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1970 Part 1- Charlie Brown is the GOAT

Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. This is Unpacking Peanuts, and we're starting a brand new decade. Today it's the 1970s. We are now into Charles Schulz's third decade as the creator of Peanuts, the greatest comic strip of all time. And I, have to say, I really had a blast reading these strips. This is the first year, really, that I got to pick a lot of strips. I mean, I could have always done it, but I chose not to. So I'm excited to be a part of that part of the show now.

Harold: Yeah, that’s the kind of the guy he is. He was so generous to let Michael and me...

Jimmy: Well, because I knew we would have 300 strips of 365 chosen. So I was really just trying to be kind to the listeners.

Harold: Yeah. and avoid that cease and desist letter.

Jimmy: And avoid the cease and desist.

Speaking of the listeners, how are you guys doing? Thanks for coming back. I'm your host for this evening. I'm Jimmy Gownley. I'm also a cartoonist. I've done books like Amelia Rules and The Dumbest Idea Ever and Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow up.

Joining me, as always, are my pals co host and fellow cartoonists. He's a playwright and a composer, both for the band Complicated People, this very podcast, and also for the Amelia Rules musical. He's the co creator of the original comic book Price Guide, and the creator of such great comics as Strange Attractors, a, Gathering of Spells, and Tangled River. It's Michael Cohen.

Michael: Hey, there.

Jimmy: And he's the executive producer and writer of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a former vice president of Archie Comics, and currently, he's the creator of the instagram sensation Sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz.

Harold: Hey. And I was also working on Amelia rules, too.

Jimmy: Oh, my gosh. yeah, Harold, was the-- what was your title? Vice president,

Harold: of publishing and operations, whatever that means

Jimmy: publishing and operations. That's right. Well, you picked the title.

Harold: I know.

Jimmy: And was that eventually your title for Archie?

Harold: That was my original title. Ah. Well, it was yeah, that was my-- yes.

Jimmy: Harold didn't go a lot to that job.

Harold: No. Whatever name you want, Executive! they'll give you a nice chair.

Jimmy: That's all that matters. That's all cartoonists look for in life, is a good chair.

Harold: Oh, my gosh. A good chair. That's gold.

Jimmy: So, guys, we are into the third decade of Peanuts. I'm so happy that we made it. It's very strange for me. I'm trying to unpack exactly what this is I'm experiencing reading these strips, and I have massive nostalgia for them. But I also have massive nostalgia for the earlier stuff. Obviously, I've had most of that memorized.

Harold: Yeah. But does it shift for you? Do you sense a shift around this time? Is something change?

Jimmy: I sense a shift, but I'm not certain if it's because I think this is what it is. I think it's that all of the old originals, fifties and sixties books that I have, they're all mostly Fawcett Crest things, were my cousins’, from when I was very little. And I sort of inherited them and just had them, these strips, even though they were a few years old by the time I would have been reading them in books, were the first ones I probably would have bought for myself. So I think that might be why I'm experiencing these, even though I have read these less than I've read the ones we've covered so far.

Harold: Can you put in words the feeling of what seems a little different? The ownership sounds like it's part of it. That there's a I mean,

Jimmy: that's a huge part of it. You can't discount the nostalgia factor. I mean, to me there's a difference in the fact that it is we're stretching out into these really long stories. The fantasy element isn't just, Snoopy pretends to be a pilot. It's not even a fantasy element now. Now it's just a surreal world where surreal and it always was, but that becomes more of a dominant motif. And some of the other stuff maybe drifts. It becomes more of an undercurrent.

Harold: Right. It feels like the world has become more cohesive. Like, Snoopy used to be off on his own, and now he seems to be pulled right into the world. And everybody knows what's going on. If he's going to the head beagle, everyone knows he's going to see the head beagle. It's not like he's off in his own fantasy world, to get away from the kids and his life. It's like all of a sudden, a lot of that's pulled in to the kids world as well.

Jimmy: Absolutely. So Michael, I was wondering, from your point of view as an OG fan, how do you feel about the real dominance it feels of the long sequences at this point? Are you enjoying them? Is it too much of a change? Was there a sweet spot earlier? What's your take?

Michael: Well, there aren't a whole lot, but they are longer, that's for sure.

Jimmy: Longer, yeah.

Michael: They seem also to hit a little bit more to the absurd, into absurd land.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Michael: Even though, I mean, it's a comic strip, people walking around with big balloons over their heads with words in them. So yes, absurd. But I think it's going to another level. And as you know, there are infinite levels of absurdity. You might have known that, of course. And also you think of infinity. Let's talk about infinity for a minute.

Jimmy: finally, now we're getting to it.

