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1979 Part 1 - Don't You Want To Go To Happy Piggy Land?

Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. This is Unpacking Peanuts, and we are talking about 1979 today. Can you believe we got to the end of another decade? I can't. I'm really excited to get into it so let's get started.


I'm your host for the proceedings. My name is Jimmy Gownley. I'm a cartoonist as well. I did books like Amelia Rules, Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up, and The Dumbest Idea Ever. Joining me, as always, are my pals co hosts and fellow cartoonists.


He's a playwright and a composer, both for the band Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. He's the co creator of the first comic book, Price Guide, the original editor of Amelia Rules, and the creator of such great strips as Strange Attractors, A Gathering of Spells, and Tangled River. It's Michael Cohen.


Michael: Say hey.


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


Harold: Hey, and don't forget, The Neat Before Christmas, my new Christmas book that's just coming out this year,


Jimmy: and the author of the brand new Neat Before Christmas available. What a perfect stocking stuffer for the comics fan out there.


Harold: Stockings? Yeah, if you can fit an eight and a half wide book.


Liz: Big socks.


Jimmy: Well, no one uses real socks. You get those big ones, and you got to get the magnum size Christmas stocking.


Harold: Yes.


Jimmy: Anyway, so it's the end of the 70s. what do you guys think? I'm almost in denial that we only have two decades left to cover. I cannot believe how fast it's gone. I truly enjoyed this year. I thought this might be my favorite year of this decade. Harold, what are you thinking? What's going through your moraine?


Harold: Yeah, as I was reading through it, what it made me think was I'm seeing more of Schulz's, I guess, small studies and exercises in writing. That's the feel I get, that you get the sense that he's noodling with ideas. When I was starting out reading this, I was getting that feel that Schulz is-- maybe Schulz's world is a little bit smaller now. We've been talking about this before. His experiences --having his kids around and that sort of thing maybe are a little bit less so. He's having to bring things out of pure imagination. And it's hard to describe. I don't know if you understand what I'm saying, but it just seems like some of these jokes or certainly variations on themes of jokes, feel more than ever. Like he's sitting with a pad of paper and he's just thinking through ideas from a pure imagination standpoint. So that was kind of the feel I got of this year. The riffs are milder, I think, than what we've seen in the past. In many cases, you've got Snoopy telling a joke that Schulz wouldn't think is strong enough to land as its own joke. So Snoopy has to be laughing at his own joke. And that's kind of where the humor is.


Michael: Right.


Harold: So he's doing different things with the strip and the characters. It just feels a little more mellow and mild, at this point in his life.


Jimmy: Yeah, absolutely. Michael, what were your thoughts?


Michael: Well, strangely enough, I seem to agree with you, Jimmy, on this.


Jimmy: It whoa. All right.


Michael: Yeah. Shocking.


Jimmy: I love being agreed with.


Michael: Yeah. I was really surprised by this year, to be honest. I was kind of feeling like every year of the 70s was getting a little further away from what I liked about the strip, And I was feeling less and less entertained by it. But for some reason, which really puzzles me, it seemed like it all turned around, especially the first half of this year.


Jimmy: First half, Yes.


Michael: I don't know. It makes me wonder about inspiration. I mean, you can go into, check out what's going on in his life at this point, but somehow he pulled it off. I think he got the strip back to where it was.


Jimmy: Yeah.


Michael: And was coming up with lots of interesting stuff. The question about inspiration is it's not necessarily like all of a sudden he inherited money or something. You look at a lot of artists who go through kind of a fallow period, and then suddenly come up with a masterpiece. Maybe that's it. Maybe they don't do that again. Thinking maybe like Band on the Run came after kind of a period where McCartney was not-- his albums, at least were not getting great reviews. And then all of a sudden, this is his best album. I think this was a thing like that for Schulz, just somehow something kicked in. His jokes are funnier. The art looked good. It was like we were sort of talking about last couple of years. It was sort of shifting into a new look. This definitely looks more like older Peanuts.


And one thing he does this year is he's bringing back a lot of older bits that he kind of dropped along the wayside. We see a lot of Red Baron. The psychiatrist booth comes back. There's bits with library cards, which was actually a big deal in the 50s. We see Snoopy coming up with a whole bunch of personas and animal imitations. There's kite strips. We have Lucy explaining science to Linus. Little redheaded girl comes back. The pen pal strips come back. I don't know. So it felt like it was more like he was looking back at what made the strip work before and leaning into that. And then he goes way out there on some storylines, which are just strange, like, especially Charlie Brown in the hospital is like almost like a different strip. But anyway, as years, I mean, I've been having trouble finding strips I wanted to pick, and this year I had way too many and I just cut out like seven, eight choices right before I put it all together. So anyway, yeah, I think it's really an entertaining year.


Jimmy: It's interesting what you say about the Band on the Run comparison, which I hadn't thought of before, but definitely a part of that came from the fact that Paul McCartney was aware that he was not on top of the critical heap anymore. He was not beloved, and he knew he had to pull one out. Right. Do you think something's going on? Well, I mean, for instance, Garfield debuts in 1978, and good old Doonesbury is rolling right along. Is he's starting to think, I have to put a little more effort into this?


Michael: Yeah, well no one's telling him. His editor is not calling.


Jimmy: Right.


Michael: And it's not like, well, I have to get more syndicates signed up. He didn't need the money, McCartney didn't need the money. But you're on top and your pride's on the line.


Harold: I think that's a really good observation that Schulz is seeing somebody else really hit the zeitgeist with other people, with he's, he's a competitive guy. I wouldn't be at all surprised if that didn't pull something out of him. He's got that ability to do that. We've seen it in his work, we've mentioned that he's competitive in sports and there's just a side of him. The other thing I think that might be happening is that as he's been going through more and more of these feature films and these specials, you often don't go back and reread your own work. Right. But he's forced to to go back years to find strips for material for those specials that maybe he wouldn't have, say, ten years ago. And so maybe to Michael's point, one of the things that's happening is he's revisiting what he's done in the past on a regular basis now, because of what he's doing with the animated specials and maybe that's triggering things in him.


