Jimmy: Hey, everybody, welcome back to the show. This is Unpacking Peanuts, and we are in the grips of another holiday which is run by a big Eastern syndicate. It is Valentine's Day, and today we're going to be looking at, some classic Valentine's or Valentine's adjacent strips from the first to 15 years of Peanuts.
I hope you're doing well. I hope you're getting to spend Valentine's Day with your sweet baboo. I'm Jimmy Gownley. I'm, in addition to being one of the hosts for this show, I'm I'm a cartoonist. I'm a cartoonist behind Amelia Rules. The Dumbest Idea Ever. And Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up. And joining me, as always, on this day of love, are my pals, co hosts and fellow cartoonists.
He's a playwright and a composer, both for the band Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. He's the co creator of the original comic book Price Guide. He's the original editor for Amelia Rules and the cartoonist behind such great strips as Strange Attractors, A Gathering of Spells, and Tangled River. It's Michael Cohen.
Michael: Hey, there.
Jimmy: And he's the executive producer and writer of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a former vice president of Archie Comics, and the current creator of instagram strip's Sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: guys. I assume neither of you are gigantic Valentine's Day fans. I don't think you're the kind of guys who have fantastic memories of childhood Valentine's Day parties in classrooms. Am I wrong?
Michael: You're right. No, I definitely am in the Charlie Brown category here.
Jimmy: Now, let me ask you this, Michael. What's more traumatic for you, Valentine's Day as a child or Halloween as a child?
Michael: Oh, my God. Two of the worst days of the year. I don't have any specific Valentine's Day traumas. It was just generally I'd get two and everyone else would have 50.
Liz: Who were the two from?
Michael: That is my male friends, probably.
Jimmy: How about you, Harold?
Harold: Well, I have to say, I'm a sucker for the old school art that used to be in those things. But I remember getting the whole box full of them from the drugstore, and it's hard to remember. I can't even remember if we were allowed to selectively give them. I believe everybody gave one to everyone else when I was growing up in New York, in Rochester, New York area. So it wasn't as traumatic an experience of who was going to give me one or not give me one. Everybody gave one to everyone else. So you had a stack full of them and then those little pink and light green chalky hearts, and, I didn't feel one way or the other about those.
Jimmy: Yeah, I don't think anyone feels one way or the other about those.
Harold: Although I think I did enjoy going through all the slogans. Right.
Jimmy: Well, yeah, that was my experience, too, in Catholic school growing up, you had to have, a valentine for everyone or nobody. And I actually even remember a couple of teachers having spare Valentines around. If a kid wasn't able to bring something.
Harold: I was just thinking about the hearts. They didn't have snarky ones back then, they probably have snarky ones now that you can buy. You didn't get like yeah, you didn't get one that just says “you'll do.”
Jimmy: Yeah. So I thought it would be fun to go through for the first 15 years of the strip. Sometimes he has a Valentine's Day strip, sometimes he doesn't. If there was one that was absolutely clearly a Valentine's Day strip, but didn't fall on the 14th, I pulled it out and we'll look at that. but I thought it would just be kind of fun to go back through all the years that we've already studied and just see what he was talking about on February 14, of every year.
There is, of course, an animated special. We're doing this a little different this time. We're not going through the animated special and talking about which strips have been adapted. But the animated special, is one of the big ones. It's aired for years and years, and I know a lot of people who are huge fans of it. And actually, we got to speak with, Charlie Brown and Lucy from that era. And, I was wondering, Liz, would we be able to get in the old, Peanuts Time machine and go back and see what Duncan had to say about his time on the Valentine's Day special, which is, I believe he said, his favorite.
VO: It's time for the Peanuts time machine.
Duncan: Well, mine would, be my Valentine, Charlie Brown, because it was my intro to the whole Charlie Brown world. And I thought it was, such an iconic feature that they came up with, particularly the ambition of Charlie Brown thinking he's going to get so many Valentines that he has to bring two briefcases to school with him. That kind of optimism, I think a lot of people can identify with that. Certainly it's something that's mirrored my own life.
Jimmy: All right, so guys, do you have any-- I know Michael hasn't, but Harold do you have any memories of watching the special?
Harold: I don't, I don't remember that one, actually, at all. I don't know if I've seen it. I'm what what year? So that would be like your early 80s?
Jimmy: oh, no, I think it's the early 70s. I think it probably accounts for the-- I've seen it and seen it many times. I think it accounts for the fact that there's five years difference between us in age, because it was definitely one of the big ones. The ones I look forward to every year were, of course, Charlie Brown Christmas, Great Pumpkin, and Thanksgiving, but I also loved the Valentine's Day one and, the motocross one, which also was Duncan was Charlie Brown for that one, too. That's one of my my all time favorites.
Harold: 1975.I just looked it up, so yeah, I must have seen it.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's got a little bit of a Miss Othmar plotline, which is really fun.
Harold: That's cool. And we've got an Emmy nomination. That's nice.
Jimmy: Yeah. No, it's definitely if you guys haven't watched it out there and you're not Michael, give, it a spin. It's worth checking out. If you are Michael, then don't watch it, it will be something that you'll want--
Michael: It'll corrupt you. No Peanuts for you forever.
Jimmy: …bring them before the Hague. Well, okay. so that, I guess, is the Valentine's reminiscence portion of our show out of the way. What do you say we, just start looking at some of these comic strips?
Jimmy: And if you guys want to follow along with us out there, you can always go to GoComics.com type in Peanuts. But if you would rather treat yourself, get this Fantgraphics books that, cover every year of the strip. They're beautiful and, put out by a darn fine publisher to boot.
Harold: Yeah, I do want to say so, Jimmy, when you pull, like, one of every year, just basically from the same time of the year, it really is so much fun to look, a, check in of every year where he is artistically. It's amazing just to see this gradual, gradual development of the art and lettering, and it's fun. I've never done it this way, where you just kind of have an annual check in where Schulz is artistically at the moment. It's amazing to see.
Jimmy: Especially I would say, those first few years. It is wild to see the progression. Like Michael said before we turned the microphones on, we were looking at the strips of michael said, boy, those kids sure had big heads in the early days.
Michael: It's pretty jarring to go back, because it didn't last that long.
Jimmy: No, it really didn't. I mean, by the time you look at, like, 1953, I think, he looks a ton times more like Charlie Brown than by the next year. He sort of got it. Yeah. That is a really nice, side effect of looking at them this way. So let's just start off with, the first February 14 Charles Schulz was a cartoonist for, which is
February 14, 1951. Patty approaches Charlie Brown, and she says, “do you think I'm beautiful, Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown says, “uhoh.” Charlie Brown contemplatively says to Patty, “well, you'll have to admit that you're getting on in years.” Then he leans in with a look of sort of feigned superiority on his face and says, “of course, if I sort of half close my eyes,” then in the last panel, he's running away, big smile on his face, with an angry Patty chasing after him. And Charlie Brown says “it's risky, but I get my laughs.”
Michael: It's really strange jumping back in time like this.
Michael: Because this phase of Charlie Brown's personality didn't last all that long. He was basically a wise guy. And Patty, I think, had some kind of crush on him. But he'd always sort of insult her. This little ending panel where she's chasing him because he said something is is pretty common in those days.
Jimmy: Yeah. And completely unlike Charlie Brown of later years. The the panel that really throws me for a loop is him giving the side eye and panel one there, how far those eyes are apart on his head.
Harold: Yeah, if you look at just like 51, 52, 53 in succession, how those eyes come together is pretty amazing.