Michael: You'd think all infinities would be equal since they're all endless and you can't count them. That's not true. You can actually-- you know, sets of numbers. There's twice as many numbers as there are even numbers. They're both infinite. But one's twice as big as the other. So we have levels of absurdity which I think was part of the strip from the beginning but he kind of had his rules and I think he's letting some of them go at this point. In other words, even though this is definitely not a documentary about kids growing up but it was fairly grounded in the mean they're not straying far from their neighborhood. It's a little bunch of kids relating to each other going to school so it's not too far out and it's starting to get a little more far out. certain things like--

Harold: Do you think that's indicative of the times of 1970? Michael, do you think he's responding to something?

Michael: I think he's decided, I mean he's reached the level of success which is beyond anything he could have ever dreamed and I think he's letting some of his rules go. He laid down some rules that he--

Jimmy: oh, rules. I thought you were saying rolls. Got it. Sorry.

Michael: Like dinner rolls.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Harold: Don't put your elbows on the table.

Michael: Well the rules he set, some of which he violated early on and then retracted it. Okay. No adults, kids are born and grow up to be a certain age and stop and there's a dog who can think and people can understand what his thoughts are and also new characters can come into the strip and with a few exceptions they stay. Now we're seeing this year he's done it a little bit in the past, but he's introducing bunches of kids who never get named and you're sort of getting the feeling the world's expanding and there's just other kids around they don't know. And so that's kind of a change some of the rules have to do. And these are self imposed rules, of course. It seems like all the longer sequences sort of had like a two-week limit and sort of wrap up right. So occasionally maybe they'd go a little longer, occasionally a Sunday strip would be part of the sequence, but not very often. And now we'll see in this year that was your original question. There's a long sequence which kind of blends into a couple of different episodes, but it's all like the first three months are fairly dominated by this one sequence which talking about levels of absurdity is you just can't make sense of it. It's funny. I think now he's going I don't think he's censoring himself as much. He's going like yeah, this is a funny idea, let's just go with it. Whereas before he might have thought, well, maybe that's a little too crazy. I don't think there's anything too crazy for Schulz at this point.

Harold: Do you think he's building on his craziness? I mean, do you think that because of the success of something crazy he's he's going to step off of whatever he what platform he created and he's going to go another step higher?

Michael: Well, I don't know, because I haven't read this anything beyond this point.

Harold: I mean, 1970 compared to 1968 or 60, he's actually building on his own craziness. And in other words, he's trying something. It works. He tries something a little further. It works.

Michael: Yeah. And a lot of it has to do with Snoopy. It seems like the long sequences are Snoopy sequences. Yeah, maybe all of them. So Snoopy definitely is gone. He was a dog for a while, and then he was a dog who wanted to be a kid. And now I don't know what he is. He's anything he wants.

Jimmy: Harold, what do you think? Do you agree with that? Mostly?

Harold: Yeah.I think we're all trying to kind of make sense of what we're seeing in these strips. And I'll share what I just took some notes as I was reading. These are senses. I'm not going to defend them to my dying day, but this was the sense I got when I first read it. I wrote that the characters somehow feel a little bit more like icons, that they're slightly slicker, and that Schulz is maybe a step removed from them emotionally compared to the previous years where he's so deeply involved. Those were the initial notes I wrote. And then as I was thinking about it more, I was thinking maybe this is the year that Schulz really settles into his success. He is absolutely at the top of the game. We said last year, he's part of the space program with the Apollo project. It's like he can't help but see his work all around him and the impact that it's making. And he sees it, I'm guessing, as a commodity. And it's to his credit that even though he's seeing that and he's seeing the success of it, that he's not letting that he just not letting himself see it as a commodity. But he knows that what he's done works, and he knows that it impacts people. He knows what he's doing, and he can't question that with all of his self doubt that Schulz has, he can't question the success of what he does. And we see some strips I don't know if we selected some of these, but we see strips where, Linus is turning in a paper, and he knows what works when he turns in his paper.

Jimmy: Right.

Harold: And I can't help but see Schulz in that because he knows what works. And so now he's in this place of giving people what they want beyond just what's in his heart. Maybe he's balancing the two out. He says, I know if I do this thing, people are just going to go nuts. There's, this kind of self awareness that I'm sensing that is pretty amazing. It's kind of bending my mind that he's at this level of success, and he knows it somehow subtly tweaks and changes the work that we read. And this is also the year Schulz. I think we've got the cheeky smooching Snoopy. Snoopy kisses one of the characters, one of the female characters in this strip. 19 strips this year.

Jimmy: That's crazy.

Harold: and there's birds and there's skating, hugging, and kissing. I mean, this, this is a, there's this kind of little yeah, there's this looseness or freedom in some of the strips, I think often coming through Snoopy, that Schulz is living through that I think we've never seen it quite the way we've seen it before.

