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Wrap-up Season 8

Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. It's another season finale here on Unpacking Peanuts. As we wrap up, 1980 to 1984, I'll be your host for the proceedings. My name is Jimmy Gownley. I'm also a cartoonist. I did Amelia Rules. Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up, and The Dumbest Idea Ever. Joining me, as always, are my pals, co hosts, and fellow cartoonists. He's a playwright and a composer for the band Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. He's the co creator of the original comic book Price Guide, the original editor for Amelia Rules, and the cartoonist behind such great strips as Strange Attractors, A Gathering of Spells, and Tangled River, it's Michael Cohen.

Michael: Say hey.

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

Harold: Hello.

Jimmy: Well, guys, we made it to the end of another season of Peanuts, 1980 to 1984. I'm the one who was most familiar with this stuff, going into this. So this is for you guys, basically your first trip through these strips. I thought we'd just maybe talk about it. what were our perceptions, or your perceptions going into it versus, how do you feel now that we've read half a decade? Harold, why don't you start?

Harold: I was pleasantly surprised by the early eighties, and I did stop reading right around this time. So this would be the era when I was, like, 14 to 18. Roughly what I see in the strip is that it's mellowing out. Schulz is still, I think, at the top of his game. and he's playing the characters. He used to always describe them as notes on a keyboard, and I really feel that in this era, they're so well balanced. He's got so many different places he can go with the strip from all that he's developed over the last 30 years, and he's kind of enjoying bouncing around. I think the humor is a little softer than it had been, and some things are a little less poor in some ways, but it just feels comfortable. I guess that's the best way I could describe it. And then there you have that little extra kick of the thing that we hopefully aren't beating. It's like a dead horse. But as an artist, I'm fascinated by the struggle he was going through with this with this hand tremor that comes in, in this era in a particularly strong way, and seeing the amazing choices he's making to incorporate that into his art. Ah. As a genius artist would.

Jimmy: Absolutely. Michael, how about you?

Michael: Well, you kind of warned me off the eighties back in the day, because I'd never read anything after 1970, except, you know, when I happened upon the newspaper. When Jimmy was laying out the big plan here, he was telling me that he loves the seventies, the eighties, not so good. And then the nineties, a big comeback. So I assumed, okay, 80 is not going to be good. I also knew at some point he was going to start using fewer panels and also adding zipitone, which is, to me, is a really alien look. So I didn't know when that was going to happen. So I was thinking, okay, it's probably going to happen in 1980. Anyway, we get to 1980, and I find art wise, not much difference. I mean, it's, it's evolving in certain directions. The characters get a little. I mean, they are cartoons, obviously, but cartoony in an unSchulzy way. But really, the, the main observation I have on this first half of the eighties is, I don't think they're particularly funny. Then again, you know, who can maintain, you know, a super high level of creativity after 30 years of working on a project? I mean, almost in, almost every case, except maybe Mozart, somebody's gonna start losing it. losing.

Jimmy: And Mozart died at 37, too. Yeah.

Michael: You know, you lose a little speed off the fastball. And so I'm sure he probably, I mean, he probably thought it was as funny as ever, but maybe our sense of humors are, parting. I don't find them particularly funny, but I don't have any problem with the art. And, and it looks like there's not gonna be any dramatic shifts. I mean, the, definitely the wobbly lines, which I probably wouldn't even notice, you know, in the word balloons. Yeah, I don't think I would have even noticed that he was having that tremor at this point.

Harold: Right? Yeah.

Jimmy: I mean, it is a big difference reading it once a day in the newspaper versus reading it in these giant chunks. And it is, I mean, there's no real way to avoid that. You're not going to read it again in real time and experience it. But I think you're probably right that a newspaper reader back in the eighties wouldn't really have noticed a difference visually. I hear what you're saying. I think the. About the comedy, I. Both of you, hear what both of you are saying, but I think, like, it's, it's sort of like he's, I don't think he would disagree necessarily, because he's trying for something different. And I think it goes back to what Harold said a little bit about the idea of balance. He has balanced these characters now within the cast. They all sort of have their roles and their places to kind of go off, on these solo flights. But it seems to me that it is more about the world and the characters and less about every day. Has to be a funny punchline and, you know, you get different qualities from that. But I think it's certainly a risk for a daily comic strip artist to take, I would think, because most people, especially for a humor cartoon strip, it's not the nuance and subtlety of the characters people are selling, it's the daily gag. So it's interesting.

