in it. And then, we go to panel two, where we see it's Charlie Brown at the psychiatry booth. Lucy says, “okay, Mac, what's your problem?” Charlie Brown says “people.” Then he continues, “I find that people take advantage of me. Like in talking, for instance. People talk to me on and on, and I get bored and want to leave, but I don't. And they keep on.” And then Lucy interrupts, saying, “it's your own fault. You're just too wishywashy. People who talk too much deserve to be insulted. They deserve to have other people walk away from them. Talking too much is an unforgivable social sin. Absolutely unforgivable. The only way to deal with people who talk too much is to let them know just how boring they really are. You can't waste your time with them. No, sir. Why should you sit and waste your valuable time when some bore talks on and on about nothing?” While this is happening, by the way, we are slowly seeing snowflakes start to fall. And, they get worse and worse until here in the very last panel, we see the psychiatry booth, Lucy, and Charlie Brown have all been covered with snow. And Lucy's continuing saying, “life is too short to waste it listening to some person who doesn't know when to shut up. Time is too valuable. Time is--” Charlie Brown sighs with an exclamation mark.
Harold: under a pile of snow
Michael: So, has anyone noticed Schulz's, little commentary on inflation here.
Harold: Yeah, psychiatric help, $0.07.
Jimmy: whoa. It went up two cents.
Harold: That's a 40% increase.
Michael: But then it goes yeah, it goes back down right away. It got so bad after that.
Michael: Two cents, almost broke the comic book industry when they raised it to twelve.
Harold: Yeah, boy and Dell went up to 15. And boy, they were knocked out. Had to bring it down to twelve.
Jimmy: This Charlie Brown and a snow globe panel, in that David Michaelis book, and also to a lesser degree in that American Masters documentary, they really are stretch to somehow link Citizen Kane and Schulz. That's like a big -- in that thing.
Michael: Oh totally
Jimmy: Well, go ahead.
Michael: It's either Citizen Kane or Lord of the Rings.
Jimmy: That's the palantir.
Harold: Or a snow globe.
Jimmy: That's exactly what I was going to say. But I think it's actually the palantir. That is what I was going to say. That's why we do this podcast.
Harold: People in this strip, the story that Schulz would give about he would get an idea, and he couldn't wait to get it on paper, and so he was working so fast. I feel that with this one, because it's so wordy. Look at that second panel with Lucy, kicked back with her feet on the table of her psychiatric there's no legs. The legs are not there. Yeah, you just see the little shoes, this amazing little iconic thing. Now, whether he forgot or he was like, okay, that's just so cool. I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to show the leg that connects down, beyond the booth. You're just going to see the little shoes, and you'll fill in the rest. And look at her in the fifth panel, when she's got her hands folded. You zoom in on that thing. Her neckline goes past her collar, and she's got some weird stuff going on, on her right arm and her hands folded against each other.
Michael: And he forgot to draw clothes on Charlie Brown in the first panel.
Jimmy: He forgot to do that. Charlie Brown with the naked shoulder. When, I see those two panels and like him, he clearly, I think, chose not to draw the legs. He just put the feet up there. I see someone who is sick to death of doing two panels that get cut off in 70% of the newspapers. One of the things Bill Watterson, and it's a really important thing because I think there's times when cartoonists, get treated in undignified ways, and the only person that's going to stand up for it is the cartoonist. And Watterson, when he came back from his hiatus, is like, yeah, I'm not doing that anymore. You're going to have to figure out a way to either take the whole strip or you take nothing. And, you know, Schulz, I think, actually bristled at that and found it unprofessional. However, and I get why Schulz did that, because he feels, I believe, probably passive aggressively attacked because he accepted the small space. But it's apples and oranges. I mean, we're talking about something that happened in 1950 versus the continuing degradation of the comics.
Harold: And Schulz did change the formatting to reduce the number of options for the editors himself, in fairness to fairness to Watterson.
Jimmy: in the 80s. Absolutely, he did. Absolutely.
Jimmy: And but I do I see that I think someone like Schulz would probably feel annoyed doing those two panels every week and thinking some hack and God knows where, it's just going to cut them out.
February 3, Linus is, making a snowball outside and he looks like he's doing some fine detail work on it. He walks back into the house where Lucy is watching TV and he's holding the snowball. He says, “well, I discovered something.” Lucy says, “what's that?” And Linus says, “you can't autograph a snowball.”
