Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. This is Unpacking Peanuts, the show where we're looking at Charles Schulz's comic strip masterpiece, Peanuts. And we are deep into the 1970s. And by deep, I mean we're one year into the 1970s, but there's a lot going on. And as you know, it's always deep talk here on Unpacking Peanuts. I'm your host for this evening. My name is Jimmy Gownley. I'm also a cartoonist. I did the Amelia Rules series and the book Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up and the Dumbest Idea Ever. Joining me, as always, are my pals co hosts and fellow cartoonists. He's a playwright. He's a composer, both for the band Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. Plus, he wrote the Amelia Rules musical. He's the co creator of the original comic book Price Guide and the creator of such great strips as Strange Attractors, a Gathering of Spells, and Tangled River. It's Michael Cohen.
Michael: Hey there.
Jimmy: And there's another guy. He's a writer and producer for Mystery Science Theater 3000. The former vice president of Archie Comics, he used to work for Amelia Rules, and he's currently the creator of the instagram sensation Sweetest Beast, Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: So it's 1971. We have a lot to talk about. Last year, we said we were going to discuss, the tier list, which I want to get into. But before we do, there's a few items of old business I would like to attend if you guys are okay with that.
Jimmy: So the first thing is, I am so glad in a recent episode, I said something like, I have a phenomenal memory. And then I quickly changed that to well, I used to. Because the reason I want to bring it up now is and I'm so glad I admitted that then is I was listening to our last episode after Liz edited it, and Michael, we were talking about how they pick the head beagle, and I said something like or someone said something like it's more like how they select the pope. And Michael said, oh, a Pope cartoon character. Who ever heard of that? And I went like, I had no idea what he's talking about, even though a half hour I spent of, the previous episode two or three weeks ago talking about Cerebus, which is exactly what you were talking about, but in the moment, I thought, is he talking about, like, that Pope John Paul?
Harold: Yeah. Or the fire breathing pope by Chris Yambar.
Jimmy: I don't know. My brain was a little fried, I guess that I missed it. So my apologies, because Michael had a great shout out, and I just gave him, like, the wall of crickets. It was all on me.
The other thing that I wish I would have brought up when we were talking about it more last year, but we had last year, we had the really chaotic sequence where Snoopy gets to be the speaker at the Daisy Hill puppy farm for being the head beagle. And one of the things we don't have to go into this in detail now, but I just wish I would have mentioned at the time. This, I think, is a really good example of what happens when the Snoopy strip within Peanuts just takes over. If you start looking at that. And as we go forward, if we really do start looking at them as classic Peanuts, Snoopy, and then Peppermint Patty, you can sort of see how they change in relation to each other and how they interact. And I think that Snoopy one, it's so interesting to me because it blows up the strip, but it blows up the strip at the same exact point, kind of Schulz life was blowing up.
Jimmy: And I wish I sort of would have mentioned any of that in that last episode, but all of them are archived, so I can mention it here now.
Michael: Gee. Well, we all have our regrets in life
Jimmy: and luckily for me, it begins and ends with that, those two things.
Harold: Okay, well, it was your time.
Jimmy: So we're 1971. the 60s are fading, in the rear view mirror. Harold, do you have any info about Mr. Schulz and where he's at at this point in time?
Harold: Yeah, so I was interested to go back and look at where the kids are right now, because I do feel like he's getting a little further away from the directness of kid experience in his life. That's the sense I get in the strip. So I was just checking in to see where the kids are. He has five children, and three of them are now 18 or older, so I'm assuming they may be out of the house and maybe on living their own lives. Craig is 18. Monty's 19. Meredith is 21. It's amazing, given that she was, a newborn when we started covering all of this back in 1950. So I'm guessing the people in the household are Jill and Amy. And that's interesting because it seems like the strip has made a turn toward more female experience through Sally and Peppermint Patty. And I'm wondering if some of that is that that's what he might be drawing on a little bit more just in his day to day life. Maybe the world just seems maybe a little quieter in Schulz’s world, because there were so many kids we know coming over to their essentially like a ranch, setting in Sebastopol that they had multiple acres, and there were always kids coming over, and they had all sorts of things for them to do tennis, courts and this sort of thing. And so maybe that's starting to wind down in his life, and maybe it's a slightly quieter world as far as kids are concerned. That was one thing I was noticing, and it just seems like there is this shift in tone that is maybe reflective of his life.
Jimmy: Yeah. I have to say, I will point out when we get there, but there's a moment in Snoopy's journey this year where I think, this is a middle aged man's fantasy. This isn't the kind of fantasy that Snoopy was having.
Harold: I have to also add, this is major news here. 1971 is the debut of a 30 minutes special that I had never heard of called Play It Again, Charlie Brown, where Schroeder plays for the PTA. Are you kidding? I've never seen that one. They dropped it from the rotation pretty early when I was a kid, I think, because I did not get to see that one.
Jimmy: Oh, well, lucky for you, now all of those old shows all come in spray cans.
Harold: Oh, that's good to know.
Jimmy: Do you get that you didn't see it? That's a running gag from that episode. I actually have, the book adaptation of that, so I may have only seen it a few times. I have some vague memories of seeing it, but I know the story quite well because I must have read that book ten times.
Harold: Well, that's cool. I should also ask you a trivia question. This is just for Jimmy, because, Michael, I know you've assiduously avoided watching any of these things, but did you know, Jimmy, that only one Emmy Award was ever given to Charles Schulz?
Harold: Yeah, just one.
Jimmy: Is it not the one he accepted for Charlie Brown Christmas? Is that what we're talking about?
Harold: No, he didn't get an Emmy Award for Charlie Brown Christmas, but he's he got a Peabody Award that went to the producer.
Jimmy: He got a Peabody oh, that's what I'm thinking of. The Peabody Award. Yes. Because the Emmy goes to the producer.
Harold: Yeah. There's one special, though, that did win. I was wondering if you had a guess as to what it might be given. Arbor Day, Charlie Brown. It's the Easter beagle. No, It’s Flash Beagle no, it is, Charlie Brown, Thanksgiving, 1974.
Jimmy: Wow, that's a bold pick, because it does end with Woodstock being a cannibal. I always felt a little weird by that. it's not quite as disturbing as the murder that occurs at the end of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, but it's pretty disturbing.
Harold: Maybe it was Tofurky or something. I don't know. Maybe Schulz was ahead of his time.
Jimmy: Wow. No, I would not have guessed that. So Michael.
Jimmy: We discussed last year, that you think there may be some room, for movement on our good old Tier list.
Michael: We might just have to blow up the whole thing.
Jimmy: We're going to blow up the whole tier list, people. That's what we're talking about. Some excitement. It's a new decade. We got to make some changes. The whole thing is under construction. All right, what are we doing?
Michael: Well, maybe it's naive of me to think that because there's a change of decade, the strip changes, since I hadn't read these and I knew the 70s had a different reputation than the 60s, so I didn't know what to expect. And there's definitely a difference. But it's a little hard for me to, verbalize exactly what the difference is. It just feels different to me. And well, the most obvious thing is that certain characters have just totally dropped out, at least as far as 1971 goes. And others are appearing more and more in solo strips, which was pretty much, one of the criteria for being at the top of the tier list. So we're getting solo strips from Woodstock and Peppermint Patty and the old big four are not always in there. So we got to change the criteria or basically reshuffle the list or blow it up and rethink it. Because based on my statistical analysis of this year's strips, we have no Shermys, we have no Pig Pens, we have no Friedas. Roy, who was always incidental, has two. But Franklin, who I thought was going to be coming on strong, also has two.
Michael: Five has three. Violet has five, Patty has four.
Harold: Five has three.
Michael: And three has five. Yeah. four has four. No, Patty has four. Anyway, so those characters are pretty much incidental or gone completely. So we're down to six. Pretty much. Let's see. Yeah, six, seven, counting Sally are carrying the ball. And so I don't know what makes an A list character.
Jimmy: Well, okay, so let's say first, off, we'll just stay with who do we think is staying? And can we just make a general agreement that on the top tier? Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, and Snoopy. Right. Okay. So everybody in favor, say aye.
Jimmy: Harold abstained.
Michael: He doesn't want to commit at this point.
Harold: Are we saying those are the only A-List or we're just agreeing that they are in the right?
Michael: Harold is the wishywashy lobby.
Jimmy: The latter. We're just agreeing that they are definitely in it.
Harold: Yeah. Now, did you track how many Linus strips there were? Because Linus seems to fall off the face of the earth in this.
Michael: Linus doesn't have much to do this year. Not till the end of the year.
Harold: He comes back at the end of the year.
Michael: Yeah, I was getting concerned.
Harold: I guess he's still a we're not going to take that away from Linus.
Jimmy: No, you can't.
Michael: Anyway, I agree with Jimmy. So we have Woodstock, who clearly, even though there's a lot of solos, is probably the most popular character in the strip at this point.
Harold: Yeah, Woodstock is really coming on strong.
Jimmy: So you're suggesting we boot him up?