Jimmy: There is one other thing I was sort of thinking about, and it does actually, rather than coming from, confidence, it's sort of his confidence, allowing him to masquerade certain insecurities. He has now been doing this for almost 20 years, and he's not hip. There's no way he's in his own mind, hip. And those early 50s into the early 60s strips are very much, I think, a reflection on his childhood, which is receding further and further into the past. I have a phenomenal memory. I had a phenomenal memory back in the day, which is great because it gives you like, the illusion of intelligence. It gets you through a lot, but after a while, you just have the memory of memory and you don't have those specific details anymore. And I think there's a part of him that might be thinking, a, I've explored all that stuff, b, so creatively it's going to seem maybe a little stale, but C is it just, out of the Zeitgeist. One way to stay in the Zeitgeist is to do something that no one could possibly assail, because it doesn't make any sense. If you're just following your bliss and going everywhere and your faculty, your actual skill level in your craft is super high, people are going to follow you. The thing this reminds me of is I am a 1980s Beatles fan, right? So I was born in 1972, and I was so excited that we're in a new decade and still talking about the Beatles. If that bothers you out there, just mentally in your head, replace the word Beatles with Captain and Tennille and it'll sound like whatever.

Jimmy: So I really bought most of the Beatles records when they were rereleased for CD and stuff in the late eighties. And the one thing I always heard was, oh God, don't listen to the Paul McCartney solo stuff. Whatever you do, do not listen to Ram. Ram is like the greatest sin a human has ever committed. And I'm like, oh, my God. So I didn't listen to it for like, 15 years. And finally I got a copy from my friend Eddie's, like, I really think you should listen to it. And I put it on. I'm like I think I love this. I think I love everything about

Michael: best solo album.

Jimmy: Well, it's because it's, but it's Gen X-y, and I don't know why it's Gen X-y. it just is. And this feels Gen X-y to me. And so much of that, I'm sure, is me putting it on it, because that's how I remember these being my strips. but that's my theory with it, and I'm sticking to it.

All right, so how about we get to the strips? And, if you guys out there want to follow along with us, there's a couple of ways you can do that. Of course, the easiest, cheapest way, because I know you're a comics fan, so you're looking for the cheapest way is to go to good old You fire up your old Google machine. You go to type in the word Peanuts type in 1970. And then as I read the dates, you can follow along with them. Or if you're more bougie and, you want to get fancy, you could go out and buy those Fantagraphics books that collect the entire series. That's also a very cool way. And weirdly, they're also on the Peanuts wiki. I don't know why, but they are. So there's lots of ways you can read, these strips, which I would encourage you to do. Other than that, you guys are ready. Any other business?

Harold: Let's go.

January 2, 1970. Charlie Brown and Linus are standing outside on a snowy day. Linus is reading the newspaper. He reads. “The annual sports banquet held here last night was a huge success.” He continues as they walk inside. “Sports celebrities from all over the nation attended. The only athlete missing was baseball player Joe Schlobotnik.” Linus continues as Charlie Brown listens. “Joe apologized to reporters this morning. He explained that he had marked the wrong date on his calendar, the wrong city, and the wrong event.” Linus looks at Charlie Brown and says, “He’s your hero, Charlie Brown.” Charlie Brown sighs.

Jimmy: So this one I picked in just because this was like a rare crossover from the previous year, where Charlie Brown had purchased a ticket to see his hero Joe Schlobotnik at this banquet or something. Were these a thing? Does anyone know this? That you could go and meet sports figures at banquets? I guess they used to happen.

Harold: Maybe fundraisers. I don't know.

Jimmy: Yeah, I guess our listeners might know.

Michael: yeah.

Jimmy: If you know anything about these sports banquets all the kids are talking about, let us know. So that's the story. Good old Joe doesn't show up.

Michael: It's very odd and funny that his favorite player is someone who's terrible. I mean, kids are very devoted to their sports heroes, but they're also it's pretty obvious who's the best players, especially in baseball, because you have numbers, everything. So by the fact that I decided Willie Mays was my favorite player was not, like, going against the current in any way. It's just like, oh, the best player in baseball, he's my favorite.

Harold: Yeah. And, you know, it wasn't because he had a really good baseball card on, front picture because he was trying to get it after he was this was a previous year's picture that he really enjoyed.

Jimmy: We used to love just getting the players with the weirdest name. George Vukovich was my well, actually, there's a couple that are borderline UnPodcastable

Michael: …Eastern European names for some reason.

Harold: I was the guy that would just randomly, once a year, buy I'll try a basketball pack. I had, like, one pack of Topps hockey, that I had bought that I think I got Bobby Orr.