Michael: Yeah, yeah, it's interesting. And, you know, I was about to say, well, he seems to be going more for a mainstream line of humor, but nothing's been more mainstream than Peanuts as far as popularity. To me. It's just kind of jarring that it, when you think back to the fifties that it was so edgy and you'd think some people would be put off by that, but apparently not.

Jimmy: Well, that is the thing. There is some innate sense he seems to have of riding the culture that he, yeah, it does seem like that would be alien in the fifties, but it clearly wasn't. and then the sixties strip sort of fits that vibe. And I feel like the eighties strip fits the eighties vibe more so than, let's say, like a strip like Beetle Bailey, where I think you could probably take, you know, huge chunks of them and not see that type of development. Because again, he's focusing on the, these are, these are these characters. There's no development of the characters, right. They're just archetypes, and then they're just there to deliver the joke. And I'm not, saying that as a slam to Beetle Bailey. I'm just saying that's what those strips are. Right?

Michael: Yeah. So interested to see where it progresses from here. I have no idea. I've never read these.

Harold: So it's interesting to see some things that happened in 1984 with Peanuts. one particular news item that jumped out at me that I had not seen before that I think is really delightful. This, is from the June 30, 1984, issue of Editor and Publisher, which was for editors and publishers of newspapers. And the headline reads, latin comic book showcases Snoopius and Peanuts, kids and it reads, what cartoon dog walks on two legs, occasionally dances, and is fed by a boy named Carolus Niger. Snoopius, of course. Snoopius, usually known as Snoopy, is one of the characters featured in a Latin Peanuts comic book published by Father Lamberto Pagani of, Italy. The book, one of a series that also features Mickey Mouse, which is Michael musculus and Donald Duck, Donaldis Anas, is designed to help make the language of ancient Rome popular again. Well, good luck. The person who translated Peanuts into Latin, Father Jose Maria Meir, has not had much contact with the modern world and thus knew little about Charles Schulz. Feature Syndicate distributed strip Meir, a 72 year old spanish scholar, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as, what is a red baron and a sopwith camel? He added, the dialogue in Peanuts is so philosophical and at the same time so american that it is very difficult to render into Latin. When I finished the segment of Snoopius, the publisher asked me to simplify the Latin. I threw up my hands and said, I can't. Snoopy is not simple. But I thought that was just a really cool little insight as to how far and wide Snoopy has gotten and Peanuts has gotten by 1984, that they're translating it into Latin.

Michael: So how do you say good. Good grief in Latin?

Harold: That's a very good question, Jimmy.

Jimmy: Look, I am just so proud once again of my, my catholic faith for being up to the minute, translating things into Latin. They, have their finger on the pulse. Way to go, guys.

Harold: Wow. Well, you know, in another news, in the exact same issue of Editor and Publisher, we mentioned a reader's poll before, and one of these came out. I don't know if Peanuts was in this particular newspaper. I'm guessing that it was not. The St. Petersburg Times asked their readers.

Michael: So, this is the Russian newspaper St. Petersburg Times.

Harold: So the question that was posed by the St. Petersburg, Florida Times was, what is your favorite Sunday comic strip in the newspaper? I don't believe Peanuts was a part of this strip because they had these regional areas where if there was a neighboring newspaper that was larger, they would bar the more local newspapers from having the strip. And so I guess if the St. Petersburg Times could have gotten Peanuts, they would have. But I don't think they're in here because it doesn't make the top five, which at this time, I think Peanuts would have. Yeah, but the top five strips that were voted by 1702 readers number one was the family circus by Bill Keane. So a lot of you are familiar with the little circle shaped, daily comic by Bill Keane. Very, very mild, strip, but also beloved by a lot of people, obviously. Number, two was Blondie.

Jimmy: That's true. Yeah. Hugely popular. Forget about that.

Harold: And number three was Dennis the Menace by Hank Ketchum. Wow.

Jimmy: Two panels, not strips.

Harold: Yeah, right. And Dennis. Well, of course, this was the Sunday, so I guess they did have the, they were supposedly being asked about the longer versions and of Dennis the Menace. Number four, is Garfield, which has been out for five or six years. I don't know how long it's been in this particular newspaper. And it's been a phenomenon in its own right around this time. And number five, which I know showed up in a lot of polls, and we kind of forget how popular this was in the eighties, was, Hagar the horrible by Dik Brown. So, I'm sorry, there were 5599 respondents. but 1702 of them voted for the Family Circus. And they did want to point out that a majority of those respondents were over the age of. Of 50. So, no, that might be skewing a little bit, the results here. But anyway, I thought that was an interesting snapshot of where the comic strip world is around this time.