Michael: I wouldn't boot him up. Invite him onto the pedestal.
Jimmy: All right. Because I am trying to be more kind and gentle too. Let us gently invite Woodstock to the top of the pedestal. What do you think, Harold?
Harold: I agree totally. Woodstock is an A lister. Now, there's no question.
Jimmy: I always have been a Woodstock partisan, but I really appreciate the cartooning of this little character now that I'm looking at it in such close detail. Like Michael mentioned a few episodes ago, he's so minimal. There's so little to work with, and he's so small in the panel, but he carries a lot of charisma for such a small little guy.
Harold: Yeah. And I was reading I was reading Schulz a quote from Schulz. This was probably off of the Schulz Museum timeline. Something about how he really felt like it's one of the things that I've been using these little bird characters for years, but the drawing just somehow came together around this time, 1970 or so, and all of a sudden Woodstock just kind of blew up. But he was talking about how you just do something for years and years and years, and then all of a sudden something clicks and it's super special. And I think that's true here.
Jimmy: Yeah. And you see occasionally in works, in comic works that go on for a long time, where you'll see a character who takes a really long time to develop. It's kind of rare across broader pop culture, though, just because most works don't have that ability to grow. Certainly not over the amount of time. Right.
Harold: Yeah. 20 years in, they have this little character.
Jimmy: All right, well, I think that settles it. Woodstock is going up.
Michael: Yes, but we're not done. What about Peppermint Patty?
Jimmy: All right, Harold, that's to you. What do you think?
Harold: I absolutely give it to Peppermint Patty. She should become also top tier.
Michael: Yeah, I agree.
Jimmy: I agree too. This is going very well.
Michael: And my new favorite character since Linus, is not getting a whole lot of action. He should talk to his agent, is Sally. But I think Sally is a little limited by the number of strips she's in.
Harold: How many did you say she was in?
Michael: Well, I didn't count Sally, but okay.
Harold: Do you think it was fewer than Linus?
Michael: It might have been around the same I mean, Linus is there. He just didn't I mean, outside of that one blanket episode, he didn't have a lot to do.
Harold: Yeah, I think Sally is definitely on the level of Linus at this year anyway.
Michael: Yeah, but, I would like her to be there, but I don't think she's got enough presence at this point.
Harold: I would also give it to Sally, but I understand if you don't think there's enough.
Jimmy: You know what? I have to agree with Harold. I say we give it to her. That's two to one. What's it going to be?
Michael: Well, I'm the Sally man here. That's my Harry Belafonte tribute reference. It's tally, man. I do, Sally Man.
Jimmy: All right. Mr. Belafonte. is she up in A tier?
Michael: Okay. The thing is, Sally seems pretty much limited to school oriented strips.
Jimmy: Hang on. Daylight come and the pumpkin is not here. Sorry, I couldn't let it just hang there. Go ahead.
Jimmy: So day-o.
Harold: Daily strip.
Michael: It's not funny to make. I mean, it's tragic. I know we're dealing with your great tragedy by using humor, but…
Jimmy: RIP Harry Belafonte, a great man, activist first, who became an entertainer
Michael: and a great right fielder.
Jimmy: There you go.
Michael: Oh, that's Roberto Clemente. Sorry. All right. So anyway, that's the tier list in flux.
Liz: Well, that's the A list. What about everybody else?
Michael: Everybody else is either fading or gone. I think Violet's hanging in just because he sometimes needs a bunch of kids. Same with Patty. Well, I think we're just going to have to wait and see. I mean, I thought Franklin would be, a big part, but he's not.
Jimmy: Yeah, I feel like Franklin and then, soon will be coming up on the introduction of Rerun. They're both characters that he introduces early, but sort of finds more inspiration from them later. Rerun in particular is a very strange situation where he'll be hanging out on the bottom, if not, the formerly featured section for most of his career and then just explode later. All right, but I'm okay. So I think we have a much wider A tier, which is exciting.
Harold: Yeah. That is.
Michael: We have an A and a B and a graveyard, and that's about it.
Harold: Oh, and there's also a little revelation of ages. In 1971. It's established in the strip that Charlie Brown is eight years old and that Sally is five. So I thought that was interesting.
Jimmy: That is interesting. I think when he does things like that, that's probably a mistake.
Michael: Well, she's awfully ignorant for five.
Harold: And also, she's got a lot of stuff to do in school for a five year old, giving reports just to.
Michael: Find her seat and everything.
Harold: I just remember drinking Koolaid and eating graham crackers when I was five. I don't remember having to give reports on things.
Jimmy: I remember puzzles and nap time.
Harold: Yeah, right. And my teacher gave me jumbles. Remember those scrambled word cartoons that they had in the newspaper? I was given a book of jumbles. I don't know why she gave them to me. And they were incredibly hard for a five year old. I don't think I got very many of them. It was quite frustrating.
Jimmy: Yeah, I'm sure you got all of them eventually. I can imagine young Harold Buchholz
Harold: I don't know that guy doing those jumbles. He knew how to mix them up.
Jimmy: All right, so is that all we have to say about the 1971?
Michael: That's more than we have to say about.
Harold: Yes, true.
Jimmy: So, if you've been around these parts before, you know how it goes but in case this is your first episode of Unpacking Peanuts, here's what I'd like you to do. You want to go over there to your little Apple SuperBook or Google Chrome thingy or whatever it is you go onto the Internet. You go to GoComics.com, you type in Peanuts and then you can type in 1971. And you can follow along as I read the dates. Now what you're going to want to do going forward is go to Unpackingpeanuts.com and sign up for our newsletter. And once a month, just once a month, Mr. Harold Buchholz will send you a lovely newsletter telling you what strips we're going to cover, so you can read them ahead of time. You know what, and if you're a fancy lad or a fancy lass and you want to do something, a little nice for yourself, you can also buy the hardcover or soft cover books from Fanographics, which are absolutely beautiful. So you go ahead and do that. And when you're ready, we'll be right here. And here we go.
January 1 Snoopy and Woodstock are outside in the snow doing the happy dance. Snoopy says, this is our happy New Year dance. He continues dancing arms wide open. And he says, thinks to himself, rather, it symbolizes our best wishes for a wonderful year to all creatures. Then both he and Woodstock stop dead in the third panel. Wicked glares on their faces. And Snoopy thinks. Except cats. And then they continue to dance, goofy grins on their faces. And Snoopy Giggles. He He He
Harold: Yeah, this strip made me think, I think what you were alluding to that we got a different Snoopy here because of Woodstock. He's always been seen as kind of narcissistic and doing his own thing. And we still see that, of course. But there's something slightly different in that. He's got, I don't know if the term is a minion or somebody who's a compatriot. That is so new in the strip. Snoopy used to always be on his own and you just very rarely saw those brief moments when he might break into something with one of the kids. But now he's got this long term relationship with this little bird that brings out a side of him that we've never seen before. And I do remember this growing up, that this world of the companionship between Snoopy and Woodstock was a big part of the strip for me. I of course, had my little plush Snoopy and I had my plush Woodstock. so you had these little representations of these characters. And there was this sense just as a little kid of warmth and friendship that I just really sparked to. And I think millions of other people did too.
Jimmy: Well, the Snoopy Woodstock relationship, as any kid who's seen my or at least paid attention to, my school visits. Now this was a direct inspiration for Reggie and Pajama Man in Amelia, the other one, which I never mentioned in school visits, but it was Kramer and Newman from Seinfeld. I love the two little Weirdos, or well, later it would be, the Troy and Abbott on Community. The two little weirdos have their own special relationship within the larger group and they can go off and do their own things, but they also can work together within the larger group. I just think that's a really fun dynamic. So I said, yes, please. I'll take a little of that for Reggie and Pajama Man.
Harold: Yeah. It's so cool to see Snoopy enjoying hanging out with somebody, right?
Harold: Because you like Snoopy. Snoopy is very likable, even though he can be a real snot at the same time. He's the underdog because he's a dog. And so you can, you can get away with a lot more, I think, as, as a character, because he's the underdog. But now he's got an underdog's, underdog, underbird, and they're this little team and that's pretty irresistible. When I'm doing the Wild Lion and Woolly the Lamb, when I'm doing the comics, I started out with Wild Lion by himself and he was kind of this soulful little character. Foot and a half tall lion, thinks he's the king of the beasts. And, nobody's paying attention to him in the animal world because he's just such a non entity to them. And so he's just this kind of lonely, sad, but philosophical and hopeful character. But as soon as Wooly showed up, he all of a sudden is taking on this almost parental role and and a different side of him is coming out and he's actually becoming more of a lion because the lamb is around. It's really interesting, and I totally see that with Snoopy and Woodstock. There is this dynamic that brings out Snoopy is the employer because Woodstock is a secretary, Snoopy is a parental figure. there's so much of that going on in the Strip this year and I really enjoy it.
Jimmy: Me too.
