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Special Episode - Alexis Fajardo

Jimmy: Hey everybody. Welcome back to the show. It's Unpacking Peanuts. I'm your host, Jimmy Gownley, and I am so excited to be here today. We have a really special guest. We have a really special show. We have a really special conversation, all lined up just for you. Are you good? I hope you're good. we're here in, in Peanuts world.

So, so we're all doing really well. I'm Jimmy Gownley. If you know me from anything other than this podcast, you might know me from my graphic novel series, Amelia Rules, my memoir, The Dumbest Idea Ever, or my latest book, which is out now from Scholastic, Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up. Joining me are my co-hosts.

He's a playwright. He's a composer, both for the band, Complicated People, as well as this podcast. And he's the cartoonist behind such great creations as Strange Attractors, Tangled River, and A Gathering of Spells it's Michael Cohen. And the executive producer and writer of the fantastic hit TV series, Mystery Science Theater 3000, the former vice-president of Archie comics and the current creator of the Instagram strip Sweetest Beasts, Mr. Harold Buchholz.

Guys, are you excited? Can you feel it it's it's a special day today. We have a guest, we have a guest in studio with us. I would like all of you Peanuts people out there to, to help me welcome to the show, Alexis Fajardo. Alexis is a cartoonist of a lifelong dedication. His comic book creation Kid Beowulf began as ezine in the early part of this century, but it's since grown into a multi-volume graphic novel depicting the life of the title character in the years, leading up to the epic poem.

He is an Eisner award winning editor, a member of the national cartoonist society, a juror for the national Scholastic writing awards. And if that's not enough, he is the editorial director at Charles M. Schulz,Creative Associates, Lex, welcome to the show.

Lex: I thank you so much for, for having me on that sounds all lovely. I didn't know I did all that stuff,

Jimmy: But you did all that and you have two books out right now, two newish books, right?

Lex: Yes. Well, as awful as the pandemic was, for those of us who are creatives, it gave us an excuse to, to hunker down and, and get some work done. So I guess I'm thankful for that. but yes, I had two new books.

Jimmy: That is fantastic. And I want to hear all about them. But before that, like one of the exciting things for me with this whole enterprise of rereading Peanuts is I just wanted to talk to cartoonists and I wanted to talk to my friends and I wanted to talk to them about how this amazing work of art affected them in their lives.

So, so you have been working on, on Kid Beowulf in one form or another for over 20 years. So tell me, what is your cartoonist origin story? What is starting with, what are your earliest memories of, of something comics-related?

Lex: Oh, wow. Okay. Well, it, I think the breakfast table eating my Cheerios and reading the daily newspaper, the comic section in particular is, is that was a daily ritual.

And of course Peanuts was in the paper. and I, I grew up in the eighties. So, which was the heyday. If you remember, for some great, strips, The Far Side, Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County. So that's sort of where my first education really was. I mean, truthfully, there was, there was never a time when Peanuts did not exist because prior to me reading, I had a Snoopy plush and, you know, we have the specials.

So, and I think my, my very first drawings were of Snoopy and Charlie Brown. I distinctly remember in elementary school, I did a, very crude drawing of Charlie Brown, getting knocked down by the baseball and the clothes flying all over the place. But the art teacher liked it and put it up on the wall.

And that was my first glimpse of what potential fame could be like. And, and, you know, from then on, I was hooked. Exactly. Yeah. So, so comic strips were really where it began and I, for a very long time, Prior to me doing a graphic novels, I wanted to be syndicated comic strip artist. and, and that was really, my formative years were, were there.

I did dip into comic books, became a life long fan of Spiderman and, and then the other big influence would have been, I think I was nine years old and, a family friend gave me a copy of Asterix, illusionary, and Asterix is a great French comic album. And immediately that was sort of the first glimpse of like, seeing something that, you know, I'd never seen before.

And just wanted to know, like, what is this who drew this? How does this work? And I just devoured all of those, those Asterix books and, and really wanted to do sort of do something like that. I think, you know, you have that moment as a young kid where you, where you start to attach names with creations.

And so then, you know, Peanuts, oh, is somebody that's a guy named Schulz and Calvin and Hobbes by this guy named Waterson. And so you and I remember. Those specials that would come up on TV where, you know, I think there was like a Jim Davis special where he was at his drawing board. And I just wanted to like, you know, understand everything about the tools around him and then, you know, so documentaries and so I was just a nerd for, for all of it and, and wanted to, to be, to be a cartoonist that ever since I was a kid, that was, it just wanted to be a cartoonist.

Jimmy: Well, it's so interesting that you say Asterix that would not have popped out to me initially, but now of course, that you say it it's so obvious, some drawing that you would have latched on to in love, but that's one of the amazing things about cartoons and comics is that it, by default all the influences, get channeled through a different person and becomes a completely new thing.

And that that's really interesting to me. That's one of the things I love about comics is that you're switching from visual world to visual world and it's completely different, no matter who's being

influenced there or who's influencing you.

Jimmy: So, so when was the first time you then tried to do some comic strips or a comic book story, or like a, you know, a finished piece that you started showing people and said, Hey,

this is, this is what I'm thinking of doing.

Lex: Oh, well, yeah. I think like all of us kids, we just drew and drew and some of those early things, sort of took more formal shape. And so I would say like, I would have, would have been in like fourth or fifth grade when I started to do like a comic strip, and it featured

Jimmy: Do you remember what it was about?

Lex: Yeah it featured this platypus character. I think his name was Bertram. Don't know where that came from. And, and I hung on to this, this, this platypus character and, you know, developed and refined and redrew and redesigned. And he eventually became Plato and it became a, high school comics. And then into a, and then I took it into college where it became Plato's Republic very much like a Pogo, Bloom County Doonesbury type of strip, you know, current affairs, young college-aged humor. And that was sort of what I really wanted to get syndicated.

Jimmy: Was that a weekly strip in college?

Lex: In college? Yeah, it was about as frequently as our newspaper came out. So approximately weekly. So yeah, it wasn't like, we weren't like, you know, we didn't have, you know, when I read about somebody like Jeff Smith, who'd like did a daily comic strip for the Lantern at his school.

We were not, our production schedule was not that on task.

Jimmy: Yeah, the, my college, we did what we had a weekly paper and I did a weekly strip for it. I do envy. I can't imagine I would have successfully been able to do it daily strip in college, like Jeff Smith. That's crazy. Yeah. Really, really interesting.

Well, what do you remember people's reactions to those?

Lex: Oh, they liked it. I mean, not too different from that moment where the, my first image of Charlie Brown as a six-year-old gets plastered on the wall, like people responded to it. And that of course just feeds delusions of grandeur where you're like, oh yeah.

I mean, everybody at my 1200 person college loves a strip. I'm going to be a nationally syndicated cartoonist of course, that's, you know, meanwhile, as I'm graduating and the career counselors are looking at me dumbfounded, like, okay kid, whatever. And upon graduation, you know, got it myself, my first little studio.