Jimmy: And especially when you consider it's counter to prevailing cartoon wisdom, which is the farther apart the eyes and the wider the lower they go on the face, the cuter the figure is. But in Schulz, by the end, I mean, the nose and the two eyes are basically butting up against each other.
Harold: Yeah. Now, one thing he didn't do so much is drop the eye. It's kind of middle of the head. In fact, it's slightly above the ears or the top of the ear. So that's one thing he didn't do. It would have been fascinating to see if we just took this and we digitally dropped those eyes, what it would do to the perception of the character.
Jimmy: Like a Hello Kitty, Charlie Brown.
Harold: Yeah. But they're small too. I mean that little side eye thing. Those eyes are tiny. So is Charlie Brown. He's younger than Patty, I think, in this in this 1951 version.
Jimmy: Well, she looks gigantic in that first panel because she's also like, kind of stooped forward a little bit, right?
Harold: Yeah. She's she is quite tall in 1951. But yeah, it is wild seeing the wise guy smartalecky Charlie Brown. I remember just feeling really weird about these jokes because I didn't know if did Schulz think they were funny or was this the Charlie Brown drawing, the comic strip? That's not funny and that's not the point. It's the point that he's enjoying himself that makes it a fun strip.
Jimmy: I think this is just the best he could do like that. You know what I mean? And I think, like Michael said, he had this he does have and he continues to have the rest of his career. These go to punchline things. Like Michael, in our recent episodes, where we're talking about 1965, 1966, Michael pointed out that, if Charlie Brown says, I don't know, I never have any idea what's going on, or something like that, that's a way to always have a punchline. And I think this sort of Charlie Brown running away from Patty is like a go to. But I don't think it's particularly-- I think he's just getting the hang of it.
Michael: Right. And actually, the personalities aren't developed enough that he can have any kind of subtle humor. It's a gag.
Jimmy: Right, exactly. One of the weird things you as a reader could bring this to it. There was no way this was intentional, but Charlie Brown is kind of a wise guy, sarcastic, and kind of a jerk in those early days. So it's not that strange that everybody turned on him at one point. And he outgrew this phase, but they just know it also feels slightly wrong.
Harold: Because we've heard this story that Schulz said that ultimately he thought the strip was about bullying and that he would not glorify bullying. But this is as close I think you got Charlie Brown insulting and enjoying himself. That's something that Schulz quickly moves away from very, quickly.
Jimmy: Well, for the whole thing, “it's about bullying” that's sort of like my Twelve Devices, where you guys hear Schulz's Twelve Devices and think, oh, this is just a homework assignment. Doesn't mean anything. I sort of feel that way about the bullying thing. I don't think Peanuts is entirely about bullying, or even mostly about bullying.
Harold: But Schulz said I mean, the thing that strikes--
Jimmy: yeah, but Schulz said the Twelve Devices, too, and you disagree with that.
Harold: We don't know what he did. We don't know what Rita pulled on in there, but possibly. Possibly.
But no, this is something that he volunteered. The story goes that I remember was Lee Mendelson, who was the producer of the animated specials, worked with Schulz for 35 plus years. That they were the last time I think he saw him, he said they were out walking in the back of their place, and Schulz kind of volunteered that. So that's why I give it a little more weight in my mind. Anyway.
Jimmy: I'm certain that he thinks it. I'm not questioning what he thinks about his work and what he felt. I'm just saying I don't think that's what it's about, ultimately.
Michael: Yeah. I think it's like our endless Beatle comparisons. Yeah. John in 1971 is saying everything they wrote was rubbish.
Michael: And yeah, he probably believed it at that point, but he didn't think of that at the time. He thought it was great.
Jimmy: Right. And what I was going to say, I just think the thing that's the larger theme in Peanuts is unrequited love, which ties into the Valentine's Day theme. That's something that goes on and on and on. Bullying does, of course. Yes. But no more so than that, I wouldn't think.
Harold: But how he treats it is what's interesting to me. I mean, there's so much empathy for the person who's put upon in the vast majority of the strips that there is a consistency there that I think led to a lot of people connecting to the characters, for sure. And I think that that is unique. And when you think of most of the gag strips, this strip with Charlie Brown would be in tons and tons of strips. Especially, I think, of the ones that he was growing up with in the it's just rough and tumble knockabout comedy and that sort of thing. That's something that he did move away from. And that totally changes the way we see Charlie Brown, like you were saying. And that, I think, is a part of the secret of what made Peanuts resonate so deeply. Characters resonate so deeply with people.
Jimmy: Oh, I do too. One of the things in one of the recent strips, we were reading I can't remember even if we discussed it on the show or not, but it's just something I read. Lucy, there's some sort of conflict between Lucy and Charlie Brown or whatever. And she said that the end line is something like, oh, he'll accept it, or whatever. You don't argue too much when you're a Charlie Brown. The point of the punchline being when you are a Charlie Brown, taking this character and generalizing it, saying that there could be many of us who are Charlie Brown. I mean, he's cognizant of that. And that's actually really brilliant of him, that he's able to understand that while I'm illustrating this one particular character, it does have universal traits.
Harold: yeah, it's like, of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest.
Jimmy: Yeah, right. Yeah, right. Exactly.
February 14, 1952. Charlie Brown and Violet are standing outside. Violet says, “you didn't give me a valentine.” Charlie Brown angrily says, I did too. Violet, looking over her shoulder, scornfully at Charlie Brown, says, “well, it wasn't a very big one.” Charlie Brown, still annoyed, says, “It was the biggest one I could afford.” Violet, now looking happy, says, “Was it really?” Then they walked down the street together with Violet saying, “you're wonderful, Charlie Brown.”
Michael: This has got to be the only time anyone said anything like that to him.
Jimmy: This whole sequence is the opposite of everything that comes after it, really.
Michael: Yeah. Yeah. Good to see Violet and the pigtails again.
Jimmy: Yes. Classic pigtail Violet oh my goodness. With the brush hair.
Harold: Looking good. Yeah. And just you look at the design of 51 to 52. Such a leap forward. Really nice artwork. And like you said, the brush seems to be more evident in this. There's a beautiful tree in the fourth panel.
Harold: And before there's no background at all in the 51, which I think goes back to the Saturday Evening Post cartoons he was doing in the late forties, that kind of led to Peanuts, and he's kind of making that move into, his own strip style. And it's really pretty.
Jimmy: I like his yeah, that's definitely true. The other thing that's interesting here, too, is she, is admitting her fondness for Charlie Brown, but Patty is not around, so that goes with your theory.
Harold: Yeah, right. She's a little touchy here. You see some of that kind of anger side to her, but she hasn't switched allegiances yet.
Jimmy: Yeah, and she's angry, though, because she herself is hurt by something Charlie Brown did-- at least perceived.
Harold: That's the opposite of but they don't want to show any vulnerability whatsoever when they're together.
February 14, 1953. Patty and Charlie Brown are sitting outside on the curb. Actually on a little bench by the curb. Charlie Brown says “nobody loves me. Everybody hates me. I didn't get a single valentine. Not one.” Patty looks through a stack of envelopes on her lap and says, “that's awful. Charlie Brown here. How do you like this?” Charlie Brown says “for me? oh, boy. Wow. This is something,” he says, standing up and holding the valentine. “A real valentine.” Patti says,”don't take it too seriously. I'm just loaning it to you so you won't feel bad.”
Harold: There's, the Charlie Brown we know.
Jimmy: There you go.
Michael: Yeah, it's getting there. There's some odd things happening in the background there.
Jimmy: It seems like it's switching locations. Right.