Jimmy: Yeah. And we have to also just remember to restate that it is a never ending series of humiliations for cartoonists at this point in the newspapers. The strips just keep getting smaller and smaller and the papers become fewer and fewer. You know, at this point, there was still a chance that you would have a spectacular career. Someone like Bill Watterson coming up in 85, but it was getting harder and harder to make any kind of impact.

Harold: Yeah, that's true. And when you look at it today, 1984 looks like a golden era, but I know you. By 84, they were getting a little nervous about the shrinking newspaper audience as well as the shrinking strips themselves in size.

Jimmy: And I just have to say, I think that was so dumb. So cutting the nose off to bite your face. I think if they would have started maybe even printing the strips larger, they could have held on a little longer because people were buying the newspapers because of the comics.

Harold: Yeah, I remember Gary Trudeau. Wasn't he like the one guy, Jimmy, who fought back and said, if you're going to print my strip, you're going to print it, at this particular size. And, yeah, and they pretty much did it. A lot of them moved that strip off of the regular page because it would look odd, you know, placed against the other strips that were smaller. They weren't going to bump them up to match Doonesbury. So often it went over to the editorial section, that sort of thing. But he was one guy fighting for it. And I think the jury's out on, you know, how that affected readership of Doonesbury. I really don't know.

Jimmy: Yeah, well, I. Schulz did not like. Schulz considered that request unprofessional, like a.

Harold: Hubris kind of thing, you know?

Jimmy: Yeah. And the same thing with, later with Bill Watterson. But Watterson had a different approach. His was the Sundays, and what he didn't even. He wasn't even complaining about size. He was saying, I don't want to have to break the strip up. We talk about every week when we talk about these Sunday strips. The top tier can be removed. Then there has to be specific panel breaks on the other two tiers. And he was just like, forget it. You take the whole strip or you don't take it at all. And in some places, he gained size. You know, people who are big fans of the strip, and there are editors that knew it was popular, but in some other places, they were like, well, forget this guy. And they ended up running it smaller.

Harold: Wow.

Jimmy: So his. Into his sort of stand for artistic integrity was more towards, I just want size be darned. I just want it to look like I intend it to look.

Harold: Look. Yeah. Tread lightly. With newspaper editors, you never know.

Jimmy: And they're not thrilled with having you to begin with.

Harold: Well, that's true. Yeah. They're more into the news, so. Yeah. Often, there's a little bit of resentment with the comics that can be taken out on them. Yeah.

Jimmy: Well, I would not have picked any of those strips to make, well, Garfield I probably would have, but the other ones, I don't think I would have remembered, even though I believe dunes or, Blondie was probably the second most circulated strip around this time, Blondie was hugely popular.

Harold: Yeah.

Jimmy: And on Sunday pages, you would often see it as, like, the second strip on the front page.

Harold: It was at the top, on the front page, where I grew up. Yeah.

Jimmy: Yeah. Well, that is extremely interesting. thank you for that, Harold. So we actually have quite a bit to discuss today. We're going to talk about things like the future of the podcast, what's coming up next, what are we going to do when we get to the end? All kinds of stuff like that.

Harold: We'll discuss.

Jimmy: We have a ton of mail to get to, and then, as our little treat, like we like to do at the end of these seasons, we are going to go ahead and look at some comics from the mid eighties and discuss them and see where Schulz is in relations to, a new generation of cartoonists that he's inspired. So we're going to do that right after the break, come back, and, we'll continue.


VO: Hey, everyone. I wanted to let you know about our upcoming schedule. We're taking some time off over the next few weeks. Instead of releasing a new episode every week, we're going to alternate a week off, then a week on, but only for a month. Don't worry. We know you miss us when you don't hear from us, and I didn't want it to come as a surprise next Tuesday. We'll be back to our regular schedule in June.

Jimmy: Hey, we're back, Liz. I'm hanging out in the mailbox. Do we got anything?

Liz: We do. We have the most wonderful, engaged listeners. I think mostly that they don't want you to worry, so they are.

Jimmy: I do worry when I don't hear from them.