Michael: Why would anyone do that? I did, buy a football card.

Jimmy: Oh, you wouldn't buy oh, I used to collect baseball cards and stuff like that.

Michael: No baseball cards. But I did buy football cards once. I had a great collection of baseball cards.

Jimmy: why aren't football cards as popular? Weren't they football wasn't as popular?

Michael: Well, football was not as popular. But also, I have a thing about baseball because it's all statistics.

Harold: Ah.

Michael: You can recreate entire games and know exactly what everybody did.

Harold: why aren't there fantasy baseball leagues then?

Jimmy: There are, but they're nowhere near as popular.

Harold: I guess maybe because it's already too finite and the difference of one game doesn't change anything.

Jimmy: Yeah, that's probably what it is. Yeah. I used to collect the stickers, albums. They were really big in the early 80s.

Harold: Like the panini things.

Jimmy: I don't know what the panini things? Like the sandwich?

Harold: Don't you like sandwiches? Yeah, I think it was an Italian Company that put out stickers. You had to wet them yourself. It was like,

Jimmy: oh, yeah. No, these were different. These were Topps made them. And they were stickers with adhesive. And it would be blank pages with squares for all the teams and players. Ah. I don't understand how, but all my friends would be like, I filled up three this season, and I never filled one ever. And I would get, like, 42. I remember Art Monk. I had a stack of Art Monk stickers, so if anyone wants them, oh.

Harold: Boy, that takes you back to collecting those stickers. Yeah, I remember Wacky packages was the thing when I was a little kid, we were like seven, eight years old, and Wacky packages, they were parodying the packaging of American grocery store products. And, yeah, the fourth series. And for some reason, I don't know if they did it to us on purpose. You keep buying them. In the East Coast, you could not find mesclair oil. And it just was nowhere to be.

Michael: Let's get back on track here. We can go endlessly into trading cards.

Jimmy: I would just like to say quickly, there are now 3D versions of those wacky packs, packages, like little tributes to them. They're diorama style figures. You can buy.

January 6, Snoopy is standing and reading a piece of paper on top of his doghouse. Charlie Brown looks up and asks him, well, who's the mysterious letter from? Snoopy faints dead away. “ooooh.” He falls over, clunk lands on his head. Charlie Brown looks out at us and says “he fainted.” Snoopy lying To all the world unconscious, but thinks to himself, “what else? When you receive a letter from the head beagle, you always faint.”

Jimmy: There's a couple of things I love. I love Snoopy's-- and he does this about a few different things over the course of the strip. It's like, well, when this happens, this is the appropriate response. oh, gosh. Whenever it's the first day of spring, you have to do your happy first day of spring dance. So I like that. In Snoopy's insane, anarchistic world, there's actually very definite rules. You get a letter.

Michael: Rules are very important in this world.

Jimmy: Very important.

Michael: You have to fly kites now. Why? I don't know.

Jimmy: That's true. Charlie Brown could easily solve the kite flying thing, because who cares?

Michael: I never flew a kite in my life.

Jimmy: Also, just go to the beach. If you can't fly a kite, go to the beach and you'll fly a kite. No trees, lots of wind. Okay, so the other thing I want to talk about with this I am excited about picking strips, by the way. Oh, it's very fun. The feeling power of raw power. I demand you read this comic strip. I love the second panel. What do we think about that? That's pure comic book strangeness.

Michael: It's purely strange, because if you think of the physics, he should roll over onto his stomach. his feet should be to the left.

Jimmy: Well, he wouldn't even have landed on his head to begin with. Right. He would have flew up that way and landed on his back as he lands in panel three.

Michael: Right.

Jimmy: But it's so much funnier to have him land on his head, but he.

Michael: Should be facing the other way and be on his stomach.

Jimmy: Well, that's what I wanted to talk about, is that panel. I, don't think anybody in the world at the time who read this comic strip was unclear as to what was happening.

Harold: I didn't even think about it. Right.

Jimmy: It was just no, of course not. But it's so strange.

Michael: He spawned a doppelganger of some sort.

Harold: Two Snoopies in the same panel, one falling and one hitting his head on the ground.

Jimmy: Yeah. And yet, when he did the now we're going back to 20 episodes ago, probably, but we discussed one where Snoopy's running around a tree or around Charlie Brown or something like that, and we see two in the same panel and didn't or at least Michael and I guess felt it didn't work as well. I'm amazed that that works. That's an amazing thing of comics that I just think is so cool. Yeah. That totally reads as a dog getting bad news and passing out.