And that was sort of at the beginning of web comics, right. And so that's when I started to do it. I think. Three times a week, if not daily, online on my own website. And, you know, they remember they, those website aggregators and, and just, you know, sharing it and trying to get it out there and then putting together those, those, and they get packets every couple of months just to get back the, the rejection letter around rightly so, because my stuff was just, it just wasn't, you know, there, you're just sort of, you're young, you're learning, you're trying to figure it all out.

And so, but it was a good training ground. I mean, I realized, you know, having worked for a place like the Schulz studio and then just being a cartoonist how hard it is to do a comic strip successfully, you know, for lack of a better word properly. And, so, but, but I, you know, cut my teeth, doing the comic strip and, and I think as I, the more I did it, the more I realized like, oh, my strength is really more in long form.

And, and, and, and, and that shift also, I think, moved with the market because as I started to develop this other project, this conveyable thing, just the publishing landscape newspapers were starting to close down, getting syndicated became much more challenging than it already was. And so, you know, self publishing became a thing and looking at people like Jeff Smith and, just sort of developing longer stories, I just felt more natural.

It felt better. I felt like I could do more in sort of comic books and graphic novels and that sort of, it's always a natural shift in that direction.

Jimmy: Okay. Well, let me ask you this. I read an interview with you, where you were talking about how one of the things that attracted you to Beowulf is that it's, it's poem and you found the verse to be visually inspiring and interesting and leaving you enough room to sort of work.

So I was sort of wondering. What, when did you first encounter that? And when did you make the decision to say, oh, I can, I can merge these two different, these totally polar opposite things, this sort of mid century comic sensibility thing, with this ancient epic, how did, how did you put

those things together?

Lex: Yeah, that's a great question. And I, you know, alongside the track of me just loving all kinds of comics, comic strips, comic books. What have you, as a kid, the other track for me was really diving into the world of mythology, Greek mythology, Norse mythology, world mythology, those stories of legends and heroes.

So they were always sort of concurrent. And so being a nerd for that stuff, when we, when we read Beowulf as an epic poem in, I think it was AP English in my senior year or something, I had read legends before, but they were sort of like novelizations and adaptations. And this was the first time that I'd read it as a poem.

And yeah. You're right. There is something about that language that sort of, as I've said before, it kind of lit my brain on fire. It was so immediately visual. It was so evocative. It was just, I saw the world just sort of, you know, come to life before me. And so that story in particular, Beowulf always stuck with me.

And, and in college, what I studied were the classics, specifically Greek and Roman stuff. So, you know, nerded out with Homer and Odysseus and those guys. And then, you know, later on post-college, as I started to find out, figure out what new direction I wanted to go with it, the longer form storytelling I came back to Beowulf, and I was just reading it for fun because that's what people like us do.

And, and it sort of seemed funny, the notion that, that somebody as big and hulking, and sort of, a hundred percent warrior as he's presented in the poem, like, what would he have been like as a kid? And it was just sort of just a funny kind of notion that started out as like a little zine and, and, took hold and started to spiral into this much larger tapestry of stories.

And yeah, I th I think because the poem, the way, whether it's the Odyssey or Beowulf or Gilgamesh or what have you, there is such a, the language of it is so visual. I mean, that's part of the, the, the thing about epic poetry that, that it just, it lends itself to comics, whether we know it or not. And, and, and so, you know, for my particular style, which is, which is a little bit more cartoony, and also my sensibilities were, were, I didn't want to do like a, just a straight adaptation.

I wanted to kind of play with the text and the story, and then I'd taken some of those earlier influences, and just kind of create this, this new, you know, approach to the story that would hopefully lead people back to the original. So it's, it's kind of, I sort of set it up as like a prequel. These are the young adventures of Beowulf and his twin brother.

They travel across the world, they get into other adventures. And it's sort of just, there are hints and suggestions of their future destiny and, and it just gives me an opportunity to, to visit all these different spaces and mythologies. And learn about them and have conversations with them through the course of the graphic.

Jimmy: Yeah. When I just like to say to, you know, as a reader of it, it's, I'm not a huge, like, I didn't care about Beowulf one way or another or when I was a kid. So if you're not into that, that should not turn you off of these, these books because they're super fun. They're really sharp. They're a breezy read with beautiful artwork.

So it's not, if you're not a Beowulf kind of person, you still would probably enjoy these books, I think. can you tell me a little bit about your process? I mean, that's, that's of course my favorite thing, and I know Michael and Harold loved talking about it as well, too. And so you can be as, as get in the weeds as much as possible.

How do you produce a page? a chapter, a book, the whole deal. You start with, you're like, all right. I, I, I'm going to have to do another, another one of these stories.

Lex: Boy how much time your listeners to have, but, well, you know how it is comics

Jimmy: just days they're not doing anything.

Lex Well, if they're like me, they're probably listening to a podcast while they're drawing their comics. I mean, that's just, that's one of the key components to find a great podcast, sit at your drawing table. And, for me, it's probably, I'm probably at the inking stage at that point, but I do everything as much as I can.

I try to emulate my heroes or Schulz being one of them, Jeff Smith, being another, you know, the, the guys who did Asterix. So I like to work with tactile tools. So I draw on Bristol board, I ink with a variety of pens. I've started to get into using the tip brush the Windsor Newton, Sable seven, that whole thing, because you know, my other heroes like, well, Kelly used that.

So I want to get facile with that. A lot of it is just sort of, as you say, it's, it's the process of trying to get better and that will. A lifetime to, to sort of understand the thick to thin and how the brush works. But I, you know, I love that because there's no take backs, you know, when you, when you're drawing digitally, you have, you know, command Z at your, at your disposal.

And, and which, and I, and that's not to say I don't use computer. A lot of the post-production stuff that I do is in the computer. I have a colorist, we can color digitally. I lay in the texts and the word balloons with, you know, those digital tools. So it's, it's kind of half and half, but I, as much as I try when I'm working on my actual pages, I like to work on 11 by 14 Bristol board.

I, of course that's working from a script that I've already written out. Yeah. I, I don't know how it you Jimmy or, or Harold or, or others do it. I know that some will thumbnail and write, you know, those, those pages as, as pages. And then this sort of refined the art on the board. And I just don't have that facility.

I write much better and faster just as a script and I can sort of, kind of write it visually and kind of do like, you know, page one.

Jimmy: Yeah. Do you, do you put notes to yourself? Like a, you know, stage direction?

Lex: Yeah. Yeah. So it sort of says page one, six panel layout such and such is doing this and, and sort of describing the scene characters within it, texts within it.

And of course, that's just a starting point because, you know, I I'll do a thumbnail next to it to kind of helps me with the blocking and the staging. And then of course, when you take it to the art board, you know, I have a tendency to overwrite. So, you know, and when I get to that point where I'm going to kind of give the sense of where the text will be, oftentimes I have to massage that text and whittle it down.

And, and that's just part of the, you know, forever editing, I think, as we create our work. right. And then it, it goes into the, the Bristol board and I, and I pencil everything on 11 by 14 Bristol board with Prismacolor blue pencil. And, cause I'm a process junkie and I like to leave those pencils, the under drawing there that, that I can then ink over.

