Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. This is Unpacking Peanuts. Today we're going through the second half of the strips from 1968. I'm Jimmy Gownley. I'm one of your hosts for this evening. I'm a cartoonist as well. I've done books like 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 and 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 of Amelia Rules, and the creator of such great strips as Strange Attractors, the Gathering of Spells, and Tangled River. Michael Cohen.
Michael: Hey there.
Jimmy: And he is an executive producer and writer for Mystery Science Theater 3000, former vice president of Archie Comics, and currently he is creating the fantastic instagram strip Sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: Guys, It's 1968. This is part two. I say we waste no time and just get right to the strips.
Harold: Sure, I'm all for no time wasting.
Jimmy: Now, if you guys want to follow along with us, there's a couple of ways you can do it. First off, you could be a really good student, and you could sign up for our newsletter. When you do that, you get it once a month. Mr. Harold Buchholz makes it for you, and it'll give you a little heads up as to what the episodes were doing that month is, what comic strips we're actually going to be reading and discussing on the show. So you can read ahead in advance.
Or if you're like me and you do no preparation whatsoever, you can just log on right now to Gocomics.com. Type in Peanuts 1968. And when I read off the date, you type it in the little box. And you can read every one of these strips right there on the Internet for free. Or if you're a fancy lad and you want to treat yourself, you could buy the Fantagraphics books, but not before we start the show.
Harold: Yeah, if you're driving a stick right now, don't log in.
Jimmy: if you're driving at all, just listen. Okay.
Harold: Well, okay. We can broaden it.
Jimmy: All right, let's get started.
May 23, 1968. Linus and Sally are walking home from school. Sally looks upset. She says to Linus, “I'll never get to first grade. I'm almost sure they're going to make me go through kindergarten again.” She looks out, forlorn, and Linus asks her “why?” And then Sally, matter of factly says “I failed flower bringing.”
Michael: I think this is one of the great strips. I mean, I don't know why, but there's something about this.
Harold: Was Flower Bringing a thing for you guys?
Michael: Well, I didn't go to kindergarten I skipped right to the first grade.
Jimmy: That's the kind of brilliance Michael had.
Harold: Was it apple bringing in first grade?
Michael: I think this is really nice because it's like a savage indictment of the American educational system, yet it's so sweet-- it’s not bitter or anything.
Jimmy: She looks disappointed in herself that she did fail flower bringing.
Michael: Yeah, I'm sure in China, in kindergarten, they're doing, like, chess problems and quantum physics.
Jimmy: Well, we have our own strengths.
Harold: It was dropped from the curriculum.
Michael: Where have all the flowers gone?
Jimmy: That's right.
Harold: I suggest we start the STEMF program.
Jimmy: It all starts in childhood. No posey left behind.
May 26, 1968. Linus and Lucy are standing outside. Linus in classic thumb and blanket position. Lucy says, “I'm going to tell you something I've never told anyone before.” Lucy then looks out over the horizon and says, “do you see that hill over there?” Linus, by the way, is not opening his eyes or moving at all yet. Lucy says, “Someday I'm going to go over that hill and find the answer to my dreams.” Lucy continues. Linus is paying more attention now. She says, “Someday I'm going to go over that hill and find happiness and fulfillment. I think that for me, all the answers to life lie beyond those clouds and over the grassy slopes of that hill.” Linus says to Lucy, “perhaps there's another little kid on the other side of that hill who is looking this way and thinking that all the answers to life lie on this side of that hill.” Linus goes back to his contemplative thumb and blanket position. Lucy looks out to the horizon, then looks at Linus, then yells over the horizon, “forget it, kid.” Sending Linus flying.
Michael: Just kind of role reversal a little bit. I mean, here's Lucy being kind of dreamy and philosophical, and Linus being kind of negative.
Harold: Yeah. I don't do you think Linus is being negative?
Michael: I think well, yeah, because when he's saying that someone else thinks that their life is great, but I don't think.
Harold: They think I was thinking it was more like he's actually, like, connecting Lucy to that other person. So it's like she's her dreams on the other side. Well, on the other side is another person who dreams just like she does. And she looks at it negatively, but I don't think he does. Right.
Michael: and then it was the grass is always greener thing.
Jimmy: Yeah, you could read it either way. Certainly. It is definitely. In the last panel, Lucy puts the two together and figures that life isn't always greener on the other side of the fence. But I think Linus might just be engaging in the conversation. And then it's Lucy looking at Linus and what a disappointment he is to her.
Harold: That triggers I remember this strip as a little kid reading it, and I was so young, I may have been seven years old or whatever, reading it, and I remember that this idea was new to me, what Lucy was saying. They're like, wow, that's really cool. And then what Linus said, I thought, well, that's really cool, too. So, yeah, I had this visceral memory of this strip, and I really loved it as a kid because it actually gave me an insight I didn't have. And the other thing about the strip is, look at the consistency of Schulz's drawing of Linus in those first two panels with his thumbsucking pose, holding the blanket. It's mind boggling. He's just got this pose perfectly, and it's like it's not a photocopy or anything, but it's just so consistent.
Michael: Well, now I'm looking to see if it is.
Harold: It's like, with those puzzles, like, what's different in this picture kind of thing.
Michael: He could have traced it.
Harold: a couple of clues,
Michael but he's so fast. It'd probably be faster just to do it again.
Harold: Yeah, probably. And then he just keeps doing it. Well, he has it, like, six times in the strip, but yeah, it's a gorgeous strip. And I do like to see this side of Lucy, and I think it's it's sad and and funny and, that that she does go to this place, and Linus is just one step beyond her and takes it away from her.
May 20, 1968. Lucy is behind a booth, but this time, it's not a psychiatry booth. She's selling goop for five cents. Charlie Brown walks up, reaches in his pocket, and says, “I'll take a bowl, please.” Then he eats it up, saying, “that's pretty good goop.” Lucy says “thank you.” Charlie Brown walks away, saying to himself, “Actually, it was only fair, but where else can you get a bowl of goop for five cents?”
Michael: Any theories on what goop is?
Jimmy: My mix when I was a kid was, marshmallow fluff, peanut butter stirred up till it was like, a Khaki beige and then put in the freezer for about 15 seconds. That was my goop.
Jimmy: You can add toppings to taste if you want to, but I was a purist.
Harold: There was, around this time, I think this year or the previous year, they had a cookbook, Peanuts Cookbook. And it is the most basic kids cookbook I have. It's really poorly designed, but, yeah, they lost an opportunity. I also wonder why Dolly Madison never got into, like, a goop filled cupcake or something. Michael was asking, Is goop a thing for a long time? I just remember these strips when you mentioned goop. I mean, boy, that just took me back to my childhood. in reading Peanuts, I just vaguely remembered that the goop was being sold, but I hadn't seen it in years.
Jimmy: Yeah, I mean, I don't remember it being a thing outside of Peanuts, like, hey, you want to make some Goop?
Harold: But does it last longer than this little series? Does it go into the 70s?
Jimmy: It might come out once in a while, but no. If I were betting, I would bet.
Harold: This is the last one of the last ones.
Jimmy: The very last ones. Obviously, Lucy is using her own proprietary, recipe, though, because my goop needs refrigeration.
Harold: Maybe hers does, too. That's the problem.
Jimmy: That's right. Yeah. You got to pay a quarter for the goop that won’t…
Harold: It’s past it’s sell by
June 15, 1968. Charlie Brown's watching TV. Sally comes up behind him and says, “I decided something.” She continues, “I decided to become a nurse when I grow up.” Charlie Brown, going back to looking at the TV, says, “how did you happen to decide that?” Sally says, “I like white shoes.”
Michael: It's perfectly valid idea. I totally became a San Francisco Giants fanatic because I like their uniform.
Jimmy: The brown and orange?
Michael: No, it's the black and white.