Harold: Yeah. And you look at the flow of it. So Charlie Brown, in the first panel is talking to Snoopy. So you read his word balloon. Charlie Brown's word balloon. Then you look at Charlie Brown and then his eyes take you to Snoopy, who's standing on top of his doghouse, reading a letter. Then in the second panel, in the upper left hand corner, Snoopy's going as he's starting to fall off. And then, my eye goes down to Charlie Brown, who's looking down at the falling Snoopy. And I think Charlie Brown is what makes it right when you go down there, Charlie Brown's, it's like it was three different panels. It's two different panels.

Jimmy: Like three different panels. Yes.

Harold: that's genius. And the other thing I didn't even think about until you guys started to point this out is the way Snoopy hits his head. You'd think he hits his head because he's already fainted and knocked out. But there's also that aspect of, like you're saying this is the appropriate thing to do. So he's doing the right thing by falling and hitting his head. And so he's got this serene, Zen-like look on his face as he hits the ground, where I get the sense that he's totally conscious. He's just doing what needs to be done. Right?

Jimmy: Absolutely. I also really love the panels of him lying on the ground on his back because it's so familiar, opposed to us from the dog house. But now we see the ears splayed out as opposed to hanging down. Just a cool-looking drawing, especially the third panel. He looks a little maybe like if you, wanted to, really weird yourself out. If you flipped the strip at 90 degrees and looked at that last picture of Snoopy, you would see exactly how far off model Schulz has to do draw him to get him to look that way. The head is completely smushed. The nose is gigantic. The stomach looks like something out of Twin Peaks. but when you turn it the right way, you never even notice. He just looks like a cute dog.

Michael: I did notice the stomach, though.

Jimmy: Oh, did you?

Michael: Well, this must be after he just ate.

Jimmy: Yeah, something's going on there.

January 10, Good old Charlie Brown and Linus are hanging outside. And, Linus says, “what's your dog doing down at the playground, Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown looks confused and asks “the playground?” Then we see Snoopy in a classic pose. Well, a soon to be classic pose, which will become the Joe Cool pose, is thinking to himself, “here I am carrying out my special assignment for the head beagle.” And he is, in fact, down at the playground. And we see a little girl, playing on the swing. The next panel, we see two little girls, playing with like, a kickball or a giant baseball, perhaps. Snoopy walks by them saying, “I'll be on duty here all week.” Then with his arms folded across his chest in the background, he thinks “whenever you see a dog on a school playground, you know that he has been placed there by order of the head beagle.”

Jimmy: Again, if you see this, this is why it's like this is the protocol of what happens in a situation involving the head beagle. And I used to think we used to regularly have stray dogs come onto the playground at school. And I always think, oh, they're put here by the head beagle. Must be something going on. That and, the casual now integration of the strip in panel three, with the little black girl, I think is great and should bring us to mind once again of my favorite quote of all time. Either you print this exactly the way I draw it, or I quit. How's that? I love that.

Harold: You probably said it yourself many times, right?

Jimmy: Oh, maybe. And you know what? I wish that now that it's a meme that's being passed around, it makes it so much easier. Most of my email, I think that's just going to be my email signature.

Harold: Underneath It just says unemployable.

Michael: That's, okay, well, I picked it just because he's just so casually putting in new characters, and wondering is he actually taking the time to design them? I mean, there's a few more instances coming up this year with a bunch of kids.

Harold: Yeah, I got a theory about that. That maybe because he started to work in the animation world, they needed a few more. And instead of letting Bill Melendez draw them, he probably had to draw them for that. And so he's like, I can do this on my own strip, right?

Jimmy: Well, yes, I think that's true. There's also another thing going on where he has illustrated kids letters to President Johnson. When Lyndon Johnson was president, he did one or two volumes of that, and he did Kids Say the Darnedest Things.

Harold: Yes. And he did two by fours in the, church of God, Anderson, Indiana. So he's drawn a lot of kids that are not his kids from Peanuts.

Jimmy: And I think he's probably delighting in that in a way. It's like, hey, look, a real live Peanuts character. get them by the dozen, because they all look good. That little girl on the swing, looks great. That little girl in that last panel, I think, is just adorable. There could be a whole strip about that kid. That's a great looking character. Maybe there will. Maybe I'll steal it.

Harold: Yeah. I've been thinking. I wonder if I can somehow refer to Helen's Sweetstory in my work.

Jimmy: The Six Bunny Wunnies Freak Out is one of the funniest things ever. Snoopy's favorite children's book.

Harold: Let's make this happen.

Jimmy: We got to do it. We got to get the Six Bunny Wunnies license.

Michael: I can't figure out this head beagle business. This is new to me.

Jimmy: All right, let's explore it.

Michael: This is the one that dominates the first couple of months. So first. Of all, he's on a mission. Okay. So I'm assuming head beagle, he lives in New York City or something.