Michael: Well, houses disappearing, green trees appearing, disappearing.
Harold: I, really like his art style right around this time. I'm looking down to the next year, and this is like if I was on a little graph where you're just punching the things that you like and don't like. It's like 51 to 52 to 53 major steps forward, and 54, I don't like as much. So it's interesting that I don't remember that, but visually, I prefer 53.
Jimmy: No, I do remember you saying that.
Harold: I wasn't reading ahead. So it's interesting that now that I look at them side by side, I feel like 54 in terms of the character design is a step backward for me.
Michael: I'm not sure.
Jimmy: Well, let's, take a look at that strip, and then we'll discuss it, there.
February 14, 1954. Lucy is outside. It's night. Charlie Brown is wondering what she's doing as she's pointing up at the sky, counting “22, 23, 24.” In the next panel, Lucy continues, “I wonder if I counted that one.” Charlie Brown, looking up, says, “which one?”
Jimmy: Now, this is really weird because now that's the strip that has been or, that's the part of the strip rather, that has been set aside to being removed, because now the strip starts over on tier two.
Charlie Brown says, “what's going on here?” Next panel, Lucy says, “I'm counting the stars. And believe me, it's quite a job.” Charlie Brown says, “I should think it would be.” Lucy says, “the whole trouble is I'm too far away. I can't see some of the teeny weenie ones.” Lucy walks away saying, “I think I know what I need.” She comes back with a very small child's chair, which she stands on top of, and then says, “say, this makes all the difference in the world.”
Harold: It's true.
Michael: This one does look weird. It's a Sunday, so it was originally in color, but the day for night effect is weird. often he has lots of strips with black, starry skies. But at this point, maybe he didn't know how to deal with Lucy's black hair against a black sky.
Jimmy: Yeah, this is one I wish we were looking at in color because I'd be curious to see how he handled that …
Michael: And also that big using straight black for I guess, the grass makes it look like water. It just does not look like, the typical Peanuts strip.
Jimmy: Also, things like the design is strange. If you look in that middle panel in the second tier, I mean, Lucy has a severe underbite or not underbite, overbite, rather, because her chin goes way back. But then in other instances, when you look at them from the front, it looks like their lower jaw is huge. It's like a Jay Leno look. It is a really odd and not very long lasting...
Michael: She was noticeably younger at this point, though. Younger than him, right.
Harold: Yeah. The fact that she doesn't really have a chin and has an incredibly thick neck in the first couple of panels, and then you see her in the lower left panel, and her neck seems kind of normal Lucy there. And, Charlie Brown's face in that second tier first panel, it's smaller in the round head than it was, say, the year before. And also, I don't know if he switched over. He's working bigger here. Right. Because you can see that kind of by the lettering, I think, and by the line thickness, he's working a little bit bigger, maybe. And maybe that's something that he's just not quite as adept at, is working bigger. Maybe he's just a little more comfortable at a different size. I don't know.
Michael: So clearly not a Valentine's trip. Was there a Valentine's reference the previous day?
Jimmy: No, I looked, and if there was one, I pulled it out. So we'll be looking at a 13th strip, in the very next year, as a matter of fact.
February 13, 1955. Schroeder and Charlie Brown are standing outside by a very cool looking 1950s toy car. Schroeder says to Charlie Brown, “what have you got behind your back, Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown says, “none of your business.” Schroeder says, “I'll bet it's a valentine.” As Charlie Brown walks away and we see that, yes, it is a box of chocolate candy in the shape of a heart. Charlie Brown continues walking now alone. Speaks, to himself, saying, “this is for you, Violet. Happy Valentine's Day. That doesn't sound quite right,” he thinks. Then he tries again. “This is for you, Violet. Happy Valentine's Day. Here, Violet, this is for you. Happy Valentine's Day.” Then in the next panel, he's looking upset with himself. He says, “I know I can do it if I just don't get nervous.” He continues walking, holding the candy, saying, “this is for you, Violet. Happy Valentine's Day. This is for you, Violet. Happy Valentine's Day. Oops, there she is. Easy now. Don't get nervous. You can do it,” Charlie Brown says to himself, hiding the box behind his back. Then he approaches Violet and says, “this is for you, Violet. Merry Christmas.” Then he screams as he crunches his face in his hand, says, “Augh.” And then the last panel, we see him smashing his head into a tree. “Thump. thump, thump.” As Violet looks on, completely confused by the situation.
Michael: I would say he's 97% there as far as the character designs,.
Jimmy: And he's100% there as far as just drawing a great looking comic strip. Like, if any other cartoonist got to this point, you would like, freeze it. This is beautiful. But he still has that little extra to go to make...
Harold: Yeah. This is so uniquely Schulz. looking at his I don't know how do you describe it? He's just so worked up and anguished in the two lower right panels. That makes me think of, like, indie comics from, like, the some reason. Yeah.
Jimmy: Oh, yeah. No, that thump thump thump might as well be from Dan Clowes.
Harold: And even that. It's kind of unique to Peanuts. I don't think he would draw like that after a couple of years. And yet it does feel like Schulz, and it feels different than anything else that you're seeing in the Sunday papers.
Michael: Most amazing thing is this morphing of the characters seems that it's both very slow and incredibly fast. If you're looking at these just flipping through the strips from the first four years, major change. I mean, it changes drastically. But in the course of each year, you don't see it.
Harold: Right. And we're not going to see a whole lot.
Michael: I don't know if you'd ever go like, well, the December ones look different than the January ones.
Jimmy: No, I mean, we have tried so to pinpoint where this stuff is happening. You have to be staring at a microscopic level to see the little subtle changes. And I assume 99% of these for Schulz are completely invisible, too.
Harold: Right. He's not just saying, oh, I'm going to change this.
Michael: I don't think he's conscious of this.
Harold: And I do like the little car.
Jimmy: The little car goes with the 1950s.
Harold: That looks so much like a Nash Metropolitan, which had come out the year before, which we used to own a bunch of, them. Yeah, we sold car parts, really old stock car parts for we were like one of the top two sales out of our basement. We were selling you didn't know that? Yeah, we had a mail order business. My dad-- that's a whole other story. But my dad did go to Chicago. There was a thing called Hemmings Motor News, which was like this 700 page magazine of classified ads for old car parts and selling old cars. And he went to Chicago and he bought what was called I think, a $3 million inventory for, like, $13,000. It was nowhere near a $3 million inventory from this old warehouse that was so old that wherever people used to dock to pick stuff up was now a highway. You've seen those things where you drive-- It was a minor highway, but it was a highway. And so he had hired this guy to back up his 18-wheeler, and he was blocking three of the four lanes of traffic. And my sister and I were teenagers. And we went up to the top floor of this warehouse, looking out of this window, and as far as we could see both directions, there was cars backed up. And then you see the police lights from far away, coming up the road. And, we're like, what's going to happen? And so the policeman stopped and found out what the problem was, and he worked with the truck driver to jackknife his cab so that he was only blocking two of the four lanes and then directing traffic.
Oh, my gosh. That's a very memorable moment for us. But we wound up getting the Nash Metropolitan parts, separating them out from the American motors. And then we sold off the rest of the American motors after a number of years. And then we were selling, these parts out of out of the basement. Yeah, it was it was crazy.
Jimmy: I have known you since 1997, and I, and really, well, basically since, like, 2001. And, I've never heard that. I didn't know that. And for you listeners out there, I bet if you were to guess whose anecdote would end with the cops being called...