January 4, Woodstock walks alone in a snowy, bleak looking little landscape. And he comes across what looks like a little bit of birdseed or something. He chomps it down. Chomp chomp, chomp in panel two. And this sends him flying head over heels in panel three. In Pure Bliss in panel four, we see Snoopy atop his doghouse, looking on, thinking, Woodstock is the only person I know who can blow his mind on breadcrumbs.
Michael: There's very few explicit drug references in Peanuts, if you notice that.
Jimmy: Yeah, but next year we do have what I believe is a Hunter S. Thompson parody coming up. So you can never say never with Schulz.
Harold: All right, boy. That third panel of Woodstock blissing out is just irresistible.
Jimmy: I could stare at those first three panels. There's something I don't even know how to. It's almost like Chester Brown or some like 90 or John Porcellino. It's like the most minimal and somehow almost desolate kind of line work in those first two panels. And then nothing changes except something changes. And in panel three, it's this goofy, joyful line. Yeah, it's pretty amazing. I couldn't point to, I mean, other than, obviously, just the simple, subject matter of each of the drawings, but the line quality feels more joyful. I love the flapping wings with him upside down.
Harold: Yeah. When he's twirling around and he's got this little innocent, bliss look on his face, which makes the fourth panel— it seems like there's some layers to it because this is, this is Snoopy's take on what's happening. Yeah, he's blowing his mind, you know, and that's interesting.
Jimmy: Michael, what do you, what do you think about the forehead?
Michael: Yeah, I was just wow. I was just going to mention.
VO: it's Snoopy watch.
Michael: This is sort of a 60s forehead, but I noticed a lot of very sparse forehead work happening this year. And so Schulz, I think he's deciding on the ultimate forehead. I think this is the ultimate forehead.
Jimmy: That's also my SoundCloud rapper name, if anyone's checking out that ultimate forehead.
January 10. The World War one Flying ace soaring in a Sopwith Camel. He thinks. Ah. Saint Pol-Sur-Mer. I'm sure I butchered that. In panel two, he looks to the skies, scanning it, possibly for enemies, who knows? In the next panel, the strip really starts and the World War I flying ace thinks to himself, here's a World War I flying ace, bringing his Sopwith Camel in for a landing. He lifts his goggles from his head in panel two and thinks, I'm exhausted. This stupid war is too much. In the next panel, he's disembarked from his aircraft and he thinks, I need a night of revelry. I need to forget. The next panel, he walks off into a beautiful, dilapidated French village, and he thinks, I shall go into the village and quaff a few root beers. Then he's at his table in a little bistro, a beautiful wine bottle with a candle in it illuminating him. And he thinks, perhaps some dark haired lass will share my table. Then he thinks, in the next panel, I'll have to watch what I say tonight and not become too talkative. And in the last panel, we see why Snoopy thinks spies, and we see what can only be Woodstock. And many of his friends in tiny little ghost costumes huddling around the table.
Jimmy: for me. The reason I picked this I think I picked this anyway, the reason I love it is because of that drawing of Snoopy walking into the village. I love the pen work on that. I love the background. I love how there's the spareness of the previous panels, which, are classic Peanuts. And then just as you shift into this more elaborate Snoopy reality, it just has a really great European look.
Michael: The Bill Malden look.
Harold: And you've seen those sketches that he's done when he was, in Europe, in World War II. And he obviously just has this in his sense memory of what it was.
Michael: The bullet holes in the wall.
Jimmy: I was just going to say the bullet holes. That's wild.
Michael: Yeah. Is there a point where Snoopy stopped walking on four legs and never walked on four legs again?
Jimmy: No. He does occasionally, but it becomes rarer and rarer. But there's always and I couldn't swear that there isn't, like, let's say a year or two where he hasn't, but it definitely comes back at other points, at least him sitting on all fours.
Harold: Yeah. The mastery of his cartooning here is just amazing. It feels so confident and it's so appealing.
Jimmy: Yeah. Oh, I'd like to give a little shout out to Michelle at Cupboard Maker Books in Enola, PA. she has a wonderful little thing she does every April 1, where instead of doing an April fool's prank, she gives everyone who comes in a free book, which is crazy. So, I went in to get my free book, and I got it. And then m because she's so sweet, she gave me an additional book, the hardcover edition of Peanuts Jubilee. I've never had the hardcover. I only had the soft cover for years, and I never really pulled around with it too much. It has a weird die cut on the cover which I always hate books that have those things, they feel so fragile. The printing of my copy wasn't particularly good. It was used, and it was kind of water damaged, so I never really looked at it. I poured through it in this new hardcover that was an old hardcover, but new to me. And I just have to recommend to anybody out there who wants to look at particularly this period of Peanuts, get that book. Because not only does it have gorgeous, huge reproductions of the art, at least in the hardcover again, but it also has essays from Schulz that illuminate a lot about his working methods, his life, his mental state at the years leading up to and, preceding the year, and, following the year we're talking about right now. to me, that's the book to check out if you want to have a little extra curricular reading.
Harold: Yeah, I got that book when I was, I think, either nine or ten years old. And that, to me, is like, my peak experience of the books of Peanuts, the Peanuts Jubilee. It is a beautifully done book. And, like, everything you just said, Jimmy, totally agree. If if anyone can find a copy of that, it just shows you, like, literally halfway through his career, a snapshot of where he is and what he’s doing.
Jimmy: including a sequence of photographs of him drawing a daily strip.
Jimmy: Which is amazing. Now, unfortunately, it is not a classic daily strip.
Harold: He's eating french fries or something. Yeah, it's the French fries that's burned into my memory.
Jimmy: Is it scarfing junk food or scarfing french fries is one of the great joys of life or something. But that's how spoiled we are as a people. I remember Michael and I talking for years, wouldn't it be great if we could have been in the room with the Beatles when they recorded an album? And then we find out we can do that, with this Peter Jackson thing. And we go, Let It Be. What do you want? What would make you happy? But it would be nice if it wasn't the French fries joke.
January 27. Snoopy has received a letter and he's reading atop his doghouse. He thinks “Woodstock writes a very nice letter” isn't part of a sequence here. We're now reading the letter. “Everyone here at worm school is quite friendly. The food is only fair, and we have to get up too early. But I'm not complaining.” Snoopy continues to read the letter. “Tomorrow we are going on our first field trip. As we birds say, it should be a lark. We'll write more later. P. S. They have some cute chicks here.” In the last panel, an embarrassed Snoopy rolls his eyes and thinks “that Woodstock.”
Harold: A big cheesy grin on his face.
Jimmy: That's a great drawing of Snoopy.
Harold: I love that drawing of Snoopy. And I love that we finally get to hear directly from Woodstock. That is such a cool thing. Who knew we were ever going to get to do that? And all of a sudden, it's this little chatty, sweet, silly letter that Woodstock's written to Snoopy and some sort of somehow posted, I don't know, by air mail. Some bird flew it over. I don't know how that works, but it's just really adorable. And having seen Schulz Schulz was a letter writer his whole life. He was having to respond to people who were writing in. He was always writing, back to his friends in, Minneapolis and in Indiana, the Church of God people, that had worked with him for years. He just kept up friendships through correspondence. and Schulz had this same silly way about writing letters that I think is really endearing. And when he puts that on Woodstock, I decide, well, okay, that's kind of cool that he's he's I see Schulz kind of identifying with Woodstock for the first time here.
Jimmy: I think what's so strange is when you only see for however long it's been a year or whatever, maybe, more since we've been seeing the little hash marks as the chirps. But somehow this letter makes me think, oh, yeah, that's what those hash marks are saying, right? Yeah, pretty amazing. And we should just say that is part of a sequence where Woodstock goes off to worm school. I say sequence. I mean, sometimes he does legitimate short stories and then sometimes they're more a sequence. Just a few riffs on some event that happens or some little thing. And that's basically what that is.
February 10. It's our new friend, good old Peppermint Patty. She's on the phone, and she says, “Problem Chuck.” In panel two, she continues, “they want another one of those science project things at school. Got any ideas? No. Don't tell me I have to work this out myself.” Then she plops on the floor, holding the receiver of the phone to her air and says, “a science project is only good if you do it completely by yourself. Thanks anyway, Chuck.” In the last panel, we see Charlie Brown, having not said a word, holding the receiver of the phone. And he looks out at us and sighs.
Harold: I love how she opens this up with Problem Chuck.
Jimmy: I love that, too. Now, do you think we're coming in medias res, or do you think that's just how she starts?
Harold: I think that's how she starts. That's just the way she talks. Such a unique voice.
Because the stiff formality that we sometimes would get out of Peanuts, in the past and characters is out the window with Peppermint Patty.
Jimmy: Absolutely. Yeah. And it's why she feels so fresh, I think.
Jimmy: And it's partly how Peanuts stayed relevant. I think if Peanuts looked and sounded like the 50s version of the Peanuts strips, which we loved, but if it still felt like that now, it would just be out of touch.
