Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. Are you ready for some football? Well, I don't know if we are either, but we're going to be be talking about it today anyway, because, here in the old good old US of A, people are all wound up and excited about, the Super Bowl. it's an annual tradition here in America where everybody pretends to be super interested in whatever two teams are playing this final game of the NFL football season. And, we thought, hey, we could get on that bandwagon. We could maybe attract some of those die hard football fans who are also super interested in Snoopy. It could happen.
Michael: And advertising dollars, too.
Jimmy: And lots of advertising. Oh, wait for the Unpacking Peanuts commercial break. It'll be just as good as the Super Bowl commercials.
Anyway, how are you all doing? I'm Jimmy Gownley. I'm one of your hosts for today. I'm also the cartoonist of Amelia Rules, Seven good Reasons Not to Grow Up, and the Dumbest Idea Ever.
Joining me, as always, are my pals, co hosts and fellow cartoonists. He's a playwright, he's 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, as well as the original editor for Amelia Rules. And he's the terrific cartoonist behind such great strips as Strange Attractors, Tangled River, and A Gathering of Spells. Michael Cohen.
Michael: Hey, there.
Jimmy: And he is the executive producer and writer of Mystery Science Theater 3000. A former vice president of Archie Comics and the fantastic cartoonist who is currently creating the instagram strip Sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz.
Hello, guys. I know you are huge football heads, so I have cleared the next half hour for you to just both tell your stories of your time on the grid iron.
Harold: Yeah, let's kick kick around the old cassaba.
Jimmy: Let's kick around the old cassaba. Stroll down memory lane. Go for it. no. Do you either of you have any interest in football whatsoever?
Michael: I think that says that futball you mean futball?
Harold: My tradition, has been to go to the movies on Super Bowl Sunday.
Jimmy: Okay. Do you have a plan for this year? Do you have one? Something picked up?
Harold: Well, typically, this would be a downtime in a downtime for movies, but I don't know if I told you this story and I wasn't prepared to share it, so I'm going to get the details wrong. But, there was a film about a football player that was out, and I was like, if I want to have a theater to myself, I'm going to go see a film about a football player starring Zachary Levi. I can't remember the name of it.
Jimmy: Oh, I know what you're talking about, though.
Harold: Yeah, I do know he played in that. It's, a true story, right?
VO: Why don't you google it, You blockhead.
Jimmy: That's what I'm doing. By the way, they don't like you saying Super Bowl. When I used to work in TV
Harold: the big game.
Jimmy: Yeah. You have to say the big game.
Harold: They're ridiculous.
Jimmy: It was the Los Angeles Rams. And the person you're talking about was Kurt Warner.
Harold: Thank you. Pop Warner. Yeah.
Jimmy: So Kurt Warner movie was American Underdog.
Harold: American Underdog. It's a good movie. And when I got through at the end, of course, he wins the I think he wins the Super Bowl in the very last game. And it just so happened to be the team that won the Super Bowl the year that I was watching it last year. So in the movie, the Rams win. And I walk out of the movie theater just as the game has ended and the people are flowing out of the bars. and this guy came up to me just randomly, as I was walking toward my car, and he goes, Rams won. I said, yeah, I know.
Jimmy: So this has been the Unpacking Peanuts Super Bowl special because we're not going to get a better story than that. We'll just see you next week. Thank you, Michael. do you have any fantastic movie related football stories?
Michael: Boy, I had a football card once.
Jimmy: Did you? Do you remember who it was?
Michael: It was, the quarterback of the Rams. The Rams coming again into our podcast. John Arnett.
Harold: Wow. You had one card? How did that-- you didn't even get the pack the bubble gum.
Michael: I might have had a few, but he was the Rams quarterback, which is a big deal in those days.
Harold: Wow. It's a Rams kind, of a Peanuts special.
Jimmy: I guess so. I liked it. As a kid. We played touch football all the time. Or just pickup games. We used to play tackle football in the baseball field in the outfield. So our field was actually curved around the infield. It was not the best place to play, but, you know no, I never-- I always had a vague kind of interest of thinking about maybe playing because I could think of, like, the glory that would come from it.
Harold: The glory was the first part. Yeah.
Jimmy: But the glory isn't worth getting smacked around for. Is the way I saw it.
Harold: Fair? Yeah.
Jimmy: And I legitimately loved basketball, and I loved it being things like the, school play. And I didn't want to get hurt. I didn't want to get hurt, period. But I really also didn't want to get hurt and ruin the two things I actually did like. I wouldn't want to be sidelined for either of those things. But my principal actually asked me to play because I went to the smallest school. There were only 55 kids in my graduating class. So we barely had enough to field the football team. The marching band was basically a guy named Eric. He was like the playing-- there were more playing members of the Monkees than there were of our marching band.
Harold: Wow. Did he have the strings attached to his ankles so that he could hit the symbols while he was… the harmonica?
Jimmy: Remember that guy that used to dance like the Jackson Five? He just had four other puppets with him. It was more like that scenario.
Harold: That was my big thing. Yeah. I was doing the marching band so many years on the field and in the half time. And that was most of my football experience.
Jimmy: Well, that's closer to football than a Zach Levi movie.
Harold: Well, yeah, I do remember when we were doing it for gym, how you'd have different segments of the volleyball season of gym, and then well, we had the football season of the gym. And I remember that I just was, like, stumbling around and watching everybody else do stuff. And then there was this skills test that kind of came out of nowhere. The coach was like, all right, everybody, skills test. It's what you're graded on. And one of them was to hike the football. And I remember getting down, in the position and looking between my legs upside down and realizing I had never done this before in my life.
Jimmy: But I love it.
Harold: I'm doing it from now on. It's a thing now, but wow. I should have tried this at least once before. It's very disorienting.