Michael: Yeah, that makes sense.


Jimmy: Yeah. Well, and also what you said earlier, Harold, about the early years. He's looking at his own childhood, probably, and reflecting on it. Then he has the middle period, like Michael just said, where all those people, all his family were around, and he was getting stuff from that. Now he has the opportunity to use Peanuts itself as a source of inspiration, which is only something that someone was doing for decades would be able to do that. Because now it's not just bringing back an old bit. It's a classic that people are if it's say, the psychiatry booth, you already know people love it and will love it just by seeing it. Yeah, that's a really rarefied air to be in as a creator and it's so cool when someone takes advantage of it because there was an important part where he had to maybe put some of that aside for a while and experiment and explore new stuff. But there's no shame in coming back to it when you can still hit it out of the park.


Michael: Yeah, it's really obvious with all the Red Baron strips, I assumed because that seems to be one of the first things people think of when they think of Peanuts, is I assumed when we started the 70s that that was going to dominate And I was really surprised that it faded out to the point where maybe one strip a year referenced that, and he goes into it very strong here, including those long sequences. yeah. And I'm sure that had an effect on at least the feedback he was getting because people really love that stuff.


Jimmy: Yeah, absolutely. Well, this has been an interesting and enlightening conversation, at least for me, right off the bat. So I'm even more excited now to talk about the individual strips. So that's what we're going to get doing right now.


If you're out there and you want to follow along, go to GoComics.com type in 1979. And as I read the date, you type them in and then you can follow along. However, if you want to be a straight A student, if you already think too much, you can sign, up on Unpackingpeanuts.com, sign up for the Great Peanuts Reread. And my pal Harold will send you an email newsletter once a month. it will tell you what we're going to be covering in those four episodes in that particular month. So you can read ahead, know, impress your friends and family around the water cooler. Why your friends and family are around the water cooler, I don't know. Maybe it's because everyone works at home these days.


You might be surprised to learn I don't plan any of the things I'm going to say. So gather your friends and family around the water cooler and we'll all start


January 1. Schroeder and Lucy are hanging out at the piano in Lucy's classic position. And Schroeder says to Lucy, “I have the feeling that this is going to be a good year.” Lucy says, “what makes you think so?” Schroeder says, “I don't know, it just has all the appearances of being a good year.” Lucy gives him the side eye and says, “have you looked in the corners?”


Michael: Yeah, I really like this. The last time I remember the January 1 strip being Lucy talking about it was going to be her year. And actually, it was a good year for Lucy this year also. I think she really dominates. It's kind of interesting that Schroeder thinks this is going to be a good year and it turns out to be a good year.


Jimmy: Schroeder was right.


Michael: Maybe not in politics, but the world.


Jimmy: Yeah. In this Iranian hostage situation, but, we had a good Peanuts year.


Michael: Yeah, that's all that matters.


Jimmy: Oh, no. And the Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series. 79. Come on.


January 4. Snoopy and Woodstock are atop the dog house. And Snoopy says to Woodstock, “I think it's an illusion that a writer needs a fancy studio.” Snoopy stands up and is pontificating. “A writer doesn't need a place by the ocean or in the mountains. Some of our best books have been written in very humble places.” And then we cut, to Woodstock typing away on his own little, masterpiece in his bird's nest.


Jimmy: I just love that last panel. That's just great.


Michael: Well, I was hoping we'd get to see more of his book, but we didn’t.


Jimmy: Oh I’d love to see Woodstock's book. Be very hard to read on that little paper, though. Oh, wow. I also like now what do you think, Michael, about, say, panel two Snoopy? That to me, seems like we're moving very far into the plush 80s look, of Snoopy.


Michael: Yeah, I can't quite pinpoint it. I don't know. Did the eyes somehow change just the dots? It's hard to see how it could change.


Jimmy: It's impossible. You just grok Oh, something's a little different. Is the head slightly bigger?


Harold: It seems like it like, in relationship to the neck. It just seems like he's got a gigantic head, which reads is cute.


Jimmy: But, for me, it's all about that last panel. That's just a great little drawing. I love Schulz's spindly trees and bird nests and the whole thing.


January 7. It's a Sunday, so we got one of those old symbolic panels, with Lucy's head over a sign that says Crabbiest of the Crabby. Then when the, strip starts in the second tier, she's in full on fuss budget mode, yelling, “all right, everybody out of my beanbag chair.” Next panel, we see Linus hightailing it out of the beanbag chair. And Lucy yells again. “I said everybody.” Now we see Snoopy running out and Lucy's in the beanbag chair, but she's still not happy and yells, “apparently, some people just don't listen. I said everybody.” And in the last panel, we see Woodstock hightailing it out as well as Lucy, leans back and relaxes.


Michael: The beanbag chair seems to become a set this year. It's prominent, I guess. I had two big ones. Someone gave me two big ones, and I was in them all the time. Sometimes I'd even fall asleep in them.


Jimmy: Oh, you got to love a beanbag chair.


Michael: Are you kidding me?


Jimmy: How about you, Harold? Did you have a beanbag chair?


Harold: No, never had a beanbag chair.


Jimmy: All right, well, listeners, yeah, if you're, going out shopping for Christmas, Harold needs a beanbag chair.