Harold: Well, let me tie this into Valentine's day. Let me tie this into Valentine's day. Our number one competitor was out of Hollywood, California, and his name was no joke, Jimmy Valentine. And we were the new kids on the block. And he charged more than we did. And my dad loved tweaking this guy. So, I do remember in the February issue of Hemmings Motor News, just to tweak the guy, my dad had a classified ad. We called it the Valentine's Day special because he knew.
Jimmy: You know He's a mobster. Right? He's clearly a mobster.
Harold: Oh, man. Anyway, that's my memory. And the other thing is, there's no way, I think, that, the Charlie Brown or Schroeder could get into that little car. It's so small.
Jimmy: Oh, absolutely not. It would have-- it would be an infant that would fit in that car.
February 14, 1956. Charlie Brown is standing outside. He has a big smile on his face, and he says, “I think I'll sit here until the mailman comes by with all my valentines.” He does just that. He sits on the little curb outside his house. Big smile on his face. Then less of a smile on his face. Then in the final panel, it is night. He looks forlorn, and he says, “well. That's the way it goes.”
Jimmy: Now, that's a Peanuts comic strip right there. That's like firing on all Peanuts Charlie Brown cylinders.
Harold: Charlie Brown's head keeps getting smaller and smaller in relationship to his taller and taller body. He looks like a teenager, practically, in those first two panels.
Jimmy: That is a big change from last year's design to this year's design.
Michael: I hate to get into this, but in both word balloons, there are two periods.
Jimmy: All right? And if you were guessing which host would bring up the amount of periods…
Michael: Not me. Well, you guys are the experts.
Jimmy: You would not guess it was Michael.
Michael: Keep it to like one minute
Jimmy: Here'. What I'll just say. I love that he invented a punctuation mark.
Harold: Well, describe the two period mood. What is that doing Jimmy?
Jimmy: To me, it is a resignation, but not a full stop, because if it well, that's the way it goes. Right. That's a finality. That's the end. Well, that's the way it goes with two periods is but I'll be out here tomorrow. Three would be more of an it's a natural ellipse. Well, that's the way it goes, and it could be anything but the two. By the way, I'm pulling this all out of my butt right now. I have no idea what it actually means, but, my thought is that the two signifies, uncertainty. Quantum uncertainty. His next action is both positive one and a negative one.
Harold: We haven't so you could say that the two periods indicate wishy washyness.
Jimmy: Yeah, you could. Absolutely. One is wishy, and the second is washy. Especially if you look at it, because that's what happens at the beginning.
Harold: Minute’s up.
Jimmy: Right. A minute’s up. All right, moving on.
February 14, 1957. Oh, here we go. Lucy is looking at her beautiful fuss budget trophy, showing it to Charlie Brown. Actually, it's huge. It's taller than him. And he says, this is a beautiful trophy, Lucy, awarded to Lucille Van Pelt, 1954, 1955, 1956. The world's number one fuss budget. Lucy very proudly says, “you see, after I won it three years in a row, they let me keep it.” Charlie Brown says, “what's this little figure on top?” Lucy says, that's a fuss budget fussing. And you can see a, tiny-- It looks basically like a little hot dog or a cheese curl on top. But it is a fuss budget fussing, apparently.
Michael: This is a little klutzy. I mean, we didn't pick this. It's-- for a Peanuts strip. It doesn't flow very well.
Harold: What doesn't work for you, Michael, specifically.
Michael: Is there just, the fact that it's bigger than them and it's on the floor and that figure. Yeah, it doesn't look like anything. Also, it's sort of a break into a fantasy world, whereas I'm not sure, maybe in this period, there's lots of that. We're in 1957 already. But this is assuming that she is actually part of a bigger world. A bigger world of fuss budget.
Jimmy: I actually like you just describing it better than…
Harold: This is not just a terrible practical joke, put on her by her father, where he actually went out, spent $100.
Jimmy: Her dad might have bought a whole bunch of surplus trophies or something and some sort of shenanigans
Harold: to hire the sculptor to make the fuss budget on top, I think, is the cherry.
Jimmy: You know what I find weird about this strip is Charlie Brown's ear. panels two, three and four.
Michael: Oh, yeah. It's weird.
Harold: Yeah. And it's still big, big jaw characters like Lucy, when she's she's proudly smiling and her her mouth is at the level of her ear.
Jimmy: Does this look like a throwback to you? Like, really? Like, does this look more like 1955 to you if you're flipping back and forth?
Harold: Well, the big jaw thing does make, me this is just a period.
Jimmy: And the height of the character. Right.
Michael: She's still younger here. Noticeably younger. Yes. I think the big jaw is he's trying to imply that her head's back, which would compress the facial features and make the jaw seem bigger.
Harold: But he doesn't do anything with the hair.
Michael: That doesn't work in this cartoony style.
Jimmy: Right. That's the problem, yeah.
Michael: Anyway, an example of, I think, a not great Schulz Peanuts strip.
Jimmy: Well, there you go. Breaking news. He lost it. 1957.
February 14, 1958. Violet and Patty are walking down the street. Violet says to Patty, “did you give Charlie Brown a valentine?” Patty says, “oh, yes. I finally gave him one of those real cheap ones.” They continue walking, and Violet asks Patty, “was he happy with it?” Patty says “sure. When you're Charlie Brown, you really don't expect too much.”
Jimmy: That's what I was just discussing in an earlier, portion of this very show.
Jimmy: I knew I read it somewhere,
Michael: Amazing considering you picked these, like, two days ago.
Jimmy: Two days ago. I have some dim memory
Harold: pulling it from the recesses of my mind.
Michael: That walking-- that floating on air panel Generally, I don't notice that, but for some reason
Jimmy: they're really high, though.
Michael: They're high in that black foreground. They're, like, six inches off the ground when they're walking.
Jimmy: Does that convey motion to you guys, or does that just look weird in that particular one?
Michael: Well, generally it conveys kind of bouncing.
Jimmy: But not in this one.
Michael: No. I think it's a little too high.
Harold: What makes me think of here are the World War I flying pals, walking across exactly what the mud looked like in France. But I kind of like the float.
Jimmy: Oh, you do?
Harold: Yeah. It does indicate movement. It's something that I was looking at these strips, especially when the characters were so small, like, two heads high. that very first strip when Charlie Brown's running and Patty's chasing him, it's very stiff, and it almost has to be because he could put a little more curve in him, but he doesn't. For some reason, it feels more natural now, even though the characters still are quite stiff.
Michael: Well, it seems odd to me. I've never noticed this, but most people swing their arms when they walk.
Harold: Yeah, right. That's a really good observation.
Jimmy: Oh wow. Yeah, I never thought about that, but that's really interesting. They are right down at their sides, and that is the Peanuts look, right? That's like that neutral, minimal
Liz: River Dance.
Jimmy: Yeah, right, exactly.
Harold: Sparky Flatly. But, you know, this is a choice, obviously.
Jimmy: Here's something that-- okay. You wonder why I picked these guys to talk to. Like, you find out. Oh, yeah, my dad was buying weird things, shutting down highways. I never knew that. Here's something you guys don't know. Michael is a world class scrimshander. And, you might even have to, like, look that up. But we've never even discussed it. That's a whole separate life.
Michael: I mean, I prefer not to dwell on it.
Jimmy: It was beautiful.
Harold: One other thing I want to mention, now that we're talking about the arms, look at Violet's arm in the second panel. How far down the shoulder is it's insane.
Harold: No other artist would do that. Right?
Jimmy: And it's no, and it would why would it look like a mistake if everybody else did it? Although this one, like, this is not the best drawn panel. Like, I think her profile is a little odd.