Jimmy: As a Kelly fan, Have you seen the Fantagraphics books that produce, reproduce some of the things on the chapter breaks and stuff like that? See the pencil lines under the ink?

Lex: yeah, with all that stuff. and, and then, you know that then it becomes, I'll eventually scan it in, fix all my mistakes as I can with, with, cause I'm, you know, on the, on the board I'm, you know, maybe I'll draw character a little too big or have to kind of tweak some things.

So, you know, those, those final art pages on the Bristol board, they do, as I said, get tweaked in the digital, you have to clean it up, send those pages to my colorist. He does flats. We kind of go back and forth to get it on, on model. And then once we're satisfied with the color, I'll start to do the final stage, which is, you know, dropping in the text.

And, and sort of going from there. And so that's kind of it in a nutshell, it's, it sounds a lot easier than it is. I wish I was a lot faster than I, than I am. but you know, I really do love all the stages of creating comics though. Even the, what would seemingly be boring of like doing the, the panels and, and, you know, gridding it out.

There's just something really methodical and about that, you know? And, it sort of just sort of it's that first stage where you're starting to start to, to see the page before you, and that it's a kind of a magical experience to take a blank piece of paper and create something and, and, you know, 10, 20 hours later, however long it takes.

You've got a little story before you, and it's just, I never, never get tired of that process.

Harold: Can I jump in for a second here? This is Harold, Lex. I was wondering. You obviously have experienced both digital and drawing by hand on Bristol board. what is it that keeps you in that world when there's so many things that are trying to pull people into the digital world?

What, what is it that you find out about in the drawing process that really makes that the most satisfying experience for you?

Lex: So do you mean like drawing specifically on paper as opposed to going on a screen? Yeah.

Harold: Right. That you're actually doing the, the ruling out those, those panel borders and doing the penciling with the blue pencil and inking on paper versus yeah.

Lex: well, I th I think clearer, I guess, for lack of a better description, you know, for, for me, when I'm drawing a lot of it is just like finding the image. Like I have it in my head. I know the pose that I want to put the characters in, but so much of it is just sort of searching on the page. And you'll, and I'll do that with the under drawing, with, with the circles and the cylinders and just the, the motion of the body.

And I'm just trying to figure out how it's going to look on the page where it, where it fits in that the plane of that panel. And I just can't do that on a, on a screen. I can't, I can't, I haven't figured it out, frankly, cause I haven't really done it enough. And I have, I know plenty of folks who have, who can, who can draw beautifully on a, on a tablet,

Harold: does that have to do with the, having the entire page spatially, always physically present there because I know in the digital world you can zoom in on a panel and you never really getting the full picture and you're coming in and out.

Is it that you're living in that world of, a piece of paper where this is in this upper left-hand corner, you always see it in relation to everything

Lex: else. Yeah. That could definitely be it. And the other thing I love about that aspect of drawing on paper is that the kind of the paper tells me when, you know, it's like, if I, when I'm done inking, there's only so much I can do to try and fix, you know, these drawings there's only so much white out I can apply. There's only so much noodling I can do, you know, it sort of forces you to the next page and, and there is this kind of momentum that you get, at least I do when I'm doing a batch of pencils.

And again, I don't know how it is for you guys. Like I'm really only good for maybe 10 pages of, of pencils before, like the drawings just, just start to, you know, fart away. And, and so then I have to sign of, okay. Move on to another task, which maybe is starting to ink another batch of pencils. Like I have to kind of shift around the production and give my, my brain some, some rest is, and I'm present kind of doing these different tasks, but yeah, Harold, I think you're, you've hit on something in the idea that I see the page before.

And I can get a better sense of, of the layout, the characters within it and how it all operates as a page, not just a panel that perhaps would be, you know, shown on the screen on a sliding scroll or however it's going to be shown online.

Harold: Oh, that's really interesting. Thanks for sharing that. It's something I've kind of wondered myself when I'm working.

I've done it, obviously both ways being as old as I am. And, I've, I've kind of found the, the opposite that I'm so off in relationships of characters or spacing or where I'm composing something that digitally, I just get so much help by being able to tweak, move this. Change this line, where I can do that over and over again until I kind of get where I need to go.

But I get a sense that you have a pretty strong sense of your own drawing style and design that I, I, I get that working in a, in a page, some of my shortcomings, you probably don't have what I have, and it really helps to have that overall sense of where everything is in relationship to everything else.

And that is something you lose in digital, at least in my experience.

Lex: Well, that's only if that's the case, it's only because I've, I've tricked people. If they saw my pencil pages, they would see it. Like they're oftentimes I'll draw a character and it says like, oh my gosh, that's a great pose. Then I realize that, oh, he's not like I get that, that desire of like, oh, if I could just like shrink him a little bit and move and just slide him over across.

But no, I have to erase him and draw it again. So there is something to be said for the facility of digital tools. I mean, they are great and I don't regret any. To do it. However, it works for them to get that, get the look there they're going for.

Jimmy: yeah. A hundred percent, but there is something just tactically fun and, and enjoyable about drawing on paper.

I, I always sort of vaguely resent that I spent my spent my whole life, trying to be a cartoonist. And then there's people constantly telling me ways I can spend less time being a cartoonist. It's like, Hey, look, I could do this. Well, I don't want someone to do that. I want them to do that. That's this is what I was trying to do.

Well, here, here's the last cartooning question I have for you. I just want to ask because you're in a rare position and that you've been working with a set of characters for a long time and you've expanded them and you've gone deeper with them and you've refined them and that, you know, Schulz Schulz did as well.

Can you talk about. What it's like to stay with a creative project for so long. Yeah. Both the rewards of it. And also maybe the downside.

Lex: Well, I, when you asked this question, I immediately think of your own work with Amelia, and I'd love to get your point of view as well. For me, it's kind of like the going back to the idea of, of just learning the tools and the, the craft and the trade of it.

Even down to refining what it's like to work with a brush, I'm just trying to get better at drawing these characters and understanding their relationships. And it's so hard to, to write good stories. that's the other thing I'm always trying to just get better at and how to, how to write better, how to draw better, how to communicate in comics better.

So, so having those, those characters that I'm familiar with, that I know how they’re designed and such, and I can sort of put them in different situations. I think it's helpful for me, as opposed to just creating a whole new set of characters or a whole new world. And I have friends who, who do that. So for a move from one project to another, beautifully.

And, and for me, I think it just takes generally just takes longer. I like to sort of whether it's the right move or not, I stick with a project because, you know, I have these, these grandiose ideas and stories that I wanna just, I wanna travel with them for me, it's very much like a travelogue.

And so each book, yeah, I'm sort of refining and, and, and understanding those characters better and, and learning what I can do to, to make them a little bit more three-dimensional. And of course, you know, Schulz was great at that. And one of the strips that we'll talk about later, I chose it specifically because he has developed these beautifully three-dimensional characters that, that I hope I can create along those lines.

You know, when I look at things like what Schulz does. Those great Pixar movies and the depth that they bring to their characters. That's something I'm definitely striving for.