Harold: No, please. I'm looking at the artwork on this Sunday, and it definitely feels like he is working smaller in the Sundays now. Yes, you see the tremor much more clearly throughout on the line there on panel. You look in the panel two with the base of Lucy's dress. There's some real, wiggly lines going on, even on the shoe. Like, he looks like he's going really slowly on the shoe. And they're much tighter on the wall. It's all throughout this one and certainly on the word balloon in panel three. And the lettering just seems much larger in the Sundays versus what it used to be. Yes. And so I think he is doing that trade off where he is having some issues with his drawing. it's more difficult now. And the question is, do you work larger to hide the tremor? Do you work smaller so that it's less taxing? And it looks like he opted for working smaller. The Sundays now feel closer to me than the dailies in terms of how they look than they have before.


Jimmy: That's an interesting way to phrase it. They look closer to you. I have said a couple of times as the years go on that they look like they're occupying the space of the panels differently. That's what it is. Yeah. It looks like it's happening closer to you. That's really strange. I never thought of it that way.


Harold: Yeah. I'm going to see if I can go back because I'm looking on the dailies. And what he did is he drew out his own panels and then he had them, printed essentially on board so that he doesn't have to do them over and over again. And you can see, like, in the third panel of the dailies, in the upper left hand corner, there's a little irregularity in the thickness of the line going down vertically. And so it's pretty clear for me to go back. And I could find, say, when he first started using that template, which may have been at the time when he got rid of that Peanuts logo that he was forced to work with.


Jimmy: Yeah. Wow.


Harold: Yeah. But it's really interesting to see, and I think this is a place where, barring the tremor, he feels pretty comfortable drawing at this size. And he's getting some really nice expressions out of the character.


Jimmy: But you could not do an early-- I was picking some strips for an upcoming special episode that we're doing the other day, and I was looking at some of the old 50s Sundays with, like, the really elaborate drawing. It was actually like Charlie Brown went over to Schroeder’s house for Christmas and they're looking at the train set and all that sort of stuff. I don't think you could do that type of drawing at this scale or in this form.


Harold: Not with the tools he's using. I don't think so, because he's not changing his tools. As far as I understand, he's been using the same-- he did switch out for his bold lettering. There's, like an ABC and D speedball pen. And it looks like he switched to a different letter pen for a lot of his large lettering. Like when you see the slash from the cat on the dog house or something like that, it looks like he's been experimenting with a different pen for whatever reason.


Jimmy: Yeah. And I wonder what that reason would be. It might be something as simple as well, it might be the tremor, but it might also be something like, these pens just aren't as good anymore. I know I've noticed that. You'll have some art supplies--


Harold: A lot of cartoonists complained that the quality of these nibs as the general public stopped using these nibs, that it was not as big a business as I think they had been. And so the companies that were hanging in there and still making them, either they had to branch out into other products, or they were shrinking. And when you have a shrinking industry, often the quality of things go away because the people dedicated to the quality go to other places where there are broader horizons. So a lot of people complained over the years that those pen points just got a little less quality, because there's probably less going into them. There's no innovation.


Jimmy: Which also explains the reason why he would be so dedicated to buying all the 914s when he had the opportunity.


Harold: Yeah, right. Because that was a school pen, and no one was using dip pens anymore in the school.


Jimmy: Charlie Brown, who's still practicing these things in the, have no Idea what he's doing. Oh, here's another Sunday,


February 18. We start out with a Snoopy and Beethoven mashup drawing. And then it starts off Snoopy sitting on Schroeder's piano. As Schroeder plays away, Snoopy then falls asleep. Doesn't seem to bother Schroeder, who just starts playing, a fairly elaborate little piece here. And here's what I want you to do. Go to GoComics.com and look at this thing. Because it's impossible. Basically what happens is Snoopy gets covered by the music. And then as if the sheet music, which represents the auditory experience, has enveloped Snoopy. And then for the next 1 2 3 4 and a half panels or so, he's trying to get out of the sheet music, which ends up spraying it off into the air in a sea of dissonance. And Snoopy sees all the notes laying on the ground and then piles them up on Schroeder’s piano.


Jimmy: Makes me long for the days when I was just having to read really long psychiatric problems.


Michael: This is really odd. You assume because he fell asleep, this is a dream, but it's not.

Jimmy: Unless it's a dream all the way.


Harold: Schulzian dream.


Jimmy: Like, he never wakes from it.


Michael: Well, but Schroeder definitely sees the pile of notes.


Jimmy: Unless that's a dream.


Michael: The dream Schroeder. Yeah, this is definitely, an Avant Garde strip.


Jimmy: Yeah. And it comes last year he did the really cute looking into the panel to the right to see the future. That little bit of formalism. So maybe for the last few months or so, some formalisms on his mind. It's very, very odd.


Harold: I like the cartooniness of the expressions. And we're going to see more of that this year. The little line of desperation around the back of the eye. That is often just a standard thing for Linus and Lucy. Snoopy has sometimes on these panels, the eyebrows, it just feels more cartoony. And I like the cartooniness. Schulz started out not being the broader cartoony. I don't know what words you would use for it, but it was very precise. But I wouldn't say he was exaggerating. He gets to play with the exaggeration in some of the expressions and he thickens things up. And again, I think it has to do with him working a little bit smaller. And maybe even the Idea for this strip where the music of Schroeder is covering so much space, which now can cover Snoopy. Maybe he wouldn't have thought of that when he was working large. So again, we're tighter in on the characters and so the elements are crowding on each other a little bit more, which he's playing off of with this.


Jimmy: You know, the other thing that's interesting in terms of now that Michael, put it in my head about the Paul McCartney thing and the feeling of competitiveness Schulz had, there's some awfully cute and very compelling animated Snoopy that Schulz had nothing to do with. I think he wants to make sure he does some really good Snoopy drawing in a format that the animators really can't touch. Because like Michael said, this is an avant garde comic strip. It's very, very unique to the form.