Liz: So we heard from our friend Shaylee, who says, hello, gang. It's your pal Shaylee. When it comes to relating to Peanuts characters. I don't recall if I mentioned this or not, but I relate to Marcie. I admire how she's blunt, straight to the point that, and while she isn't perfect, her heart's in the right place. I remember in the Easter special, she kept on cooking the eggs in different ways that aren't hard boiled. And how she ate the boiled egg with the shell on it was goofy, but it was charming. I can see why people see her as a character with an invisible disability. I think some people believe that she's autism coded, which would explain her monotone way of speaking, lack of social cues, and she has a strong fascination of literature.

Jimmy: Well, with that, first off, always great to hear from you, Shaylee. I love Marcie. I've always loved Marcie. I think, Michael has the most recent conversion to enjoying the character of Marcie. Right, Michael? You weren't that familiar with her.

Michael: Yeah, no, I mean, I think the character is growing. I can identify with her. And so her and Woodstock are, my two current favorites.

Jimmy: Those are good picks. How about you, Harold? You a Marcie fan?

Harold: Yeah, Marcie's. Marcie's a great character, and I really have enjoyed the fact that she's been set up as somebody interested in Charlie Brown as a friend or a boyfriend that I think is really charming. I kind of like the dynamic between them, even though Charlie Brown is so maddeningly clueless.

Jimmy: me too. I love that. Well, thanks for writing, buddy.

Liz: Then we heard from Michael Webb, a new listener or a new correspondent. Good Griefians. Thank you for the podcast. I'm a Peanuts fan of long, long standing, a love I inherited from my father, whose 15 cent original vintage paperbacks I still have on my shelf. I feel like the show is one I would have made myself if I were smarter or more talented.

Jimmy: Oh, believe me, neither of those things are a requirement. Trust me.

Liz: Brilliant people diving deep on an artistic work that I feel like forms part of my personality is an absolute, unfettered joy.

Jimmy: well, thank you.

Liz: And then he says at one point, I'm still catching up, Michael says, who writes letters anymore? And I would like to say, humbly, me. I have a couple dozen pen pals from around the world, and I'm a member of several pen palling organizations, including one, the League of extraordinary pen pals, whose newsletter I contribute to. I don't really care. He wasn't wrong. That letter writing is rare, but we're out there.

Harold: That's wonderful.

Jimmy: That's so cool.

Liz: And then Tim Young writes to us and he says, back in the eighties, the group Sade released a song called the Sweetest Taboo. I quickly renamed it, the sweetest Babboo. Must have been sung by Sally.

Jimmy: The sweetest baboo.

Harold: Very cool. Now I'll never hear that song the same way.

Liz: He adds, By the way, on this week's show, the guys were talking again about spotting blacks. I understand what it means, but what's always confused me is why is it called that?  Spot in what sense? To see, notice, or recognize something, or to mark something with spots.

Jimmy: Yes, to mark it in. yeah, to spot it would mean, like, I'm going to put a spot of black over on this side and a spot of black over on this side. It's the act of intentionally choosing where you place your blacks to lead the eye, to balance the panel, et cetera.

Michael: Yeah, it's like spotting a target. I need to put something there.

Liz: And then Simon Lunt from Yorkshire did his homework. Hi, everyone. I was delighted to hear you discuss my question on how and why Peanuts translates so well across the pond, Michael asked me about the perception of the baseball strips in the UK. They were indeed printed, and largely the technicalities of the game went way over the heads of us, largely cricket and rounders playing Brits. This is probably no coincidence, but I'm actually an avid baseball fan. Subconsciously, my love of the game was no doubt directly influenced by Charlie Brown's perpetual failure at the mound, which probably explains why my chosen team are the Baltimore Orioles.

Jimmy: Hey, last year, though, Orioles won 100 games. They got crushed by the Pirates. in the beginning of this season, though, so go Pirates.

Liz: And finally, Mark Heffernan. I think he's a new contributor. He writes, I've been enjoying revisiting the 1980s Peanut strips with the Unpacking Peanuts crew. Peanuts was no longer the first comic strip I'd read. When I opened the comic strip page, Bloom County was. And I think that's a big reason why I view the 1980s as a lesser era, especially in comparison to the seventies and what was to come in the 1990s. And then he adds, good luck to Harold on his new Kickstarter project, the robot monster 3d comic. I've already pledged for a copy. Here's hoping the comic makes its Kickstarter goal.