Harold: and master cartooning. I love panel two with the side view of Peppermint Patty holding the phone. And you can see the mouthpiece that she's speaking into. And he's drawn it so that none of the lines of the mouthpiece touch Peppermint Patty. So she stands out. It's just really masterful cartooning. He just knows exactly what to do to make everything read in this tiny little strip.
Jimmy: Hard to draw a phone cord, too. And he does a good job. So how about, since we're voting on things this episode, should we put the phone and end table combo in the masterpiece of 20th century objects?
Harold: It's pretty cool.
Michael: And the curtain.
Jimmy: And the curtain, yeah. Always love a good Schulz curtain. And that feels like a 1971 curtain.
Harold: It does. Yeah. I think it's avocado green with a mustard gold.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's a little orange.
February 17. Hey, it's our old pal Violet. She says, “My hands are freezing.” Linus is there as well, and he's making a snowman. Violet looks at him and says, “you're not wearing any mittens or gloves or anything?” Then, in a beautiful silhouette panel, Violet asks Linus, “how do you keep your hands warm?” Linus looks at his hands and presents them to Violet, saying, “just before going outside, I dip them in hot chocolate.”
Jimmy: This one just reminds me I don't know why, but this one stuck in my mind from many, many childhood readings. Michael, what do you think this year old pal Violet back?
Michael: This is not the Violet I remember.
Michael: I mean, this is her big moment of the year, but she's just being a normal kid.
Jimmy: Well, she's cold. When you're really cold, you can't focus on anything else.
Harold: Is this, like, the first time we see Linus too, like, 45 days in or something?
Michael: It just seems like he's probably appeared before, but I don't think he had many strips centered on him.
Harold: Yeah, it just feels like he's become a shadow figure in the first half of the year. He's very rarely in there.
Jimmy: Do you know what my theory is?
Harold: What's that?
Jimmy: Well, Linus represents, I think, within the context of the strip, Schulz’s contemplative side and his philosophical side. I think we could all agree with that.
Harold: Yeah. And his spiritual side as well.
Jimmy: Yes. And he is, at this point, going yes, all of those things. And he's, at this point, going through, the worst period of his life. And he talks about this in the Peanuts Jubilee book, which actually, I believe, came out in 75. Of course.
Harold: That's right.
Jimmy: But it features strips from this era. And he says that there was a period of time a few years ago, and he's saying this in 1975. So I'm assuming we're talking about this period where he's starting to his marriage is breaking up, and he ends up sleeping on the couch at the studio and all that kind of stuff. And I think in order for him to be able to continue to work, he had to switch to a different type of creativity. Not, that type. The things that Linus would be reflecting on at that point would be, I think, too painful and too fresh and too new.
Harold: I think you're right, Jimmy. I get that feeling from this. I feel like you're in survival mode, and you don't have the luxury of kind of necessarily of going into these deeper places, because you're just kind of on the edge. And there's a little bit more escapism in this year where he's trying to find a happy place in the Strip. That's my sense that I'm getting from this. And I think he also if he's going through that, and then I don't think he's actively involved in a church, which is really the first time we've seen that. And in the whole run of the Strip, he's kind of backed off of the Methodist church, where he had been teaching for years, going through the Bible as a Sunday school, leader. And he dropped that, I think, a year or two earlier. So there is this sense that, like I said, the kids fewer kids are around. So you just feel like he's a little more isolated. He's a little more in that fantasy world, this year. And you can kind of guess why.
Jimmy: Yeah, maybe it's a guess, but I think it's a pretty educated guess. And I think, what's remarkable is that he has a vehicle, a daily vehicle for creativity that allows him that type of range. I think if you had a more narrow type of work that you're doing every single day, you might really suffer if you were going through a period like that.
Jimmy: So Michael.
Jimmy: You said you made the bold statement that Schulz was possibly the funniest person of the 60s. Yeah, because I'm just a contraria, I was trying to wrack my brain, trying to figure out, well, there's got to be something or someone funnier. And what I really thought was actually anyone who you could conceivably put as, like, second place. I thought maybe Johnny Carson, because it was Daily, but it wasn't daily, and he didn't do it. He didn't write all that himself.
Michael: Right. I never considered him very funny.
Jimmy: Okay. But to humans and people who like things.
Harold: I mean, the two names that come to mind for me are, like, Bob Newhart and Bill Cosby at the time. Yeah.
Michael: I guess they were writing their own material, I always assumed.
Harold: But Peanuts is daily.
Jimmy: Yeah, those guys were, for sure.
Michael: Yeah, it was Tom Lehrer, I mean, there's people who had bursts, but then not for the whole decade.
Jimmy: Right. My point is, I think, though, he's actually continues that into the 70s, even, like, if you're considering even if his batting average isn't as high as it might have been at one point, I think he's still producing more quality humor material than anybody else on the planet.
Michael: We'll have to wait and see. Decade’s young.
Harold: And also, that the change that's gone on from, let's say, the early 60s in through, like, the middle 70s in the culture is insane. I mean, there are very few people, like johnny Carson who kind of span that and can adapt to that. It seems like there are people that have these runs. I was thinking, like, they were doing Laugh In in the lasts for, what, four or five years? And Flip Wilson is really big, like, number one type show in the early 70s, but there are very few things that seem to be able to kind of span that 10-12 years, because it's so much changes to be relevant is really unusual.
Jimmy: Yeah. One of the things that— my secrets for really enjoying from 1970 onward in Peanuts is the same approach that I have to the Beatles and their solo material and stuff is like, okay, let's just acknowledge that was the best any human will ever do, and no one will ever top of it. Once you do that, you free all the stuff that comes after from even having to compete with that.
Michael: Yeah. That's the attitude I'm taking.
Jimmy: Right. You got to do okay. All right. So having said that, what is the greatest year of comic strips of all time? And it would be one of these years. Which one? If you had to pick one of Peanuts, say, this is the best first thought. Best thought.
Michael: Didn't we? Did we did this last time, didn't we?
Jimmy: Yeah, but I'm saying of all you can include the was just the decade. You can include from 1960 all the way up to 1970.
Michael: Well, I said 59 was the best year of the--
Jimmy: So you're sticking with 59. Harold, how about you?
Harold: I had said 65 when I think when we said it last time, and that's again, going off of memory as a kid, as an adult. If I go a couple of years later, I was really enjoying 67, that sort of time. So, yeah, it's in that space for me.
Jimmy: And I would stick with 68. So that's it. It is either 1959, 1967, or 1968. Hey, if you're out there on the internet and, you want to kind of be a part of this conversation, you could argue with us. What year do you think Peanuts absolutely peaked and therefore also Western civilization. You could find us on social media. We're at Unpackpeanuts for Instagram and Twitter, where we have our website, which is unpackingpeanuts.com. And, what else, Liz? What else can I say?
Liz: Unpacking Peanuts on Facebook and YouTube.
Jimmy: There you go. So, why don't you continue that conversation there for us right now, though? We're going to take a break, get some water and some snacks, and then we'll come back and, continue the year.
Michael: I'm going to dip my hand in some hot chocolate.
VO: Hi, everyone. Have you seen the latest Anger and Happiness index? Have you admired the photo of Jimmy as Luke Skywalker? Or read the details of how Michael Cocreated the first comic book price guide? Just about every little known subject we mention is referenced on the Unpacking Peanuts website. Peanut's obscurities are explained further and other stories are expanded more than you ever wanted to know, from Albert Payson Terhune to Zipotone Annette Funicello to Zorba the Greek, plus the latest tier list and of course, the shermometer. Check it all out at unpackingpeanuts.com/ obscurities.
Jimmy: And we're back. So let's get right into it.
February 21. Snoopy is atop his dog house and Charlie Brown, who looks a little bit miffed, is talking to him. He says, “I asked you to come down from there.” Snoopy hops down. Charlie Brown says “that's better.” Charlie Brown with hands on hips says to Snoopy, y”ou've been acting awfully independent lately. Don't forget that I'm the one who feeds you. I'm the one who takes care of you.” Snoopy is not looking at Charlie Brown, and Charlie Brown says, “look at me when I'm talking to you. Without me, you'd be nothing. Everything you have, you have because of me.” Charlie Brown continues to rant as Snoopy looks away. “Even that collar around your neck. Why, I remember the day I went out and bought that collar with money I had worked for and had saved.” And in the next panel, Snoopy loosens the collar. And in the final panel, he hands it over to Charlie Brown. And Charlie Brown says, “I hate it when he does that.”
Harold: To me, this is like the two Schulzs who are living through Charlie Brown and Snoopy having a conversation because Snoopy's kind of taken over the strip this year. And it's just fascinating when I think of Schulz as Charlie Brown and Schulz as Snoopy having this little conversation.
Jimmy: Yeah. And it is an interesting thought because you could do this thought experiment at this point, if you pulled Snoopy out of Peanuts, could Peanuts survive? I don't know. Would the Snoopy Strip survive? I think yes.