Jimmy: I just thought this was weird because there's a very famous Bill Cosby routine about-- called Revenge about autograph-- And part of it is autographing a slush ball with the guy's name on it. And I just looked to see what year came out, and it came out in 1968. So, I don't know. I was just thinking, did Schulz hear the album, and go, no, you can't write on a snowball.
Harold: I, don't know. He would have he would have written he would have written and drawn this probably in the very beginning of January.
Jimmy: Oh, then oh, yeah. So then maybe well, who would say Bill Cosby would do something unethical? Wow.
February 4. Lucy is standing around in her living room and she says, “what are you hanging around the house for?” We don't see who she's talking to, but in panel two, we see it's Linus and he says, “I'm afraid.” Lucy says “afraid?” When Linus looks away and says, “I'm afraid to go outside. There's a vulture sitting on my snowman.” They run to the window and look out. Linus says “see?” “Well, he won't be sitting there very long the way the sun is shining.” Lucy goes out and glares at Snoopy, who is in fact, in his vulture pose on top of the snowman. And the sun is beating down and Lucy's glaring at him. Panel two, she continues to glare, but now we see the snowman is slowly melting. It continues to melt as Lucy continues to glare and Snoopy is getting more and more nervous. In the next to the last panel, he makes a ridiculous embarrassed sheepish grin as the snowman has melted to about nothing. And then Lucy walks away saying “stupid beagle” and Snoopy thinks to himself, “These vultures have a hard life.”
Michael: That second to last panel reminds me of like really early Disney, like Horace Horsecollar or something like that.
Harold: and it's interesting you're talking about recurring jokes, Michael. It makes me think of like the very second strip of this year was a similar one where Lucy is telling Linus, why are you making the snowman? Because it's just going to melt. And she's saying the sun is going to melt the snowman. And Linus is just calmly building the snowman and it's not melting. She says, stupid sun. She's saying stupid beagle this time it's two takes on the same joke, probably written about the same time, given the delay in doing the Sundays versus the dailies. But they're both funny.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's interesting because he talks about how he always wants, to think beyond the initial gag, think to the second, 3rd or fourth gag. That's possible and that will be more original.
Harold: But he's like riff, like a jazz riff.
Jimmy: Yeah, yeah. But he's so brilliant that the second, third, and fourth are all equally good and you could use all of them. You know, it's crazy. Oh boy. Okay, way back when I said, there's like four of my all time favorite Peanuts strips. This is one of them. This goes up there with be of good cheer. February 5, I have two stories about it.
February 5, Frieda comes up to Snoopy, who's lying on top of his doghouse and she says, “you spend all your time lying on top of that doghouse.” She continues saying, “that's all you seem to do. You just lie there and lie there. I just don't see how you do it,” she says as she throws up her arms and walks away. Snoopy, who doesn't miss a beat or even open his eyes, thinks to himself, “let's not overlook the possibility of genius.”
Michael: One of the all time greats. And what a great way to phrase it too. There's a million ways you could say that.
Jimmy: Yeah. Let's not overlook the possibility of genius here's. My two stories. One time, Michael came to visit, and this would have been, God 2000. It was when we were ramping up Renaissance Press. So he came to visit us and he brought me a gift, which was The Snoopy Treasury, which was a book he just found on his his travels. And he's like, this is mostly later stuff, but I just want you to read the first two pages in front of me, and I know which one you're going to laugh out loud at. And of course I did, and he was right. And it was this one. So I love the fact that he knew this would be the one I'd like the most.
And my other story is, I got a note about my last book, Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up, from David Sailor, the editor and publisher of Scholastic. And he didn't understand a lot. There was a lot of confusion he had. And he wrote, like, a two page email explaining his questions and concerns. And I sent back the last panel
Harold: How’d that go over?
Jimmy: Silence. I mean at this point. No.
Harold: Jimmy, it reminds me of what times when I was working on Sweetest Beasts, occasionally I would send you a strip. And there was one that was, Wild Lion and Woolly, the lion and the Lamb. and they're essentially in the thinking wall pose, where they're just kind of looking straight ahead, kind of pensively for three panels. There's absolutely no change. It's just they're kind of looking out into the space. And the last one was, Wild Lion turns to Woolly and says, if I were declared a genius, would you hold it against me? And I remember you responded very positively.
Jimmy: To that one, because I still am. Oh, my gosh, that's so funny. That makes me think of this. We were talking in one of our episodes a while back about how kids post stuff online, and they're looking for feedback and they hope that they're glean something for this. And it made me think. Now, if I were to ask anybody and when I ask anybody, really, for advice or thoughts on what I'm working on, it's really these two guys, right? Because I trust them and I respect their talents and their brains, and I know what they can do. And sometimes they ask me, which I'm very flattered by.