Jimmy: Yeah. Well, it shows on the page. I mean, I mean that, that work is, is there for the reader, for sure. Yeah, for me, I, I, I felt when I was working on Amelia, it getting better and better and better by my own personal standards.

Like I have no idea what a reader would think or a critic would think, but for what I was trying to do, I felt better and better and better at it until I got to the seventh book. And I felt like it at the very least it didn't get better. Maybe it got a little worse, you know what I mean? and then I thought, well, that's not a good, and also I didn't have fun doing it.

So I ended up just doing one more book and then taking some time off and doing, you know, I wrote a thousand pages for Disney and I've written, I've written and drawn two graphic novels for Scholastic. Those characters, even though the one book has completely, really, it was a memoir. So they are real people.

They're not as real as Amelia, those characters in that book, because they only live in that book. Amelia could do things that contradicted herself because you spent so much time with her. Now that I'm back, I'm working on a new Amelia story right now. And it's like, oh yeah, this is, this is why you do this because it's like being in a really good band where you just know how everybody else plays.

I assume, I was never in a really good band. I'm a terrible guitarist, but I it's how I dream being in a really good, band.

Lex: So wait, can I ask you, does it, did it when you took the break from Amelia and now your, your, your back, does it, did the characters feel different at all?

Jimmy: Yeah, I forgot that. The only way I could do it is to write it always in her voice.

Like even if I'm doing notes and stuff like that. So I was trying to like explain it to my agent and some editors and stuff and trying to write it as if I'm explaining what's going to happen. And it. That cause that's how you pitch a regular graphic novel. Right. And I thought, I don't know why. I just, I, it just didn't feel right.

And it felt like even the story was off. And then suddenly when I was just like, no, have her tell the story to even these people, she just came back to life. And then the whole thing was like, oh, okay. I remember how to do this, but it was dicey there for a little bit.

Lex: Yeah. And then let me ask you this also then did they want to be drawn differently at all?

Jimmy: Well, yeah, because I set this stupid idea of aging too, which because I thought, you know, I mean, clearly Amelia is hugely influenced by Peanuts and all the great kids strips, you know, throughout history. One thing I wanted to do, but I thought maybe I could add to it is, is, is age her up and see what that's like.

Even though it's not going to be something radical, probably like, you know, Maggie from Love and Rockets or something like that. But to watch a kid grow up from nine to, let's say, you know, graduating high school or. I think that'll be a cool thing to do. So. Yeah. So the new version she's she's 14, so that's, that's weird. But no, but she still speaks to me in the same way. So that, that was, that was really cool.

Lex: That's interesting. Yeah. I was just going to say, like the other day I was thinking like, do I, one of the things I struggle with is how much do I age my characters throughout the story? And that's sort of an ongoing internal conversation,

Jimmy: right? Because the other thing is the only people that will experience that. The growth of the characters in real time or your original readers. Right. You know, 20 years from now, someone will be reading. They could read them all in a week. Right. and I like, that's a, that's a weird thing with Love and Rockets.

Is that Love and Rockets, which is one of my favorite books, you know, I was 15 when I started reading it and Maggie, Maggie was like 18 or 19 and we're still that difference in age apart. That's amazing, but that's never going to happen to another generation. They'll, they'll read it in a month if they want to or two months.

And that's gotta be a different feeling entirely.

Lex: Yeah. As someone, you know, I just started to dip a toe back into reading some Spiderman comics because I left for a good 15 years and reading some recent ones. I'm like, well, wait a minute. Where, where does this work in the timeline? And, and then realizing, well, there really is no actual timeline, but like, I guess perhaps from his inception in ‘63 to where we are now is maybe like 10 years of Peter Parker's life, which is, you know, at dizzying life.

Jimmy: So well, let me ask you this, to wrap up here. Tell us a little bit about your work with, with the Schulz people. That's just an amazing thing. I got to go out there once, several years back and it it's just a magical place. And for a cartoonist like you who loves it and you know, it's in your bones and in your blood, it must be a wonderful place to be.

Lex: And I remember your, your visit, you, you came as a cartoonist in residence and it was, it was fun just to show you around the campus. and so I've been at the Schulz studio. This is my 15th year. I was hired back in January of 2007 and I distinctly remember, you know, my first day on campus. I mean, you kind of caught up, we call it Snoopy Central because there was a Schulz museum.

And then across the way from the Schulz museum as the Redwood Empire Ice Arena also called Snoopy’s home ice, which is the beautiful ice rink and The Warm Puppy cafe. And then adjacent to that is a Snoopy and gallery and gift shops. So there are these buildings, you know, throughout the space and then tucked beyond the museum behind a ball field is Schulz's original studio.

And so for the first half of my career there, that's sort of where I worked alongside the creative director there, Paige Braddock, several other cartoonista, brilliant cartoonists. Yes. Yeah. There's sculptors there, there were accountants there, there were all the people who were there to sort of, you know, continue the Schulz legacy and the, and the empire.

A lot of it, you know, still headed up by folks like Jeanie Schulz and, Schulz's son Craig, who are very much involved in the day-to-day. And so, yeah, I was hired back then as an approvals coordinator. So, so what that meant was, you know, there's just so much license material. Your studios are filled with some kind of Snoopy paraphernalia.

And, the mandate of the Schulz studio is to make sure that that material, whether it's a, you know, a book or a plush or a t-shirt or a mug looks as good as it can on that product. You know, we kind of preserve the integrity of, of the image as, as it gets translated into other media. and we work alongside the, the New York office, which formally was the syndicate that Schulz, you know, United Features Syndicate, which sort of to do it's more media-related stuff became United Media.

And they did all the business deals and, and found those licensees for us to work with. So we work alongside them and they, when they sold or dissolved the company, I guess, would have been like maybe 2010, a new entity was created called Peanuts Worldwide. And that was done in part by the Schulz family and some other outside investors to sort of continue that, that business.

To keep those relationships going with our licensees globally. And the Schulz studio, you know, we continued in our basically we're sort of the creative arm, you know, in, in Schulz's absence where there to speak for the strip to protect the characters, to maintain the integrity of the comic strip, however it manifests, whether it's in a book or a, as a new animated, you know, Snoopy show special, like we're, we're just there at every stage to, to just, you know, hopefully just do, do Sparky proud.

That's it. And so, and, so yeah, so over the years, you know, as, during my tenure, as that approvals coordinator, I've just found, I've always had a love of books and of like the original content of the strip. And so Paige realized, Okay. I think he'd be really good with books and she sort of put me on books and that's kind of, and thankfully that's where I've been and existed.

And, and I work in other content-related fields. But my, my main job as editorial director is to, just to work with all the different licensees across the world to create Peanuts publications from, you know, like the little board books that a publisher might put to all, you know, to the, to the next book that may becomes featuring original Schulz art.

And so all those different iterations and permutations, and I get to work with really talented book designers and writers. And sometimes we have in studio projects, like for years, we did the Peanuts comic books through BOOM! and the graphic novels, which was a really fun project. So it's, I've just learned so much and it's, and it's been great.