Jimmy: Oh, that's right. Brown and orange. Sorry. I was thinking of, San Diego Padres, I guess. I don't know what I was thinking of. Actually, you know what I'm thinking of? I'm thinking of the Girardville Giants.
Michael: Most people wouldn't have known that,
Jimmy: That was my senior league team. I'm like, Wait, who had the brown and orange uniform? That were the giants. That was me.
Jimmy: Unpacking Jimmy Gownley. That's going to be a different podcast entirely.
June 16, 1968. We see our new pal Peppermint Patty, who's thinking as she's clearly about to, write a little letter to someone. And her pal and our old pal Roy comes up to see what she's doing. Patty writes, “Happy Father's Day from your rare gem.” Then Patty says to Roy, “hi, Roy. I suppose you're wondering what I'm doing.” She continues, “I've just made my dad a handmade Father's Day card. Every now and then, my dad says to me, Peppermint Patty, do you know what you are? And I always say, no. Then he says to me, you are a rare gem. And we both laugh.” Patty continues as Roy watches. “So you see, I've made a card for him. Happy Father's Day from your rare gem.” And she holds it up very proudly, and she walks away. And Roy says, “that's very nice.” Patty says “thank you. I'll put it on top of his dresser where he'll see it.” Peppermint Patty does just that. Then she walks away saying, “actually, anyone who gives his dad a Father's Day card is a rare gem.”
Jimmy: That's really sweet.
Harold: And this is the first of the rare gems. So this is a--
Jimmy: big deal.
Michael: It's a rare gem.
Jimmy: One of the things I think that's so wild about this is that Peppermint Patty, as we find out more and more about her, is living a much more, hard, knock life than the other guys in this strip. But she is really sweet, positive, and happy and seems to really like her life, which is really refreshing in Peanuts or in life, really.
Michael: This is also the very, very rare Sunday without, any of the main cast.
Michael: I mean, she becomes part of the main cast. But I think we've only seen her in context, the camp strips and the baseball. So this is definitely one of the first ones where she's kind of the central focus.
Jimmy: Yeah. It really speaks to Schulz's confidence and affection for the character. I think that he gives her and Roy really, for that matter, a Sunday page.
Harold: Yeah. And the term rare gem, it's formal and slightly awkward. and really sweet.
Harold: So it just gives you this little hint as to who her dad might be. I had forgotten about this. I called Diane Gem. So I'm wondering if this is a memory that I have, a fond memory I have from Peanuts that say, hey, that's a good term for someone you really love.
Michael: She's wearing sandals.
Jimmy: Well, are there many cartoon characters that you see running around wearing sandals? You really don't. And it's such a 60s California field to me.
Harold: Yeah. And the fact that there's because they're.
Jimmy: Really like flip flops.
Harold: Well, there's nothing between the it looks like between the big toe and the second toe. So those are really hanging on there lightly. And I love Roy's design.
Jimmy: Clearly, I ripped it off for Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up.
Harold: That hair, with the kind of white around the edges of the curls, I think is just fantastic design. And his Hawaiian shirt’s not so bad...
Michael: But he essentially is Charlie Brown. If you look at the second tier.
Jimmy: If you look at that second tier Charlie Brown.
Jimmy: That ah, is amazing
Harold: if Charlie Brown were always perpetually at summer camp. That's Roy.
Jimmy: Yeah, that's right. Roy is hardcore. He's not not getting rid of the hat or anything. That's 365,
July 7, 1968. Charlie Brown is looking for some help at the old psychiatric booth. Lucy with feet up on the booth says, “okay, what's your problem?” Charlie Brown says “tomorrow.” He continues, “I find myself always worrying about tomorrow. Then when tomorrow becomes today, I start worrying about tomorrow again. I guess I'm just afraid to face the future.” Charlie Brown is standing up and looking into the distance as he says this. Lucy from behind the psychiatry booth says, “I think it can help you, Charlie Brown.” Then she's out, and she's actually manhandling Charlie Brown and saying, “now the first thing you have to do is turn around.” And she turns him around, and then she says, “the future is over this way. There, that's better.” Now, with Charlie Brown facing that direction and Lucy behind him, she says, “now the next thing is your posture. If you're going to face the future, you've got to do it with your chest out.” Lucy continues, “that's the way. Throw out your chest and face the future. Now raise your arm and clench your fist. That's right. Now look determined.” Charlie Brown is doing this, except his face is exactly as impassive as it was at the beginning of all this. But, then in the next panel, he goes all in, and he has a fierce, determined look on his face, and his fist is raised. And Lucy says, “well, I think I know why you're afraid to face the future.” Charlie Brown holding the pose says “why?” Lucy says “you look ridiculous.”
Michael: Is she being honest, or is she just being nasty? Did she--
Jimmy: I think this is payback for if you grit your teeth and show fire in your eye and show a firm jaw? I think she's that's stuck in her brain. She's like, okay, when I have a moment, I'm going to make him do something just as ridiculous.
Harold: Look at that last panel. It's hard to find a more sincere looking Lucy than that kind of you look ridiculous. A little dazed like that's rough, but I guess is this, Lucy's own personal, approach to the future? She's just passing it on. Doesn't work for Charlie Brown.
Jimmy: No, I think Lucy doesn't take any of her own advice or I don't think at all. I think it's all just for you to do. And then Lucy is going to do what she wants to do.
July 24, 1968. Charlie Brown's up on top of the pitcher's mound, and Schroeder is coming out to visit him, except Charlie Brown is balanced on the top of his head, and his hat is on his feet. Schroeder, looking up at the hat on Charlie Brown's feet, says, “that first guy got a hit, Charlie Brown, but don't let it bother you.” Charlie Brown says, “I'm upside down.” Schroeder walks away saying, “just keeps throwing him in there.” Charlie Brown says, “I'm upside down.” And in the last panel, Charlie Brown, in the exact same position, says, “I'm upside down.”
Harold: Just by himself on the mound.
Michael: This actually goes on for a week. And I think there's, like, three examples of sequences that just repeat the thing over and over again. Like the gag, like the Snoopy kicking everybody.
Harold: So is Schroeder just being polite, not wanting to mention it, or is he just not noticing that Charlie Brown's head is …
Jimmy: I think Schroeder is just blasé. This is just another thing that happens on this terrible baseball team. All right, the pitcher is upside down. We don't need to even discuss it, really. I don't know why. I know why. Because it's Charlie Brown's balanced on top of his head. I find that just hilariously funny. And what a weird thing to draw for. Well, not for four panels, like Michael said, for 20 panels or whatever it is.
Harold: Yeah. And again, do you think this is he this was just a doodle?
Harold: I mean, build something around--
Michael: Yeah with the hat on his feet.
Jimmy: Yeah, the hat on the feet is really what sells it. It's such a strange drawing.
Michael: Looking at my notes, something unusual happened a couple of weeks ago or months ago in the strip and, I didn't pick that one. But there's a strip, a sequence in March that he introduces three named new characters, which is something he doesn't do. But there are these three, girls, Sophie, Clara, and Shirley.
Jimmy: Oh, right.
Michael: And they appear in a couple of strips, and then they're gone. So I don't even know how to categorize them as when we get to the--
Harold: Cause one of them looks like Marcie. Right?
Michael: I thought it was Marcie.
Jimmy: Well, yes, she is obviously like the prototype Marcie. She's officially not Marcie when, you look in the index and all that kind of stuff. But yeah, I mean, that design is dead on Marcie, except for the eyeballs.
Michael: But it is strange because he hasn't done this. I mean, he said, Charlotte Braun, who apparently wasn't getting good feedback, and he dumped her. But these three, I think he needed them for a couple of jokes, and it's just unusual he gave him names.