Harold had a bunch of single panel gags before Sweetest Beasts became Sweetest Beasts. It was called Wild Lion. And he's like, I'm thinking about making these into some T shirts. Which ones do you like? And I'm like this one. This is the funniest shirt. I love this. And it's Wild Lion. He's getting a letter and he's reading it. And the joke is just all my reality show ideas keep getting rejected. I think this is the funniest, right? To this day, I think this is the funniest thing. So he's like, okay. So he makes that shirt and a bunch of other shirts and we're at some convention, and I'm watching all other shirts sold all the other shirts. Not one of the reality shows. I still wear it. When people give you their advice, take It with a grain of salt.
Harold: and produce small quantities.
Jimmy: And never overlook the possibility of genius.
February 11. We have one of those. I don't feel like coming up with a gag. Opening, panels for a Sunday. Charlie Brown in a valentine. And Charlie Brown is now in panel two holding a valentine. And he seems to be practicing. “Happy Valentine's Day.” And we're going through the bit where Charlie Brown, for the next several panels, is going to be practicing giving someone a valentine. “Here, little Red Haired girl. This is for you. It's a valentine.” He continues. “This is a valentine I made especially for you. Here, little red haired girl. This is a valentine I want you to have. Here, little red haired girl. This is a valentine's to show how much I like you.” It's continuing again. This time that was with a wink. This time. Now he has a big cheesy grin. “Here, this valentine is for you, sweet little red haired girl.” Now, he has a wry kind of devil may care cockeyed look. And he says, “here, you little doll, you. This valentine is for you.” Now he looks snobby and erudite. “Here, little Red Haired girl. This valentine is for you, and I hope you like it as much as I like you.” And the next panel, he just sighs. Panel. after that, he puts it in the mailbox. Linus walks up to Charlie Brown and says, “hi, Charlie Brown. Did you give that little red haired girl your valentine?” And he walks away saying, “I couldn't do it. I mailed it anonymously.” Then Linus looking after him. “Says good old Charlie Brown. He is the Charlie Browniest.”
Michael: famous line.
Jimmy: Famous line. Getting a chance to repeat it and fix it. Add the i to browniest.
Michael: How come he doesn't know her name? If he wants to win her heart he should at least learn her name.
Jimmy: Well, I agree. it's always this you can meet her. Isn't she in your class? Like, I know I went to a small school, but it doesn't seem like this could be an insurmountable challenge, but only for Charlie Brown.
Harold: I totally relate to this. I remember I think I already told that story about being seated next to the girl that I speak to. And finally, I did get to because I was, I think, set up by my teacher to be seated right next to her. So nice gift.
Jimmy: That's very sweet. But you knew her name.
Harold: That I did.
Jimmy: Right? Yeah. You didn't call the sandy hair chick. I mean, that's weird, but I love all this is one you should look up because you can see the variety of expressions he can make with two periods, some parentheses, and a backward C. Like that face of Charlie Brown's is as minimal as it gets. And every one of those little expressions, they're priceless, adorable. The one of him sighing, I love. It's like a classic. It's like, the platonic ideal of a sigh.
Harold: Charlie Brown when I see that little winky one that he has with his kind of what do you call that? The wishywashy kind of smile that's a little wavy. That reminds me so much of those watercolor valentines that you would get in the box to give out an elementary school with a little puppy dog or something.
Jimmy: Yeah. Hey, you little puppy dogs. how about we all take a break and we go get a treat and some water, and then we come back, and we read some more comic strips. Does that sound good?
Jimmy: All right, we're going to do that right now. We'll see you on the other side.
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. Let's just get right back to the strips.
February 21. Linus and Lucy are, ah, looking at a bare tree on a winter's day. Linus says, “Why don't trees have leaves in the winter?” Lucy looks annoyed and walks away from them, saying, “boy, you sure ask some stupid questions.” Linus looks back at the tree, then looks back towards Lucy and yells, “even stupid questions have answers.”
Jimmy: Good point.
Michael: It's kind of funny because everybody's sort of aged up and like, they're all sitting in the same classroom. But Linus is still sometimes a little kid again.
Jimmy: Yeah, this feels like a throwback in a big way.
Michael: This next one's controversial. A lot of cat lovers out there.
March 2. Snoopy is up on top of his dog house, and he's looking angry, and he says, “someday I'd like to punch a cat in the nose.” In the next panel, he looks a little more reserved, and he thinks, “I wonder if I'd ever have the nerve to try it.” Then he's lying classic position on top of the doghouse, thinking, “probably not.” Then in the last panel, he thinks “it's kind of fun to think about, though.”