Harold: Look at panel four. Same thing. He's dropping that shoulder so far down. And it does lead to this kind of looks like a column. These characters are stiffly a column. And because he's doing more sophisticated dialogue for them, and they often talk in stilted ways, I'm guessing it's all part of this kind of deadpan humor that he's getting into that he doesn't want the movement of the bodies to take away from, the nature of the dialogue. It works.
Jimmy: Yeah. He doesn't want anything.
Michael: Yeah, I think you're right. Yeah. A lot of cartoonists think, hey, it's a cartoon. I'll have it. Their arms flying around.
Harold: Yeah. And I'm guilty of that. When I'm drawing. I noticed the more life you put into the characters, the more it feels like you're overselling whatever you're doing. Unless it's just integral to the story. Like, I think of Calvin and Hobbes, when you have these beautiful, arched Hobbes attacking Calvin and this kind of arc of motion that an animator might do. But that's the antithesis of what Schulz is trying to accomplish, it seems.
Jimmy: Well, I know we all can't stand the classic wide smiled character with the hands out presenting life or whatever it is. They all look like they're--
Harold: No, the two of you can't stand that.
Jimmy: You can't stand that
Harold: I love--Hey, take a look at the logo I did for the Metropolitan Parts catalog with Cappy
Jimmy: Doing a logo is a different thing than doing it in a comic... No, this is phony. I call shenanigans. I know for a fact you don't like. I might not be describing well, but I know for a fact you don't like that. especially in animation.
Harold: I take delight in some of those over the top shenanigans. So I guess it depends on-- we talked about the classic thing where the character is falling back stiffly and his feet are in the air, or you only see the feet in the fourth panel. I do love that. I mean, I don't want it in every single thing I read. I certainly wouldn't want it in a Peanuts strip. But there is a certain delight in that insane. Yeah.
Michael: that's a cartoonist trope, but I know what Jimmy's talking about. Maybe it's more modern well, more recent cartoons than these 1950s Peanuts, but you have a bunch of friends, and they're all smiling all the time, no matter what the context.
Harold: Did I, did I tell you the story about Archie where the, the, CEO, John Goldwater, he was trying to find out what people liked, you know, and, and you know, he's the one who can direct where we go. And I do remember at one point, something came up where there were certain comics or the Archie Digests, which you'd find in the supermarket checkouts. there was something about he wanted the characters to always be smiling and never have their eyes closed. That was kind of the edict from him, based on what he had heard from what was selling and what wasn't selling
Jimmy: on covers.
Harold: On covers.
Michael: But wasn't Jughead always have his eyes closed?
Harold: Well, here was the problem. It's one of those problems where somebody basically gives you this general say, here's what we shoot for, but then everyone's scared to death to to like, break the edict. And so you have these, these there's usually a joke of some kind or some setup on the cover where it absolutely doesn't make sense for everyone to be smiling and have their eyes open. And you see the artists struggling to follow this thing. It's like, come on, don't take them that literally. You start to have some really bizarre things where the humor wasn't matching the reality of what should be delivered in that, because we have to make sure everyone's smiling. Everyone's got to be wide eyed and smiling.
Jimmy: Well, I was under the delusion, that we were going to whip through this episode really quick, because there's not that much interesting stuff to talk about these Valentine's Day strips. I was clearly wrong because I guess because I still want to continue this discussion.
I guess what my issue of it is partly what you're talking about with those Archie covers, but also it's partly like, here is the pose and expression for this emotion. And if the overall feeling of is, let's say, whatever joy, this is the pose and this is how you convey. But here's what's weird. Schulz does use similar poses over and over again, but it's not that. And maybe it's because they're unique to him.
Harold: I think that's one thing. Basically, what the shenanigans you're calling on me is when it comes to animation, I used to always gripe, about the Cal Art School of the animation.
Jimmy: Not that I wasn't going to say, but yes, that's what it is.
Harold: And so many talented animators came up through that, which was originally attached to Disney, the Cal Arts. And you had certain animators that were teaching literally hundreds of young, up and coming artists how to draw. And they would draw things in their cells. Like we're saying, Schulz has his own stock things. And everyone was learning the stock thing from the same artist. And so I hated that in animation where curiosity always looked the same way and, being, I don't know, another kind of skeptical, it's always the same thing. That would drive me crazy. Because you look at early animation from the Disney from the late thirties or early forties, and these artists that came from all over the world, and everybody would do something just their own style, unique, and you'd constantly be surprised by the characters. And now when I look at, so much of animation, I just see, yes, stock pose, stock pose, stock pose. And it's not the animator stock pose. I totally agree with you on that, Schulz. It's interesting that Schulz has if he does not want you to focus on the characters and he does keep characters neutral, I think that's the whole Anger and Happiness Index thing that I've been doing. I've been fascinated by the neutrality of the poses. Sometimes many of the strips have neutrality all the way through. And so it's hard to do a unique, neutral pose. and then when he does go into some kind of thing like joy, like, you see Charlie Brown in the fourth panel, this 1958 Valentine strip. It's a look that you haven't seen very much on Charlie Brown's face. It's like that he tries to do in a unique way that's true to the emotion of the character. Because that's a unique emotion. But yeah, totally. Schulz is trying to take you away from I don't know, it's almost like it just sucks the energy out of the strip if there's too much unearned emotion or, it doesn't make sense to the flow of the story. And I struggle with this all the time in my own cartoons because I'm using some very exaggerated designs.
Jimmy: And part of it is that because you're using those exaggerated designs, because it's a visual medium. And part of drawing these comic strips is that you want the person to have like, a fun and interesting aesthetic experience separate from the overall, say, content of the words or whatever. And when it works masterfully and those two things harmonize together perfectly. It's such a beautiful art form. It's hard to get it to do that, though. And I think sometimes, too. The other thing is it's more fun to draw interesting poses.
Harold: Yes, absolutely true. And that's again, going back to animation, I think of the era of like the 80s, right before we got to The Little Mermaid, and it was like nobody was a strong enough director in that period to manage it's. Like herding cats with artists. Imagine being in charge of 20 different animators and everybody was like putting their own stuff in, which had nothing to do with the emotional flow of the story, and that there wasn't a director strong enough to reel them in.
Jimmy: Right. Well, I've been wondering a question I wanted to ask Michael, and I could never find a place to exactly fit it in, but it actually flows here because we're talking about watching this strip evolve over time. When you were reading the early Fantastic Four, let's say. Yeah, let's definitely go with the Fantastic Four. You were cognizant of the changes of Kirby's art over the issues right. And different inkers and all that kind of stuff.
Michael: Not at first, but yeah.
Jimmy: But at what point were you that's I guess what I'm asking.
Michael: Well, I wasn't even conscious of who was drawing. I mean, even though when I started reading those and they put the credits in, I wasn't used to that because I was actually a DC reader for years before, and they weren't doing artist credits. So the fact that it took me a while to figure out that, boy, how come all the comics I like best are drawn by this Jack Kirby guy?
Jimmy: So how old were you been then?
Michael: Oh, probably 13.
Michael: But the thing with Schulz is him. It's all him. I always blame the inker for any problems with the Kirby page,
Jimmy: I guess what I was getting at is like, were you as a young person, able to like, let's say a teenager, not when you're a little kid. Were you able to see the changes in Schulz, or were you just like when you lost interest or whatever, did you just feel like, I'm outgrowing it? Or were you feeling that the strip itself, could you see how much it had changed over the years, I guess, is what I'm asking.