Jimmy: Because the one thing he probably doesn't need to do is add a lot more characters. Because it seems like when he adds a character, he really wants to make it count. It's got to have a component. It's bringing a tone or a flavor that he doesn't have yet. So just adding a bunch of random I'm thinking hoping to develop them into something isn't going to be super fruitful for him.
Michael: So maybe on the tier list, we need to add a, guest star category. Just one shot.
Harold: He's using those characters to, I think, flesh out Peppermint Patty's, I don't know, her leadership and her, just her general demeanor toward other kids. it's interesting now that they have nothing to do with the other world. again, that goes back to his, I think his confidence with that character, that he's more than happy for her to live on her own.
Jimmy: Yeah. And it really does feel like you could right, off the bat here, launch a Peppermint Patty and it would be successful.
Harold: That's at least a Rhoda or a Ropers.
Jimmy: I hope it's better than the Ropers. By the way, if you are a television fan out there and you think, wow, this is really peak TV. No, you don't know what we had in the got to go on YouTube and just watch the Ropers.
Harold: The opening, ugh
Jimmy: you will never be the same. Is it one of the most--it's so terrifying for something.
Harold: It is.
Jimmy: When Norman Fell is dancing with his plunger?
Harold: No. And if you really want to go into the depths of television sitcoms in North America, look up The Trouble with Tracy, which was a Canadian sitcom that was a daily sitcom. So you can tell that the writing is going to be really sharp. They took old radio, shows from, like, years earlier and just kind of revamped them. And the opening to that is oh, it's hilarious. And cringy, and it's classic 1970s had come.
Jimmy: Well, I have to say, I think a Peppermint Patty, strip would be better than both of those.
Harold: I want to give you that. Yeah. At least the Ropers.
Jimmy: Yes, at least the Ropers.
July 30, 1968. Charlie Brown is at the beach because that's how it is in Hennepin California. And he yells, “My beach ball.” And then he's yelling out at the sea. And Sally and the most adorable little two piece toddler suit comes up behind him. And Charlie Brown says, “you let my beach ball get away. It's gone. That ball will float clear to Hawaii.” Then he turns and yells at Sally and says, “what do you have to say for yourself?” Sally says “aloha?”
Harold: Yeah. Where's it going to float to? Michigan?
Jimmy: Yes. Now, this is, setting, up a really important moment in Peanuts and comics and, pop culture history of the 20th century, this little strip to the beach because Charlie Brown, is very concerned. He seems to have lost his beach ball. But lo and behold, in the very next day,
July 30, 1968, a little boy comes up to Charlie Brown holding a beach ball. As Charlie Brown looks out at the sea, looking very forlorn, the little boy says, “Is this your beach ball?” But this is a very special little boy. This is Franklin, the first ever African American character in Peanuts and one of, if not the first non stereotypical African American character really in comics. Charlie Brown is delighted to see in panel two that his beach ball has returned. And he says, “hey. Yeah. Thank you very much.” Franklin says, “I was swimming out there, and it came floating by.” Charlie Brown is holding the beach ball as the two new friends walk along the beach. And he says, “My silly sister threw it into the water.” Franklin says, “I see you're making a sandcastle.” We see that too. A little mishapen lump in the foreground. Franklin kneels by it and says, “It looks kind of crooked.” Charlie Brown says, “I guess maybe it is. Where I come from, I'm not famous for doing things right.”
Michael: Probably the first in comic strips. Yeah. And there aren't too many examples in comic books. But I do know that, Gabriel Jones, one of the Howling Commandos from Sergeant Fury, was, I think, the first non stereotyped black character in regular comics.
Harold: What year would that be?
Michael: Well, probably around 64, maybe 63, 64. But definitely before this year.
Jimmy: there was-- Black Panther came out in 1966 in Marvel comics. And listen, here we are. full disclosure. My name is Jimmy Gownley. I'm as white as they come. I look like I’m made of pizza dough. My two pals and our producer, also white as the driven snow. So I know that nobody necessarily needs to hear our takes on all this. But the process by which Franklin came about is this is sort of the basic Wikipedia style version of, what happened.
Comic strips, like everything else in American media and most of American culture, was really segregated. And in the 1960s, the United States was going through a really intense period of civil unrest over the issue of civil rights, integrating schools, trying to stop the whole process of having African Americans be second class citizens. And it got violent and it was rough. What happened, in the summer of 1968, or the spring rather, of 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated, famously in April. And a reader wrote to Charles Schulz, just two weeks after King was assassinated. And this person was a school teacher. Her name was Harriet Glickman. She was not African American. She's just a white lady teacher. But she wrote to Schulz and said, you should introduce a black character into Peanuts. And Schulz wrote back and said, I don't think I want to do that, because I think it'll come off as patronizing, et cetera. I don't know anything about the African American experience. These are all the sort of things any writer, says when they're sort of being forced to maybe confront, something that's a little bit lacking in their own work. At least this is how I would take it. I would push back at first until I realized that the person was right.
So if you want to read the entire correspondence between Schulz and, Ms. Glickman, it's reprinted in Only What's Necessary, the book edited by Chip Kidd. And it's really interesting because eventually Schulz does give in and he thinks it is a good idea, and he creates this character, Franklin. And it, of course, has blowback, like any forward movement always does. And, Schulz talks about editors writing, saying, specifically saying, and it was, of course, from the American South that said, I don't mind you having a black character in the strip. Don't show him in school with the white kids. To which I'm sure he just threw that in the waste paper basket and did what he wanted to do. But it's a small movement. It's a small movement in the right direction, but it's a forward step. And I think we always in moments of great difficulty, whether it's personally, whether it's with our society, whatever, we always kind of hope that our heroes will do the right thing. And so often we're disappointed. He did the right thing. It is not worth a medal. We don't need to erect a statue for him. But he did the right thing, and I'm really proud of him for doing it.
Michael: I get the feeling now this is sort of getting to the point where I kind of lost track of Peanuts for a while. So I don't know how Franklin developed, but my impression is that Schulz was kind of being super careful about the character to the point where he didn't allow Franklin to be funny or ridiculous.
Harold: Well, and I think that's part of the strip as well. It's not just Franklin, but we're seeing a little bit more, of characters who are, I think a, little better balanced than the neurotic characters that are typically in Peanuts. And I kind of like that. We see it in Franklin, we see it in Roy, to some extent on this early Peppermint Patty. We've been talking about that how she's doing pretty well for herself. And it balances the strip in a certain way. And it brings out, an aspect of Charlie Brown as well, where you get a sense that they're not in the same neighborhood, but when they meet up, there's a friendship and a respect, between the two of them that it's a side of Charlie Brown that we haven't seen as much of, where he's he's actually kind of okay,
Michael: Tell me if he develops more, because, he's sort of taking the place of Shermy who's getting phased out as sort of a non offensive character who's fairly neutral. I mean, he's not the butt of the jokes, he's not making fun of other people. Does Franklin develop into a standalone character with a strong personality?
Jimmy: Not to the extent of someone like Peppermint Patty. But yeah, as it goes on, you start seeing little things about Franklin's family just from what he talks about. Like his dad's a Vietnam vet, which is really interesting. And I think that's something that probably wanted to honor because he himself was a vet. He probably felt bad for the vets that were coming home and anyone with eyes could see were struggling. You see him later spending a lot of time with Charlie Brown at the Wall talking about his grandfather. So, what I get the feeling from Franklin is Franklin is a smart, stable kid that's very invested in his home life. That's how I feel about Franklin going forward.
Michael: But he's not a comedy character as much as--
Jimmy: No, I mean, you're not going to find him in slapstick, certainly. And I do think that's probably Schulz is trying to err on the side of caution. And again, he's out here on the edge doing something no one's done before. So proceeding with caution is smart.
Michael: Yeah, that's the feeling I get.