Harold: Big smile.
Michael: He couldn't get away with this kind of humor nowadays, the cat lobby is too powerful.
Jimmy: Yeah, you don't want to mess with cat people.
Harold: That's right. But yeah. Notice there were no Peanuts Clumping Fresh in the supermarket. So he's lost out on his licensing.
Jimmy: Yeah, that's why he wasn't a success.
Michael: This is sequence number two.
Frieda and Lucy are out in the outfield, both of them looking up in the sky, and the ball lands right between them. Clunk. We see in this instance, the manager coming out to yellow them, but it is in fact, Snoopy. And, he boots both of them in the butt and then he just walks.
Jimmy: It's a really odd one for you guys to call out from the sequence. I love this sequence. The, the gist of the sequence is Charlie Brown let Snoopy become the manager of the baseball team. And Snoopy's approach is just to kick everyone in the ass,
Michael: the whole week. The punchline is kicking people in the butt.
Harold: And this, and this one, there's no context. You don't know he's a manager from this strip.
Jimmy: None. And there's no context and there's no punchline. It's just Snoopy walking back just as angry. It's so funny. It's so funny. Again, this is fun stuff to draw for him, too. I think, just the drawings of Snoopy looking angry must have been
Harold: Do you think maybe that's where it came from? He just drew an angry Snoopy walking with a baseball cap and he's like, I can get to that.
Jimmy: Yeah, it definitely could be. Or could have just come from the idea of the manager. One thing I did notice again, at some point in this year, Lucy mentions playing center field, and it's like, Charlie Brown, you are a bad manager. Why would you put her in the most important position in the outfield? Hide her in right, you know?
Michael: I noticed that, too.
Harold: this is something we're going to see more of with Snoopy kind of angry Snoopy in extended sequences where he just gets into this angry mode and can't get out of it for a while.
Michael: There probably was a baseball manager who was notorious for being mean all the time in this period. I'm not sure. I thought Casey Stengel maybe, but I don’t think--
Jimmy: yeah, it's before his time, but the person I thought of was Billy Martin, who was constantly getting in trouble, kicking the sand on the plate and stuff like that. But that was after this. I do think this is a pretty good example of a sequence that works, too, because Charlie Brown eventually gets the team back by basically talking to Snoopy and going, boy, I know how hard it is to be manager, so if you want to get out of it, I'll take the team back. And, Snoopy gives them the team back because it is too much of a pain for Snoopy to be fooling around with.
Harold: Everybody's happy in the end.
Jimmy: Yeah. All right. Yeah. So,
March 29, this is another sequence. This is a long sequence in which Linus is obsessed because Ms. Othmar doesn't seem to like him. And his evidence for this is that she looks right through him. but here we go. This is, the finale of that sequence where Linus comes up to Lucy and he says, “Miss Othmar still likes me. It was all a misunderstanding. I thought she wasn't looking at me the way she used to. And I was right. She needed glasses. How about that?” Linus continues, and he's walking away from Lucy at this point. And he says “what appeared to be a strain in in quotes, ‘teacher pupil’ relations turned out to be uncorrected myopia. Miss Othmar still likes me.” Now we see Lucy watching as Linus starts writing a letter because we can clearly see he has an envelope there, too. And she says, “what are you doing now?” And he says, “I'm writing a note of appreciation to her ophthalmologist.”
Jimmy: Ophthalmologist again,
Michael: always a funny word. Yeah, twice as funny as optometrist
Jimmy: unnecessary quotes on teacher pupil. And, it makes it funny. If it was teacher pupil relations, it wouldn't be as funny as just quoting teacher pupil relations.
April 3. We see an adorable Linus in his jammies, and he has his hands folded as if he's about to pray. Then in the next panel, we see he's kneeling by his bedside. And Lucy, has come in with a book, maybe to read him a story before bed. And Linus says to her, “I think I've made a new theological discovery.” Lucy says, “what is it?” And Linus says, “if you hold your hands upside down, you get the opposite of what you pray for.” Lucy rolls her eyes.
Jimmy: Someone had to pick this one.
Michael: Well, I defer to Harold on theological on theological matters.
Harold: Well, you selected this, Michael, right?
Michael: No, I didn't.
Harold: You didn't?