Jimmy: Yeah. Now, I will say this, if, anyone who out there who read The Dumbest Idea Ever, my friend Mark in that book, he was actually a great football player. And, we went ended up going quite randomly to the same college. And he got an invitation to try out for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jimmy: But unfortunately, he had broken his wrist, so he didn't get to do it. If I could claim his glory that's all I got. I used to watch.
Michael: But if you would have broken your wrist and you would have escaped a life as a cartoonist, which could have been a good thing.
Jimmy: What would the podcast be about, though?
Jimmy: all right, so clearly we are experts. And what we're going to do is we've decided because of, the Super Bowl, we're going to look at all of the pulling away the football strips from just the years we have covered in the show. Now, if you want to do this, this is actually going to be really easy for you, because you can just go to GoComics.com, right. And they actually have an entire curated list of just those strips.
Jimmy: So just go to GoComics.com and type in Peanuts football, strips. And this will come up. it was compiled by someone named Caleb Goellner. Sorry if I'm getting your name wrong. Yeah. so we're just going to go through these, one at a time, discuss them, see what, comes up. Some of them we may have seen before, some of them we haven't. And, it ought to be fun, because we're going to get a, quick tour through about 15 years of Schulz's art style. So, what do you guys say? You want to do it?
Harold and Michael: Sure. Yeah, sure.
Jimmy: All right, here we go.
November 14, 1951. Someone's holding the football, but it's not Lucy, it's Violet. And she looks very nervous, and she says, “he'll kick my hand. I just know he will.” In panel two, Charlie Brown comes charging from off panel, and Violet just can't hold onto the the ball, so she says, “I can't go through with it,” and lets go of the football, sending Charlie Brown flying. He lands flat on his back, and he’s dazed in the last panel. And Violet comes over and says, “you didn't kick the ball, Charlie Brown. Why didn't you kick it?”
All right, so there we go, guys. That's the first ever pulling away the football. Big difference here. It's not Lucy, because there was no Lucy.
Michael: Yeah. And, there's no evil intent here. Even though Violet turned out to be the meanest of all the kids, she was still kind of sweet and innocent. Anyway, no malicious intent. She's just scared. And I don't know where Lucy got the idea. Maybe she heard about this.
Jimmy: Now we get a chance to see Pigtail Violet, which is always a treat. Definitely some funky either brushes or really flexible pens doing that, hair there. But I assume that's a brush, right?
Harold: Yeah, that's like a brush to me.
Jimmy: Yeah. Really, good looking. It's fun to go back and see these early strips.
Harold: And one of the most awkward drawings of Charlie Brown, I think, in the history of the strip is in the last panel, where he's up flat on his back. He's got his arms out and open, but his head is up, so he's just kind of apparently lifted his head. But Schulz, I think, has not drawn him this way before, and he's figuring it out as he goes here.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's very strange seeing the way his hands are sort of half curled, too, and his feet are sort of at odd angles. For a daily strip where someone's never going to be looking at it again in 70 years. it works fine.
Harold: Yeah, it'll do.
November 16, 1952. It's a Sunday. It's a beautiful Sunday. Lucy is, sitting outside holding a football. She even has a little old fashioned, leather helmet on. Charlie Brown says to her, “all you have to do is hold the ball, Lucy. Then I'll come running up and kick it.” Well, there you go. Charlie Brown gave her the idea. Lucy says, “I don't know if this is such a good idea.” As Charlie Brown walks away, then in the next panel, he comes running up, very determined. Lucy looks like she's going to hold it, but she can't help herself. In the next panel, she pulls it back and Charlie Brown goes flying again, landing on his back. Whomp. Lucy says to Charlie Brown, “I was afraid your shoes might be dirty, Charlie Brown. I don't want anyone with dirty shoes kicking my new football.” Charlie Brown is flat in his back, seeing stars, tongue hanging out. In the next panel, he's back up and he's ranting at Lucy. “Don't ever do that again. Do you want to kill me this time? Hold it tight.” He comes running at it again, taking pass number two, yelling, “Here we go.” This time, Lucy does hold it tight. She holds it so tight that Charlie Brown kicks it and somehow goes head over heels over top of it. The last panel, we see Lucy still holding the football tight. She says, “I held it real tight. Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown,” lying flat in his back, says, “I'm not going to get up. I'm going to lie here for the rest of the day.”
Michael: I still don't think it's malicious at this point. It's I mean, she's a little overly concerned about--
Harold: well, we know now it's her football. That's another revelation, at least in the strip.
Michael: But basically, on, the second try, she's doing what he said. He says, hold it tight. So then again, I don't blame Charlie Brown for believing her. I don't blame her. She's never done this before.
Harold: I love her little dainty finger that's holding up the football that Charlie Brown flies over.
Jimmy: Yeah, it sort of makes you think that, well, Charlie Brown is going to fail at this no matter what. But what I think I think Michael's right in that this is not malicious. But then when you see that smile on her face and that last panel, I think she's got ideas. Way back in the show, Michael said, hey, did they do this every year? And I said, someone should start a podcast to track that sort of thing. so we get our second go around, just like Charlie Brown did, and we find out that, in fact, there is no strip of, the football between 1953, 1954 and 1955. So Lucy, gave it a rest for a little while there. What do you guys think that was?
Harold: I mean, it's interesting that it's kind of full blown by the second strip and at least the concept and, yeah. I'm assuming it didn't create a huge reaction with people, or maybe he just kept forgetting. I don't know.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's a long time, though, to forget. And after the second one--
Michael: I think the third one nails it and, it works because it is malicious. And then it sort of defines their relationship. Second one is kind of a warm up. The third one, I think, at that point, was probably getting fan mail it's interesting.
Harold: I'm just looking at those art styles again. Jump between 52 and 56. And there's some cool stuff in the 52 strip. It looks so much better than the 51 strip. It's amazing how far he's come in in one year as an artist. And there's just some neat little things in here. when Charlie Brown's running and he yells, here we go. He's got this lovely bold lettering that looks like he's trying to emulate the pogo bold lettering. It's got some hard edges on the letters and it's pretty cool. yeah, I just like the look of the one in 1952. And I'm noticing, I'm remembering we were talking about during the the 50s, mid to late 50s, how the characters facial features start to ride up on the, on their faces.