Harold: Yeah. He's certainly not a non entity. Like you're saying. He's definitely a strong, grounded character. And you get that sense from the very first strip, and that stays all the way through. he's a likable character in this world that has some of some extremes, and he's not in the extreme as a character. But I like the grounding. I like the grounding that these new characters are bringing to the strip.
Jimmy: At this point from, just a pure technical exercise, trying in this unbelievably spare Schulz style, doing an African American skin tone is a challenge and that he does it with just a sort of rainfall stroke. Now, in this very first appearance of, Franklin, it's a little too much, and I'm sure it printed darker and, sort of muddy, but that's a really good technique. It's a hard thing to do in black and white. Jaime Hernandez is a genius at doing it because he doesn't need to indicate skin tone because he's such a great artist. It's just there in the three lines he puts on here. But in something like this, if you weren't able to indicate skin tone, he would look like Roy. But he does a good job. It looks great.
Harold: Yeah. I was, a friend of mine, Paul Castiglia had pointed me, a week or so ago to a conversation between two African American cartoonists who were talking about that shading. One of them said he was a little uncomfortable with it, because it was too reminiscent of Pig Pen.
Harold: And the other guy was like, well, what's he going to do? I mean, he's not using Zipatone at this point in his career. How is he going to do this? And he didn't have an issue with it, but it was interesting to hear that conversation.
Jimmy: All right, so how about we take a break, and then we come back to finish up the year while we're gone. What I want you guys to do is to remember that you can visit our website, UnpackingPeanuts.com, and you can send us an email. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram or at UnpackPeanuts. And, the other thing you can do is if you go to the Unpacking Peanuts, website, you can sign up for our newsletter. And if you get that it comes once a month, Harold designs a lovely newsletter for you, and it'll tell you what comics we're going to be covering, before we get there. So you'll have a letter and you'll be able to read ahead. So while we're doing, our little break, you guys do that, and we'll see you on the other side.
VO: Hi, everyone. You've heard us rave about the Esterbrook Radio 914. And what episode would be complete without mention of the Fab Four. Now you can wear our obsessions proudly with Unpacking Peanuts T shirts. We have a brand new Be of Good Cheer Pen NIB design, along with the four of us crossing Abbey Road, and of course, Michael, Jimmy, and Harold at the Thinking Wall. Collect them all, trade them with your friends. Order your T shirts today at Unpacking Peanuts.Com/store.
Jimmy: And we're back.
August 5, 1968. Snoopy, in a pair of swimming trunks, is running somewhere, and he looks just so happy doing it. In panel two, we see where Snoopy is running, too. it's a tiny little children's inflatable pool, which is already filled, with both Lucy and good old original Patty. Snoopy is in midair, ready to do a swan dive into it when Lucy yells, “oh, no, you don't.” And in the next panel, we see Snoopy in the exact same position, still in midair. Does a 180 away from the pool. And in the last panel, we see him sitting on the ground, and he says, “how did I do that?”
Michael: This is kind of postmodern. I don't know what to make of this strip.
Jimmy: Well, I am here to listen, to you try to make sense of it. So go.
Michael: Did it happen, or is this a dream? This is like a dream.
Jimmy: I think it happened. I like Snoopy's little, tousled hairs in the last panel. And I also like the first panel. I would have a t shirt.
Harold: I was just thinking that licensees. If you're looking for a Snoopy to put on, some Merch, that is a really great Snoopy, drawing him running in his little swim trunks with a smile on his face, his ears flying....
Jimmy: That would look great on a surfboard.
Harold: Michael, what do you think about him floating over the ground there? He's got such a run that he's a good foot off.
Michael: Well, you could be kind of bouncing a little bit.
Michael: I just don't know. Is this, like the helicopter strip, or is this something completely different?
Harold: Yeah, I think Wiley Coyote, when I see stuff like this, it's that style of humor.
Jimmy: Well, I think it is. Deadlines. No, I don't think it's even bad. It's like, is this good? It's good enough. When we worked in TV, the assistant news director had, a great saying on a really particularly rough project because it had to be in at 05:00. This show was going on whether you were finished with whatever you're working on or not. And his quote was always, it's better than good. It's done.
Harold: I think this strip is a genius strip. It looks like he's just dashed it off here, but it's almost symmetrical. It's not that I don't it's like the strip is symmetrical because you got Snoopy by himself on the panel one and four, and Snoopy has flipped in panels two and three. He's like a little mirror version of him, and it's just visually it's it's fantastic.
Jimmy: No, I don't-- I love this strip.
Harold: I think it's beautiful.
Jimmy: What I mean by that is that he's not sitting thinking about, what does this mean for the world of Peanuts? Can Snoopy now fly and change direction?
Harold: Well, I think that's also in panel three, he's gotten a little more air than in panel two. That's impressive, too.
Jimmy: Yeah. Okay, I have a question for Mic-- here's a new segment where we unpack Michael. All right, here's my question. Did you always feel that you wanted that consistency of the universe across the board in the stuff when you were a kid? Because, for example, like, the Hulk, those early Hulk issues, they make no sense most Marvel Comics, right. But did that-- I guess I'm asking you, what is the sweet spot of allowing the fantasy gibberish to go versus where you have to say, this makes no sense?
Michael: The sweet spot has got to be like 16, where suddenly your brain is developed enough to go like, this is insane, this makes no sense. Before that you buy anything.
Jimmy: I actually think I reversed that. I came to accept more absurd stuff as entertaining and enjoyable the older I got. I don't know why that is, but.
Michael: I don’t know. I’ve made a more recent attempt to go back and reread the comics that I worshiped. And how did I not see the holes in these plots? Or just utterly ridiculous, really. The little wings on submariner's feet. You just accept these things.
Jimmy: I saw the trailer for Black Panther 2, with the Submariner flying around. I was like, absolutely, there's no way I can watch that. It's so stupid. Yeah, I don't know. Of course, works as a gestalt, especially when you're a kid.
Michael: But, Peanuts has had enough. If this happened in Mary Worth, then yeah, you question it. But there's been enough of this kind of stuff going on that you have to go like, okay, this is not reality.
Jimmy: It is really where I actually recently went back and read a bunch of comics on one of the I won't say which company it is, but one of the apps you can get and you can read all their stuff. And one of my favorite writers as a little boy, I didn't realize he was just ripping off Lee Kirby plots. And the whole style was just wholesale from that.
August 6, 1968. Snoopy is asleep at night. Well, he's not asleep actually. He's wide awake at night on top of his house. And we see that for three straight panels. then he looks up and says to no one in particular, or thinks to no one in particular, how come you never hear anyone sing Chloe anymore?
Jimmy: Well, this has got to be an obscurity.
Michael: This is a real obscurity, because I'm pretty well versed on the history of American pop music going back to the turn of the century. I've never heard this song.
VO: Peanuts obscurities explained.
Harold: This was a very popular song, in its day. They say 1927. It was written by Charles Daniels and Gus Kahn,
Michael: Gus Kahn!
Harold: for a Broadway show called Africana, which was originally for Ethel Waters to sing. And it's about this person searching for Chloe in some swampland. And there are lots of recordings that came out in 1927 and 1928, and it continued to be recorded through the years. they say it was played a lot on the radio in the depression era, because it was just, it had a different sound to it. It's kind of got a slow, haunting flavor to it that was unique in pop music at the time. But as far as the question, I mean, it was recorded by loads of people. Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Art Tatum. the Everly brothers did it in 1961. Louis Armstrong did a version, 1952. So it had a long history, and it just was a very it was a very unique pop standard that that stood out. But I think one of the reasons why maybe it didn't get played as much, it's only a theory, is the most popular recording of it came out in 1945. It was done as a parody when Spike Jones and his city slickers did a crazy version of it. So, I don't know how many people had that in their head.
Jimmy: That might have killed it?