Jimmy: Sure. I pictured DC. But okay.

Michael: In some kind of tower.

Jimmy: Right.

Michael: So Snoopy is assigned a mission, but he's hanging out in the playground.

Okay, that's weird. And then whenever you see a dog now I would have thought that the head beagle is the guy in charge of beagles, but, apparently he's in charge of dogs.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Michael: Okay, I'm just gathering information here. What the heck is going on?

Jimmy: Now, this will never fully make sense and well, we'll talk about it a little later going forward, I think, because this is his first attempt at branching out in this particular direction. At some points he starts making a few missteps and I think he then puts it aside for awhile. When he comes back to it, it's more towards that abstraction that the earliest strips of it are.

Harold: Yeah, because I envisioned the head beagle living out in the woods and I equate it somehow with the twilight bark of the 101 Dalmatians.

Jimmy: Yeah. I thought you were going to say you equated somehow to the Twilight Saga. And then suddenly at this point, I found out Harold was like, oh Jim, you didn't know this. I'm a massive Twilight fan.

Harold: Come on.

Jimmy: It would just cut to me staring at the sunset, rethinking everything I thought I knew about life.

Harold: That's the other project we'll have to do is a, little strip of Snoopy kissing Bella on the nose.

Jimmy: Bella. My kids never read Twilight. That's like a great accomplishment.

Harold: That's a win for you.

Jimmy: That's a win. I, was on a book tour for Tweenage Guide to Not Being Unpopular, and the lady who, was driving, they have these things called author escorts, which, by the way, if you're ever in Vegas doing a bunch of, signings and you stand up front and you say, oh, I'm just waiting for my escort.

Harold: No, don't do that.

Jimmy: That's not what they think you mean. However, when I was in Seattle, I had this author escort and they drive you around everywhere and she had been Stephanie Meyer's author escort like a month previous. And she's like, oh, the people were grabbing at the car and trying to stop us and there was an overflow of people out into the street. I'm like, well you are going to have an easy week, lady.

Harold: There was sparkly vampire dust all over the windshield.

Jimmy: You're going to have a lot of time to think, maybe get some paperwork done. You are not going to need to put your life on the line this week.

January 16. It's a snowy day. Charlie Brown comes up to Lucy's house and says, “shovel your walk for a quarter.” Lucy answers, “what if it snows tomorrow and covers up our walk again? Do we get our quarter back?” Charlie Brown says, “no, by then, I will have spent it in riotous living.” Lucy leaves, I assume, slamming the door behind her, saying, “forget it.”

Harold: You picked this one, and I picked this one.

Michael: Occasionally, he comes up with a pretty good comeback.

Harold: Yeah, his deadpan, comedy, has never been better. I think this is Charlie Brown's funniest comeback in the 20-year history.

Jimmy: So funny. And again, perfect for the publishing world. This also, you could say to any editor, no, you're not getting your advance back. I spent it on riotous living. I'm just kidding. My agent would never sign a contract where you had to give your advance back. I don't want to slander her.

Harold: There's no morals clause in a book contract.

January 23. Linus is watching TV, and, it is clearly screaming at him because there are giant letters that say “Used car sale. Yes, you heard it right. You've never seen such values.” Linus's hair is being blown back by the volume coming from the TV, and it keeps getting louder. “Come down to our showroom now. Don't delay. Come down now. Now is the time. Now.” Linus is now basically gasping for air, having been knocked off his little beanbag chair and yells out for anyone “help.”

Michael: I picked this one.

Jimmy: I did, too.

Michael: So this was universal, right?

Harold: I picked this one as well. Yeah, this was the thing.

Michael: This reminds me of Feiffer.

Jimmy: Okay. It's Feiffer lettering through and through. That's why I picked it. Feiffer. And, then it goes from Feiffer to Dave Sim. He steals this, and then I steal it from Dave Sim. So, yeah, this was thrilling for me to see.

Harold: So all three of us picked the strip. That's pretty rare.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Harold: Wow.

Jimmy: This is that why you were thinking, Michael?

Michael: Well, I could just see one of Feiffer's characters sitting there in exactly the same position.

Jimmy: Or maybe, like, curled up in a ball in the last one.

Michael: Yeah.

Jimmy: I totally thought Feiffer as well.

Harold: It's funny, I thought of the Maxell ad. The famous Maxell.

Jimmy: Oh, I thought of the Maxell ad, too. Absolutely. With the kid sitting in the chair and the hair blowing back. Yeah, absolutely.

Harold: But I just laughed out loud at this one. That's why I picked it.

Jimmy: Now, I don't know if this is the case, but back in this was a fact that the television, commercials were recorded and mastered at much higher volumes than the shows themselves. I don't know if that's the case anymore on things like streaming, but they.