Harold: And you can't help but be inspired, I'm sure annoyed initially, but then inspired when you've drawn your style characters and then someone else starts to draw them in another medium. And it's not the way you intend, but every once in a while you'll see a drawing that somebody else does of your work and you go, wow, that's pretty cool. Because there were some very talented animators like Bill Littlejohn who worked on Snoopy and did gorgeous stuff. It wasn't Charles Schulz's Snoopy, but there's some really neat things in there. I think I would be inspired by that good of an artist, particularly if they're moving them in space. So you're seeing drawings that you normally wouldn't draw, right? So yeah, that's got to have some impact on you.


Jimmy: Yeah, and that's sort of what I'm getting too. Like. You see that first panel in the third tier? That's not a Snoopy you normally see.


Harold: Right?


Jimmy: Now, this Littlejohn character, did he do the, stuff in, Thanksgiving where Snoopy is like playing basketball or wrestling with a chair?


Harold: I don't know. I believe way back in ‘65 when he did the Christmas special, some of that really famous Snoopy stuff when he's at the piano with Schroeder. I think that's Littlejohn possibly. He was also working on that opening sequence where Snoopy is ice skating and it's just gorgeous arcs and moves. I thought that was Littlejohn. I could be wrong. There may be somebody who knows more than I do.


Jimmy: I bet somebody knows. I bet someone knows right off the cut and they're screaming at their computer right now. Right? Yeah.


Harold: Set us straight on that. Because Littlejohn was involved in animation for years and years and whether he was still like as far in as the 1973 Thanksgiving special, I'd have to look it up. But his stuff is really nice and I would be inspired by it if someone was drawing my thing. I wouldn't like every drawing, I'm sure, but every once in a while you see, an amazing draftsman. Do something with your character, you go, wow, maybe, I could incorporate something similar.


Jimmy: Yeah. Rise to the challenge.


March 8. Snoopy and Woodstock are atop the doghouse. And Woodstock is doing what appears to be maybe a little Charleston or a little jig. He does that for two panels, I think. First one's a Charleston and the second one's a jig. Panel three though, rumble, rumble, boom. A storm cloud shows up and drops a few drops of rain on him, which in panel four, pleases Woodstock to no end. And Snoopy, very impressed, says “you were right, you can dance up a storm.”


Harold: I picked this one just for the drawings. That first drawing of Woodstock doing the little stoic dance is so cute. Oh my gosh. And the last panel with a satisfied Woodstock and a very pleased Snoopy. It's adorable.


Michael: There seems to be a lot of word play this year where the gag is actually something-- this is not usual for Peanuts, where somebody says something, that they think is funny, which generally, even though they are funny, they're not joking usually.


Harold: Yeah, that kind of goes back to what I was saying where this year felt like small studies or exercises with mild riffs. With the characters, things get a little bit smaller in some cases. The jokes are not as big or profound as maybe what we would experienced in some of the earlier years. There's more of these kind of gentle little moments where I don't know if it's fair to say Schulz says that's good enough, but he's just in that place right now, I think, where he doesn't mind a little minor moment with a character where there's ah a play on words or a joke. And it's really about the personalities, seeing them play out these minor gags.


Jimmy: If I drew that picture of Woodstock, I would have it tattooed on me. I just think it is so cute.


Harold: It's adorable.


Jimmy: I also think it's funny if you ever log out accidentally of something like YouTube, which I try to curate within an inch of its life. So I don't ever see anything I don't want to see, but if you log out, it'll just give you stuff it thinks like a 50 year old white guy would like. And it's so far from anything I'm actually interested in. I am so proud that someday my descendants will know that I was a 51 year old white man who did a podcast about how cute Woodstock was. I think that's a good legacy in these 21st, century days.


Harold: And it's worth pointing out we haven't really talked a whole lot about we were talking about the ages of the kids and this and that. the Schulz is 56 years old when this strip is being done.


Liz: Youngster,


Jimmy: just a kid still really


Harold: whippersnapper.


March 12. Charlie Brown's atop the mound. And Lucy comes out carrying her steno paper and says, “hey, manager, I'm a reporter for a school paper. I demand to be allowed into your locker room for interviews.” Charlie Brown turns and says, “we don't have a locker room.” Lucy walks away, throws her notepad over her shoulder and says, “I didn't want to be a reporter anyway.”


Michael: But we got very excited when we saw her as a school reporter a couple of years ago, and we thought, what a great Idea. I was hoping there'd be more of that. And there's a couple this year.


Jimmy: There is. Yeah. I still think this could have gone on to be a major thing, and it still can. Apple still can give us a ringy dingy.


Michael: Hey, don't give away our Idea.


Jimmy: No, we do it every oh, we already did on the podcast.


Liz: Every podcast. We have a new pitch.


Jimmy: A new pitch. Michael doesn't listen to the podcast, but all right, how about we take a break now, and then we come back and talk, some more about this great year.


Harold: great.


Michael: Sure.


Jimmy: All right.


BREAK


VO: Hi, everyone. We have a special bonus event coming up exclusively for our generous supporters. On Saturday, December 30. We'll be doing a live Q and A with the hosts and give you a behind the scenes look at the podcast. Our plan is to make these sessions a regular feature for Patreon subscribers. All the details are available on our website,

unpackingpeanuts.com. We hope you'll join us live on Zoom, Saturday, December 30, at noon Eastern time.


Jimmy: All right, everybody, welcome back. Hope you guys got a good snack. We had a lot of fun. Hey, before we do, any more of these strips, though, how about we check the old mailbag?


Liz: Yeah, that's a great Idea.


Jimmy: All right, what do we got? do you got anything, Liz, or should I got a couple things.


Liz: We have a couple of messages. First of all, Jeff W sent us a picture and a link to the Woodstock toothpaste roller.


Jimmy: So thank you, Jeff W. Thanks, Jeff. wow, what a disappointment it was to see the real thing, not to get it. Getting it was fantastic. I'm so happy Jeff sent it to us, and it was so great to see. But in my mind, it was significantly cuter. Yeah.


Harold: Ah. Is it the eye?