Harold: Yeah. When you parody something is really, really well, or it's just the most popular thing, more popular than the song itself after a while. Maybe, that makes it go away for a while. It was such a popular song that 1934. There is a movie, that's roughly based on the song called Chloe Love Is Calling You. It's a super low budget film, actually, in honor of the strip. I went back and watched it last week. It's terrible. Oh, it's terrible. Starring a silent movie star, called Olive Borden.
Michael: I know Olive Borden.
Harold: you know Olive? This is toward the end of her career.
Liz:: Did you draw Olive?
Michael: No. I drew another Olive, but not that Olive.
Jimmy: Michael, by the way, does gorgeous color pencil and charcoal drawings of silent movie actresses. And if you ever can see them, where can people see those lists? Because they're gorgeous.
Harold: Yeah, I haven't seen these.
Liz: We'll put them on the website.
Jimmy: We'll put them on the website. Go to the website and check them out there.
Harold: Excellent. and for jazz standards.com, which of authoritative source says, it's ranked 441 of the history of jazz standards. So it it's in there.
Jimmy: All you Unpacking Peanuts listeners, we need to get this to chart again.
Jimmy: Everybody-- But we have to find one version because if we just all willy nilly download different versions, it won't matter.
Liz: Let's do the Spike Jones.
Michael: Can we do a polka version?
Jimmy: Well, yeah, I'll tell you what. I'm going to do some research this week. I'll find the best version of Chloe, and then we'll all try to download m it next week and see if we can get it to chart
Michael: It’s public domain. We can make a fortune on this.
Harold: And remember, don't listen to the Spike Jones version first.
Jimmy: Don't. Yes. Wait until you get my orders and then we will download the correct--
Harold: But yeah Snoopy, that's the best we could do to answer your question.
August 10, 1968. It's night. Snoopy and Linus are outside. Snoopy looks very nervous. He says, “these secret missions are spooky.” I just love that Linus has Snoopy out on a secret mission. In the next panel, we see nothing but Snoopy's eyes illuminated in the darkness. He continues thinking to himself, “where are we I can't see a thing. I can hear someone breathing. Where are we? What's going on?” Then in panel three, we see the lights are on, the gang's all here, and they're all yelling happy birthday to Snoopy. And we see Violet, Patty, Shermy, Frieda, Lucy, and Charlie Brown. And of course, we don't see Linus, but he let him in. So he's off panel and they're all yelling “Happy birthday.” And then in the last panel and we see Snoopy all misty eyed in front of a birthday cake. And he thinks to himself, “well, I'll be a brown eyed beagle,” which is a weird thing to think to oneself.
Michael: I don't actually understand that.
Jimmy: I don't get that. Is that an obscurity Harold, or is that just a weird?
Harold: Now, we know Snoopy's birthday is August 10, right?
Jimmy: When did Brown Eyed Girl come out?
Harold: Yeah, no, I don't know if then after you have to go then every one 7th of the month in dog years to see where his birthdays fall.
Michael: Yeah, and he's nine years old, according to the candles.
Jimmy: Oh, you're right. I only knew this was his birthday because, William Pepper posted it on Twitter. William Pepper, host of It's A Podcast. Charlie Brown. So that's how I found out. Hey, but you know what? Here we are. August 10. I'd, like to point out there is Shermy. And check out that hair.
VO: Let's check the Shermometer, Charlie Brown
Jimmy: He is positively shaggy, which means that now he's a rocker in 1968. Shermy is a shaggy. Cool, straggling, cynical, philosophical, history loving, empathetic, aggressive, compassionate, patient, pedantic, knowledgeable, emotional, good listening, vain, friendly, hypocrite. The character that was once slammed for having no personality. Now we've uncovered he has all of that. It was always there.
Harold: Is this his last speaking part?
Jimmy: He has another appearance next year and then he gets called out once.
Harold: But the last thing we hear him say is happy birthday in the strip. Is that fair to say?
Jimmy: I don't know. I haven't read ahead yet. And I haven't read 1969 in a long time, so I'm not sure that's.
Harold: Not a bad way to go out, if that's the last thing you said.
Jimmy: No, he’s certainly happy.
Harold: I do love the icing on that cake. It looks delicious. I'm assuming it's vanilla. white icing.
Jimmy: Yes, exactly. With little flowers iced all around it.
Harold: We can only assume.
Michael: How about that Frank Miller rip off on panel two?
Jimmy: All of Sin City comes from panel two.
Harold: Either that or Wally Wood. I don't know. How many candles did you read on here Michael?
Michael: it looks like nine to me. You might have a bit better look at it.
Jimmy: Yeah, I count nine, too.
Michael: So he's nine, which would account for the missing years of his life, which we're about to get into.
Jimmy: okay, so we are in the middle of, another sequence, but I'll just read this one and then we can describe it to you on the other side.
August 24, 1968. Snoopy is standing in front of, some steps, and he has his supper dish on his head, which is always a sign that he's off on travel. He thinks to himself, “wow, what a big hospital.” Then he's walking down one of the hospital corridors and he thinks, “if any of the nurses catch me, they'll kill me. They hate beagles and hospitals.” Then in panel three, we see a, tiny little Snoopy snout, peeking in one of the hospital rooms and thinking, “Lila.” and there she is. It's a little girl with a bow in her hair, a little headband in. And she says,”Snoopy.” And Snoopy walks up with a smile on his face and his eyes closed, and he says, “Hi, sweetie.”
Michael: Well, he thinks hi, sweetie.
Jimmy: He thinks, Hi, sweetie. I always get those. it's tough to remember that. Yeah.
Michael: Now, this sequence leads you to believe that it's a dog, because he gets letters from her. And he said, obviously he had deep feelings for her and broke his heart. But you find out it's a girl, a little girl here.
Harold: Do you think that maybe Schulz got some correspondence on this? Because I think it was the Valentine's Day strip. Snoopy's going through all of the letters he's gotten, and he's reading off as Charlie Brown is angry. He hasn't gotten anything. And Snoopy's gotten endless cards from all these different, girls, and he's ripping through them. One from this person, this person, this person. One from Lila. And Charlie Brown yells, you didn't get a card from Lila. And I'm wondering if people wrote in and said, who's? Lila? And Schulz thought, Hmmm.
Jimmy: I'm so glad you said that. I think that's exactly what happened because--
Harold: This is six months later, so he would have had some time to think about it. And for those animation fans, for Peanuts. This sequence was the basis of a movie that came out four years later in August of 72, called Snoopy Come Home, which I have a really fond memory of. I was five years old, and I remember we were living in Rochester, New York, at the time. And, we went to Toronto. And I remember kind of being dragged along as five year olds are in family strips. I was the youngest, in the family and just kind of not knowing what's going on, other than I'm in a new country for the first time. And, we turned the corner on this sidewalk in this big downtown block, and there was a gigantic marquee said Snoopy Come Home and they were taking me there. And I didn't remember. That's the one memory I have as a kid, as being like the little one who got the special thing done for me, not on a birthday.
Jimmy: Well, that's beautiful. I have a very similar memory of my dad taking me to as a surprise to see Star Wars with my cousin and, when I was five, and yeah, I mean, it meant so much to me. I mentioned it in his eulogy 40 years later. So those things that happen when you're a kid, they just stick with you and they feel so good, and it's amazing. I'm sure it's amazing. It was amazing for someone like Schulz to know that he was having that impact.
Jimmy: Literally millions and millions of kids. I too loved Snoopy Come Home when I was a kid. I saw-- I was born in 1972, and I saw it also when I was five years old. But I thought it was brand new. I didn't know it was a rerelease. And I was, like, shaken up. I thought, well, this is it. Snoopy's leaving Charlie Brown and he's never come. I was really heavily invested in the whole thing.
Michael: I have a theory.
Harold: What's that?