Harold: And you definitely start to see that in 1956. But he definitely was doing the classic kind of cute character back in 52 for Lucy, who's very young. The 1952 version where you go low on the head, like the nose in the mouth and the widespread eyes that are kind of low on the head. He's doing that and he obviously consciously moved away from that for some reason, so that the characters look very different in 1956 from 1952.
Michael: Well, one of the main ways to depict youth is the chin line. And I guess if you're doing a little kid, it's got to be like right below the mouth. And now, I don't know, maybe not moving the features up, but moving the chin down makes her look much older.
Harold: Yeah, definitely.
Jimmy: It is very difficult to cartoon children. We haven't really said that. I don't think it's difficult to be a cartoonist or whatever. it's really hard to cartoon kids. If you ever see someone like Neal Adams, like a realistic within the confines of a comic art style, but a realistic comic book artist trying to do a kid, they're usually monstrous. It's a very difficult thing. And I think actually, in an instance where you are just using almost punctuation, to make the face, it kind of gives you a leg up, because you're not trying to do any of those details.
Michael: yeah, it's funny because Jaime Hernandez, who probably does faces better than anyone with very few lines, it's the opposite of the Neal Adams approach. Just a few lines to define it. When he started doing a lot of kids, he kind of reverted to the Schulz style.
Jimmy: Yes, absolutely. And it's so fun when he does that because he'll have them in the same panel where it'll be little Schulz style kids running around with very seemingly observed, drawn adults. I don't think he's actually looking at anything. I think that's all in his head. But it's it's a really nice little mix. It's a good look. He sort of lives in this 1956 era when he's, when he's doing his version of Peanuts. I feel like it's that. So why don't we go to the third strip, which, as Michael said, kind of nails it. And that is
December 16, 1956. Another Sunday. Spoiler alert these are a lot of Sundays because he needs the extra space. So in this instance, we're outside again. Lucy has the football. Charlie Brown has his back turned to her and he says, “no.” But she says, “oh, come on, Charlie Brown.” Then in the next panel, she holds it in the, classic position and says, “I'll hold it real steady.” But Charlie Brown is adamant “no.” In the next panel, Lucy gives a really goofy, innocent smile that says, “Please.” But Charlie Brown's not having it. He turns his back on her again, folded his arms across his chest and says, “no. You just want me to come running up to kick that ball so you can pull it away and see me kill myself.” Lucy stands up and says to him,”look, just to show you I'm sincere, I'll give you a million dollars if I pull the ball away. In fact, she continues, I'll give you $100 million.” Charlie Brown looks out at us as if he's contemplating this. He walks away saying, “I must be out of my mind, but I can't resist kicking footballs.” The next panel, he tears after it, but of course, Lucy pulls it away, saying, “Ha.” And, Charlie Brown goes flying, landing again on his back. Wham. Then in the next panel, while he's still laying flat on his back, Lucy comes over and says, “here's your money, Charlie Brown,” as she covers him with imaginary bills. Then she walks away laughing, saying in the final panel, Charlie Brown, lying on his back, says, “I think I'll just lie here until the first snow comes and covers me up.”
Michael: There's a lot to unpack here. First of all, this strip implies that she's done this before. So even though we haven't seen any of these football gags in the last three years, I think Schulz might have sketched a few out and decided not to use them because she's never pulled the ball away before. that's really he knows that that's what she does. So they've been through this before.
Harold: Well, she did do it in that last strip the first time, right?
Jimmy: Not on purpose, but she did pull it away.
Michael: She held anyway, it sounds like this has been going on longer than we've seen, for sure. But anyway, the really interesting thing to unpack is that when he tries to kick the ball the first time, in the last strip we looked at, it goes womp, and now it goes wham. Now, throughout the course of the strip, he does this every year, and there might be a pattern. I've run some mathematical models on when he uses Wham and when he uses Womp. And it seems random, but I think it might be like the Fibonacci series or something.
Jimmy: Yeah. It's like.
Michael: We got to go on, check it out.
Harold: Now, did you say that in his own childhood, this was something they loved to do to each other?
Jimmy: I think in that book--perhaps You Don't Look 35 Charlie Brown book. He says they couldn't resist pulling it away.
Harold: It's funny. As someone's football ignorant as I am, when I look at this, I'm like, is there a tremendous amount of Schulz's own imagination in this? In the sense that if you come in contact with this leather, lightweight football and kick it, you're okay, but if you kick air, somehow you're going to go flying into the air and land.
Michael: The physics doesn't work.
Harold: Is that just entirely a conceit that Schulz thought of right off the bat in 1951 and that he just sticks with it for the rest of all these years, given that he's breaking the laws of physics for the gag? But now it's a tradition, and you just accept that's what happens.
Michael: Think about it. When you're only half as big as the football, it's going to offer a lot of resistance to your motion.
Michael: So it sort of makes sense for little kids.
Jimmy: When we were kids and we'd play football, in our baseball field, we didn't even kick it. We would just throw it for the kick off. I think most kids just throw it. No one gets into all that because it's actually a difficult thing to do when you're a kid and you might not kick it far enough or it'll kick it out of bounds, kick someone's arm, right? It's not worth it. So you just pick it up and throw, especially if you're playing nerf or whatever. But you know what? I think it's cool in this strip, that bottom tier, those first two panels, it's a continuous panel, a, continuous drawing across two panels, which is something like Jim Steranko or Will Eisner does in comics, but you very rarely see just generally in a humor strip in the newspaper and never see in Peanuts. I can think of maybe two or three examples where you'd see something like that. Usually something like with kids in a line, but I think that looks really good. And you see an example of just the giant HA lettering, which is also sort of unusual to have a word in a Peanuts, strip without a word balloon around it.