Jimmy: Is that what's the eye is just misplaced utterly. And it's not colored in it's very strange.


Harold: Yeah. Kudos to the manufacturer for doing a Woodstock in hard plastic that couldn't easily poke your eye out with little--


Jimmy: That's true. Well, thank you, Jeff, for sending that. I really appreciate it.


Liz: And Deb Perry, a regular contributor, wrote to us on Blue Sky and said, an unexpected place to see the different sizes at which Charles Schulz drew Peanuts strips is in the great Big Book of Peanuts Word Seeks. Seeing strips from the 1960s through the 1990s together at the bottom of the puzzles really shows the size difference.


Harold: Yeah. 59 and 60 in that puzzle book in particular, a huge difference in the height. I guess that's a side by side. Boy, it's such a taller strip in the 1990s than it was in the 60s. That's amazing. That's really cool that there's a Peanuts word seeks.


Jimmy: Yeah. And thank you, Deb, for sending that to us. That's fantastic to be able to see side by side in one picture, the differences. Harold, can you talk a little bit about what factors are going into this? There's obviously Schulz's preference, but some of it has to do with the newspaper itself.


Harold: Yeah, we talked about this before. So the newspapers were printed on these giant rolls of newsprint, right. And typically what would happen is it's on a drum running over a drum, and the size of the drum is harder to change than the width of the paper on the drum because you don't have to use the entire drum if you don't want to. So let's say the price of newsprint is going through the roof, which it did every so often. And the newspapers are like, oh, we need to save money. We're going to make the newspaper smaller. And that means less wide. And so the width compared to the height of the newspaper is changing. But that also means-- I remember this was very common. You'd have two comic strips side by side, and then you'd have a column of single panels like Family Circus.


And today it's mostly just two side by side because it's gotten so narrow that you've lost those single panels and they have to go elsewhere. And I, don't know if that's hurt the single panel comic because it's just not as easily put into the design. But so what Schulz is dealing with is he started out as a small strip in the first place. It was very short in height compared to its width, and it was, sometimes printed smaller. That was how it was sold. So he had to make it read at that really small size. As the newspapers get narrower, he was getting less and less real estate, and he was realizing well, hey, I could be the same height as the other strips if I requested it, and I can get some of that real estate back and make it more readable, because they are shrinking. I mean, if you go back and look at a 1940s newspaper, or the size of these strips, these dailies was huge in the newspaper. I mean, the ones we have right now, I think, are like, maybe sometimes five inches wide, because it's a twelve inch wide newspaper and you need some margins. It's a five inch wide strip that's tiny. If you got four panels right, you've got, just over an inch. You're getting down to postage stamp size here. It's really hard to work in that space and be crisp and so, you know, Schulz I think this was the only way Schulz could get some of that real estate back, was saying, Look, I don't need to be more squat than the other strips because my strip is not being treated as a space saver anymore. So why not let me just be the size as everybody, you know, I'm glad he got that space back. It works well, given what he had to deal with and what every other cartoonist had to deal with, I think nobody was hurt more than, those story strips. We used to have the gorgeous art of Alex Raymond, and by the time you get into the 70s, it's getting small. And it's really hard to do a continuity strip where there's any continuity, because there's nothing to work with. There's no size to work with.


Jimmy: There's no space for the story, there's no space for the artwork. It's a bummer. And when you see some of those illustrators, the level of craft they would put into this work that was just getting progressively more degraded, less, thought of less and less as something worthy, but they were still putting out great work. They really deserve to be remembered.

Harold: And you have to reinvent yourself as an artist every time that size changes or you realize that what you're working with. And that's what we're seeing in this year, is that I think Schulz is doing a really good job of adjusting to that smaller size.


Jimmy: Absolutely. let's see what else we got. Oh, we got a voicemail from our old pal, Joshua Stauffer, and here's what he has to say.


VO: Hi there. This is Joshua Stauffer. All that talk about bugs and fuzz convinced me that I should wait no longer to share this funny story. My mother had a sewing business. She used to make table runners for the quilt shop at Kitchen Kettle Village, just outside Lancaster. Often there were little pieces of fuzz and fabric scraps and clumps of thread scattered around the floor at our house. My mom would sometimes get nervous because she couldn't tell if she saw a bug or a piece of fuzz. So she would make me get down all fours and pick up all the little fabric bugs off the floor. That was one of Jimmy's favorite strips, and it's one of mine, too. Be of good cheer.


Jimmy: All right, well, thank you for writing, Joshua. So that was sitting in the mailbox. If you want to reach out to us, you can do it in a bunch of different ways. You can email us. We're unpacking peanuts@gmail.com. You can follow us on Threads and Twitter, I guess, but that guy come on, man. We're at Unpack Peanuts and on Facebook. And something else. We're unpacking Peanuts. YouTube, right?


Liz: Blue Sky and YouTube.


Jimmy: Blue sky. Yeah. Okay. Anyway, the point is, get in touch with us, and if you really want to just, get down dirty, get on the line and let us hear your voice, you can call us at--


Liz: 717-219-4162


Jimmy: and how are we-- Are we getting that song anytime soon? That's supposed to be set to music, isn't it?


Liz: We're working on it.


Jimmy: We're working on it. Okay.


Liz: For the new year. We'll have it for the new year.


Jimmy: I thought maybe Michael put it in the old Idea pile.


Michael: No, Liz actually wrote a little melody. I just have to do it on Xylophone or something.


Harold: There you go.


Jimmy: All right, so we're just waiting for the Xylophone track, people.


Michael: Yeah.


Jimmy: All right, let's get back to the strips.


March 17. Lucy and Charlie Brown are sitting on the bench at the baseball field, and Charlie Brown is reading the school paper. He reads, “this reporter has never interviewed a worse baseball team. The manager is inept, and the players are hopeless.” Lucy just sits there. Charlie Brown reads this aloud. “We will say, however, that the catcher is kind of cute, and the right fielder, who has dark hair, is very beautiful.” And in the last panel, Lucy, with a big smile on her face, looks at Charlie Brown and says, “good article, huh?”