Michael: My theory is that, your entire life is shaped by the first movie you actually saw in a theater.
Jimmy: Wow. Okay, well, let's go down this. What were your guys?
Harold: Oh, wow. That's a good one. That's cool.
Michael: Music and cartoons.
Jimmy: Cartoon and art. Wow, that's beautiful. All right, Liz, what about you?
Liz: Gone With the Wind.
Michael: See romance. Passionate romance. Absolutely.
Jimmy: Also huge plantational owner Liz got that out.
Harold: I think, in the womb it was Snow White and the 7 Dwarves.
Michael: womb doesn’t count
Harold: And the first one I saw as a child, I think, was Heidi.
Michael: Absolutely. That nails Harold completely.
Jimmy: That really is
Harold: shapes me to my very core.
Jimmy: Yeah. Mine was Taxi Driver.
Michael: What? I missed that.
Liz: He said Taxi Driver
Michael: Yeah, there you go. Jimmy is actually a serial killer.
Jimmy: No, my first one was Snow White.
Harold: Wow, really?
Michael: There you go.
Harold: So they've done like, a musical of Taxi Driver for the middle school set, like Taxi Driver Junior. It's like a 20 minutes play here.
September 1, 1968. Snoopy is, a great drawing of Snoopy climbing and peeking over a hedge, Kilroy style. Then he walks away from it saying, “Rats. What a dumb thing to do.” Now we see Snoopy and Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown says, you threw your supper dish into the next yard. Now he's very-- acting very accusatory towards Snoopy. He's saying “Ha. And now you can't get it because you're afraid of the neighbor's cat.” Charlie Brown in adult mode says, “well, it serves you right.” Snoopy thinks to himself, “oh, good grief, here it comes, the lecture.” And here indeed it does come. Charlie Brown continues ranting. You were mad because I gave you cat food, and now your temper has gotten you into trouble, hasn't it?” Snoopy thinks to himself with a roll of eyes, “I can't stand these lectures. Every time you do something wrong, you have to listen to a lecture.” Charlie Brown, “it just doesn't pay to lose your temper. Self control is a sign of maturity. Temper is” Snoopy “lecture, lecture, lecture.” And Snoopy walks away annoyed. “I can't stand it. I'd rather face that stupid cat than another lecture.” He walks up to the hedge, a look of fierce determination on his face, and he thinks, “I'll just climb over this hedge and get my supper dish back.” He's doing just that. “I'll just go right up to that stupid cat and say, ‘unhand my supper dish, you stupid cat’.” And then he's standing on top of the hedge and he thinks, “and that stupid cat will kill me.” Now he's back at Charlie Brown's side and he thinks to himself, “I can stand the lecture.”
Michael: There's something interesting about this strip, and that is it's a Sunday strip that continues the plot of the daily, which I don’t think--
Jimmy: unbelievably rare, if not like unique.
Harold: Well, remember the golfing episode? And I just realized for the first time that that Snoopy, thinks words and speaks punctuation marks. So he's got a little exclamation point, but it's actually got a talking balloon off next to him.
Michael: You can have emphatic thoughts.
Jimmy: I like that he's using unnecessary quotation marks around the lecture, even in his mind.
Harold: I just love that little drawing of Charlie Brown with his arms spread out as he's talking into ah, the air. And Snoopy's point in the other direction, going lecture, lecture, lecture.
Jimmy: Well, I think it's easy to sort of forget to even mention how great all the art is all the time. But I love Snoopy climbing the hedge. I love that drawing a Charlie Brown with the arms crossed and that look on his face.
Harold: Yeah, the second tier on the right. Yeah, the eye roll is fantastic.
Jimmy: That's what I was going to say.
Harold: This is so iconic. I mean, you look at these again, I think of them in terms of could this go on a wall? Could this go on a t shirt? And it's like so many of these drawings would be people would love to have this represented somehow. It's just something that gives them a smile or makes them, feel good and they want to have it on the he's in an amazing place right now, by the way, you could.
Jimmy: Go to Go comics.com and actually buy all of these. Every strip, I think, is a print if you wanted it.
September 7, 1968. Snoopy is very excited atop his dog house. And he thinks, “ah, here comes the waiter with my meal.” Then he contemplates something to himself. He thinks, “I must think of some nice way to show my appreciation.” In, panel three, we see Charlie Brown, who has approached with the supper dish. And Snoopy gives him a big old kiss on the nose. Smack. Charlie Brown walks away frustrated, embarrassed and annoyed, and thinks, “that wasn't it.”
Michael: Boy, he really reads minds, doesn't he?
Harold: Well, this is the thing I wanted to bring up. This is something in Peanuts that where one character begins a thought and a second character independently finishes the thought but couldn't have known what that thought is. Anyone ever done this other than Schulz? And is there a term for it, or could we make a term for this idea that one character is thinking something, but the other character somehow knows what the other character is thinking? I was suggesting maybe something called character omniscience or something like that.
Michael: I think there’s probably a good German word for it.
Jimmy: Well, I always say grok, which comes from Heinlein, which just means, like, you somehow intuit the meaning.
Harold: the fact that Schulz has said that wasn't it. And he's either looking back at Snoopy or kind of looking at us. And it's that idea that, again, there's something going on that's transcendent in this strip that is not normal life that I think is kind of exhilarating. And this is a great example of it that the characters are somehow in tune with each other on this level that normally you wouldn't see in literature or a comic strip.
Jimmy: Well, and to try to tie it because I'm one of these, all I have is a hammer so everything looks like a nail. People so like to tie it in with my Schulz as a character in the strip theory, it has this element of meta fiction or postmodernism to it always Peanuts, right. To Schroeder saying he wants to get transferred to a new strip. Your eyes look like india ink, whatever. But he does that in a world that also still is real and makes its own internal sense and has its own emotional stakes. somehow his bending of the rules of what does or does not constitute reality doesn't diminish the depth, not the sincerity, but the, authenticity, I guess, of the strip.
Harold: Well, that's the transcendent thing. If you root something in a reality and then you take it to a place that doesn't exist in everyday life, well, that's a good hammer. Jimmy.
September 15, 1968. Lucy is sitting by herself. She's obviously she's got a little kit of something that she's making and she's got some thread and little pair of scissors and she's whistling to herself while she makes it with little hearts. So it must be something very special. Panel two, we see her running, from where she was going to a new place because, again, we have to cut these two panels off every Sunday. so a lot of times they don't have a lot of depth to them. But in the next panel, we see Lucy. She arrives at Schroeder's, who is playing, his piano and she says, “Look, Schroeder, love beads.” And then she puts them around Schroeder's neck and she says, “I made them especially for you.” And there is Schroeder sitting at his piano with his love beads on. “You look great.” And Lucy takes her position at the, piano and says, “my making those beads and you're wearing them indicates our love for all mankind and a personal fondness for each other.” Schroeder, annoyed, says, “what do you mean, fondness? I don't even like you.” Lucy rips the beads from Schroeder and says, “give me back those beads. I'll give them to someone who will appreciate them.” And in the last panel, we see Snoopy wearing the love beads.
Jimmy: That's pretty gauche Schroeder. I think he could have handled that better.
Harold: Yeah, well, Michael, can you give us the history of love beads and how this ties in?
Michael: You're talking to the wrong guy.
Liz: My father wore love beads.
Liz: He was cool.
Harold: Yeah, it's 1968, and we're really rocking those love beads. It's like a proto Joe Cool. I think.
Jimmy: It's really funny because it seems like just a few weeks ago, we were talking about Davy Crockett coonskin caps, and now with Snoopy wearing love beads.
Michael: Is he going to wear a Nehru jacket at some point?
Jimmy: Well, you know what? We have to find out.