Harold: Yeah. And the fact that he pretty much is already repeating the final line of Charlie Brown. He's not going to get up. He's just going to stay there after the defeat. It's interesting that he doesn't do it from 52 to 56, but then he chooses to do essentially the same punchline.
Jimmy: Well, and that's in Charlie Brown's nature, too, isn't it? Because, his go to is, I'm just going to lie here until the end of the world or the rest of the day or whatever.
Michael: Another interesting thing is, the first four, he's running left to right, and then from then on, he runs right to left.
Jimmy: Whoa. Huh.
Harold: That's interesting, too. Yeah. I just think about this because these strips never really spoke to me as a kid, because it wasn't my experience, obviously, with football. But I don't know. And the fact that it was the same gag over and over again, kind of I tended to not enjoy them as much the other strips, because I knew, where it was going, and there usually wasn't a twist that was strong enough to how can you put a twist on the inevitable? You have to take it at some higher level, other than just get finding a surprise laugh in the strip, because it's repetition. And, it's interesting to see, like, was Schulz willing these strips to become tradition and becoming a big thing, or do you think he was responding to some massive outpouring of response to these strips that made it a tradition?
Jimmy: I think he saw in it what Michael said earlier, which is that it defines the Charlie Brown Lucy relationship, and I think he also saw it as a trademark of Peanuts, whether or not it was necessarily particularly funny on a much lower level. One thing I did early in Amelia Rules was Reggie would have, these moments where someone would not know what something means, and he would explain it to them with a big, long definition over graph paper and stuff like that. And very quickly, actually, I gave it up because I was like, well, this is the same thing every time. Everybody still mentions it to me, almost to a reader. That's the thing they talk about. Like, oh, I always love, even if it won't be the most favorite thing, but they'll always mention it. And I think if I was smarter, I would have thought, oh, yeah, this is something, you can kind of hang the brand on. People know it.
Harold: You said you'd did that comic book over years, like, 1300 pages, just like Schulz. You wrote penciled, inked, colored everything.
Harold: That's quite a feat. That's a record, probably, in the comic book field.
Jimmy: It probably was at the time. I don't know if it is anymore.
Harold: It's remarkable. And so it took many years. Are you saying that you didn't hear from anybody in the course of making Amelia from the time it took to get to the end, that you weren't getting that?
Jimmy: Well, to be honest, I had given it up by the time we got the books in bookstores and libraries and all that stuff. So my audience was basically just comic shop patrons. And I didn't hear, frankly, that much at all from them. So I had already given it up by the time I realized people were responding to it.
Michael: It's hard to imagine--
Jimmy: Not to say I can't go back to it
Michael: Hard to imagine a time when people would actually pick up paper and pen and write a note to their comic strip author and go to the mailbox or the post office.
Michael: I think he actually must be getting a lot of feedback because some things he dropped, some things like this one he felt obligated to do every year.
Harold: Well, it's interesting how late in the year he does it. In 1956, after skipping it for four years, he's in December. I think it becomes earlier and earlier at the beginning of the football season when he becomes more intentional about it. So this one kind of maybe suggests he wasn't necessarily thinking about it until the football season actually came around and maybe triggered something. But in the future, he's like working in August or even July to do the strip to kind of represent the beginning of the season in the US. Football. this is the season for football, but you have to do it in advance if you're going to kind of kick it off yourself to coin a phrase.
September 22, 1957. I don't feel I even need to explain the set up. Do I need to describe the visuals? Charlie Brown.
Harold: Describe the trees. And they are gutting clouds.
Jimmy: They also are beautiful trees. Very, very thin line. Anyway,
Charlie Brown says “no” to Lucy, who's sitting there holding the football. Then he walks away yelling, “absolutely not. You must think I'm crazy. You say you'll hold the ball, but you won't. You'll pull it away and I'll break my neck.”Lucy says, “why, Charlie Brown, how you talk?” Then she gives another ridiculously goofy grin and says, “I wouldn't think of such a thing. I'm a changed person. Look. Isn't this a face you can trust?” And Charlie Brown not even answering the question because, no, it isn't Charlie Brown. He walks away saying, “all right, you hold the ball and I'll come running up and kick it.” And he does just that, but he doesn't kick it. She pulls it away and he yells in midair, “she did it again.” He lands womp. And then Lucy comes over to the, defeated Charlie Brown and says, “I admire you, Charlie Brown. You have such faith in human nature.”
Michael: Okay, I'm going to give my long digression now. This is a good place.
Jimmy: That's what I'm here for.
Michael: this is called the Grifter and the Dupe. My digression. This, is my master's thesis and Peanutsology. Generally, when you have a character like Charlie Brown, who is the main character, despite the brilliance of the other characters, you've got to have sympathy for him, right? In most cases, you do. The kite eating tree. It's like we talked about in an earlier episode where there's almost like a God who is punishing Charlie Brown for something. The kite explodes. The laws of physics just don't apply. He's got to be mocked by the world. But you have sympathy for him in those cases because it's nobody's fault. In this case, and the reason I don't particularly like these strips is he's responsible for himself, and he's letting her do this. And so it's not the world making life hard for him. He's being ridiculous, he's being stupid. And whether it's, you know, an act of faith in humanity or what, he is essentially a dupe. Lucy is a grifter, okay? These are two classic archetypes. She is out to lie, cheat, steal whatever it takes to win. And he's the dupe who actually believes the grifter. And as the old sayings go, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. And those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.
Harold: What if you fool someone three times? What’s the…
Michael: Then you're both, you're both to blame. Anyway, at this point onward, Charlie Brown's an idiot, and I have no sympathy for him in this case.
Harold: Well, it's interesting. In this strip, we have Lucy. This is really cold. I mean, that she's saying, I admire you. You have such faith in human nature. She's basically saying that that's why you've done it, which is a good thing. And yet she's constantly going to undermine it. which to me, like, in this strip and I think in the next strip in particular, that does give me some sympathy for Charlie Brown, because Lucy is pointing out the aspect of the good aspect of why Charlie Brown would give it another try.