Harold: Oh, thank you so much for your support on that. And for those of you who are wondering what we're talking about, we just launched a robot monster comics in 3D Kickstarter, which is running right now. You can go over to Kickstarter and just search for that term, robot monster comics or robot monster graphic novel. It's something that is a labor of love for a lot of people. It's based on this 1953 3d movie that, it's very iconic. You may have seen images of this monster before. It's essentially a guy in a gorilla suit with a diving helmet on it. But it was a 3d film during the 3d craze of 1953. And check it out, if only to see the amazing covers. I think I mispronounced his name. My apologies. Last time we talked, Jeff Slemmons and Mitch O'Connell, they both did two very different, two absolutely gorgeous covers. So this movie was inspired by 3d comics and comic books. And it's only appropriate that finally, after, after 70 years, that robot monster gets his own comic. And, it's cool because we've got the human star of Robot Monster, a little boy named Johnny, who's played by Gregory Moffat. He is still with us, and he is signing copies and certificates of authenticity, for film cells as well. we actually have 1953 prints that are a little broken up, and we've actually are selling the cells along with a signed, certificate by Johnny. We got the DVD and the Blu ray, which just came out from the same people that are doing this Kickstarter 3d film archive. And I'm doing a ten page spoof using actual movie 3d frames from the original. So it's a lot of fun. And for me, it's personally something I'm hoping we're going to have the opportunity to do, but it only happens if you guys support us. So if you're interested at all, or, you know anybody who would be interested, please do go over to Kickstarter and check us out. Thank you.

Liz: And how long is it going to be up for?

Harold: I believe it runs until the 8th of May.

Jimmy: Great. I remember that movie from when I was a kid, there was a show, a syndicated movie, show that local stations would pick up called dialing for dollars. I don't know if you guys.

Harold: Oh, gosh.

Jimmy: You remember dialing for dollars? Yeah. They would have theme weeks. so you'd have, like, Jerry Lewis week or you'd have horror week or whatever. And they had 3d week one summer, and it was a big deal because you had, they had to distribute 3d glasses because no one had them in the eighties.

Harold: Right.

Jimmy: But that was a big one. Gorilla at large. I can't remember the other ones, but loved it.

Harold: Yeah, boy, you know, that's the original show that would bribe you to watch. Watch it.

Jimmy: Ah, yeah. You would win by. They had gerbil races, and there would be three gerbils in habit trails that were just long, straight ones. And they'd name them after the characters on the show, and a caller would, pick one and they'd let them loose. And if you're gerbil one, you won some money. And then it was right back to the movie.

Liz: Oh, I also have to do a shout out to our dear friend, listener Bernie Adema for sending us his idea for an Unpacking Peanuts graphic. And I'll put that on social media. It's, dear to our hearts because it's a Beatles album cover with the unpacking Peanuts crew on the cover Thank you, Bernie.

Jimmy: Liz suggested we do t shirts for all of the Beatles album covers to me, and I said, well, I already have the white album done.

Liz: So you can buy that one on our store.

Harold: Or you can buy it at Walmart if you want, in a three pack, packs of three.

Jimmy: It's great.

Liz: Anything from the hotline.

Jimmy: So I've got a couple text messages. First, one, if you had to get a Peanuts tattoo because it was the law, what would each of you get Liz to be of great cheer? Jim Meyer. Jim trying to get a little bonus point by giving us great cheer 

Liz: and by mentioning me. 

Jimmy: That's right. That's right. It's a double whammy. Very good job, Jim. okay, so I want. I actually have an answer. I've thought about this, but do you guys, you guys. I'll go last.

Harold: You guys go first.

Jimmy: Michael, what would your Peanuts tattoo be? Because I'm dying to know.

Michael: It's the iconic image. The Snoopy vulture

Jimmy: Oh, of course, of course.

Michael: I don't know which one. That would definitely be it. Yeah, sure.

Harold: Yeah.

Jimmy: That's a good pick, Harold?

Harold: I would never, do a tattoo, but if it was absolutely required in an act of defiance, I would do the bug or piece of fuzz as I could get.

Jimmy: Liz.

Liz: I’d do Woodstock as a pelican.

Jimmy: Okay.

Jimmy: So this, I have thought about this. I also will never get one, but if I was going to get one, I would get a, Snoopy and Woodstock dancing. And I would have in Schulz lettering “the movement you need” under it and I place it on my shoulder.