Michael: Well, I mean, I'm seeing it now clearly, because we're reading them all now. At the time, certainly when I started, which was probably around 56, I'm guessing, they've already sort of established the classic he's already established the classic look. But what I accepted as like the classic Snoopy was that long, extended look from the late 50s. but Snoopy, at that point on, Snoopy always looked like the classic Snoopy. Even though he kept changing it's always like, yeah, that's the perfect Snoopy.
Michael: I accept them all equally.
Harold: That's interesting. Yeah. In my case, being younger than Michael, I was reading the most concentrated readings of Peanuts were in those little Fawcett Crest paperbacks that would have, like, 128 daily strips in them or whatever. And I remember I think I mentioned this before, I noticed that the different styles, because they're all clumped together just like when we're reading today. And I saw that I liked certain strips and certain art more because it was just like, okay, this version of Peanuts is in this book. This version of Peanuts is in this book. And even to this day, when I look at I think where I can't remember what year that was in the early, like, 53, 54. When he's going into a phase that I think runs all the way through the style because it's Peanuts, I still love it, but I I much prefer the the later, like, 1960s Peanuts. The Snoopy and the Charlie Brown and the characters. In fact, I was noticing here when we'll get there, but as soon as you hit February 1960, all of a sudden something has happened where he is just nailed something that is is electric for me. I'm like, oh, my gosh, this is amazing.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's very alive. I remember the first time I ever saw the original 1951 Peanuts or whatever. I went to a Scholastic book fair, in my school, and they had a little box set. Charlie Brown, it was called. And it was shrink wrapped, so I-- it had four books in it, but I couldn't see what the books were. But, I bought it and opened it up. When I went back to the desk or whatever, and there were three that looked like the Peanuts I knew. I think it was For the Love of Peanuts or something like that. It was a really early one. I had never seen anything like it. And I instantly knew that I was, coming down with a cold because tomorrow was not going to be a day for school. Tomorrow is going to be a day for just sitting and reading these books.
Harold: Open up the window in winter in your bedroom.
Jimmy: I was a world class hooky player. I was Ferris Bueller before. I didn't do anything interesting. I just stayed home. But I was a master of faking sick.
February 14, 1959. Violet and Charlie Brown are standing outside. Charlie Brown says to Violet, “you really didn't send me a valentine, did you?” Violet says, “of course I didn't. I said I wasn't, and I didn't.” Violet walks away, and Charlie Brown calls after her. “You really keep your word, don't you? That's very admirable.” Violet says thank you, Charlie Brown. Then Charlie Brown yells out after Violet, “you blockhead.”
Michael: I don't think he's ever used that phrase.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's so funny because it's coming from Charlie Brown, right?
Harold: Yeah. This is a weird one, but, if you had written the panel, second panel, would you have written it the way he did? I think I would have used, I said I wouldn't and I didn't.
Jimmy: yeah, I think it's a good point.
Harold: I think Schulz has his reasons for sticking with wasn’t, but, yeah, that's an interesting choice.
Jimmy: I'm trying to convert it to like, Amelia Idiom, but it would be-- I don't know, it'd have to be three things. I said I wasn't, I didn't.
Harold: Yeah. I said I wasn't, I didn't and I won't.
Jimmy: That's exactly. Anyway, weird Os on the you blockhead like he just spent no time trying to make those circles connect.
Harold: Makes me think of that thing where he was saying how there are certain strips, he just can't wait to get them done, especially the lettering. He would say, I just want to see it on the page.
Jimmy: Can't wait to see that.
Harold: Maybe the more rushed it is, the better he liked the joke.
Jimmy: Double exclamation point.
February 14th, 1960. Charlie Brown is standing outside and he can't stand it. He says to himself, “I can't stand it.” In the next panel this is a Sunday, by the way. The gang, including Patty, Shermy and Violet are all hanging out, showing each other there many valentines. Charlie Brown says, “look at them all laughing and enjoying themselves with their valentines.” It's eating Charlie Brown up inside. He says, “I sent everyone I know of valentine, but did I get any in return? No, not a single one.” He leaned his head up against a tree and says, “everybody gets Valentine's except me. Nobody likes me. Now we see Lucy, Schroeder and Linus all walking by with their valentines and Charlie Brown says, “look at them. They all got valentines. Everybody got valentines except me. Even Pigpen gets valentines.” And we see. In fact, that is true. Charlie Brown is now alone. And he says, “but do I? No, I get as many valentines as a dog.” And then in the next panel, of course, Snoopy walks by with a mouthful of valentines, leaving Charlie Brown alone to sigh.
Michael: So, as, someone who never got valentines, are these all store bought or did people write their own little notes?
Jimmy: No, in the was boxes of little perforated cardboard, almost like luggage tag things. And they would have a cartoon and like a cute little message on the front. They still make them. They're all attached to franchises now, like The Avengers or whatever, Star Wars.
Michael: But when they're laughing in the third panel, were these joke valentines?
Jimmy: Well, I don't know. In 1960 these may have been I don't know that they're laughing. They might just be happy like, oh, look at what what wonderful thing I got. I don't know. These look homemade, right? I don't know what they were doing in 1960. Harold, you, you must have an encyclopedic knowledge of valentine protocol from 1960.
Harold: No, I don't know what to well, these are Charles Schulz's memories, I guess this was happening back in the let's see, what year was he born.
Jimmy: I invited you to the party for his birthday, for God's sake.
Harold: Yeah. I don't know what would have been given back then. I haven't seen, like, little box versions of stuff from 1930 or so. It seemed like that was later. I don't know if he's looking at this. He's not looking at it through the eyes of his kids at the earliest of this, because they hadn't gone through through it yet. Probably, Meredith hadn't--
Jimmy: Meredith would have not in the earliest
Harold: maybe 55 or 50-- Well, no, because it wouldn't have happened if he had to draw it. So 56, I guess, might be.
Jimmy: No, this is definitely coming from his past. You're right.
February 14, 1961. Charlie Brown is standing outside by the curb and he says, “here comes the mailman with all the valentines sent to me by my friends.” Oh, Charlie Brown. he looks so happy. In the next panel, as he says, “I'll just stand here and let him give them to me. And then I'll take the whole armful into the house.” And he is standing there with his hands out, waiting for these valentines. In the next panel, we see his gaze turn off to panel left as he says. “Then I'll open them one by one.” And then the last panel, we can see that the mailman has, in fact, gone by, leaving Charlie Brown to just sigh alone.
Michael: Siga. Compare, the siga panels. The one above and then virtually
Harold: isn't the second one better? At least it is in my mind. And how and why is interesting. The eyes?
Michael: He looks a little sadder, but he.
Jimmy: Still still seeing his head in the Sunday page slightly. This is microcosmic. Microscopic. Wow.
Michael: Yeah. He does look sadder for some reason.
Jimmy: Yeah, he does.
Michael: In the 61.
Harold: Jimmy, do you have a preference of the two, or do they just seem pretty much.
Jimmy: I have a preference for 61, but it has to do with every once in a while. And I've noticed this, from trying to replicate the Schulz style every once in a while, he comes off with a much harsher, angled nose. So for 1960 Charlie Brown. That's almost like a Dick Tracy nose. And it gives him a weird kind of, like just compare that with the one on the top of that. When, he has the Dick Tracy nose, it gives him, like, a middle aged man quality. 1961. That looks just like Charlie Brown' to me, because the nose is more rounded.
Michael: Yeah. I've never tried to draw this way, but in the 1961, the top of the nose is slightly, above the eyeballs. And in the bottom one, it's right at the top of the eyeball.