Harold: Yeah, I think they would both survive but yeah, it might be a notch or two down. Well, that's, you know, Michael, you said Michael, you said you weren't you weren't particularly thrilled with this this year, 1971. Is there anything that you're seeing in here that is sparking for you or does it just feel off to you, given that you had stopped reading it by this point?
Michael: This strip in particular really bothers me because one thing Schulz does consistently is keep his characters consistent.
Michael: And this does not read as Charlie Brown to me, even though, you know, it's the first time I've seen it. I just went like, he's never acted this way. Maybe Schulz was having a bad day and feeling everyone was taking advantage of him, but this doesn't sound like Charlie Brown.
Harold: That's interesting. As somebody who did continue reading it up through quite a few years after this, this does seem like Charlie Brown, so I'm assuming maybe there's more of this in later years.
Jimmy: No, there's this in the earlier years, too. Michael has selective Peanuts memory.
Michael: No. He never tries to guilt anyone.
Jimmy: Oh, no. He has absolutely tried to be the I am the master and what the master says the dog must do. And Snoopy. Yeah, no, I mean, we've done this bit many times before. You're just being a grouchy Boomer.
Michael: This is different. This is a huge guilt trip. This is what a parent would do to a kid, a bad parent would do to a kid.
Jimmy: Yeah, but Snoopy has the perfect response because there's also that element, too. Yeah, I hear what you're saying. It definitely has the bad parent vibe to it. Yeah, right. Because Snoopy didn't ask for any of this. Right. And that's the classic kid response. Well, I didn't even ask to be born. And that is what Snoopy is saying. He's like, hey, man, you bought me this stupid collar because you wanted to control me. I don't need it. Here you go. It's a pretty good response.
Harold: Yeah. At least Charlie Brown kind of gets his comeuppance in this, when he's gone too far.
Jimmy: Yeah, because he's always going to end up being Charlie Brown at the very end.
February 22 Good old Sally is writing something. Turns out it's a report on George Washington. The report begins, “a report on George Washington. George Washington was a great man.” Sally continues to write. “He probably had some faults, but if he did, I don't know what they were.” Then she thinks about it for a moment and finally she writes, “which is just as well.”
Harold: Yeah. Sally is a great woman if she can write cursive when she's five years old.
Jimmy: That's true. Now, okay, explain why Sally and why this strip made you laugh so hard, Michael.
Michael: that's a good question. Uhhh, she knows, I mean, it's a dichotomy where she's learning what they're teaching her. And I think she suspects that what they're teaching her isn't true.
Jimmy: Right, yeah. She has like the wider street wise almost sense that, hey, there's a lot more going on here. And she also has, the little bit of she knows how to game the system and, she knows when the system maybe is gaming her.
Michael: Yeah. she does know how to play the game well. She's way too honest.
Jimmy: Absolutely. I find the last panel, her head looks weird. If you really zoom in, like zoom in real and just look at that head. That is pretty wild.
Michael: Yeah. You want those eyeballs to line up properly.
March 3. Charlie Brown and Sally are walking home from school and Sally says, “I got a failing grade on my Ocean report.” She starts ranting. “That teacher wanted me to tell all I know about oceans. They'll never get me to tell all I know. Never!” And she’s screaming. “They can threaten me or beat me or torture me, but I'll never tell all I know. I don't care what they do to me. I'll never tell all I know. They can kick me. They can punch me. They can--” Charlie Brown just says, “I don't think you understand.”
Jimmy: Or does she? What do you think, Harold? Does she?
March 8. Charlie Brown is leaning up against the tree. Peppermint Patty is standing there, sort of looking contemplative. And she says, “my dad says that I am a rare gem.” Charlie Brown, eyes closed, says, “I agree with him.” Peppermint Patty takes up her familiar post, on the other side of the tree from Charlie Brown and says, “you kind of like me, don't you, Chuck? I'm glad you don't come right out and say it, though. I respect you for that.” Charlie Brown says “that's all I need. Respect.” And he sighs. Peppermint Patty glances over her shoulder at Chuck and says, “what did you say, Chuck? Don't mumble.” Charlie Brown says, “I said you are a rare gem.” Peppermint Patty says, “You kind of like me, don't you, Chuck?”
Jimmy: My question to this right from the very beginning of this Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty relationship, he moves them away from the thinking wall where this type of conversation would always occur if it was anyone else. And he puts them on this back to back at the tree symbol or a scene. What do you guys think? Why do you think he wanted to make a special place for just their conversations?
Michael: It's a clear division between boy and girl.
Jimmy: My mind is blown. That's amazing. You're right.
Harold: This particular strip, this is the first time the rare gem is introduced. Is that right?
Jimmy: I think there was gems. He spelled it out in the chord, at least. And I think it was mentioned before.
Harold: Because this interchange is, to me, a new step for Schulz with this relationship and this whole idea that Peppermint Patty thinks that Charlie Brown likes her but won't say anything about it, and yet she's okay with that, and that Charlie Brown is in this whole other place. It's so ambiguous. When I read this one, I was like, she's saying, you kind of like me. And he doesn't deny it, but she says, I respect you for not saying it. And instead of him focusing on the fact of whether or not he actually likes her, which you think would be a huge deal if somebody is talking about this to you, he's focused on respect. And I just found that really interesting. It's like, what's going on here in Schulz's mind that he takes Charlie Brown there, because I think the opposite of when you think of the two things in a relationship, for a guy that might be usually the biggest issue. It's love and respect. and I've heard some people say that for men, they absolutely need respect. That's just one person's theory, but I've heard that. I've heard people say that, and it's interesting that that's not what Charlie Brown's after. And yet the whole issue of love is in there, and yet he's not vibing to this thing that well, that Peppermint Patty is saying.
Jimmy: That's the strange thing, because that's all I need, respect. Because he's almost saying, as if he's being friend zoned it here. Like, oh, that's all I get is respect. But if he does, let's say, theoretically, like Peppermint Patty, and she says that, he could actually come right out and say it, and that, would be at least a new, different situation for him to be in. But he seems to like to be in this almost limbo.
Harold: Yeah, because we're going to see a bunch of other strips this year where Peppermint Patty keeps pressing this on Charlie Brown, that he likes her, and he's just kind of in the future strips. He just seems to be kind of dumbfounded that she's saying all these things as if he doesn't feel that way.
Michael: He's trying to stay faithful to the little redheaded girl.
Jimmy: Yeah, I'm sure that's true. Right. And yet it's faithful to the idea.
Harold: As Linus said yeah. The idea of the little redheaded girl, not that he'd actually want to interact with her.
Jimmy: Yeah, I think that's absolutely true. I don't know how very complex it is. Very complex. And I don't know how relevant this is to the, but it feels like it is. And, Harold, you might know more than or might remember this better than me, but isn't there a scene in the American Masters documentary or maybe it's someplace else where Bill Melendez is talking about this period in Schulz's life and he's trying to basically force him to do something to win back his wife, essentially.
Harold: It's the most jarring thing in that American Masters, where people are generally being very respectful to Schulz and everything that he stood for. Melendez is angry.
Harold: And he said he was a wimp. Yes, he was a wimp. And I was like, wow. That just jumps out at you because you haven't heard many really, from the interviews. You haven't heard many of these critical statements. But, boy, Bill was riled up with how Schulz was responding to the situation.
Jimmy: Yeah, absolutely. And it really struck me, and it feels like that is what I'm sort of seeing here. Right. Because Peppermint Patty is forthright, and, she will have whatever conversation Charlie Brown wants to have and will, by the way, be fine, however it ends.
Harold: Well, not that she'll necessarily listen. What's that? She won't always listen to what he has to say.
Jimmy: Everybody has a little we've had spaghetti in our house three times this month in them. This storyline continues.
March 11. Lucy is skipping rope. Peppermint Patty, carrying a baseball bat, walks up to her and says, “I have a problem, Lucille. I think Chuck likes me.” Peppermint Patty continues. “Why do things like this happen? Chuck's a nice guy and all that, but golly.” Then the next panel, Peppermint Patty, with her tongue out and a little bit of mock disgust, says, “I mean, how could I ever flip over someone like Chuck?” Then, leaning on her bat, she says to Lucy, “I could strike him out on three straight pitches.”
Jimmy: This is a classic punchline, I think. And, a classic Peppermint Patty punchline.
Michael: It's kind of weird to have Lucy not say anything.
Jimmy: Not say anything.
Harold: Yeah. Boy, that's yeah. How many times does that happen?
Jimmy: Peppermint Patty comes in. She doesn't have to be yelling. She just comes in and dominates the scene because she's just such a life force or whatever.
Harold: I think she just threw Lucy by calling her Lucille.
Jimmy: 100%. And I'm not even joking. Right. She takes people off their rhythm just because she's so unique. She is. She's a rare gem.
Harold: On the art side. Look at the size of Peppermint Patty's nose in panel one versus panel two. It's a big difference.
Harold: It's like he didn't have room for Peppermint Patty based on how large he drew Lucy. So he had to try to change up something a little bit to save that panel.