Michael: Yeah, I think he could have done a lot with this reporter.


Jimmy: Yes. It's a very good fit for Lucy's personality.


Harold: Yeah. To be able to speak with authority into things that she's not necessarily that qualified to speak to.


Jimmy: It's perfect.


Michael: It's perfect.


Jimmy: I'm proud Charlie Brown finally moved her to right field. Finally.


Michael: I assume she was always in right.


Jimmy: She kept saying center for years. Well, she might not have known what field she was in. That's true.


Harold: I'm looking at the art here, and the tremor feels really strong this day. It's different, actually, from day to day. Sometimes. You look at the last panel with Charlie Brown's hat, that's like 90s tremor to me. Yes. In terms of what he's dealing with. And the other thing that shows that he doesn't have the control, I'm sure, that he wants to have, and it must be frustrating, is in the lettering. He's really good at lettering, and he can move quickly with the line, so I think he can kind of beat the tremor. But it seems like he is struggling with control. And one of the things I remember using a dip pen for lettering back in the day, where you'd have your speedball pen is you dip it in ink, and then you draw, you write out what you're going to write out, and then you sense it's starting to run out of ink. And so you got to dip it again, and then you got to run it over something so that it gets down to not too great of a flow. And he's losing a little bit of that control on that first panel. The h part of the h is darker. It feels like he dipped there on the b in baseball team. it's darker there, and, you just see it in different spots. Some w's in the third panel. You can kind of tell some of the behind the scenes work there because it's just hard to control. And when you're working smaller, some of those things are going to magnify. So that's something I'm noticing, particularly here, that he's got to deal with the limitations that he's got, and he's doing a great job of it, but you're starting to see those challenges. And I can't imagine what he must have gone through in his own mind to deal with something that he used to have more control on, and now he's got to find a way to continue without the level of control he used to have.


Jimmy: Yeah. From the competitive angle, again, it's like being an athlete who just, can't, hit the long ball anymore, or it's just one step slower than they used to be. Still an athlete on a level most people can't even contemplate, but not at the pinnacle top then that frustration, and I can't imagine what it does to you in terms of your self worth or, I'm sure I'm putting too much on it, but you know what I mean? This was the one thing he knew.


Harold: And he's got 20 years to go, right.


Jimmy: 20.


Harold: And you're seeing him the struggle right now. He's going to go on for 20 years and find a way to continue to create.


Jimmy: Yeah. And that's an artist. That's what it's all about. Charlie Brown. Everything else. I see so many people, that are just thinking, if they can just get the right line, if they could just get the right app, if they could just get the right tool or paper or whatever it is, and get this thing. But that's ultimately not it. Part of it is that you want to see that. I don't want to see him struggle because I love him, but I want to see his hand in it. And yeah, that's beautiful.

Harold: A certain artist with a certain temperament could have just hung it up right here sure. And just said, I can't do what I want. And I'm very grateful that Schulz was not one of those people.


Jimmy: well, the other thing it reminds me of musically is in the 90s, when Rick Rubin produced that Johnny Cash record. And Johnny Cash was long out of the limelight. He was old. And what Rubin's approach wasn't to get a bunch of session men in and to slick it up and put autotune all over it. It was to just let him play an acoustic guitar or a piano and sing to it, and it sounded like an old man singing. And it's a beautiful record, right?


Harold: Yeah. And you are working with who you are. And because age can add elements that you would never have in your youth, there are these trade offs, and a good artist will know how to lean into those changes and not be discouraged that they're not doing what they were doing before. And I'm absolutely seeing Schulz leaning into what those limitations are, and it's bringing out, I think, new things that wouldn't have been here if he hadn't had those challenges.


Jimmy: Absolutely.


March 20. Lucy and Linus are playing some sort of board game involving dice. Lucy says to Linus, “it's your turn. Roll the dice.” Linus, looking at the dice contemplatively, says, “what if rolling these dice leads me to a life of gambling?” He clutches them in his hand and says, what if I can't stop? What if I become a compulsive gambler? What if I” and in the last panel, we see, Lucy has smashed the, game board over Linus's head. The pieces are everywhere. And Linus says, “Rolling dice can ruin you. So can not rolling dice.”


Jimmy: I think that's a pretty profound punchline. That's like one of the great conundrums of just a life. Should I or shouldn't I in anything?


Harold: Sins of omission and commission.


Jimmy: Or commission. Right. Who knows?


Michael: They're seeming a little more childlike. They seem to be doing more childlike activities this year. Like sitting on the floor, playing a board game.


Jimmy: Board game, yeah.


Michael: And then later on, there was a real surprising moment where Charlie Brown says he's eight and a half. Where I would have thought they're supposed to be six, which would mean Lucy would be, like, Seven. And sitting on the floor playing a board game with your little brother. Know? I don't know. I'm wrong. Maybe at seven kids still do.


Jimmy: But well, here's the other thing. I think it's this year, but like I said, I was looking at those other strips, so I could be wrong. Don't they show Sally and Linus in class this year, too, together?


Harold: Yeah, they've been doing that.


Michael: Well, either she jumped ahead, which is unlikely, or he fell behind. Also unlikely.


Harold: Either. Yeah.


Jimmy: Well, maybe it's a very small school. My first grade class, we had first and second grade in the same room.


Harold: Maybe it's a specialty hour that you have know, who knows? Yeah. what I noticed in this strip is that second picture with Linus, he looks way different than, say, the third picture of him. He has a super high forehead in that second panel, and, it does not look like typical Linus to me.


Michael: It looks like a horn.


Jimmy: He looks like what?


Michael: He looks like a horn. Oh, he's got this angle coming on his forehead.