Jimmy: It's so weird because it is so minimal. One of the things I really can't wait to talk about is, the design of Woodstock, where, I mean, it is so strange, minimal, and abstract that essentially only Schultz can draw it. I mean, I know people do, but it always clearly looks to me like it's not the real thing.
Harold: Yeah. It's crazy when you look at 60 and 61 final panel, and I encourage anybody who's listening along to do so because it's, pretty cool to see almost two identical panels within a year of each other. But they are different. And I do feel like that 1960-- I guess he's pulling-- I can't even put it into words. It's so subtle. design wise.
Jimmy: The head is -- All of it is it's more compact, it's softer and rounder. It's also a better composition.
Harold: Yeah. As an icon. I think the mixture of the hair, the two dots for the eyes, the reverse C for the nose, and then the little ellipses around the eyes, just iconically is better than 1960. But it's so subtle.
Jimmy: A lot of it it's that nose a little too high, a little too angular.
Harold: Yeah. And I like the mouth. I like the mouth with a little turn down. Very subtle. He just has this kind of this almost straight line. In 60 and 61, he's got a little turn down that really looks well, looks great.
Jimmy: Yeah. All right, here's subtlety. In, the 1960 final panel. To me, it looks like Charlie Brown is looking out to the reader.
Jimmy: In 61, it looks like he's looking out into the distance.
Harold: Yes. And I think he feels more-- he looks more alone in the 61 one.
Jimmy: Now, if you were to zoom in, I mean, you are talking about moving a dot a 32nd of an inch or something. It's crazy how small and precise every little change makes.
Jimmy: And I think in 1960, he intended Charlie Brown to be looking at the reader. And in 1961, I think he intended him to be looking out into the middle distance. And it's crazy. I can't imagine, if you measured it, what the difference would be.
Harold: Yeah. It's ridiculously subtle. I mean, you could do a master class on these two panels and spend an hour on it. Seriously.
Jimmy: Absolutely. You could. Well, here's something else I might as well spend an hour on it. By putting a couple of squiggles in the foreground by Charlie Brown's feet in 1960, we know that he's standing in the grass. By putting some, horizontal lines in front of the squiggles, we know he's standing on the sidewalk in front of the grass. It's crazy.
Michael: It's also a lower perspective.
Jimmy: Yes. I think that also adds to your more connecting with Charlie Brown in this one.
Harold: And the fact that his side is he didn't have the space the way he designed it. Although he could have, I think, Snoopy, you could have moved that panel to the left in this 1960 and cut off some of the Snoopy walking by blank space, but just having the side down at his closer, to his nose level instead. Of above him also just has this sense of dejection. And yeah, it's amazing.
February 14, 1962. Our pal Frieda is out for the day, and she says, “oh, this is an ideal rabbit chasing day.” She's still going on about it in panel two, arms wide open. She says, “this is just the sort of day when they'll be out by the millions.” She walks towards, we assume, Snoopy's house, and she says, “come on, Snoopy, let's get out and sniff those rabbits.” In the last panel, we see Snoopy, who-- This is actually in the middle of a long sequence, has stolen Linus's glasses. And, he thinks to himself, you don't sniff rabbits. You see them.
Jimmy: I had a Snoopy toy with Snoopy wearing glasses like this.
Jimmy: Yes. Weird. Very weird. And it was like a really chintzy toy that would have come from...
Harold: Is it like, embroidered or with the glasses embroidered on?
Jimmy: It was like a plastic Snoopy. And it had plastic glasses that you could actually take off. You pop the ears off and then you could take the glasses off and put them back on.
Jimmy: I have no idea if it was even a licensed product, if it was some bootleg thing.
Harold: Yeah. Choking hazard.
Jimmy: Well, we got these dog dolls and we got these glasses. We put them together with glasses, I’d be a Snoopy with glasses doll.
Michael: Weird. like I say something about Frieda. we were talking about static arms that we noticed seems, to be prevalent style. Frieda, her arms are doing something in every panel, and I wonder if that's a personality trait. She's a little bubblier than the other.
Jimmy: That's interesting. It certainly feels that way. And it certainly matches who she is. She's the confident go getter.
Harold: Yeah. She's kind of got a clear eyed confidence. And then Snoopy is constantly undermining her own idea of what's right and good. The, thing that struck me here was that typically, I would think as an artist, you would want that last panel to be flipped so that you see Snoopy's thought and his smile, and then you see her kind of little take reaction. but you can't, because you only see Snoopy's doghouse from one side. And if he's going to be on top of that doghouse, he's forced to put Frida first in the panel.
Michael: Well, although you don't want to flip her motion.
Jimmy: Right. Exactly. You wouldn't want her walking left in the panel.
Harold: Yeah, but Schulz could have had her walking the other way. He was forced to do that because of the rule of the doghouse. I would think she could have been walking.
Jimmy: Would it also feel as if she's walking against the flow of reading?
Harold: Oh, I see. yeah, I see what you're saying.
Michael: Yeah. I tend to have characters walk to the right.
Harold: Well, that was an old C.C. Beck. the guy who did the original Captain Marvel, he used to always say, if you want characters to move with the flow. You should make them go left to right unless they are in opposition. And certainly there's no opposition to Frieda in that third panel. And that would go against the idea that she's in her own space, she's that confident, gogetter, like you were saying, and nothing's going to stop her until she runs into Snoopy. So, yeah, I do see that.
Jimmy: I'm zoomed in really close on that first panel. Look at those arms. Those are super loose.
Jimmy: To me, this is seeing that the pen he is working with is a writing pen. That feels like calligraphy to me.
Harold: Yeah. And every single one of these five characters in these four panels is perfection.
Jimmy: It is perfection. it's hard to do perfection, period. I haven't ever done it, but it's really hard to do perfection in a minimalist tableau, because one dot out of place on Frieda’s face, and it's just 20% wrong.
Harold: Which we just saw. Yeah. On Charlie Brown. Yeah. It's amazing.
Jimmy: All right, Michael, what do you think about Snoopy with glasses? in comparison to Linus with glasses?
Michael: I think I like anyone with something over their eyes.
Jimmy: well, we've seen this one before.
February 14, 1963. Shermy and Violet are hanging out, passing little pieces of paper back and forth. So it must be Valentine's. And Charlie Brown says “rats. Nobody ever gives me any valentines. Charlie Brown walks away looking forlorn. He says, “I wish there wasn't such a thing as Valentine's Day. I know nobody likes me.” Then in the last panel, he cries out to the heavens, “why do we have to have a Valentine's Day to emphasize it?”
Jimmy: Now, obviously, we discussed this. This has been adapted into A Charlie Brown Christmas and changed to holiday season. Great strip. Very Charlie Brownie. And we see an appearance by Shermy.
Harold: Yeah, we're seeing real anguish in Charlie Brown. I mean, real anguish in that fourth panel that is kind of fresh and new to the strip by 1963. Right. He's just alone, and he's crying out with his fists are clenched. He's got, like, four little sweat marks coming off of his head. And, that mouth is just absolutely huge on his head.
Jimmy: Yeah. It takes up the entire head.
Harold: Schulz does not hold back in this at all. That's pure anguish.
Jimmy: And you guys know me. Even though Shermy is just, hanging out here, I always like to check the Shermometer
VO: let's check the Shermometer Charlie Brown.
Jimmy: although I don't think we can add anything, I would just like to remind our listeners that Shermy is and will always be a cool, straggling, cynical, philosophical, history loving, empathetic, aggressive, compassionate, patient, pedantic, knowledgeable, emotional, good listening, vain, friendly, hypocrite.