Jimmy: Yeah, very much. One of the things I find interesting to look at in terms of, like, a cartooning thing. And actually, if you even go back, to the previous strip, it's even more apparent. Like, let's say that second panel where they're leaning up against the tree and you see the profile of each of them. Other than the freckles, their heads are made of the exact same type of lines, the exact same basic shapes, and yet, just by the ever so slight changes of curves, they become these totally different characters. You know what? If you look at the difference between Charlie Brown's nose and Peppermint Patty’s nose, Peppermint Patty’s nose is just, what, a millimeter more bulbous, and it makes her, like, a totally different person.
Harold: Yeah, this is a stupid thing to say, but human beings, we're so close to one another, and yet every single one is distinct. You can tell us all apart. And in cartooning, you've got how many lines with Charlie Brown to represent that face, and yet it seems so distinct.
Jimmy: So you guys want to explain exactly what is going on here with Peppermint Patty? How she's going to approach this? Because we do have a Linus strip in this sequence, though, but we did not pick it right.
Harold: Poor Linus. He's shown up once so far. So I think Peppermint Patty has decided that Chuck likes her, and so she wants to let him down. She'll figure out a way to let him down, and she doesn't know how to go about doing it. And so it's recommended to her to write a Dear Chuck letter just to say that, I don't feel the same way about you, that I think you feel about me.
Jimmy: And that sequence continues.
March 18. Charlie Brown is at his mailbox. He's received a letter. Peppermint Patty is there spying the scene, and she has a very strange, embarrassed, annoying smile on her face. She says, “Got a letter in the mail, Chuck?” Charlie Brown, reading the letter, says, “I know that you like me, and in my own way, I like you, too, but..” Charlie Brown, in panel two, says to Peppermint Patty, “I think it's from that little red haired girl. She knows I like her.” And Peppermint Patty explodes. “That's not from any little red haired girl, Chuck. That letter is from me. You like me, Chuck.” Charlie Brown looks out at us and says, “I do?”
Jimmy: Now, what do you think's going on there, Michael? Does Charlie Brown not know whether he likes her or not?
Michael: He thinks she's just another guy. It's kind of weird. Yeah, he doesn't spend much time thinking about it.
Jimmy: What about you, Harold? What do you think?
Harold: Yeah, I just think he's so much in his own head and in that fantasy world about a relationship with a girl that Peppermint Patty's just not on his radar. His mind is clearly somewhere else almost all the time. And, with some rare occasions, I think we're going to see some strips where Charlie Brown really does open up with Peppermint Patty about things of his relationship with his father and that sort of stuff. But, yeah, he's not present for so much of this, and he's thinking about something else, certainly on his own terms. I have to mention, this strip came out on my fifth birthday. Kind of cool. Just noticed that.
Jimmy: Very cute. Hey. So I have a question. Liz
Jimmy: From a womanly perspective, what's going on in Peppermint Patty's head? Do you think this is her projecting?
Liz: I don't relate to her. And again, she's new for me. I didn't read the strips in the 70s, so I'm just getting to know her as well. I don't have a good answer for what's going on in her head.
Jimmy: To me, it feels like Peppermint Patty is always she was the one telling the vampire stories to Snoopy and Woodstock. She has a sort of awareness of world narratives, pop culture things. Right. This is the way. And I think she is kind of putting a story on her conflicting and strange feelings and applying it to Charlie Brown. Because I think what she's trying to do is say, I kind of like you, Chuck. And she really means it that way. Kind of like you not like, I'm ahead over heels about you're. Madly in love. I kind of like you. But because she's not quite certain about it, she puts it on Charlie Brown and says, you kind of like me, don't you?
Harold: She's kind of fielding it with him to see where he goes. And she fills in the blank since he's not offering anything.
Jimmy: Yeah, basically. Right? Exactly. And then because we see if this were actually the case that, she was just worried about how he felt, she wouldn't be this upset. Because here we go--
March 19, she's very upset. She says to Lucy, “that stupid Chuck! He's too stupid to even know who he likes.” And here comes stupid Chuck. Peppermint Patty is screaming now. “Can you imagine? His heart was breaking, and he didn't even know it.” Then, as Charlie Brown passes by, Peppermint Patty says, “by golly, if I ever hit a deep drive to center field, and I round first base, and I round second base, and I round third base, and I go tearing into home like a runaway freight, he better not be in my way. “ The last panel, Charlie Brown, now having cleared the scene, says, “that's the longest threat I've ever heard.”
Jimmy: Panel three is iconic to me. I love Peppermint patty's threat.
Harold: Makes me think of old Second City TV. The SCTV show. There was a character who would try to make insults. I think his name was Dennis Peterson. And he was like, why don't you go over to the lake and get onto a pier and keep walking on it? And when the pier ends, you just keep going. It's just like you can never finish his threat. But the other thing, I just want to mention this because this Peanuts that I grew up with, from a cartoonist perspective, there's one thing that Schulz really makes his own. And it's such a small thing. But as somebody who's a cartoonist, this jumps out at me are the little pointers on the balloons become very Schulzian by this point where you've got one line and then you got another line. But that other line actually goes beyond the first line. So most cartoonists will make a perfect point of like a little triangle. But here he's got these curved balloon pointers and he has the second one go longer than the first. And it's kind of a brilliant move just for speed, right. Because you don't have to end it directly at this one point. You just have to make them line up at some point and overlap. That, to me, is so Schulz. And there are only a couple of other cartoonists who kind of copied him. But it's an incredibly Schulzian thing. It's those little pointers on those balloons. It just screams Peanuts to me.
Jimmy: I love it when you could see a panel like three where he has all that lettering crammed in. Think it always looks pretty sharp.
April 10. Snoopy is atop his dog house. He's writing a letter by hand. Linus comes up and says, “you're writing a letter to Miss Helen Sweetstory.” Linus continues. “She's the one who wrote The Six Bunny Wunnies and their XKE.” Snoopy thinks “The same.” Linus walks away saying, “well, good luck with your fan letter.” Snoopy thinks to himself, “this is no ordinary fan letter.” Then he thinks “I've fallen in love with Miss Helen Sweetstory.”
Harold: Little goofy grin.
Michael: Why is he not typing it?
Jimmy: That's what I wonder. But you know why? Because this is a love note. Maybe this needs to have that personal touch. And sometimes a Snoopy has to watch out because I'm not saying who. I'm not naming names. But some point if you write love letters in handwriting and maybe, let's say, put a drawing of a world famous cartoon character on it, many decades later, those love letters may come up for auction.
Harold: Ah, yeah. Well, there's a lot going on in this strip. So when I've been looking for obscurities, depending on who you are listening, some of the things I'm selecting may not be an obscurity at all. But for me, I had to look this one up. So I'm going to include it as an obscurity. I did not know what an XKE was. Did you guys know?
Jimmy: It’s a Jaguar, right?
Harold: You're right. Yeah. British sports car. It's an amazing looking car. It's not the Batman car, but it kind of has that vibe. And they did them from like 61 to 74. It's got the front hood is like super long, and then you've got the curve of where the headlights are going to be all the way down the hood.
Michael: Obviously you’re not a Beach Boys fan.
Harold: It’s an amazing looking car
Jimmy: oh yeah of course right
Harold: And they said the Museum of Art actually added an XKE to their collection. Like, they only have six cars in their collection, but this was one of them, and I can see why. Amazing looking car, but I did not know.
Jimmy: Yeah, the last car I knew he had was a Mercedes. And the license plate was, like, Woodstock one. I'm embarrassed that I know that.
Liz: Did you guys ever see Harold and Maude? Yeah, they turned an XKE into a hearse.
Jimmy: That's right.
Harold: Oh, man, I can't imagine what that looks like.
Michael: Look at that forehead action on panel three.
Jimmy: That's a full on lima bean or a kidney.
Michael: I mean, he looks smart, right? Later on, he doesn't look as smart when his forehead.
Harold: Erudite Snoopy.
Jimmy: Look, I agree with that. Big foreheads obviously symbolize intelligence. I think that's just pure science. Hey, while we're talking about pure science, Harold, what's up with the anger meter for 1971?
Harold: An interesting year. There was a little bit of movement. So I'll come back and ask you guys again, where do you think he is in the anger business, for 1971? Because every year, we're looking at the number of strips that have at least one character in one panel showing anger, or one character in one panel showing happiness. And we've been tracking it for a number of years of Peanuts strips. And I'll take you back to 1970. We had 137 angry strips, which is 38% of them, and 133 almost the same amount of happy strips 36% which are both pretty high numbers for Schulz. So where do you think we wound up in 1971?
Jimmy: Michael, do you want to go first or shall I?
Michael: I can go first.
Jimmy: All right, go for it.
Michael: I have no idea. I read this, like, a week ago, and I have no memory of any of this.
Harold: In your general vibe about ‘71 not being happy with it, is there anything that would give you a clue, like, of why it feels a little strange to you?
Michael: I was less happy with it, but I wasn't angry.