And I've gotten to work alongside the museum, in some cases just helping with, with curatorial stuff for you know, putting some shows together and I've traveled the world, you know, it's one, that's one of those crazy things, because Peanuts is global. We have to sometimes visit places like Japan or Europe and to check in with our licensees.

I remember when I first started, Paige said, yeah, you work for Peanuts and you see the world. And, she wasn't kidding. And it's just been, yeah, I can't it's so, weirdly connected to, you know, who I am, I guess, as a, as a cartoonist because, you know, like I said, like, I read this eating Cheerios as an eight-year-old, so to be connected to it anyway.

And, and the way that I am is really humbling. And I couldn't ask for a better gig outside of just doing my own work, 24/7. It's just been a truly life-changing.

Harold: Do you feel any affinity with the Midwestern vibe of Peanuts, because it's interesting how, because of Peanuts, you know, you, you had a start in, in the Midwest, like Schulz did, but because of Schulz, you wound up in California, like Schulz did. Do you feel any affinity with, with the work because of it it's Midwestern and, and, in California roots?

Lex: Yes, I think so. And you know, I think there's definitely a Midwestern vibe to the strip. I remember actually attending a talk a couple of years ago for, there was a book that came out called the Peanuts papers.

I don't know if you guys have seen it yet, but it's sort of a collection of essays. One of which was written by Jonathan Franzen. And he came to the, to the museum to be interviewed by the, the editor of that collection. And it was a great conversation, really intriguing to sort of hear both them talk about Peanuts.

But at one point, Franzen, he was asked by the if he thought Peanuts had a particular Midwestern flare to it and friends and just sort of poo-pooed that idea didn't think it had it. And I just, you know, I just disagree. I just feel like it's, it's very much there.

Harold: I would agree too. Yeah. Cause I, I had family in Missouri, in Oklahoma, but we moved around.

I was in the, is a little kid and then Rochester, New York and then back to mid Missouri Columbia, by the time I was 11 and I definitely felt it was a different, it's a, it's a different culture and there's, there's this. I don't know an integrity, a self-imposed integrity in the strip, which reminds me so much of, of Midwestern upbringing and having worked on mystery science theater with Joel who's, who was in, you know, they made it in Minneapolis right next to where Schulz grew up.

And, and the, the feel of that there is a feel to it. It is maybe hard to put, put a finger on what exactly it is, but it seems to have a certain type of restraint and integrity to it. It's like they, they, they, they create boxes for themselves to work in, and then they, they, because of that, it has a different feel and they work brilliantly in the boxes they create.

Lex: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, the best word that comes to mind for me is sincerity. There's just a sincerity to Peanuts. And, and also, you know, if you think you just, you just put, you know, hit the nail on the head, the idea of boxes like here he is in 1950, given his life's dream to do a comic strip. And they give him the smallest real estate possible.

Like he's four rinky-dink boxes is where his heroes are doing like full page spreads and, and massive, you know, real estate. And he's like, man. Okay, well, but he's not going to complain. He's just trying to figure it out. Like, how do you, how do you even do a gag in four panels that, you know, I can barely draw on, which is partly, partly one of the reasons I think he drew so big.

Like if you seen as originals, you know, it was going to be shrunk down. So he sort of had to production-wise draw big, but I also feel like he wanted to, you know, draw that big because you know, he was relegated to the smallest, you know, piece of real estate in the newspaper. So yeah, but there's definitely a sincerity to what he does.

And, and what's also what I also think is perhaps Midwestern. it's not so much self-effacing, But he, you know, he always talked about in his interviews trying to just create a really good feature. So for the editors, they could sell more newspapers. It was just like, that was kind of it for him. And all these other things that I think later auteur cartoonists, people like Breathed and maybe Bill Waterson, where they started to demand things, you know, like I want to take a sabbatical or I want to do this or that, that would have been unheard of for somebody like Schulz.

I think that, you know, generationally, it was like, this was his job. This is what he was asking to do. Exactly. Yeah. And that's not to say that those guys didn't have, you know, that's that same kind of work ethic, but it's, it's also like, you know,

Harold: It’s a way of seeing that affects what you do and don't do.

Lex: Right.

Jimmy: So thank you for coming on the show.

How about we talk about, your, your big -- oh, wait. No, no, I have a, I have a new segment. I want to do, I want to ask every cartoonist, it's the same five questions. So this is without you thinking, this is just off the top of your head. I want you to answer these questions about being a cartoonist first thing that comes to your mind.

Lex: Okay.

Jimmy: What's the best part of being a cartoonist?

Lex: Boy, I guess the first thing that came to mind, just drawing, drawing the pages and when a page looks good,

Jimmy: what's the worst part?

Lex: I guess now the thing that I find hard to do is just the promotion. Like whatever we're supposed to do with making people find our work, read our work, social media, stuff like that.


Jimmy: What comic would I most be surprised to find in your collection?

Lex: I'm looking at my collection right now. I'm trying to see what might be weird. The thing that pops out is Vinland Saga, which is I've just started to dip a toe into manga and, and that is a manga by a cartoonist named, I think we're going to butcher his name Makoto Yukimura.

And it's just a terrific 12-volume ongoing story about the Vikings. So actually it's a, maybe it's not the weirdest thing, but, it's beautifully done and it's just, it's really inspiring just to sort of get, to when you find a new series that you really latch on to that's that kind of feeling.

Jimmy: What's the one undisputed comics classic that you just don't get.

Lex: Oh, man, this is tough. let's come back to that one. I might have to think about that.

Jimmy: Charles Schulz is the greatest cartoonist of all time, who is the second greatest.

Lex: Oh, okay.

Well, Walt Kelly comes to mind, I guess. And I, I would say visually he is,

Jimmy: that's a good pick.

Lex: Yeah. And I guess what I would say that earlier question was, years ago, it would have been Prince Valiant as, you know, a great strip that a classic that, you know, everybody lauded and, but I never quite got into, but I actually have been rereading it through Fantagraphics and it's extraordinary.

So, so that's how much I know. yeah,

Jimmy: You've grown as a person, so that's a good thing. That is awesome. Well, I thank you so much for doing this. Hey, everybody out there. thanks for listening. Why don't we just take a break and then we'll come right back and we'll talk about, Lex’s pick for five favorite

Peanuts strips.


Jimmy: And we're back. We're here with Alexis Fajardo who is going to pick his top five-- not necessarily, top five, but five fascinating Peanuts strips for us to discuss again. I'm Jimmy, I'm here with Michael and Harold. Lex, tell us what was your criteria for selecting these five strips?

Lex: Yeah, well, I mean, we, we exchanged an email back and forth and when you told me like, okay, there's going to be, I want you to pick four strips, four favorite strips.

I thought, oh, this is gonna be easy. I got, I can like rattle these off the top of my head. And then as I started to think about it, it became more and more difficult because as you guys are discovering in your read-through, like, there's so many good strips and from all different areas. And so I just started to think, okay, how do I find strips that means something to me as a cartoonist, that the strips that I sort of think about from time to time, that sort of just pop into my head is like, oh, that's just a funny guy. Schulz is doing just great things as a cartoonist. So I just sort of tried to, I also wanted to find strips that I thought could maybe lead to discussion about, you know, maybe not be the best flying ace strip, but at least we can talk about his work as the flying ace and just how he deals with character and how he writes gags.