Michael: Nice. Is there an iconic Snoopy and Woodstock dancing not coming to mind?

Jimmy: I'm sure there's many, yes. But I, would, I would find a good iconic, say 1970, 1969, something like that. And the movement you need.

Liz: Well, there was a Woodstock dancing. That was a strip of the year for somebody's pick.

Harold: That was me. That's right, Jimmy. That is a great little Woodstock dancer. Just put that aside. The happy dancer, Snoopy, and you've got an amazing tattoo.

Jimmy: Yep. That is really good. this is actually starting to sound like a good idea, which I don't like.

Harold: Yeah, thanks for putting that in our head.

Jimmy: now there'll be a text message in a few nights from me to the other guys going, oh no, I made a terrible mistake. 

And we also heard from listener Mary from Colorado. She wants to know what we're going to do after 2000. And she suggested maybe we do a season and focus on another cartoonist, maybe someone who is influenced by Schulz, which could be interesting. And since we have this question, why don't we go ahead and kind of discuss this now? What we're going to, what we're going to do for the upcoming episodes of the show. 

So we decided, it was all going by too fast and we didn't want to just end it and you know, then just be floating out in the wind. And in case you guys didn't notice, we enjoy talking. We enjoy talking to each other and we just enjoy talking in general. So what we've decided is we're going to slow things down. This is going to do two things. One, it's going to allow us to have more episodes for each year. So if it takes three years to get through 1984 or three episodes to get through 1984 or four episodes. That's just what it's going to take. Three years. It might take three years.

Harold: No, no holds barred.

Jimmy: Really get into the voice.

Harold: Strip a day.

Jimmy: Exactly.

Liz: Panel a day.

Jimmy: Panel a day. panel a day.

Harold: There you go.

Jimmy: This will do a couple things. It'll do that allow us to go on for a little bit longer, before we have to do some thinking. It'll also hopefully make the editing a little bit easier for Liz that she won't have to wade through epic hours of conversation and whittle it down to just two episodes. So I think that's going to be fun. How does that affect you, the listener? Not really at all. Just Tuesdays we'll still be here talking about goofy stuff, but it'll just be going on for a little bit longer post 2000 because it will still arrive. Oh, I'd love to hear from you guys. What do you want us to cover? John Esparza, super listener, just recently posted on social media. He wanted us to cover the Arbor Day special. That's going to be, that's a good year. Too far down on the list. But I mean, what about you guys, you three? Do you have any particular thoughts about what you like to do after this?

Michael: Well, I think it would be nice to go back and deal with some topics.

Harold: Yeah.

Michael: Like, you know, try to pull out our best Schroeder at the piano ones or baseball ones or kite flying. Each one of those I think we can easily get an episode out of.

Liz: Yeah, I've been keeping a list of the ones that we mentioned now and then, and we've talked about doing a weirdest strip sequence.

Jimmy: Oh, there you go. Yeah, I think you could do something with the Peanuts calendar. We've talked about it. You know how every year he would hit certain themes, obviously, at certain points of the year, seasonally and whatever. That could be an interesting thing. Go through a year with the Peanuts calendar, like all the new year strips, then all the, you know, whatever, Beethoven's birthday strips or whatever, for each mont

… or not that day. We don't have to. The deafening silence. Harold, do you have any thoughts?

Harold: Well, in the, in the dead horse category? yeah, no, I like all of those ideas and I just want to see how it plays out. I'd love to hear, from the listeners if there's anything that does stand out to them. You know, you guys have gotten to know us as, as well as we all gotten to know Peanuts better. If there's anything that you've heard or has resonated with you, we'd love to hear from you. your feedback really does help us understand where you guys are coming from and what it is that you enjoy.

Michael: Yeah, we could go in depth on some longer sequences.

Jimmy: Yeah, that's true.

Michael: we also touched on the, the duos at one point. Yeah, that was so maybe, like, the best Sally and Linus ones or.

Jimmy: Yeah, the best of sweet baboos. Yeah.

Michael: Anyway, I don't think we're in any danger of running out of material, and.

Liz: We have more guests to interview, too.

Jimmy: Oh, I'm making an ever growing list of the people I want to talk to.

Michael: So, Jaime, if you're out there, call us.

Jimmy: Oh, he's at the top of my list. I would love to get Lynn Johnson on. I would love to get Patrick McDonnell on. And of course, I threw down, the gauntlet to Bill Watterson in, like, 1954. I don't remember what I said, but.