Jimmy: I think the anger is way down, because I think Schulz is kidding himself, and he's not putting that out. I think he's putting it out in different ways. That's my guess.
Harold: Okay. And on the happiness side, what do you think?
Jimmy: I think the happiness side is going to trend upwards.
Harold: All right, well, Jimmy, finally you've redeemed yourself.
Jimmy: Yes, I'm actually too legitimately happy about that. I shouldn't be that excited.
Harold: So the anger strips in 1971 went from 137 in 1970 to 81. Only 22% of them show anger. And the strips for happiness, which were already high at 133, have climbed slightly to 139. So that is the all time low for anger for any of the years. And it's the second highest happiness.
Michael: Woodstock might be affecting your numbers.
Harold: I think you're right, because Woodstock is pure pathos.
Michael: It's usually not happy, it's usually not angry.
Harold: Yeah. Now we have seen a number of strips where Woodstock was angry, trying to kick a football and this sort of stuff, or being miffed about something. But yeah, I think in general maybe that's true. If you averaged out all the Woodstock strips, they might be bringing this average down and the happiness thing up because there is that little comrade, the compatriot kind of thing going on with Snoopy and Woodstock where they often share something that they enjoy.
Jimmy: I think that and I'm the first to say, I don't want to put too much stock on speculating behind the scenes, but to me, 1971 Schulz is in some ways I don't want to say less present, but allowing less of himself into the strip because he himself is wounded. And I watched-- Oh! because I have very exciting news. My next book is going to be my depression book, which
All: yay, yeah,
Jimmy: I’m very excited about it. I'm hoping it might even be out next year. But that's not official yet. But I'm very excited about that.
Harold: But anyway, could you tell people just briefly what that is so they know what you're referring?
Jimmy: Oh yeah. Right now, anyway, it's called In the Real Dark Night, a funny book about being seriously depressed. And I've been working on it since 2015. And the simplest way to explain it is that it's a comic book about fighting depression by making comic books. But it's a fictional story and my goal was just to make the darkest subject I could think of as funny as possible. So that's going to be my next book. I'm still doing a lot of research on it though. And I watched this YouTube video and Liz, I'm going to have to get back to you and find a link because I think it's worth watching. But the woman on it, basically said that what depression is, is really the distance between who you are and the person the world thinks you are. And the further that distance is, the greater the pain and whether or not it's true or whether or not you just feel that it's true. And I think Schulz probably felt that that was true at this point. It causes depression. And when he talks about it in that Peanuts Jubilee book, he's not talking about the melancholy he describes later in life, like a sense of on we and longing. He's talking about real hardcore dark night of the soul stuff. And I think because of that, he's not working it out in the strip. He's working it, or at least not consciously working it out in the strip. He's working it out in some other way. And I think it's going to take a while before he's able to start doing some more of those, maybe older, more philosophical Peanuts strips. I might be projecting all of that, but it feels like that might be what's going on here.
Harold: I think that resonates for me. And I think also, in terms of popular culture, things had been so divided in the late sixties, and so one of the ways entertainment, like, I'm thinking of, like, humorous entertainment, took a turn was that it moved into fantasy, because we couldn't agree on today. Let's talk about a world that doesn't quite exist. So that's like when Batman in the mid 60s came out and you had all of the rural comedies like Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres and there's just a lot of kind of, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, lots of these kind of fantastical stories that were super popular because it was like the one thing people could get around because it wasn't taking a stand on one thing or another. But that's changing in the culture in the early 70s, because we've been all through this, and there's still a lot of anger, a lot of, I think, broken glass from everything kind of being thrown up in the air and everyone's a little disillusioned, and All In the Family comes out in 71. And all of a sudden, that's the big thing. And this is where I think maybe Schulz is going to start to diverge a little bit. He's been on the cusp of 20 years of the culture, and I'm thinking that we may see him. He's still at the top of his game with his own unique voice, but it may start to feel as we go into the he's not with the culture, he's in his own bubble, doing his own thing.
Michael: That's kind of funny, because I noticed that he seemed to be making fun of a lot of trends, pop culture trends, and so he's keeping an ear open for what people are talking about. He might not be happy about it.
Jimmy: Yeah, that's the difference. Well, Michael, as someone who was in your early-- 21 this year, what was the feeling at the time? And was there a sense that, you know what, I'm thinking of the way-- Boy, we've mentioned Hunter S. Thompson a lot of times in a Peanuts podcast, but you know that wave speech in Fear and Loathing of in Las Vegas, which came out, I believe, in 71, you could see where the culture peaked and crashed and rolled back or whatever. Was that sense? Was that in the culture that, oh, the good days are kind of past us
Michael: Yeah, it was pretty obvious. And now, plus, I just got my draft number, which was number eleven out of 365.
Jimmy: Oh my God.
Michael: So that was not that cheery thought.
Jimmy: Well, can you explain what that means to people who don't know?
Michael: Oh, they had a lottery in 71, I believe. And yeah, so everybody, based on their birthday. It was actually a real lottery. was assigned a number, and the earlier the lower the number, the more likely you were to get called up. So if you got number one, you were first. So I was definitely well in the getting drafted zone. So I was plotting basically how to get away.
Harold: So what happens?
Michael: I got away.
Jimmy: College deferment?
Michael: Yeah, Until I dropped out. And then I, basically starved myself and then failed the physical. That was my plan.
Harold: Oh, man.
Jimmy: Brilliant. I've thought about this a lot. Not that it's relevant anymore. 51 but I thought of about the various ways to get out of it if I ever had to. One of my dad's famous stories. My dad fought in World War II, and he was drafted at 18, actually, before he was 17. But he had dropped out of school, so he was then eligible for the draft. And he was just not ready to go. Quite. When the time came, the train came in to take everybody out. He shook the one guy's hand on the one side of the train, just kept walking, shook the other guy's hand on the other side of the train. My grandmother was on the little station crying, waving goodbye. The train pulled out. He was standing there. He got one extra lunch.
Jimmy: Sometimes an extra lunch is what you need.
Michael: 71. I think things were so bad that all this really goofy pop culture stuff was what people were talking about, just not to think about the serious stuff.
Harold: Yeah. This escapism, you kind of see that today. Right. We got a very divided culture and, like, Marvel movies and that's kind of the thing. That's dominating.
Jimmy: Yeah. oh boy. I'm going to skip it now, but boy, do I have a lot of thoughts on Marvel movies. I watched a bunch of them recently, and I think we need to move away from them. That's all I'm going to say.
Harold: Yeah, I hear you.
Jimmy: Yeah, we've peaked. We need to move into a different direction.
April 15, tax day in America. I got a refund this year. Thanks, people. Lucy comes up to Snoopy, who's sitting on the doghouse, and says, “if you'll let me read your letter from Miss Sweetstory, I'll give you a sugar cookie.” Snoopy, this is a sacrifice for him. Closes his eyes and says, “forgive me, Miss Sweetstory, for sharing our intimate correspondence, but I need a sugar cookie.” Snoopy is chomping away at the sugar cookie while Lucy reads the letter from Miss Helen Sweetstory. “Dear friend, thank you for your letter. Sincerely, Helen Sweetstory.” Then she yells to Snoopy in the last panel. “This is a form lette!” sending Snoopy into total shock.
Harold: Every panel in this is a delight. I mean, the fact that Lucy knows that she can bribe him with a sugar cookie is just hilarious. And then Snoopy's look of resigned duty of giving this away because he needs the sugar cookie. And then him blissfully eating with his little smile on his face while she's reading the letter. And then when she's screaming at him and he's eating the cookie still, but his ears are up, and he's lifted off the doghouse by her yelling. I love everything about this strip. I laughed out loud when I read this thing. It was just perfect. These two characters that we know so well, having this interchange, so great.
Jimmy: And as we have said before, Harold and I love all of the Helen Sweetstory, Bunny Wunny stuff. Oh, and talking about relevance, coming up next year, there is my favorite of the long sequences of the year. And it's about the six bunny wunnies freak out getting banned. And I think we're going to do, like, a whole episode about maybe just that story and maybe one other one, if you guys are up for it. Yeah, sure, because we'll be in the Zeitgeist, baby.
Michael: Yeah. And I don't know what happens.
Jimmy: There you go. Just the time. The six bunny wunnies freak out. That's all you need to know.
Michael: Yeah. Another drug reference.
Jimmy: Okay, now, but I do have a serious philosophical question I would like to ask you guys. Are you pro or con sugar cookies?
Michael: Boy, I would kill for sugar cookie.
Jimmy: Now, when was last Michael, you do not eat any sugar. When was the last time you had sugar?
Michael: Oh, probably 30, 40 years ago.
Jimmy: Wow, that's hardcore.
Harold: Yeah, I'm anti sugar cookie in the world of cookies.
Jimmy: Oh, really?
Harold: Yeah. I must get chocolate chip, Peanut butter.
Michael: I'd kill for an Oreo right now.