October 6, 1968. Snoopy is hiding behind a little grove of birch trees, peeking out to see what's going on. He's doing the same behind a picket fence, then over a wooden plank fence in the Kilroy position. I mean, it's just the tiniest little piece of Snoopy peeking above the fence. Then he runs, hides in a bush, hops over a smaller fence, peeks around a corner, runs again, and then, boost. He punts a football and then runs away. Linus, we cut to, who's walking outside his house, and now he's looking left and right and says, “what happened to my football? It was here in the yard a minute ago, but now it's gone.” We cut to Snoopy behind the tree, thinking to himself, “the mad punter has struck again.”
Jimmy: What a weird Snoopy that last drawing is.
Michael: Yeah, that is weird.
Jimmy: That is a weird eye. He's never done that eye before.
Harold: Only since vultures. Right.
Jimmy: Well, not with the turn, though, right. The the eyeball would be going towards the snout. He doesn't usually do the vulture scowl with the eye looking the other way.
Michael: now, wait, am I confused? Is this the first mad punter, or have we done them before?
Harold: I was thinking we had seen some mad punters earlier.
Michael: And this is the return of the mad punter. Yes, after many years.
Harold: Right. Although I didn't. It was the first time we heard Snoopy do this. I see. The first appearance is November 17, 1962. So that's almost six years prior to this one. But in that one, Snoopy also says, the mad punter strikes again. So it's like, that was a thing from the very beginning that he was striking again.
Jimmy: That's a really weird drawing, too, of Snoopy peeking above that fence, where he'd just see the very top of his forehead. If you just. Took that and said, what comic strip is this and what character is it? Would you not say Snoopy I don’t think.
Harold: It was Crock. It was Crock.
Jimmy: The next to last panel, where Linus was looking left or right? That's always hard to do. The double take to just commit, to the fact that you're drawing something really strange and grotesque and know that people are going to read it as a double take.
October 13, we see a drawing, a child's drawing of a waterfall in the cabin and some trees. Real Bob Ross style scene. In panel two, we see it's Linus. He's been drawing it with his crayons. in the next panel, we see Linus continuing to draw as Lucy looks on and critiques him. Linus says, “I'm drawing a row of trees and I'm going to color them in green.” And Lucy says “that's not art.” Linus says, “I'll put a lake in front of the trees.” Lucy, “that still won't make it art.” Linus, “and by the lake, I'll draw a tiny log cabin.” Lucy, explains to Linus what her vision is while Linus looks at his drawing. She says “that's not enough. You need a waterfall and a sunset. Show the sun going down sort of orangey, and put some red streaks in the sky and have some smoke coming out of the chimney.” Linus is now working away at his drawing, with Lucy kneeling next to him. “Now put in some more trees.” She continues. “Make it a forest and have a deer standing by the waterfall. That's right.” Now Linus looks at his drawing. Lucy is standing up and she says, “now you have trees, a lake, a log cabin, a waterfall, a deer and a sunset.” She screams. “That's art!” Sending Linus flying. Then she walks away, saying, “sometimes it takes a layman to set these people straight.”
Harold: If there wasn't a Thomas Kincaid Lucy wouldn’t...
Jimmy: It's very Thomas Kincaid.
Harold: Yeah. Boy. Again, great strip from my childhood. Reminds me of a story. I don't know if I've told it before here, but, in high school, I didn't take any art courses, in high school, but I was part of the art club, which would meet after school and on Saturdays. And we were given this mural to paint, in one of the hallways of the school that was very designy, very intricate, that had been created by the art teacher who ran the club. And, I have such fond memories of that because it was Saturday morning, we were in Columbia, Missouri, and we could get KMOX radio from St. Louis and they would have like, a two hour comedy block where they play, like, Jack Benny and stand up comedy. It was just a great mix of stuff that we would just stand there and paint. But the thing I remember was in the art room in one of those gigantic metal sinks that they have only in art rooms, of course. And probably in kitchens, cafeteria kitchens. There was one of those gigantic, rounded, edge, poofy beige sponges. And, I guess it was often getting stolen by the custodial services or whatever. So she had taken a gigantic sharpie thing and written in big letters on one side, art. And so whenever we, were working on the mural, what is art? And then we'd say, Art is a sponge.
Jimmy: That's deep, man.
It is October 30, 1968. It's Great Pumpkin time. Linus and Snoopy are out in the pumpkin patch, and Linus says, “tomorrow is Halloween, Snoopy. Tomorrow night, I'll be sitting here in this sincere pumpkin patch, and I'll see the Great Pumpkin. He'll come flying through the air, and I'll be here to see him.” Linus then says to Snoopy in panel three, “isn't that exciting?” Snoopy thinks to himself, “whee.”
Michael: That's got to be the funniest thing he could put there.
Jimmy: It's so funny.
Michael: Thrillsville would have been fine, but whee is like laugh out loud.
Harold: it's so deadpan. And look at the lettering in panel two. Oh my gosh. Schulz is just like wild. I think of that early Schulz. It was so precise. He was a letterer before he was a paid cartoonist. And boy, this is a real loose.
Jimmy: You know what it reminds me of a meme I saw once, though, where it was like it was two pieces of art, and it was both pictures of a little girl with pigtails, right? And one said amateur. And it was an unbelievably, super detailed, gorgeous photorealistic drawing of a little girl with pigtails. And it said Pro. And it was just like three lines by Ward Kimball of, one of the Disney logo. And it's like, yeah, that's how he is with his lettering. He now is a letterer. I mean, it just flows out of them. And it doesn't matter that it's not on a line. It's not even remotely straight, like you would use an Ames lettering.
Well, actually, here's something I'm assuming most of our listeners don't know, and we don't need to go too far into it, but the way you would letter these things by hand is you had this thing called an Ames Lettering Guide, which is a piece of plastic with a rounded dial that you could twist. And the rounded dial portion has holes in it, so you could set it based on how you twist that dial, how far the lines will be apart. When you put your pencil in one of those holes on the circle, you drag it across a straight edge and back and forth, and it makes the guidelines for you to put your lettering in. And you letter it by hand with pencil, and you letter over that with ink. Schulz is not doing any of that here. He's probably very roughly penciling it in and then just going right with his lettering pen. No guidelines at all.
Harold: Yes. And what's interesting to me I used to be a printing broker for really short runs of comic books, so I would get a lot of artists from all different backgrounds and trying to get the books out before we had the digital era. And that was a moot point. But one of the things I noticed was often the art could be really, really good, but if the lettering was rough it would make the book look amateur. And conversely, often if the lettering was really good and the artwork was a little iffy you couldn't quite tell if you thought it was professional or not, the lettering would somehow carry you through because it just made the whole page look at intentional. With Schulz This is reversed. It's like the artwork is so perfect that when I say perfect, I don't mean clean and polished because it too has its own quirks and character at this point because he's working really fast. But I don't know, somehow the lettering being looser and freer than the actual characters at this point really works. I don't even know how to describe it or what I'm experiencing when I see it, but it just seems like it's almost like I'm experiencing something that is real. What they're saying is real. Does that make any sense? Versus if it was super polished?
Jimmy: Absolutely. Yeah. Because that goes back to that thing I heard, John Totleben say to me years ago, where it was like the line of the lettering and the line of the word balloon and the line of the drawing all have to somehow relate to each other. And when they do, it gives it life. And that's I think, what's happening here, and why it just feels more alive than really professionally done comics that have to have a certain amount of drawing on model, lettering on model and stuff because it's being done by a number of people and there's not really room for a lot of personal expression in that way. But this is all personal.
Harold: Yeah. Or if it was, it was another person's hand. Another person's mind is distracting.
November 10. Snoopy, arms wide open, is standing atop his doghouse on a beautiful day. He commences dancing. He's dancing hither and yon. He goes for a twirl with Sally. Then he comes up to Lucy, he gives her a big smack kiss right on the nose. Then he goes to full out, blissed out Snoopy happy dance and then says to Lucy, “feeling groovy” and then dances away. Lucy a blank look on her face.