Jimmy: yeah, but there is a point where it just becomes like, Michael's is just naivete and willful ignorance.
Harold: And I guess I'm saying it hasn't happened yet. For me, in 1957.
Jimmy: To me, what it always felt like was like a who's on first thing, where it's like-- It almost feels very vaudevillian that these two characters, these two archetypes in just their roles as the archetypes and I'm sorry, the Grifter and the Duke. Is that what you said? Which is exactly what it is. Right. They just come out and they enact this pantomime for God knows what reason. I also tried to do this once in Amelia because I do have a real I do like that kind of thing, from that kind of old time-y comedy. I did it in an Amelia issue where Reggie tries to explain global warming to Kyle. It's in volume four. And, like, Kyle, for the sake of the bit, drops about 30 IQ points. And I knew I was doing that going in, but I didn't care because it just made me laugh.
Harold: It’s schtick. It's good. Yeah.
Jimmy: It just delighted me. Right. So I think there is an element of that. But here, clearly, he is risking he is right on that line and alienating people because, look, you don't like him. Right. But I guess other people did. he had an unerring, it seems, ability to walk that line because maybe you don't like this thing. But the next thing tomorrow will be something totally different that, of course, you do love. And that's what makes him a genius.
Harold: Yeah, it makes me think of, the routine. Abbot and Costello did this with the Susquehanna Hat Company.
Jimmy: Right. Yes.
Harold: I just vaguely remembered. But basically the idea is that this person had a terrible experience with the Susquehanna Hat Company. And so whenever someone mentions Susquehanna Hat Company, it's like, slowly I turn inch by inch, step by step.
Liz: That’s Niagara Falls
Harold: Yeah, Niagara Falls. And then they start tearing the person's clothing apart. But the whole idea is if you say it, huh, that's what's going to cause me to do it. And in the course of it, the person says it. Maybe it's too many times, they would have figured it out by now. But it's very funny. And the Peanuts thing has got a different vibe to it, I guess, because it doesn't feel vaudevillian to me. It feels very matter of fact, because I do enjoy those kind of over the top, schticky, fun routines. And this is more, yeah, there's just a matter of factness to it that has a real hard edge to it.
Jimmy: Well, the other thing we should talk about is, of course, one of Schulz's primary influences, Krazy Kat. If you think this is repetitious, it is impossible to really convey. If you haven't read Krazy Kat, it's impossible to convey what it is because so much of it is how it looks and how it reads. But imagine they're beautiful color, full page Sunday strips. Those are the things that are revered the most. But every single strip is the cat loves the mouse. The mouse hits the cat in the head with the brick. That's every strip. And, Schulz obviously delighted in that, and looked at that as something to aspire to. But he was also smart enough to know lots of people hate Krazy Kat. Krazy Kat was kept in the paper, basically because William Randolph Hearst loved it. And if an editor dropped it, he would personally call and say, put it back in.
Harold: Yeah, I think a lot of the editors liked it too. But the general public was like, not, please put something else in here. I've seen this 150 times.
Jimmy: And now it's even more difficult to get into Krazy Kat because they're collected in books. And that is not how you are meant to read these strips. You're meant to read one and then think about it for awhile.
Harold: that's not what it's made for. Yeah, it, kind of has a masochism to them. It makes me think of some of the Chris Ware comics that are just taking you through somebody's mundane life. And it's part of the experiences that you kind of get into the masochism of the repetition of somebody's life that just doesn't have any sparks of originality or surprise to it. And that's kind of the obviously, there's originality and surprise in both of those artists work, but the work is saying that things don't change over and over again.
Michael: My main gripe with Krazy Kat is when the Comics Journal was listing the top 100 comics of all time
Jimmy: don't even say it.
Michael: And I knew Peanuts would be number one,
Jimmy: of course
Michael: so I get the number two. It's Peanuts. And I go WHAT?
Michael: number one Krazy Kat.
Jimmy: My blood pressure rises
Harold: Yeah. I was like, oh, come on, guys. No.
Jimmy: Well, I don't want to bad mouth. Forget it. Yeah,
Michael: but it's a good decision.
Liz: We love you Comics Journal
Harold: But really, the genius of Groth in this instance only became evident after years of study
Harold On my part.
Jimmy: My god. Holy cow.
September 21, 1958. Look. Charlie Brown's out playing football. Lucy is going to try to scam him here. So panel two, the Grifter says, “you should try some place kicks.” She continues, “why don't you let me hold the ball for you, Charlie Brown?” The dupe says, “do you think I'm crazy? Do you think you can fool me with the same trick every year?” Spoiler alert. She can. She says, “oh, I won't pull the ball away, Charlie Brown. I promise you. I give you my bonded word.” Charlie Brown walks away, saying, “all right, I'll trust you. I have an undying faith in human nature.” Then he goes running towards the ball, saying, “I believe that people who want to change can do so, and I believe that they should be given chance to prove themselves.” But, of course, she pulls the ball away. “Augh” He yells. He lands, flatten his back Wump. Lucy says to him, “Charlie Brown, your faith in human nature is an inspiration to all young people.”
Michael: It's two WUMPs in a row.
Jimmy: Two WUMPs.
Michael: I think it's the first time we've had a repeat.
Harold: And like you said, he's reversed, his trajectory. Yeah. And we've got the, faith in human nature concept. And here Charlie Brown goes so far as to say he's doing this for a greater good, because there's always a chance somebody could change. Even if he's the dupe, he's got a philosophy, and he's following through on it. You got to admire that.
Michael: It's still acceptable to give someone two chances.
Harold: Or 70 times seven. It is an interesting thing that he's focusing on that and two strips in a row like this.