Jimmy: That's good stuff. All right, well, listen, let's move on before Michael, breaks his streak.
April 18, it's a baseball game. Lucy's out in the outfield. She yells, “we're right behind you, Charlie Brown.” And who's this? It's the original Patty. She yells, “Pitch it to him.”
Michael: in the panel that's going to get cut off. A raw deal for Patty.
Jimmy: I didn't think about that. That's true.
Harold: Oh, man, hopefully you had the full three tiers in your Sunday.
Michael: The original peanut in the first strip was Patty.
Harold: Looking good, though.
Charlie Brown does let it go flying, and POW, the batter sends it sailing out. Lucy yells to Charlie Brown, “chase it yourself. You were the one who pitched it.” Charlie Brown thinks for a second, then does just that, sighing as he runs. It was clearly quite a hit because he actually runs out of the field, through a fence, down a block into an entirely different baseball game, where a kid says,” hey, kid, you with the baseball glove, you want to play right field? We're short a player.” Charlie Brown says, “Well, I'm already in a--” the other kid doesn't want to hear it and says, “you want to play or not? Get out there. We're ready to start.” The last panel, we have Charlie Brown playing right field in a totally different neighborhood on a totally different team. Thinking “I'll be interested in seeing how this looks in the box score.”
Jimmy: We talked about this with someone else. I can't remember who else, but someone else picked this one.
Michael: Really? I don’t think so.
Harold: Oh, yeah? Well, maybe your next door neighbor, but I don't think it's been on the show.
Jimmy: He's more real to me than your next door neighbor. Wow. I guess I just imagine I'm so glad then, that we picked this one because I think this one's really funny. I love the other kid. I always love the off brand Peanuts kids that come in for one panel where Schulz just can do what he wants. I love that the last panel with the chain link hurricane fence is so different than the wooden plank 50s fence that the Peanuts gang usually plays in. I love the panels of Charlie Brown pitching. I love the little detail in the background of the new neighborhood. Like he goes almost through, like a Wizard of Oz vortex type thing. where he's now in like a 70s urban kind of street neighborhood. Very Sesame Street looking. I just love it. Hey, Michael.
Jimmy: You once mentioned that one of the things that's cool about baseball is that you could basically completely recreate a game with stats and you don't have to get into crazy detail, but could you explain basically what a box score is for those kids who don't know, which is probably obscurity.
Michael: So people used to sit in the stands, or even when you're watching TV, and you have a little card and you can basically there's this very obscure notation you could write to explain that the batter flied out to right. You put a couple of symbols there and so you'll know pretty much exactly where the ball went. And it's amazing. You can recreate the games pitch by pitch. Now it's all done by computers, but people would sit there and they'd collect these things. I never did it, but people keep them as souvenirs because you could pull out that Phillies Cub game from 1956 that you saw and then relive it.
Jimmy: For two years. When I was 12 and 13, I was the official scorekeeper for the Girardville girls softball team. Not team, but a league. Little League and Teen League played during the week. And then the girls softball league played on the weekends. And so I would be their official scorekeeper and I would had to learn all that notation. And it is really fun. It's unique to baseball and pretty cool. And I don't know exactly how that would look in the box, of course, Charlie Brown, it would look like a mistake.
So, back here to the Miss Helen sweet storyline. On April 22 what happens? Sometimes the Sundays come in and they mess up your sequences. Schulz makes no attempt to incorporate these Sundays into the daily sequences.
Michael: Occasionally he does.
Jimmy: Very occasionally, though. Anyway,
Lucy comes up to Snoopy and she's holding a magazine in her hand, and she says, “Guess what I found?” She opens it up and says, it's a magazine photo story about your favorite author. Now you'll get the chance to see what she looks like.” Snoopy opens the magazine, peruses it, and reads “Miss Helen Sweetstory, author of the Bunny Wunny series, relaxes here in a porch swing surrounded by her 24 pet--” And in the last panel, Snoopy is shooketh. “Cats!”
Harold: I love that you can just see how triumphant Lucy is even in the very first panel, guess what I found. So she knows exactly how this is going to go down.
Jimmy: Oh, absolutely. Lucy can still bring her A game when she needs to. And we're going to wrap this up.
April 23. Linus walks away from Snoopy's doghouse carrying a whole stack of books. Snoopy very calmly lies on his back on top of the doghouse. Linus says, “thanks again for the books.” Snoopy says “you're welcome. Forget it. Good riddance.” Linus, carrying the books, walks up to Charlie Brown and says, “Snoopy gave me all his Bunny Wunny books.” Then Linus continues walking and says, “when he found out that Helen Sweetstory owns 24 cats, he stopped reading her books.” Then in the last panel, we see Snoopy atop his dog house, nose in a hardcover, thinking, “back to Herman Hesse.”
Jimmy: Hey, you want to know what kind of a ah, full service podcast this is?
Liz: What kind?
Jimmy: I read Siddhartha because of this.
Harold: You're kidding me.
Jimmy: I am not.
Harold: I read it because I had to in high school.
Michael: And you were, like, minus one at that time.
Jimmy: well, it came out in 22. No, I mean, I read this this week because
Harold: What? No.
Jimmy: Yes, it is. Well, no.
Jimmy: I listened to the audiobook. I don't know if you're partisan. To me, that counts. Yeah, it's okay.
Michael: everybody was reading Herman Hesse.
Jimmy: Well, it's from the 20s. It's like 22. Right. But it so clearly vibes with that late sixties early--.
Michael: it seemed totally modern.
Jimmy: You're right.
Harold: Yeah. There's some ennui.
Jimmy: Well, you know what it is to me, and I really did enjoy it. I did it's basically for those of you who haven't read Herman Hesse, It's a guy in the time of Buddha, and he's very privileged, and he goes off on a quest with his buddy. First they become a monk, and he's great at it but doesn't like it. Then he meets Buddha and his buddy goes follows him, and then he goes and he finds a courtesan, and he learns everything from her, and he's great at it, but he's not happy. I like it, but it's got that feeling of a story where someone you know the ending of it, but you know, you're just going to have to listen to all 20 minutes of the guy's story before you get to the ending. That's how I sort of felt about but, yeah, I read it for you on this podcast just so I could give that little book report.
Michael: Thank you.
Harold: Well, that's cool.
Michael: Above and beyond. Give you an award. We should have an award.
Jimmy: Biggest glutton for punishment.
Harold: And I am grateful to Charles Schulz here for establishing that there are at least eleven Helen Sweetstory books at this point in the hands of Linus. So we know that this is quite a collection.
Michael: Did you count that?
Harold: They're very thick books, too.
Michael: Is it the same in every panel?
Harold: Well, at least in panels one and two. I'm guessing Schulz is going to be consistent. He's that kind of a guy.
Michael: I can't tell if that's a finger or a book.
Jimmy: All I'm saying to Peanuts Worldwide out there, I know we are an affiliated fan podcast, but if you guys ever want to give up that license to Miss Helensweet Story, we are in. We could fill all eleven of those books, no problem.
Harold: Yeah, no, I don't know, the thickness of those is a little concerning to me. but do you think these are all prose books? Are they picture books?
Jimmy: Yeah, I think they would be in today's parlance, we would do a hybrid book.
Harold: A hybrid book. Okay.
Jimmy: Heavy text, heavy illustrations. Let's say 120 pages each.
Harold: So we're like Diary of a Wimpy Kid world, that sort of a thing.
Jimmy: That's what I'm thinking. That's my elevator pitch.
Michael: But we need the graphic novel rates.
Jimmy: You know what else we need? We need to call it quits, because we've been talking for seven days now. You guys don't know that because Liz will edit out about six and a half days, but it's already time for us to start recording the next episode.
So while we go do that, here's what I want you guys to do. You can follow us on the Internet, on social media, on Instagram and Twitter. We're at unpackpeanuts. You go to our website, unpackingpeanuts.com, where you could check out all the obscurities. You could sign up for the great Peanuts reread, where you can get a newsletter, a monthly newsletter from Harold, telling you what strips we're going to cover each month. And yeah, just, would love to hear from me.
If you want to support the strip financially, we have a Patreon. You could also buy us a mud pie. Or you could buy one of our T shirts or one of our books, because we're all working cartoonists. That would be swell. Hey, real quick, before you go out, you know what I love? I got a chance to hang out with a bunch of my family this weekend. And you know what question I love? Where can we buy your books? Where on earth could we buy a book. Took about eight people, accumulated years on earth, about 400, about 20 minutes to remember. Oh, Amazon. Amazon is where you could get my-- It's. Amazon is where he could get every book, but also buy them through our website because then we could get a little kickback and that's not going to hurt anybody. Right? Right. Okay, so, until next week, for Michael and Harold, this is Jimmy. Be of good cheer.
Michael and Harold: 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 Unpack Peanuts on Instagram and Twitter. Unpacking Peanuts on Facebook and YouTube. For more about Jimmy, Michael and Harold, visit unpackingpeanuts.com. Have a wonderful day and thanks for listening.