Michael: Because she didn't hear anything.
Harold: Or was she omniscient?
Harold: she won't tell.
Jimmy: So is this a Simon and Garfunkel reference? The 59th Street Bridge Song?
Michael: But this was the year that The Graduate came out, I think.
Harold: So this is like two years after the song came out.
Jimmy: Yeah, that came out in 66. Yeah.
Michael: So Schulz probably would have seen that.
Jimmy: Yeah, it feels like there's probably also, a live version that might have came out later.
Michael: it wasn't a single. It wasn't a Simon and Garfunkel single, I think.
Jimmy: Who did the single?
Michael: Harper's Bizarre
Jimmy: Right. Harper's Bizarre. That's right. Well, I wonder when that came out.
Michael: Probably 68.
Harold: that was 67.
Jimmy: Okay, so we're getting closer.
Harold: How's that for quick research. Yeah.
Jimmy: Either way, Snoopy's feeling groovy, and that's all that really matters.
Harold: Yeah. So, 1968, Peanuts
Jimmy and Harold: feeling groovy.
Jimmy: Here's the title of the ep.
November 17, 1968. We see Linus looking at a watch on his wrist, and he says, “it's ten minutes to eleven exactly. And now it's nine and one half minutes to eleven exactly.” In the next tier, he's walking with his arms straight out as if to show off his new watch. And he walks by Violet, who's skipping rope. Linus says, “New watch.” The next panel. He's really swinging that arm to get it, to glisten, I guess, in the sun. Then he shows it to Snoopy “new watch.” Snoopy, of course, licks it, slurp. Linus, beside himself, he says, “you licked my watch. He fogged up the crystal. It'll rust. It'll turn green. He's ruined it. It'll warp.” Snoopy looks off at the flustered Linus walking away and thinks, “I thought it would have been impolite not to taste it.”
Michael: I think panel five, I think it's a self winding watch, which, if you swing your arm a lot, it'll wind.
Michael: Either that or he has four arms.
Harold: As a little kid, I remember having a watch, and what a big deal.
Jimmy: Yeah, I remember my first watch was the Mickey Mouse one.
Harold: First read this, man. Yeah, this is and I just remember the strip so vividly from childhood, and I can't remember in what context, but I've used that line from the Snoopy many times. I thought it would have been impolite not to taste it, because there's lots of times where that comes in handy.
November 22, 1968. Five years to the day after the Kennedy assassination, Snoopy is seeing Lucy for a little psychiatric help. She says to him, today, “let's talk a little about your background. Were you happy at home? Did you like your mother and father?” She continues in panel three, saying, “how did you feel toward the other, if you'll pardon the expression, dogs in your family?” Snoopy looks super annoyed in the last panel and says, “I don't think I'll pardon the expression.”
Michael: He's pretty bipolar here. I mean, look at him dancing around like a maniac. And then he's, like, sitting on the stool, totally depressed.
Jimmy: Well, two weeks passed, anything could happen in two weeks.
November 26, 1968. Snoopy's atop his doghouse. He thinks to himself, “what's that? I heard a noise.” Now he looks worried. “I thought psychiatry had cured me. Now I'm hearing noises in the night again. What can it be?” he thinks. Lucy is there looking for her bill. “Where's my 20 cents?”
Michael: This is such a good one. I didn’t write this down. He stiffed her on psychiatry. Five cents. Oh, he had four-- it went four days, so it totaled 20.
Harold: Wow. So he's not pardoning the expression.
Jimmy: You know, I don't blame him. He's insulted. He walked out. I'll tell you what, though, you cannot stiff Lucy. She's coming back for that bill.
All right. So that's the end of 1968. Another great year for Schulz in the gang. We're going to be back next week, of course, where we're going to be doing something exciting. Who knows what? Maybe it'll be 1969, or maybe, just maybe, it'll be something very, very special. Between now and then, though, what I want you to do is go visit our website, Unpacking Peanuts.com. There you can buy us a mud pie. You can buy a T shirt. We have a brand new one, that celebrates the Estherbrook 914 radio nib. And we also have our Abbey Road shirt and our Host shirt. You can buy one of those. That would be great. You can support us on Patreon. That would be wonderful. You can follow us on both Instagram and Twitter. We're at Unpack Peanuts on both of those things. And then just come back next week and see what we're up to. But until then, guys, why, don't you give me your MVP and your strip of the Year for 1968? Michael, you go first.
Michael: Okay. This, will be the first time I'm bestowing this award on Lucy,
Liz: No you did it last month
Michael: this is the second time I bestow this award on Lucy, two times in a row. Yeah, she's just like crabby. crabby. I just love this. She's the queen of crab. And this is a good year for her. She drives a lot of the stories, and, she deserves it, so I'm giving it to her. But the best strip of the year goes to little Sally for flower bringing May 23.
Harold: May 23.
Jimmy: All right, Harold, how about you? We got a Sally strip and a Lucy MVP. What are you going to go with?
Harold: Boy, I think this year, to me, somehow ushers in the era of Snoopy, which is going to go on, as I recall, for a number of years. He seems to really, he just seems to represent the times so well that Schulz has just many, many ways to incorporate him. And he's he's he's just what a versatile character. I'm just going back through the strips and how many of them are Snoopy and how many of them are kind of different. We had him on his own for a couple of years, where he was doing the Sopwith Camel Red Baron ones. But these strips, there's a lot of him interacting with the kids as well as the solo strips. And, yeah, I think this is kind of peak Snoopy in a way, to me. And, it feels like that more than any other year we've had up until now. And my memory is that that's where the strip is going. not that I've been reading ahead. So, Jimmy, I don't know if you have the same feeling about that, but that's my take is that, Snoopy is coming into his own in a way that Schulz just is representing the times through Snoopy more than any character.
Jimmy: And what is your strip of the year?
Harold: Oh, definitely Chloe.
Harold: No. yeah, this is a tough one for me. Jimmy, why don't you do yours--
Jimmy: And come back? Okay, no problem. Because it is not tough for me. I am agreeing with Harold it is a Snoopy year, and I'm also agreeing with Harold saying yes, we are now getting into the peak era where Snoopy is absolutely the star of the show. So I'm going to go with, Snoopy as my MVP. And I mean, to me, there's no question at all. This February 5, 1968, let's not overlook the possibility of genius. One of the greatest comic strips. And by the way, February 5 my birthday, so boom. Yeah, that's my strip. Well, did I take enough time for you Harold?
Harold: no, keep pontificating.
Jimmy: So the thing I like about this strip is it's really funny. What were you going to say, Michael?
Michael: Nothing. I agree.
Jimmy: All right.
Michael: It's definitely a contender.
Jimmy: Yeah, for sure.
Harold: Okay, I'll give it to the November 17 Impolite not to taste it because it's just one I remember so fondly from my childhood, both from Linus's perspective and Snoopy's perspective with that watch. it just, somehow feels, very nostalgic to me.
Jimmy: It's a good pick. They are all good picks. You know what? Honestly, guys, you can't pick one wrong because they're all great.
You know what else is great? Spending time talking about it with you guys. So come back next week. We're going to have a lot of fun. I can't wait to get back into the world of Schulz and the gang. So until then, for Michael and Harold. This is Jimmy. Be of good cheer.
Harold and Michael: Yes, be of good cheer.
VO: Unpacking Peanuts is copyright Jimmy Gownley, Michael Cohen and Harold Buchholz; produced and edited by Liz Sumner; Music by Michael Cohen. Additional voiceover by Aziza Shukralla Clark. For more from the show, follow UnpackPeanuts on Instagram and Twitter. For more about Jimmy, Michael and Harold, visit unpackingpeanuts.com. Have a wonderful day and thanks for listening.