Jimmy: But the problem with his faith in human nature, other than clearly he's wrong, at least in the instance of Lucy, is that all it is going to do is it's not for a greater good. It's to prove to himself that his worldview is right in spite of all empirical evidence saying it is wrong. It is clearly wrong. Not only is it clearly wrong, it's hurting you. You are getting wumped every year.
Michael: Or Whammed.
Jimmy: And he's like, that's okay. Or when? but that's okay. why? Because I believe this thing. Well, okay, then. Good luck, dude. I do see what Michael is saying, for sure. And I also see, though, that, like, Charlie Brown can't change. I mean, he changes like a glacier over 50 years. And yeah, he's almost, like, willingness to become a martyrdom for himself, but it's only at his own--
Michael: This is like a biblical parable, the parable of the dupe. But somehow he'd have to win in the end.
Jimmy: Well, spoiler alert. There's a fantastic hidden ending to these strips, in the latter half of the 90s. So just wait for that for a few years. We'll get to it.
Harold: Yeah. If you consider the biblical thing the idea that you're supposed to forgive somebody over and over and over and over again, it's kind of on Charlie Brown's side in that regard.
Jimmy: Well, no, because forgiving doesn't mean you have to fall for the same trick every time, you know what I mean?
Harold: But it also means that you think that things can change. That's part of it. Not necessarily. You can forgive someone and they know they don't change.
Harold: Yeah. Well, it's interesting. I mean, we're jumping ahead, but was it that famous interview with Charlie Rose toward the end of his he was like, 97, or was even later than that. Anyway, he tears up and he said, I never even let the guy kick the football.
Jimmy: Oh, no, that was the Al Roker interview.
Harold: Oh, it was an Al Roker interview. When I saw that, I was like, would you have done it? Would you have let him kick the football? Maybe.
Jimmy: Well, it's crazy. I started this recording session saying, this is going to be really quick because we won't have a lot to say about these strips. Well, Lynn Johnson suggested to him that why don't you-- this was at some point, probably in the 80s or 90s- why don't you set aside like, a week or two and draw the end of Peanuts? Like whatever you would want to be the capstone of this, do it. Whether-- and she specifically said, you know, have him kick the football. And of course, he couldn't do that and didn't want to do that because I guess he was saw it as tempting fate, right, to write the end of Peanuts.
Harold: Well, yeah. That's kind of -- Schulz seems kind of morbid.
Jimmy: Yeah. No, you're not going to-- I know what she's saying, and I know the spirit in which she was saying it. but yeah, you're not going to take that advice. However, going back to Krazy Kat, just fairly recently, I guess, in last summer, I actually read the end of Krazy Kat, which I never had done before. So spoiler alert for what? An 80 or 90 year old comic strip. But the last episodes of Krazy Kat involved the last three strips involved Krazy Kat drowning. And in the last Sunday strip, Krazy dies.
Jimmy: Yeah. She is unconscious being pulled from the water by Officer Pup. But the thing about Krazy Kat is that Krazy Kat was a boy and a girl, and it was night and it was day and they were animals and they were people. There's all this weird duality in Krazy Kat and all this ambiguousness it's a very Gen Z strip in that way. But between those, or, rather after the panel of Krazy being pulled from the water is a panel of Krazy alive and well and floating in the water.
Michael: Schrodinger's cat
Michael: He's dead and alive at the same time.
Michael He she is dead alive at the same time.
Jimmy: Exactly. It's Schrodinger's Krazy Kat. Exactly. And then Herriman passes away. That's in exactly the manner that Schulz did. Except, well, not accept no, I mean, he didn't announce his retirement ahead of time, but otherwise there's no difference, right. So Krazy ends and so does Herriman. But the point I'm making with this is that Schrodinger's cat alive or dead thing, the very last sequence of strips, I believe it's the very last ones in the 90s has, for some reason, Lucy can't hold the football, but she convinces Rerun to do it for her. And then it happens off panel. And then Rerun comes back and Lucy's like, well, what happened? You didn't hold it for him, did you? You pulled it away, didn't you? And Rerun goes, you'll never know. Yeah, so that's how it ends. Brilliant.
Harold: brilliant cop out.
Jimmy: Well, no, I don't think it's a cop out at all. No. to me, it's like the most generous thing in the world. This goes back to my obsession with David Foster Wallace. I love this writer. I love this guy. And my favorite book of his and I think everybody's favorite book of his that reads him is Infinite Jest. And Infinite Jest is tons of narrative tricks and all kinds of cleverness and stuff. And it's 1100 pages, including hundreds and hundreds of pages of footnotes. and, it starts after the ending, and it ends before the ending. And you don't get the ending. There's no climax in the course of this 1100 page novel. And your first reaction is to go, oh, I'm a dupe. Yeah, he's the grifter and I'm the dupe. I fell for this. but then you start thinking about it, and then you start putting all those connections together and you realize, oh, my God, I'm writing this ending. And not only am I writing the ending to this, I'm writing my own ending to this book. My version of Infinite Jest is different than anybody else's right now. The work that has to go into to get you to care at that point is a level of genius and a level of craft that most people don't have. And that's where he thinks Schulz ends up, where it's like, it's not a cop out, he's giving it to you. If you want to believe that people never change, that Charlie Brown is always destined to fail. You have that story, and there's nothing to change it. But if you want to believe that, ultimately he's rewarded and something does change, even in the sense that, well, the Grifter went away, I outlasted them. Then you have that story, and I think that's awesome. I love that as a writer.
October 4, 1959 the Dupe says, “what kind of a fool do you take me for?” While the Grifter says, “I'm not trying to make a fool out of you.” Charlie Brown says, “oh, yeah.” Lucy says, “the whole trouble with you is you don't trust anyone.” Then Charlie Brown says, “look, every year you pull the same trick on me. You say you're going to hold the ball while I kick it, but you never do. You always pull it away, and I land flat on my back. Every year you pull the same trick, every single year.” Lucy counters, “Listen, Charlie Brown, if you're going to get along in this world, you have to learn to be trusting. Anyone can trust someone who's trustworthy.” She's brilliant. “Anyone can trust someone who's trustworthy. I'm giving you a chance to learn to trust someone who is not trustworthy.” Charlie Brown totally sees the logic in this and says, “you're right. I've got to learn to be more trusting. You hold the ball, and I'll kick it.” Then, of course, “she did it again,” leading to a wham. Then Lucy says, “See you here again next year.”