Jimmy: Well, it's because, as I pointed out episodes ago, at some point he got dropped and he has a dent.


Michael: He gets slugged a lot.


Jimmy: Well, yeah, look at Lucy's already smashing a board over his head. Who knows? It's lucky he's still walking around.


March 23. Linus and Lucy are playing a board game, and Lucy says, “if you roll a six, you land in the witch's dungeon. If you roll a twelve, you get to go to Happy Piggy Land.” Linus gets up and walks away saying, “I don't think I should roll the dice. I don't want to risk becoming a compulsive gambler.” Lucy screams at him as he walks away, “don't you want to go to Happy Piggy Land?”


Michael: I want to go to Happy Piggy Land.


Jimmy: Absolutely. That's one of my picks.


Harold: Do you think there are some grandchildren in the mix here?


Jimmy: I don't know what's going on, but it does feel like, a shoots and ladders candyland type game someone's been playing.


Michael: It's not Dungeons and Dragons.


Harold: It's so funny. I think I've mentioned this before, but I was a gambler of the gumball machines as a kid. You get the nickel thing and you get a charm or gumball, depending on what you were doing. And I'd find the machine that you could play the slots, the looser machine. This was a real thing. I'm glad as an adult. Somehow that got wrung out of me before I was able to spend lots of money at the slots or something.


Jimmy: Yeah, that reminds me of the time, we all went out after a, wedding of friends, and I was old enough that this was not a big deal. I was probably 20, but we all had a cigarette to celebrate, and I was like, OOH, that was pretty good. This is a good time to quit cigarettes, because that second one, I have no willpower. I will be an addict. Let's just stop this right now. Well, I'm glad you're not a compulsive gambler, Harold.


Harold: Well, I appreciate that.


Jimmy: That would be weird. I don't know if I could even handle that.


Harold: I couldn't do any of those conventions that are at the still have gumball machines.


Michael: You'd be out of luck.


Jimmy: I think there's a couple of sweet looking ones at my local giant grocery store. So we got to keep Harold away.


Harold: Yeah, right.


March 24. Linus and Charlie Brown are hanging out at the Thinking Wall, and Linus says, “I guess it's wrong always to be worrying about tomorrow. Maybe we should think only about today.” Charlie Brown says “no, that's giving up.” And then he concludes, “I'm still hoping that yesterday will get better.”


Michael: If he waits 50 years yesterday will seem pretty damn good.


Jimmy: Yes. The one thing that can change the past is the future. Because it'll change how, you see it, how you frame it. And that is just the most optimistic, delusional thing Charlie Brown has ever said. And I love him for it.


April 9, Woodstock and Snoopy are atop the dog house. And Woodstock chirps at Snoopy. Snoopy, says “a grocery clerk.” Snoopy then says, “sure, why not? But what makes you think you could be a grocery clerk?” And then in the last panel, Woodstock serenely and confidently chirps at Snoopy, a scanner barcode.


Jimmy: The reason the reason I brought this up, just because is two things. One, grocery clerk. I'm surprised Snoopy didn't, come back and mention that he was once a world famous grocery clerk. But did Schulz just draw the barcode?


Michael: No. Sure he did. No. You think so?


Jimmy: I think he did.


Harold: Yeah, you can see it.


Jimmy: Yeah, I think he did. If you zoom in real tight. That's nuts.


Harold: Yeah, he was using the old ruler on that one, I think.


Jimmy: Yeah. So, the point I'm making with that and also seeing it with the music staffs that we talked about a few strips ago, despite the fact that he's dealing with, a struggle of his drawing hand, he's not shying away from trying difficult things. Yeah.


Harold: And it looked like the music staff he had somehow done a photocopy of, or a, photostat of, because it's very consistent. Probably a photocopy a stat would have been really hard to ink on top of, I'm guessing.


Jimmy: Well, yeah, he is still inking the notes and stuff on top of each one.


Harold: Yes. And those look remarkably pristine.


Jimmy: Yeah. so he's still bringing it every single day. Yeah. If I had that joke again, I thought I have to draw the barcode myself now. Forget it.


Michael: I'd just paste in a Woodstock.


Jimmy: Well, actually, I guess he cut out.


Harold: a formal corned beef hash UPC and dropped it into the strip.


April 16. Charlie Brown and Linus are walking around outside, and Charlie Brown has something hanging around his neck. Linus asks, “what's that you're wearing around your neck, Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown says “it's a medical tag. Lots of people wear them.” And he looks at it with a sort of sense of pride. And, as he shows it to Linus, Linus asks, “what does it say?” And Charlie Brown says “insecure.”


Michael: I'd never heard of this medical tag.


Harold: You remember 1979 medical tags people were wearing? I remember dog tags.

Michael: Never heard this. This was a thing?


Jimmy: Wait, what? You guys don't know about these?


Michael: No, they still exist?


Harold: What is it?


Jimmy: It's a tag that you wear if you have a severe allergy or if you're diabetic or if you're epileptic or whatever. And there's something that if you're incapacitated and someone comes across you, they can help you.


Harold: And you wear it like a necklace. It is just kind of or a bracelet.


Jimmy: Yeah.


Michael: Wow. I can have like, a parchment hanging around my neck.


Harold: Yeah. So do you think Lucy provided this, or is he going to a higher source for help?


Jimmy: I think he could just buy them at the pagoda down the mall. Yeah, they used to have a red cross on the back. Some of them did anyway.


Harold: It's like the dogs that, know, people were buying on ebay the little dog vests so that they could take their dog into the movie theater and that they to start cracking down on that a little bit because no, there's people who have legitimate need for this. Do not abuse this on their behalf.


Michael: There well, you can learn from these comical strips, I'll tell you.