Harold: Probably passed some legislation. FCC is checking on you over modulate. I don't know.

Jimmy: You're giving people heart attacks here. Well, screaming was just a big part of commercials in general.

Harold: Oh, yeah. Billy Mays really brought it back.

Jimmy: Oh, the Shamwow guy? Was that him?

Harold: Yeah, OxiClean.

Jimmy: Oxyclean, right? That's right.

Harold: It's like he doesn't speak at a normal volume. That's not possible.

Jimmy: He came to our TV station that I worked at years ago. For some reason, I don't remember why.

Harold: Really?

Jimmy: Yeah, I have no idea why. Lost to the mystery. It's like I said, I used to have a great memory.

January 29. This is the middle of a sequence. Peppermint Patty is calling Charlie Brown. “Hello Chuck, I need your help. I need someone to talk to.” She continues. “Guess what happened? They won't let me wear my sandals to school anymore. It's against the dress code. What am I going to do? I need your advice.” Charlie Brown. “Well, I don't know.” “Thanks, Chuck.” Click. Charlie Brown, in the last panel, lets the receiver just hand limply at his side as he looks out to us and sighs.

Jimmy: Let's go ahead and continue. I'm going to read, the next two in this sequence. and then we'll discuss them all together. So the sequence continues.

January 30. Now, Peppermint Patty is out talking to Snoopy, who is wearing a stocking cap, and Peppermint Patty is kneeling and talking to him. So she's on his level. And she says, “I saw a pair of sandals in a store one day, and I asked my dad if I could have them. He said, you most certainly may have them because you are a rare gem. Now they say I can't wear them to school anymore because of the dress code. What am I going to do? I love my sandals.” A single tear falls from Peppermint Patty's eye. Snoopy kisses it away and confirms that in the last panel by saying, “I kissed away a tear.”

Harold: Big smile.

Jimmy: A big smile on his face.

Michael: Now, I suspected this was an obscurity. Is that the title of a song?

Jimmy: I Kissed Away a Tear? Probably, yeah. It's not a polka because it would be the I Kissed Away a Tear polka.

Michael: Yes. It's just a weird thing to say.

Jimmy: Why don't you google it? You blockhead. I'm going to Google it right now. If it's not I think Michael, has an assignment. Oh, yeah. No. Kiss Your Tears Away by The Smithereens. Oh, that off their Eleven album. That's fantastic. That album, by the way.

Michael: But that's later, I assume.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Michael: All right.

Jimmy: No, wait, I'm still googling. Hang on, I didn't use quotes. Let me try again. And I kissed away a tear.

Harold: Just hit the Shazam button and hold it over the strip.

Jimmy: the first thing that comes up is some sort of lyrics of a song called Nelly. And then the next thing that comes up is Peanuts by Charles Schulz.

Michael: What year is the Nelly song?

Jimmy: unclear.

Michael: It just struck me as a very odd...

Harold: To me that just slipped in like nobody's business. I had no trouble at all with seeing somebody say that. I thought, well, of course he said that. That's probably because I'm always talking about smooching and stuff, so that's just me.

Jimmy: Harold, you randy son of a gun you.

Harold: Wow.

Jimmy: Reading your Twilight books, kissing people willy nilly. It’s like I don't know you at all.

Harold: Diane just going….

January 31. We continue now. Peppermint Patty is sitting on the curb, and she's talking to both Linus and Snoopy. She says, “they say it's the school dress code, Linus.” she continues, “I can't wear my sandals to school anymore. I'm really upset.” Another tear. She sniffs. Another kiss from Snoopy, and then Peppermint Patty yells, “and then this weird kid with the big nose keeps kissing me,” and Snoopy thinks “we all need someone to kiss away our tears.”

Michael: Very weird.

Jimmy: You know, this whole storyline with Peppermint Patty and the sandals really, I found compelling and interesting. And, was it just last episode or a few episodes ago, we were talking about dress codes in school, and I said, oh, I was thrilled that we had dress code.

Harold: Yeah.

Jimmy: And, that's because I don't express myself through fashion, so of course I was thrilled there was a dress code, because that works perfectly for me. Right. I don't want to ever think about stuff like that and never even occurred to me that there are other people who it does matter to.

Harold: Right.

Jimmy: And we're not talking about a thing of being flashy or being sexy or being anything other than this is who she is, and it makes her so sad. It actually really made me think about it in a different way.

Harold: Yeah. Peppermint Patty seems like she's the original modern YA graphic novel character.