Michael: Yes, she is. She's good, man. She makes it look like she's doing him a favor.
Jimmy: Yes, and the one thing we just talked about for 20 minutes is how trusting Charlie Brown is so she can gaslight him into not even understanding his own nature. Right. The whole reason he's falling for it is because he's too trusting. And she's like, you're not trusting.
Jimmy: You're right. She's awesome.
October 16, 1960. The familiar set up. Lucy says, “there. Is that about right?” Charlie Brown says, “Is that about right for what?” Lucy says, “I'll, hold the ball, Charlie Brown, and you kick it.” Charlie Brown says, “are you crazy?” With some really nice lettering. “Yeah, you'll jerk it away, and I'll break my neck. Do you think you can fool me with the same stupid trick year after year after year?” Lucy says, “but that's the whole idea, Charlie Brown. The odds now are really in your favor. One of these times, I may not jerk the ball away. One of these times, I may actually hold on to it.” “I never thought of it that way,” says Charlie Brown. “Okay, you hold the ball, and I'll come running up and kick it.” Augh wham “I'm sorry. This wasn't the time.”
Jimmy: come on. These are great.
Michael: I'm actually enjoying these now. Usually, I'm faced with this huge block of dialogue, and then I kind of skip to the last panel, see what the gag is.
Jimmy: Yeah, that's true. And again, much like reading Krazy Kat in book form. You're not supposed to read all these in order, but oftentimes they are in collections and stuff you'll see them put together.
Harold: I have to say, reading them in order is a better experience than reading them once a year.
Jimmy: I think reading them in order, with your pals and discussing it, is what makes it so special. And hey, pals includes you guys out there. So listen, why don't we take a break, all of us. And, what we're going to do is go get some water and whatever. while we're doing that, if you guys want to make sure you're all, up on your Unpacking Peanuts, news and information, you can go to our website, UnpackingPeanuts.com, where you can sign up for a newsletter, where once a month we will send you what strips we're going to be covering and any other information about upcoming special and bonus episodes. So you'll get a little heads up there. While you're there, you can maybe, go to the store and buy one of, our books. That would be really helpful because we're all working cartoonists and we would love to have you read some of our work. Or you can buy a t shirt or buy us a mud pie. You can also support us on Patreon. There's a million different ways. So why don't you look into that and, we'll be right back.
Harold: Everybody, this is Harold. While this is going on, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge our sponsor, the letter W. Whether it's warm weather on the weekend or a wistful wave from a willowy woman, the letter W always works well. Sometimes rounded, sometimes pointy, always wonderful. So the next time you're spelling, remember w. W, it's twice as good as you. Now back to the show.
Jimmy: And we're back. And I have to say I really, really missed you. Let's never do that again, okay?
September 10, 1961. Lucy's holding the football and she says, “how is that? Is that about right?” Charlie Brown rolls his eyes and thinks to himself, “she must think I'm a complete fool.” Lucy continues, “I'll hold the ball, Charlie Brown, and you come running up and kick it.” Charlie Brown just walks away saying, “every year she pulls the same trick on me.” Then the next panel, he really grits his teeth and has a wicked look on his face. He says, “well, this year it's not going to work. This year I'm not going to be fooled.” He tears after the football, but then stops short of it. Lucy says, “well?” Charlie Brown is baffled by this. He looks out at us even in confusion. Then, embarrassed, he walks back to his, starting position as Lucy says, “you thought I was going to pull the ball away, didn't you? Why, Charlie Brown, I'm ashamed of you. I'm also insulted. Don't you trust anyone anymore? Has your mind become so darkened with mistrust that you've lost your ability to believe in people.” Charlie Brown tears after the football, of course. Augh Wump and then Lucy says,”isn't it better this way, Charlie Brown? Isn't it better to trust people?”
Michael: Huh? Now, did she read his mind or something and know he was going to stop?
Harold: We’ll never know.
Jimmy: She's just that good. She's just that good.
Michael: Well, she is a psychologist.
Jimmy: That's true.
Harold: It's funny, one of the things that's repeated in each of these strips, I was just noticing, is the penultimate running panel, which is usually very narrow, of Charlie Brown. And I was just looking at how that develops over the years, and boy, how he's getting better and better at Charlie Brown hunkering down for that run. And by 1960, it looks really good. And it looks way different than he was doing, like four years ago, I think.
Jimmy: Also, I feel like there's a little bit of a backslide between 57 and 58, though 58 looks earlier to me for some reason. It's more observed. Again with the patches on the knees and the little shading and stuff, because I'm just going through that is really cool, though, to see that would be a great little slide show. All the different versions of Charlie Brown running to kick the ball.
Harold: Yeah. If that's not already merchandise. I'd be surprised. Somebody must have done it.
Jimmy: Yeah, somebody must have. But boy, yeah, it's really good by 61.
September 30, 1962, Lucy's thrilled. She's holding a football high above her head, and she says, “hey, look what I have. Can I interest you in a little kicking off practice?” Charlie Brown rolls his eyes. Lucy continues. “I'll hold the ball, Charlie Brown, and you come running up and kick it.” Charlie Brown says. “Okay. It's a deal.” “Ha. I know what she's got on her mind.” He looks over his shoulder at her, saying, “every year she pulls the same trick on me. She jerks the ball away just as I try to kick it. Well, this time I think she has a different idea. I think she's going to try to fool me by not jerking the ball away this time. She knows I know she knows that I know she knows I know what she's going to do. I'm way ahead of her.” He takes off after it. Augh Wump. “I figured you knew that I knew you knew I knew that you knew I knew you knew, so I had to jerk it away.”