And so, yeah, I think ultimately if you were to ask me next week, pick your next favorite five, I would find another bunch to talk about, and that they'd be just as edifying. For this particular podcast use the ones I landed on. These are the ones that, that I think about that make me smile and that I thought there was plenty to, to chat about.

Jimmy: Awesome. That's great. Well, let's get to it guys.

August 6th, 1973. Snoopy is perched atop his dog has typing away at his typewriter. This is what he writes: Though her husband often went on business trips, she hated to be left alone. “I solved our problems. I bought you a Saint Bernard. Its name is Great Reluctance. Now, when I go away, you shall know that I am leaving you with Great Reluctance.” Snoopy finishes his passage by writing. She hit him with a waffle iron.

Jimmy: All right. That's your first pick of your, your, your five Peanuts strips. What is it about this one that spoke to you?

Lex: Yeah, so this one is just one of those strips that, technically it's beautifully lettered and it's done in that, in that it's, it's, you know, Schulz writing in that typewriter font that he's got.

And so it's, so it's, it's done really well, but more than that, it's just funny to me. It's just one of those stupid, funny strips that Schulz-- And, he could only really get, ever get away with when Snoopy is, as the author sitting on top of his doghouse, is wouldn't this, this stupid sort of pun wouldn't work in any other instance.

And I kinda liked that. I mean, a dog named Great Reluctance. It's just so dumb. I love it. It's, it's, it's just one of those guilty pleasures. And, and I always just get a kick out of this one.

Jimmy: So we're we're up to 1955, in our reading just about to start 1956. And, he would have in, in the earlier period, he would have done something like given this to Charlie Brown, as Charlie Brown is trying to be a cartoonist.

And those always just don't have the level of ironic remove that, that makes it work by having it be the dog, typing it on his desk. I don't know why that makes it better remove to make it funnier.

Michael: Well, I was wondering about that. Cause I'm, I'm looking at all of these in the context of where we're at now, which is 1955 and trying to think, okay, would he have done this in the, in the mid-fifties?

And that led me to think we have something called the Shermy test, which is basically would the gag work with another character? If it's specific to the character, then it passes the Shermy tests. And if Shermy said it, it probably wouldn't be funny. I wonder about this one. Cause I, when I, when I saw this, I thought, would this be funny if like, just what Jimmy said, if Charlie Brown had, you know, this was the comic strip he wrote and he's reading it, the line is or something, would that be funny or is this specifically…

Jimmy: I think it is. I don't know why I can't put my finger on exactly why. But I, but it feels like, cause it's,

Michael: it's a joke, it's just a flat joke and it's not, not a good joke.

Lex: And that's for me, part of the humor is that yeah. I mean, Schulz knows it's not a great joke, but he's, he's, he's, you know, that whole, that last panel, she hit him with a waffle iron

Harold: And talking about sincerity, Snoopy seems to be writing this with tremendous sincerity and yet he knows it's a joke. It's it's it plays with your mind. Yeah.

Lex: Yeah. And just the idea that there's this scenario

Michael: At least Snoopy’s not smiling.

Lex: of a husband and a wife, like I, you know, the kids don't, I think relate to the world that way. So you've got this character Snoopy, who I think can, can, you know, he is removed, you know, like, like you said, Jimmy, and, and, and these sorts of gags, he would do them every now and then I just, I just think they're, like I said, stupid funny.

Jimmy: So good.

February 28th, 1973, Snoopy and Charlie Brown are sitting outside. Snoopy is examining a piece of paper. Charlie Brown says to him,”to be eligible for the Daisy Hill. Puppy cup nominee must fill out the enclosed form.” Charlie Brown was reading the form over sleepy shoulder. We see the first question, which is name of owner. Snoopy sits thinking a little too long. In panel three, Charlie Brown angrily says, “Charlie Brown!” In panel 4, Snoopy turns back to his form to fill it out. He thinks to himself how embarrassing.

Michael: this is really strange because it was the great mystery of the first year or so is who owns Snoopy

Jimmy: Longer, really.

Michael: Cause Jimmy pointed out in, in ‘55, again, there was the first strip, we think, that explicitly shows that Charlie Brown owns Snoopy. And there's all kinds of hints to the contrary in the earlier strips. This implies that Snoopy doesn't know who owns him.

Jimmy: It's that he'd never remembered his name.

Lex: Yeah. The round headed kid. He always calls him in the later strips. Yeah. And I chose this one because it's, I mean, I'm a, I'm a dog person. I love dogs. I have a dog. I have a voice for my dog, he thinks he's wonderful thoughts. And this just illustrates like, no, you know, it's, it's just sort of, it's, it's a little more, you know, colder than that.

And I just, and what's also fun is if, you know, when folks look at this, visually is the pacing is terrific. You know, you see. Charlie Brown angrily stating his name. And then that final panel he's just got this kind of frown on him, was like, yeah, this is my dog. He doesn't even know who I am. And I love the, in the second panel, Schulz again, plays with that, you know, typography.

And then you have the, it says name of owner and there's a dash and it's as if you're seeing it on the form that Snoopy is filling out. And I just, I really liked those strips where he, where he does that sort of thing, where he plays with typography, where the kids are like writing letters and you see their handwriting scrawled above and the panel.

And, and that's just so unique. I don't think you can do that in any other form, but a comic strip and it's just really interesting to me. And, and so this is just another one of that I think is really funny and it illustrates the relationship between these two characters. It's just pretty biting.

Harold: And some classic art too.

I mean, this, this set or this early mid-seventies version of Charlie Brown and Snoopy resonates with me as a kid who was, I was seven at the time this came out. And so this version of Peanuts really resonates. And I just think is his line work. And the character design is amazing.

Jimmy: gorgeous, gorgeous stuff

Michael: So this is pretty much the Snoopy who persists throughout the seventies and eighties. Cause we're, we're just getting into the long nose, balloony Snoopy from the mid-fifties, and I'm trying to keep an eye on how he progresses to this look.

Jimmy: We actually actually literally think we may have pointed out one specific panel where it's his snout elongates and it stays that way for like the next year. We are, we talked about the punctuation and the strip for about 20 minutes. We are going into real detail.

December 22nd, 1962 We see three identical panels of Charlie Brown and Linus sitting on the curb, their head in their hands. Finally in panel four, Charlie Brown stands up and yells to the sky. “Why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball just three feet higher?”

Michael: This was really important to me

Jimmy:We have, we have an ongoing segment called Peanuts Obscurities explained, and I think this would qualify for that. Do you want to explain this one?

Michael: So you guys do not understand this gag?

Jimmy: I understand iit, but only because I looked up when I was reading through the Fantagraphics books, the first time I looked up to see what it was.

Michael: This was like my life. I grew up in LA.