Liz: It's about the sled.

Jimmy: So he's got to come on. Just stay tuned for that one. anyway, whatever we do, it's going to be lots of fun, and thank you all for being a part of it. It is just my favorite day of the week, and I always love hearing from you. So if you want to keep this conversation going, you could do that by emailing us through, sending us a message on Twitter, Instagram, blue sky, any of those places that you can find us or call in or texting the hotline. And that number is 717-219-4162 so we would love to hear from you. And remember, when I don't hear, I worry. 

So now we have arrived at the finale of this episode, the finale of this season. We're going to go ahead and look at some comic strips. We have two different things. Harold has pulled out a Sunday section he found for us from 1984. Where is that from, Harold?

Harold: This section is from Illinois. it was the Galt Herald and the Elk Grove Citizens combined Sunday comics section. And as you might expect, this is a suburb of Chicago. And so the comics that they are able to pick from are not the top comics of the era. These are the strips that didn't have that, say Tribune or Sun Times in downtown Chicago, getting the territorial rights that absorb Galt and Elk Grove. So it's fascinating to see the strips that were being done largely by journeyman artists, a few new ones that the big guys didn't want to try out. That shows where we are in comics. Compared to Schulz, which we've been looking at, it's pretty fascinating.

Jimmy: Well, I'm looking at it right now, and I think we'll probably be able to just, grab some caps of this and put it up on the obscurities page. It's a. What is it, 1234? It's a four page Sunday section. And the second and third page contains six strips. I don't know any of them. Have just never heard of them. I'm going to go ahead and I'm going to read to you guys what strips were in the Galt Herald and Elk Grove citizen comic section of 1984. 

They led. Their top strip was Donald Duck. So not what you'd consider current, although I currently write Donald Duck, so I shouldn't be saying such things. Can you believe it? These losers with Donald Duck, I've written, I think, 1600 pages of Donald Duck comics. And, then, of course, that's followed up with Mickey Mouse. Yeah.

Harold: So they, they take up the, the front page of the Galt Harold, Elk Grove Citizen Sunday comics. This Disney. We don't necessarily know who these artists are. It's possible. I would be just guessing. I don't think it's him. but kind of looks like Al Hubbard. But Walt Disney gets the credit, not the artist who wrote and drew these. So, that was just the way it was done.

Jimmy: So. Yeah, so here are the strips. I don't know, Catfish, Lolly, The Smith Family, which is written by Mister and Mrs George Smith, the Evermores. What's the Dungans? No, Donnegan's People.

Harold: Off the Record.

Jimmy: No, off the record. Oh, there is bringing up fathers there as well, but I knew that one. It is, it is a who's who of who?

Harold: Right? So these, these strips on the inside pages, as, Jimmy was saying, he wasn't familiar with them. I am familiar with the Smith family and Donnegan's people, but we had that there was a syndicate named, NEA Newspaper Enterprise association, and they had a whole roster of strips, that they offered, certainly, in the seventies and eighties and beyond, and probably before as well. But it was a pretty large roster of strips. But often the smaller papers, who didn't get the big guys, they would buy them as a block, and you could basically print whichever ones you wanted. And that's what I think we're seeing some of here in this paper.

Jimmy: I'm reading Off the Record here.

Harold: Yeah.

Jimmy: I'm going to share a few Off the Records for you.

Harold: Now.

Jimmy: This is one of these, strips. Actually, it's very similar to what, L’il Folks was the original proto Peanuts in that it is a Sunday style strip, but it's just a bunch of single panel gags, that are just. Each panel is disconnected from each other. So, like the first one, I hope you're sitting down because, like, the level of hilarity is going to kill you. So there's two people, a man and a woman, on what appears to be the top of a lighthouse. The, man is hugging it for whatever reason. The woman is on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor of the lighthouse. And she says, I don't do windows, do you? Right. They would say it's really hard to get a syndicated comic strip. Was it next one? in same strip, there's just a circle and there's a toddler, middle aged gnome, m walking. And his name is Tucker. And it said, this is the caption from Tucker. I'm on solids now. Coal slippers and chair legs.

Harold: What?

Jimmy: I, believe the cartoonist, it sat. He had a stroke in the middle of writing that caption and went out.

Harold: I'm on, solids now. Coal slippers and chair legs. That is. That's very difficult to understand.