April 17, Lucy is walking out to the outfield very confidently, finger raised to the air, her index finger yelling, “we're number one. We're number one.” In panel three, bonks. She gets hit on the head with a flyball. Then from prone in the grass in the outfield, she says, “I could have sworn we were number one.”


Michael: This is why I picked this is Lucy's year, because she's got this great thing going here. This is her worst fielding season ever. But she's like, obsessed with this. We're number one chant.


Jimmy: It was big. We used to do that a lot as kids. I remember the Girardville all star baseball team. We hadn't won a game in like 21 years, and we were playing our arch rivals in Pottsville, and we lost. But we drove the whole way home in the coach's car, yelling out the window, we are number one. I think we lost like, twelve to three.


Harold: Look at that drawing in panel three again, this is to me is Schulz dealing with working smaller, working with the tremor and getting a look that feels organic and very cartoony and fun.


Michael: What's odd about it, if you really look at it, is she's actually jumping off the ground as the ball hits her in the head?


Harold: That's great. What a choice, right?


Jimmy: But why does that work? It does. It's very weird.


Harold: Yeah. Is she jumping up technically afterward, because the ball has already fallen. We see the ball, but we also see the ball traveling downwards. So is she surprised? And we're seeing multiple things in time? I don't know.


Jimmy: It works. Whatever is happening, it looks cool. It's so strange. I like his wobbly little star. Talk about the tremor. Check out the motion lines on the ball.


Harold: Boy, he's working so slowly, right, that the tighter those little tremors are, the harder he is at getting an actual arc on those lines. He has two lines going kind of parallel to each other. He's got to get it pretty right. And you can see how slowly he's working on that.

Jimmy: I draw on paper, right? I draw on paper. And I draw with a brush, pen, and blah, blah, blah. But then I scan it in and I have it in a digital program. I can clean all that stuff up. I can take that one line and just move and copy it. To be even someone who works primarily traditionally isn't working as traditionally as he would have been at this point. there's just no outs. There's no shortcuts for anything. That's true, except maybe a photocopy, like you said, for the staves of music. But that's about it.


April 28. An annoyed Snoopy is sitting atop his dog house wearing his scout master's hat, and Woodstock is also, joining him. And, Snoopy says to Woodstock, “fine bunch of beagle scouts you guys are. You spot four chicks and you're on off and leave me.” He's yelling at poor Woodstock, who's just sort of staring blankly. Then Snoopy stands up and puts his hand across or his paw across his heart and says, “you all forgot your beagle scout oath. Don't cut out on a friend.” Then in the last panel, Snoopy sits down and with a big grin on his face, says, “incidentally, did you have a good time?” And Woodstock goes butt over tea kettle with a big heart, in his word balloons, indicating that, yes, he did in fact, have a pretty good time.


Jimmy: So what do you guys think of this? I love it. I love this little sequence where they go after the chicks. I love that they're called chicks because they're little birds, which is just adorable.


Michael: They're very cute, too.


Harold: Yeah, I love the expressions. Talking about the cartooniness of this year, particularly on Snoopy. The first two panels you've got how do you describe this, classic, animation style, where you draw an oval for the eye and then you put the pupil inside of that, which Schulz usually avoids, but you've got this angry line as the pupils, go up against a line over the eyes. And then he actually does draw those little ovals for the outside of the eyes. And I, think it's really cute. I like it a lot. I'm a sucker for that sort of thing anyway, so to see it on Snoopy every once in a while, I think is a real treat. And for some reason, I don't know if it's because he's wearing the hat, I'm thinking like Dudley Do Wright. I think of Jay Ward a little bit here. It's fun. And then in the second panel, he just makes a much larger pupil. And, it really makes the cartooniness pop out.


Jimmy: I love in that second panel, actually, the drawing of Woodstock.


Harold: Yes. Little forlorn kind of angled upward toward each other, like he's a little slightly cross eyed. Yeah, that's adorable.


Jimmy: I love the, you're talking about those eyes and panel one where Schulz will do the thing where it's normally the polka dot button eyes, but then for specific exaggerated emotions, he'll put the whites of the eyes in, which I do in Amelia. And Bill Watterson was great at doing that and getting amazing range of expressions in Calvin and yeah, so I love that look for Snoopy. Look at that head, though, Michael. He doesn't have a forehead at all in panel one. It's just an oval. I know it's supposed to be hidden under the hat, but that's not how it is in any of the other panels.


Michael: Yeah, forehead seems to be kind of back to normal this year. I didn't notice it that much.


Jimmy: Normal forehead year. All right, now, do you guys know what, the name of that hat is that the Scouts wear? No, it's a campaign, hat. Yes. I wrote a, comic strip. I do this comic strip for Scout Life magazine, and I did a joke based on the campaign hat, and they wrote back, and no one knows what a campaign hat is. Not even the people in the Scout know what a campaign hat is.


Harold: How did you know?


Jimmy: I googled it.


Harold: The wonders of the Internet.


Jimmy: And speaking of the wonders of the Internet, you know what you can do if you wanted to? You can continue your conversation with us, for the whole week that we're not recording. You can go on to unpackingpeanuts.com and send us an email. We're just unpackingpeanuts@gmail.com. You can sign up for the great Peanuts reread, where you will get your little newsletter that tells you all the strips we're going to be covering each month. And it only comes once a month. We're not going to spam you. You can also find us on Twitter, on Blue Sky, on Threads, at all kinds of different addresses that I never remember. And you can call us at that great number, which is


Liz: 717-219-4162.


Jimmy: Awesome. So we'll be back next week, where we're going to finish up 1979. So, excited to be at the end of another decade of this amazing work. So come back then. and until then, for Michael and Harold, I'm 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 Threads. Unpacking Peanuts on Facebook, Blue Sky, and YouTube. For more about Jimmy, Michael and Harold visit UnpackingPeanuts.com. Have a wonderful day and thanks for listening.


Jimmy: Don't you want to go to Happy Piggy Land?


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