Jimmy: No question. No question. She's living in the real world. The other characters are all complex, but they're Shakespeare complex in that they feel very real to us, but they exist in their world, which also feels real. But unlike ours, Peppermint Patty, it feels like you could pull out and she could just be walking around. Like I had two daughters who are adults now, but they had little friends that are Peppermint Patties. I didn't see any Lucy's. I mean, they were crabby people sure. And stuff, but there's no one like a Lucy. Lucy is a, different it seems like an archetype, right?

Harold: Yeah. Like she's in a Greek tragedy or something.

Jimmy: Yeah, exactly like that. And where Peppermint Patty is just like, I skinned my knee, and that really stinks. Do you guys, like, Bactine or whatever? It just all felt very real and of the time.

Harold: Yeah. And I really like that. Also, coming out of Schulz on top of layered on top of these characters, I think it really works well. And again, it just seems right for the time when he made it. once again, I'm in awe of Schulz that, as he tweaks, he seems to be it's like he's gathering things into his strip and making it bigger and more rich.

Jimmy: Yes.

Michael: If I can be a little negative for a second. If you don't mind,

Harold: Sure.

Jimmy: we got tons of time.

Michael: All right. I really don't like him persisting in this thing where she thinks Snoopy is a kid. I mean, that's absurdity. Level three, clearly.

Jimmy: Well, I don't know. Okay, yes, I hear what you're saying, but, if you're Peppermint Patty, let's imagine for a second we're living in the Peppermint Patty verse, right? And she goes to another, and there's no Snoopies, and there's this ugly kid played in shortstop, like all right. I think she has every right to think of him as a funny looking kid with a big nose as much as she does a beagle. He looks no more or less like a funny looking kid with a big nose than he does a beagle. Except a tail, maybe. Nudity. And the dog ears. Other than that it’s a flawless theory on my part.

Michael: Well, then this weird kid with any clothes on keeps kissing me.

Harold: Yes, she's only mildly annoyed, so I don't know.

Jimmy: But my God, to me, this weird kid with a big nose keeps kissing me. Cracks me up. Just cracks me up. The thing I think that's cool about it, again, is what age Schulz would have been. He was like 27 in 1950. So he's well in his fifties at this point. And

Harold: 40s, right?

Michael: 40s,

Jimmy: yeah, I'm meant 40s. Sorry. He's approaching his 50s. At this point. And this feels like this was something that was either in the Zeitgeist or being dealt with either at his home or in the neighborhood or whatever, this issue of like, dress codes and stuff like that. And it feels like this is his thoughtful response to it. And what's great is that he feels bad that Peppermint Patty feels bad. I think that's his legitimate response as an artist, and I think that's great. And we didn't include it, in the selections, but we see Franklin, who basically sums that up, that says, any rule that makes a little girl cry is a bad rule. And in 1970 America a little black boy saying that that has a lot of impact. That's a powerful thing. He's still great. It's crazy.

Michael: Yeah. But I think it is a sad, touching strip about this situation she's in. And then he needed a gag, which really had nothing to do with it. I mean, I'm fine with a Peanuts strip with no humor in it whatsoever.

Harold: Which gag are you objecting to? Snoopy smooching her.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Michael: The last panel, I mean, ends with a joke, but I'd, be happy with it if there was no joke. I mean, he's done it before with Charlie Brown, with the little red haired girl. It's just pathos like a strip that is just sad. And there's no joke.

Harold: It's great.

Jimmy: Okay, well, what if it were? by the way, I can't believe we are like an hour into the show and we're in January. Me picking strips might be a bad call, but since we're going deep, let's go deep. January. Going back to January. 30. So as just like, a little experiment, Michael, what if we took away that I kissed away a tear panel and just had that be, like, a silent moment, like maybe Snoopy leaning his head under her shoulder or something like that, but no dialogue.

Michael: I would like that. It would be definitely new for a funny comic strip not to even attempt a joke or something funny in the last panel.

Jimmy: And this, I think, goes back to the last episode when we recorded. We were talking about how if you do a kid strip like Amelia or Calvin and Hobbes or anything else, you get to start post Schulz, which is amazing, right? Because for me to come up with a fourth panel that makes it slightly more modern or whatever is so easy, because it's like putting in the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle. But he not only put all the other pieces together, he painted the original painting and cut the pieces out himself. It's wild.

Harold: And it's interesting that you're objecting to I mean, the kissed away a tear seems odd, and yet that is, like I said at the beginning, that Snoopy kissing a girl in the strip happens 19 times this year. But something's going on. Something is going on in Charles Schulz.

Jimmy: No, what I will just say is there is something going on in his life.

Michael: What's going on in the kissing thing is Snoopy knows that Lucy hates it, and that's why he's doing it, because she thinks it's disgusting.

Jimmy: I think that with Peppermint Patty, right, this is different.