Jimmy: That's a go to-- the. They don't know that I know. It's a well worn comedy...
Harold: Yeah. What do you think of the lettering of him? I'm way ahead of her. It's not typical Schulz lettering. It's not bolded or anything. It's just while he's running
Jimmy: it's italicized,
Harold: it's italicized. And it also has this very curious apostrophe before way, as if it's a way I'm away ahead of
Jimmy: I'm away ahead of him
Harold: knowing Schulz, the reason it's there is because he reads a lot. And he must have been reading something where somebody used that term and did that. But I'm just trying to think
Harold: is it Twain?
Jimmy: I think you can see it. This is off the top of my head, so I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure he does that.
Harold: So away not just a way, but one word away.
Jimmy: Yeah, we would say that. Oh, we were away out in front by that time in Schuykill county.
Harold: Really? I never heard that.
Michael: Nah, That ain't right.
Jimmy: No. Well, you could say that, just about Schuykill County, Pennsylvania, in general.
Michael: That's what I was, saying.
Harold: You guys were away ahead
Jimmy: So we got to add to the list Schuykill County.
Harold: You were using it properly, and then we wind up taking away the A and messing it up,
Jimmy: just ruining it for everybody. The other thing, as he loosens up his style, he becomes less concerned with the individual panel compositions. It seems to me, not in a bad way, just in maybe a more free way. Like last couple of years are very carefully considered compositions. It seems like everything is exactly in the right position. Like I said once, I said you could take some of these panels and turn them into compositions for paintings. And that becomes a little less true when he's just sort of, I think when he's drawing much much faster and he's Just feeling ...
Michael: you're talking about panel two?
Michael: It seems like it-- doesn't seem right to have everything on the left that way.
Jimmy: Yeah. Right. But that would never have, happened, let's say. Okay, well, look, if you go right above exact same composition, basically, except that he puts the trees in the background to balance the composition a little bit more, and he doesn't need it. Obviously, in 62, you're not there for the balanced composition, but something to note.
Harold: I'm fixated on this panel where you're saying, I'm ‘way ahead of her. The lettering is loose and free in a way that, I don't see in Peanuts. I mean, he's already doing very quick loose lettering, but this--
Michael: Does it have to do with the fact that he's running right to left. And so the lettering is sort of being dragged.
Jimmy: It's blown. Yeah. It's wind resistance.
Harold: When I look at it, it suggests to me and maybe I’m thinking too much about this, but that's me, and that's what I want.
Jimmy: That’s the show. If we don't think too much about it, we're out of luck.
Harold: And not only did I unpack it, I unfolded it and I hung it in the closet! But just that it's as loose and free. It suggests to me that in the moment that Charlie Brown is strategizing with what Lucy and he's acting on it, he's the most free. Even though he's going to be disappointed at the end, he got something out of this. That's what I get out of this particular strip. The way Schulz just does the lettering.
Jimmy: Well, what is Charlie Brown getting out of this? That's an interesting question.
Harold: If you think about sports in general. Right. He's been defeated virtually every baseball game he's ever played. But he's getting something out of it. He wouldn't come back. It's not just masochism. Right? There's something in it that feeds his soul that he's playing a sport. And he gets to strategize. He gets it wrong, but he gets to strategize. And you get to act out an idea and test it and see if it's going to work. If I throw the ball this way, am I going to get a strike? I feel like that's what I'm seeing in this little panel is that he's always bound up in his self doubt. And this is when he'll break out from that. He's free from himself, getting locked up, and he's going for it. It's a brief moment, but he's in a place that he normally isn't. That is probably not a bad thing for him.
Michael: in this case, it's more of a chess way of thinking, guessing what the other person is going to do. But they know you know that.
Harold: Yeah. To me, that's like, I don't play a lot of sports. I used to play racquetball and racquetball and tennis. It's you and usually one other person, and you're thinking, well, they think, I'm going to hit the ball over here and I'm going to do cross court and surprise them, even though it's not my best shot, but maybe I shouldn't. That stuff is constantly just flying through your head while you're playing. And there is something exhilarating about it, even if you totally guessed wrong. And then they kill the ball against the base of the wall. But you learned something and you got to try something. And that is exhilarating.
Jimmy: Yeah. And I guess one way, it's never really phrased about Charlie Brown. You could say he's stubborn. You could say he's hopeful. You'll say he never gives up or whatever, but he's a competitor. he's not just going through the motions. He wants to win the baseball game despite the fact that there's no evidence that will ever happen. Right. He wants to kick the football, even though we know he's not going to because he's a competitor. And that's what the challenge is. And he's going to rise to the challenge.
Harold: And I've heard people say that Peanuts is a very American strip in a certain way because it's got that kind of eternal optimism baked in, even against the defeat and the failure and the frustration that there's always hope. There's always hope for tomorrow kind of thing. And that's really interesting because, I think it's one of the dynamics that makes the strips come so alive is that despite the constant failure, the reason it's constant failure is because somebody hoped and tried again.
Michael: But there is a point you should give up.
Harold: Yeah. well, it's interesting reading through these strips. And not having strong memories of these things. I'm really enjoying reading through them one after another. And the ones that I remember where I like start rolling my eyes is when it starts to get really esoteric. And the gags I don't know, I'm kind of conflicted here because I'm thinking about, can we watch a Three Stooges short? In one respect, you can say, well, this is not as sophisticated as, say, Laurel and Hardy or Buster Keaton. But there's sometimes a great joy to watching, a Three Stooges short because you see somebody writing a joke that's based on a joke that was in a previous film, that's based on a joke that was in a previous film, that's based on a joke that was in a previous film, that's based on reality. And you can kind of see the layers that have taken you to this absolutely absurd, inane thing that's not rooted in reality, but you can almost see the lineage back to reality that's hidden in slapstick comedy. And in that regard, I t