Jimmy: Stay strong, Shermy.
Harold: Love that Shermy
Michael: okay, well, but when Shermy is gone, we need to find another character who doesn't seem to have a whole lot of personality to, examine with a microscope
Harold: yeah like Roy.
Jimmy: you know, who would, actually be a really interesting character to examine that way. Although she's, definitely deeper than Shermy, but I think we could have a Marcie meter.
Harold: Yeah, that's interesting.
Jimmy: Find the hidden depths in Marcie.
Harold: Yeah, she's got a lot of layers.
Jimmy: Big Marcie Fan.
Michael: What about Franklin? I always thought, yeah, right. Franklin was kind of an important character, but I think Schulz was being very cautious and not having him be very distinctive.
Jimmy: But he hints at the fact that.
Michael: He was there was big enough.
Jimmy: Yeah, well, that's true.
Harold: And yet he is consistent with him. He's not like a cipher. There's a real character there.
Jimmy: He's connected with his family. He's always talking about his grandfather and stuff like that. he feels like Charlie Brown in that neighborhood, except he's not put upon. That's how he feels to me.
Harold: Yeah. And I love their little moments together when they're talking about their, their families and yeah. Yeah, that was great.
February 14, 1964. Charlie Brown is on the bench, his, his school lunch bench out in the recess yard. And he says, “there's that little red haired girl. She's handing out valentines.” Panel two. He's leaning into it, he's getting excited. And he says, “she's handing them out to all her friends. She's handing them out. One by one, she's handing them out. She's still handing them out.” In the last panel, he's starting to look upset. And he says, “now she's all done. That was the last one. Now she's walking away.” Then in the last panel, Charlie Brown looks absolutely devastated, but hilariously so. And he just says, “Happy Valentine's Day again.”
Harold: Look at the emotion on Charlie Brown. Schulz has found a way to show utter anguish in 63 and utter dejection in 64. It's amazing.
Michael: I'm still a little uncomfortable with him as a stalker. He doesn't know her, so why is he so involved with her?
Harold: Yeah, well, it's hard to stalk her when you won't even go near her.
Michael: He knows where she lives.
Harold: Yeah. Did you guys ever have that situation where there was someone, in school and you admired them from afar, but you didn't dare go speak?
Michael: Everyone in school.
Jimmy: Well, not in Girardville. You pretty much had to talk to anyone. You couldn't afford to, pick and choose. There was like twelve people, you know what I mean?
Harold: Yeah. There was a girl in, I think it was 8th grade, and I just thought she was so cute. And I watch her with a friend of hers. I think about study hall. Literally, I would be like on the other side of the cafeteria. But wow, wouldn't that be amazing if someday it's very much like the little red haired girl. And, there was a teacher who was a really nice teacher. And we had like the alphabetical seating. So you're always seated next to the same person, whoever did that in your in your junior high. But then for no particular reason, for the second semester, the teacher said, okay, I'm giving you a fresh seating chart to mix it up. And she placed me right next to this girl. And I was thinking to myself, I don't think I was that subtle in being enamored with this-- I got the feeling of the teacher.
Jimmy: AaOOgah AaOOgah
Harold: I think the teacher was like, okay, I'm going to put these two together because I can tell that he likes her. You know? That was the feeling I got. That was like a little gift from the teacher, that I get a chance to meet her.
Jimmy: Very, sweet.
February 14, 1965. In panel one, we see a, silly drawing of Snoopy making kissy lips, surrounded by a Valentine's Day heart. In next in the next panel, Sally walks by and she says, “hi there, tiger.” In the next panel. After that, Patty walks by and she says, “hi Snoopy. How are you today?” In panel four, Violet comes over and shakes Snoopy's paw, saying, “hello Snoopy.” Panel five, Lucy walks by. “Hi Snoopy.” Panel six, good old Frieda walks by. And now she says, “hello Snoopy. How's the boy?” Then Snoopy looks out after her. Then in the next last panel, he seems concerned, or dejected. And he says, “Rats.” In the last panel, we see him up on his doghouse, and he thinks to himself, “nobody ever calls me sugar lips.”
Michael: I've never heard anyone call anybody sugar lips. Is that like a thing from a movie or something?
Jimmy: I think it's a thing from Snoopy. I don't know.
Harold: Yeah, that's just a Snoopy preference right there. That never got, fulfilled. Boy, so much gorgeous, simple drawings here. I love that panel with Violet shaking, or basically holding Snoopy's Paw. We don't see any motion lines, but look at Snoopy's response to her.
Michael: I joined all these Facebook Peanuts groups because I wanted to let them know what we're doing. And, so I now get lots of various eras of Peanuts on my Facebook page. So I am seeing some of the later stuff that I haven't read before. Like, the most shocking thing to me, and I want to start keeping an eye on this, is that forehead of Snoopy’s. If you look, I mean, especially in the fourth panel, is that classic slope. He has a big forehead and very rounded head that almost disappears. It almost goes straight up from the snout, straight across from the snout and makes him look very different and actually.
Harold: Looks kind of stupid in the later strips.
Michael: Yeah, I'm going to keep an eye on do, a forehead watch.
Harold: Snoopy Forehead Watch.
Jimmy: Years ago when I was out at the Schulz Museum for that artist in residence thing, they had one Snoopy plush that was available at the gift shop. It was made from a different material. And it actually emulated the shaky line. It was the coolest looking plush, however they did it, it was really cool. I did not get it. Anyway, by the way, for a blanket update, I still have not found that security blanket. So, if you see it, running up and down the highways of America or flying over the Pacific Ocean, please write to your local newspaper and let them know about my blanket.
Harold: I'm still admiring this Violet Snoopy panel. Look at the bun on her head and how the line ends. That's just gorgeous design, over this dollop of black for the coloring of that panel. That's definitely one that I could see again. One, of the blow up panels that it's probably been used. I'm guessing if people like Violet enough. And I just love, love Snoopy's little eyebrow over the eye. I didn't describe that look, but it's like, hopeful and quizzical and uncertain in this really super subtle, deadpan Snoopy look.
Jimmy: Really super subtle. Beautiful drawing. This is just also like, hey, how many masterful character designs can I show off one after the other? Every one of them. Every single one of them. I love Patty's little 50s-looking, coat and hat, of course. Hers all match and everything. That's adorable.
Harold: Yeah, she looks like Rose Marie there.
Jimmy: She does look like Rose Marie with the bow. That's right, Rose Marie from the Dick Van Dyke Show, people. Always wore a bow. Even Frieda's little fuzzy sweater. Really great cartooning. But that's, what it's all about here in Peanuts world. Really great cartooning. And you, can always count on Charles Schulz to deliver the goods when it comes to that.
So this has been, our Valentine's Day special. I hope you guys are having a wonderful Valentine's Day out there. if you're not and you're bored and you're just surfing on the Internet, you could, hop on over to UnpackingPeanuts.com. You could sign up for the great Peanuts Reread. You could check out our store, maybe buy one of our books hint hint, or you could buy us a mud pie if you want to support the podcast and make sure that it, keeps moving forward. Another way to do that would be to, follow us, and support us on Patreon, you know, where, anything a little bit you can help out there would would go a long way to keeping the lights on here at Unpacking Peanuts.
Other than that, come back next week where we'll be talking about 1967. It's a good year. So until then, for Michael and Harold, I'm Jimmy. Be of good cheer.
Michael and Harold : Yes, be a 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. For more about Jimmy, Michael and Harold, visit UnpackingPeanuts.com. Have a wonderful day, and thanks for listening.