So of course, everybody I knew was a Dodger fan. I decided at age nine to be a Giants fan. And I became totally obsessed. It was like, my greatest love was the Giants. And in 1962, they got into the World Series amazingly against the Yankees. And, you know, in my lifetime, the Giants had never been in the world series.

And of course they were underdogs, but they managed to get the game seven and only one run behind in the bottom of the ninth. Correct me as some baseball fans out there, correct me if I'm wrong on the details. But basically they had, I think they had runners on second and third with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, which meant any single or any hit would bring in the two runners they'd win the World Series and their second best hitter or third best maybe came up Willie McCovey and hit the screaming line drive.

I was watching this on TV, and at that moment it's like they, and the second baseman for the Yankees, Bobby Richardson, jumped up and caught it. And it's, so it went from like absolute ecstasy to like total like pain and failure in like a half a second. It's funny. I remember this strip, cause I was just telling Harold this story, before we started, I said, yeah, it was amazing.

Cause like that's how I felt. And then the next day I read Peanuts and there it was, and clearly the date is 12/22 that's two months later. Yeah.

Lex: And that's the thing. Yeah. Michael, your play play play is perfect. Yeah, I think, well, so I'm, you know, I'm much younger. I grew up as a lifelong Red Sox fan, but somebody who has felt the pain and now sort of, you know, the second team would be the Giants, but I love this strip because, again, it's one of those visual ones. You kind of have to look at it. And as Jimmy described it, it's three identical panels. Charlie Brown, Linus sitting at the curb. They're not changing. Their expressions are the same. They're, they're lost in thought they're lost in deep thought. And then that final panel Charlie Brown screens to the heavens about, you know, McCovey hitting that just three feet higher.

And I, and it's just like, as a baseball fan, I totally get this. And then as a cartoonist, I think it's really kind of a bold, you know, gag to do. I mean, it's so specific. And, and the other thing I love is the date like Michael, you'd call it the date, the 22nd of December, that same year. So that, that has sort of puts in my head like these kids had been there for four months just thinking about this like, you know, and it's just, it just makes it all the more perfect.

And that's, you know, all of these strips. I think the other thing I wanted to point out is that the humor is in the specificity. And he's so good at like being specific about whatever topic it is.

Michael: Well, there, there are quite a few that we're hitting from the early years that we have no idea what he's talking about.

At least not all of us will know. I mean, he keeps like, that's the famous one who the punchline, the gag had something to do with some guy named Terhune

Harold: Albert Payson Terhune, he wrote Lad: A dog.

Michael: We had no idea who it was.

Jimmy: Of course. Yeah. Michael, like Michael said, it was a screaming line drive. You should, check it out. It's on YouTube. It is hit hard. The baseball was smoked.

Michael: I still feel, my stomach still hurts.

We, we discussed that mouth in the last panel in our last podcast. And I brought up the fact that I thought that was from Little Lulu. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Lex: I'm not that familiar with Little Lulu, so I wouldn't, I wouldn't be able to, to know that he drew the same kind of expression?

Michael: Se had the thing with the nose, the nose on top and that big black mouth, I think that's how they express their angst.

Jimmy: Schulz’s is slightly more abstract and the Little Lulu one's slightly more geometric because that's just the nature of it. But yeah, there's definitely, there's definitely a similarity.

Lex: Interesting.

August 11th, 1966, Snoopy, dressed as the world war one flying ace, is sitting in what looks like a hovel. There is a wooden table in front of him, Snoopy thinks to himself. Here's the world war one flying ace talking with his commanding officer. Snoopy rolls out a map on the table. “On our left is St. Mihiel, on our right is Pont A Mousson. Intelligence reports that an ammunition train is that the railway station in Longuyon. Our bombers cannot get through. But one lone airplane flying very low just might make it.” Snoopy bravely salutes and says,”I of course volunteer. “

Michael: This is sort of the period where I thought, I mean, this is totally subjective. Of course. And everybody has their favorite period, probably when they were a certain age, I felt that at this point with the continuing strips, did the jokes weren't as sharp or maybe no jokes at all.

I mean, there is really no joke in this.

Lex: and part of the reason I chose it was I'm a huge fan of the flying ace. As a character, I think he's terrific. And, I chose this one just because I artistically, I really like how it's drawn and, you know, Jimmy's, you described the, the, the room that Snoopy is in and then sort of the, the spotlight shadow in the second panel and, and his very determined, serious expressions throughout the whole thing.

And the other reason I chose it was because Schulz was able to do everything he wanted to do in his comic strip. You know, if you wanted to do an adventure strip, he has it this way with the flying ace.. If you wanted to do a relationship, he has it with some of those other characters. Like there was wasn't anything he couldn't tackle or make work within the confines of these four panels.

And I think this, this one in particular illustrates that idea of like, yeah, if you wanted to do an adventure strip, Schulz could have done one. Yeah. And, and the versatility of, of that was what I kind of. You know, highlight in this strip in particular is it's just sort of like whether it's flying ace or French foreign legion or any of the myriad personas.

Michael: Do you know when he first started showing what was in Snoopy's imagination?

Cause we haven't come across that yet. The fact that this is not, he's not sitting on the doghouse, this is not--

Lex: Oh I see what you’re saying.

Michael: You're seeing the room.

Lex: Yeah. I mean, I suppose those first I don't, I mean, I don't know for sure, but in terms of the flying ace, like he did show the bullet holes, on the side of the dog house and there's some great Sundays where, you know, around this period, maybe a couple of years before he's he's, going through the French countryside.

And so we see the hay bales and we see the Eiffel tower. So I think he did it. He certainly did it with him as a flying ace. I don't know if that's where, where it started, but yeah, I just, I just love how he was able to, just kind of, you know, make the strip, do whatever he wanted to do and make it work.

Michael: The flying ACE thing grease really caught on. And I don't know, boosted it to a new level of popularity if that was possible. I mean, with a hit pop song and everything, but he did veer from sort of his own, his own rules that he'd set up to that point by doing the adventures.

Jimmy: Well, this is interesting. I'm glad that you pick these next two strips, Lex, because this, I have this map in my head of Peanuts and what it is and what it becomes.

And this is which I have not really been able to get into in the show because of course we're reading them in order. And we're only in 1955, but I was really influenced by the book, Good Grief, by Rheta Grimsley Johnson. I think her name is, and she has a chapter in it called Neighborhoods. And in it, she talks about how there's the original classic neighborhood, you know, Good Ol’ Charlie Brown. There's Snoopy's neighborhood, which is, you know, his imagination and there's, as we're going to see in the next strip, you pick at Peppermint Patty’s neighborhood.

And I think what really happens is Peanuts stops being a comic strip about good ol’ Charlie Brown, and it becomes this umbrella that contains basically these three entire separate artistic works that somehow come together. And so it's it. And it's because it's all, all it ever has been. And all it ever will be is a direct communication from Schulz to you.

He's never breaking any rules because he's not making the Marvel comics universe, he's writing poetry. And he's just ever expanding all the notes that he can play on his keyboard to mix a metaphor, you know, or learn better words for his poetry. And they all come together, but they can also all work separately.