Jimmy: well, I'll select it because this is interesting. Now, okay, what are you guys thoughts on this? Because it could be a little Family Circus, and that's a, disparaging way, but do you know what I mean? I feel like and I don't think this is a slight to the people who worked in Family Circus, but Family Circus takes a more cut out post on your fridge, folksy simple take on stuff like praying and religion and where people go when they die and all that kind of stuff. This skirts that edge, but to me, it doesn't quite go there.
Harold: Yeah, this one again, it's one of those strips where people could read it any way they wanted and they could find something in it, depending on their perspective. Right. And that is what Schulz seems to do so well. He's got these well defined characters. And you see, Linus is very observant and he's always trying to make meaning out of the world, and sometimes he's getting it wrong. But yeah, I mean, that is an interesting question. The Family Circus.
I mean, I went to how to get syndicated seminar in New York City, I think, in 1989. And, Bill Keane was one of the guest speakers there. And I was amazed how incredibly funny and acerbic he was. Nothing like Family Circus. And, just to see how different he was from the strip that he sold and was delivering day in and day out. There was a side of him that I was kind of in awe that he was finding this place with his humor that did not seem to be like his most natural way of publicly, expressing himself. And, yeah, it's a really interesting question. What is different about a Family Circus that would do exactly the same thing? That's a really good question. I, don't know if I have a lot of good answers for it, except it seems like Family Circus was about saying something that Bill Keane thought his audience would agree with, wanted to hear, and wanted to hear. And this one, I feel like Schulz is constantly surprising us with new aspects of characters, personality, and it fits into the whole of, these very three dimensional characters, where you do respond to it in a different way. There is something going on here, and yet Schulz is doing it with this ambiguity where he's not saying, this is how you should see this, this is how you should read this. It's just the surprise of the statement coming from your character that most people know very well that it's very rich. And again, I'm totally not going to disparage Family, Circus. I think Bill Keane was the master of doing what he did. I don't know. It almost seemed like missional for what Bill Keane was trying to accomplish. and the fact that his own public personality was so different from it is just a fascinating thing.
Jimmy: Yeah. And I'm speaking of it as a matter of my personal taste. I prefer the Schulz approach to it than the Keane approach to it. but I understand why people like what they like, and that's totally fine. I think you're right. So much of it has to do with the fact that there is a richness of characters. Linus can be smart, but he can also be foolish. He could be wise, but he could also be innocent. And it never reads as contradictory. And this goes along with, can you sign a snowball? Right. It's an experiment. This is like his little thought experiment. And you have Lucy rolling her eyes. Lucy, who herself has given tons of questionable insights.
Harold: So why do you think he has Lucy roll her eyes? Because she didn't have to. She could have just given him the blank stare, like it was often done when the person telling the receiving the joke is non responsive.
Jimmy: Yeah. And then I'm not 100% sure. It's strange because it's Linus. If it was Frieda and Lucy was rolling her eyes, it would just be free to set a stupid thing. Right. But in this one, it's just that you see two people that are rounded, interesting characters, and they're just both looking at this thing differently. And Lucy it's funny because Lucy is looking down on this, but Lucy thinks just as many silly things.
Harold: This strip is well remembered from what I understand, this is one of those strips that just, for some reason, connected with people. I don't know if it's because the concept of prayer is such a big deal to a lot of people, or the concept of people praying at all is a big deal. Like, why are they doing it? You know, it's it's, it seems to be loaded. The very fact that he's he's including it in the strip, that gives it its own weight and import, apart from the gag.
April 7, Snoopy's on top of his doghouse, and Lucy comes up saying, “hello, you stupid beagle.” Very, very loose lettering on this strip. “I have news for you,” she says, and she looks very proud as she says it. Then she says, “Charlie Brown is going to be gone all day, so he's asked me to take care of feeding you.” Lucy has Snoopy's attention at this point. Lucy continues, “you know what this means, don't you?” Then she looks psychotic, waves her fist at Snoopy, and says, “it means I've got you in my power.” Then she holds up the empty food dish to Snoopy and says, “I've had enough of your insults, but you'd better behave today, because I control the supper dish. I got you where I want you now.” She's ranting to the heavens. “The hand that controls the supper dish rules the world.” Snoopy sticks out his tongue at her. “Bleah.” Then Lucy, waving the supper dish around, yells, “where are you going? You can't insult me. Come back here and apologize, or I won't give you any supper.” The last panel, we see Snoopy eating some berries off a bush, saying, “for one day, I can survive on berries.” Chomp, chomp chomp.
Michael: I think Lucy is getting much worse. Seriously. I think this year is like her peak of crabiness and nastiness.