I think when, I think he could make a case that the best comic strip of all times Peanuts, the second best is Snoopy. And the third is Peppermint Patty.

Lex: Yeah, no, it's, it's a great point. And I, and I, and I love that what Grimsley Johnson talks about. And then she also talks about many of the themes he touches on. And how he just plays with those themes throughout the course of the 50 years.

Like he revisits the flying ace in the nineties. I mean, throughout, you know, from its inception all the way through. And there's just like these, these slight, you know, gradations and playing with, with how Snoopy interacts and is. and he does that with each, whether it's flying ace or all the characters or kite-eating tree or, you know, losing the football.

He's just always like just doing these, these other riffs. And they're always really funny and they're always very specific to whatever decade he happens to be in like, whatever his, you know, he, as a person has changed and is changing and that's always ever present in the strip.

Jimmy: Absolutely. Well said

June 22nd, 1972, Peppermint Patty is sitting in the grass. She speaking to someone, she says, “I stood in front of that little red-haired girl. And I saw how pretty she was.” We now see that she's speaking with Linus. She continues, “Suddenly I realized why Chuck has always loved her. And I realized that no one would ever love me that way. I started to cry and I couldn't stop. I made a fool out of myself, but I didn't care. I just looked at her and I cried and cried and cried.” Peppermint Patty buries her face in her hands and says, “I have a big nose. And my split ends have split ends. And I'll always be funny looking. And I think I'm going to cry again.”

Lex: Yeah.

Jimmy: All right. Tell us about that Lex.

Lex: So this one just breaks my heart and I just love peppermint. Patty is probably my favorite character and I just she's, like I mentioned before, like all the characters are really well developed. They're three-dimensional, they have internal thoughts and emotions and whatnot, and this strip just sort of illustrates just how good Schulz was at delineating character and like and yeah, you read this strip and how can you not feel sorry for Peppermint Patty, how do we, not ourselves felt something like that. He just captures that so beautifully. And, and I just wanted to point this one out because I, I just feel like he's such a good writer and, and really digs deep with this character in particular.

Michael: Yeah. That's an amazing strip. Jimmy's thought of that this is actually a separate strip in a way. It makes me look at it in a different way, rather than this is not following the formula, which is Charlie Brown is miserable, but it's always funny. So he's the fact that he's doing this. Kind of startling.

I've never seen this one before.

Jimmy: And you know, one of our earlier episodes, we were talking about the, the golf strip where Lucy goes to the golf tournament and there's all the people. And previous to that Harold noticed that Schulz also has a gag about human interest strips, which I'd never heard that term before.

I always thought of them as soap opera strips or whatever, but he is sort of Peppermint Patty. It almost is like a prototype of a why a comic people always talk about the influence Schulz had on me. And they always say Lucy and stuff, but Amelia's most direct antecedent in Peanuts is Peppermint Patty.

Lex: yeah.

Jimmy: I love this strip.

Lex: Yeah. It's just great. And, and, and the other thing I love like it, like you said, like the Peppermint Patty in her neighborhood is it's a separate universe. And as you say it dips in and out with Charlie Brown and his gang and, and, but then he can have these fully formed characters and just living their lives and then intersecting, wherever he wants, is great.

And you're right. There was no gag to this. It's just, which is also, I think what year is this? This is ‘72. So yeah, I think one of the reasons I like the seventies a lot is that he's just, he's, you know, he's just writing stories. He's doing what he wants to do is at the top of his game, supremely confident in his writing, in his drawing.

And you just see it in the strips. I don't know how this would have, you know, and I, I suppose actually, if you're reading this, as it came out in the newspaper, you'd be, you'd be on the hook. You'd want to know what happens the next day, you know, it was just get resolved. So again, like it just a real master of the form.

Jimmy: Yeah. Going back to one of the, I can only talk about like three things, like, so I could talk about baseball. I could talk Peanuts. I could talk about the Beatles. That's about it. but I read an interview years ago, with, Greg Maddox, who was the pitcher for the Braves. And he talks about how, he wasn't a fastball pitcher, but he's like, you know, fastball pitchers are great.

But once you see a guy throw a fast ball at you, you're not impressed the next time. It's just a pitch. Right. Even though the guy, the pitcher is doing something that's superhuman, he's throwing a baseball a hundred miles an hour into a strike zone. Right. But you've seen it once I think, because Schulz has been brilliant for 22 years, by the time this strip comes out, it's like, oh, well, okay.

But in reality, this is radical. This is radical.

Lex: Yeah. And you, and that's the other thing when I, when I think about the other cartoonists that we've already talked about in the course of the podcast, Breathed and the other superstar, Bill Waterson, of course, Gary Larson, these guys in the eighties, they did it for just 10 years.

That's what boggles my mind is like for whatever reason there was burnout, they wanted to move on. They just, they, they done their stint. But if you think about 10 years for Schulz, that just barely gets us, you know, to, you know, the end of ‘59 Snoopy has just sort of started to climb on top of his dog house.

Like, can you imagine if he stopped then, like we wouldn't be talking. We wouldn't be having this podcast for sure. You know, Peanuts would have just been some weird little strip little relic in the past and every decade is, is just another, just amazing, look at this at this guy, who's just telling the story and, and, and that's what I love about it.

That's what I think is I think when I, when I think of my time at the studio, like the most important publications we've done are these Fantagraphics books that Gary Groth and his team, man, thank the Lord that he and Jeanie Schulz did this project because it's so massively important to just to be able to read the strip frontwards and backwards and sideways and understand it from all these different angles and the context of who he was as his life.

And you know, what other ships happened to be on the page in 1972. And it's just, it just sort of, for me, it always opens up like different ways to think about what he was doing as an artist.

Jimmy: Yeah. Well,

Michael: No one else could have gotten away with it. No, I mean, imagine Nancy doing this, this monologue here

Jimmy: You would think you would be, you would call for a welfare check on Ernie Bushmille. You'd be like, what is going on?

So, Lex, thanks for being with us. Is there anything else you'd like to promote? Where can people follow you online?

Lex: Well, I would direct folks to, they want to learn more about my work-- the graphic novel series Kid Beowulf they can, they can go to where new comics will be happening weekly, sharing new material there. Books are available online there as well.

If you do the Twitter and the Instagram, I'm at @LexFajardoart. So you can follow me there. Yeah. This has been a lot of fun. I really appreciate you guys inviting me on. It's always fun to talk. Shop, talk Peanuts, to chat with our artists who are just as engaged with Schulz’s stuff as, as I am. So thank you.

Jimmy: It was a total pleasure and, thanks so much. All right, everybody, we'll be back in a couple of weeks until then. I'm Jimmy Gownley for Michael Cohen and Harold Buchholz be of good cheer.

Unpacking Peanuts is copyright Jimmy Gownley, Michael Cohen, and Harold Buchholz. Produced by Liz Sumner. Music by Michael Cohen. Additional voiceover by Aziza Shukralla Clark.

For more from the show, follow @unpackpeanuts on Instagram and Twitter. For more about Jimmy Michael and Herald visit Have a wonderful day. And thanks for listening.

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