Jimmy: Well, the advice, you know, just share something personal, share something from your life, and it'll be universal. I feel like this isn't. Does he have a child that was eating coal slippers and chair legs? Because that's not normal. That child needs to be seen.

Harold: So I guess you're on solid. You'd be sitting on solid chair legs, right? And I get that you might be, instead of natural gas, you're using coal, which is a solid. But slippers are like, the softest shoe you could have. So I guess it's still solid, and he's still. He's standing on them. Is that the.

Jimmy: I don't know.

Harold: Well, I mean, I think. Isn't that the, the setup? And then he surprises you that he's just walking on solid.

Jimmy: No, I think this kid eats chair legs.

Harold: Well, see, that's the genius of it. It has all these levels.

Jimmy: Michael, you. You awake here for this? he's like, the hell with it.

Liz: I'm thinking that maybe he's appreciating Schulz's humor in the eighties.

Jimmy: Seems pretty good. Now, here's another one for you. Okay, if you prefer. Oh, my God. This is just a woman, I guess, at a job interview, and she. Okay, this is really wild, because she's at a job interview, and her caption is, if you prefer, a blonde or redhead. I have wigs.

Harold: Wow.

Jimmy: Which is a disturbing, but she is a redhead in the drawing. Yeah.

Harold: I don't think the colorist was, Yeah.

Jimmy: Reading the one line of dialogue underneath it.

Harold: Oh, my goodness. You saw redhead and say, go. That's the. What's the way to go with these? Yeah. it's so funny. And this is the thing. It's charming to see these. I mean, this looks like a guy who for years has done magazine  cartoons. And the way you did magazine cartoons is you would just think up as many jokes as possible. You either do them in pencil or you have to do finished ones, and you would just mail them to magazines that might print these little single panel comics. An, incredibly hard job, but there were people that made a living doing it. And Ed Reed, who did this, Off the Record, just looks like that's the world he knows. And I also get the sneaking suspicion that maybe he was reusing things from the era of Jackie Onassis. there's a guy in another strip who's wearing a bow tie. It just feels like early 1960s that were, like, 20 years beyond that. But maybe he's pulling from his file of old gags that didn't sell him to the magazines. I don't know.

Jimmy: Well, listen, that's pretty good, but it's not as good as done against people now. I don't know. I've never seen done against people in my life. But I will tell you the story of the guy who created Donnegan's people. He worked really hard, and he got a comic strip, and he said, oh, yes. And then he got to week three, and he's like, oh, s**t. He is out of ideas here. This is a Sunday strip. Now, at one point, Sunday strips were full pages, glorious pages of, like, Hal Foster artwork. These are three panels. He's barely struggling to get through it. Panel one, it looks like he's opening a box. Panel two, he got a tie with some silly circle, polka dots on it. And he says, I love it. And then the punchline is, who picked it out? And it's his daughter, and I guess his wife.

Liz: Ba dump bump.

Harold: So I guess the daughter did, because it's polka dots.

Jimmy: so that's a bleak look at comics in the eighties, in 1984, these are now legacy strips. Right? Because we're looking at Popeye. the guy who created Popeye has been dead at this point for 60 years.

Harold: Yeah. Pages one and four are all done by artists who did not create these characters. They're kind of journeyman artists who've taken it on after the other person's moved on or passed away and retired. But these were the strips. If you were, if you were living in Elk Grove, this is what you were reading every Sunday. If you didn't get the Tribune or the Sun Times as well, talk about.

Jimmy: A strip mellowing over time. There's, well, both Popeye and Bringing Up Father are unrecognizable from where they started. Bringing Up Father was really like a rowdy, rough, lower class, kind of South Parkish for, you know, the early 19 hundreds.

Harold: Yeah, it was pretty, pretty wild strip. It's, a brilliant strip by George McManus.

Jimmy: Yeah, yeah. Now it's this, which is just, you know, someone getting a paycheck, which is fine. I mean, everybody look.

Harold: Yeah, beautifully drawn. I will say Frank Fletcher did a really nice job of continuing the look of George McManus, his art, long after he passed away.

Jimmy: And the only reason I feel okay to make fun of people like this is because, again, I've written 1500 pages of Donald Duck, so my glass house is thoroughly shattered. There's no problems. 

Okay, so how about now we take a look at, what Michael has done is. Well, Michael, why don't you explain what you've done and what we're about to read? Okay.

Michael: Well, I was going to randomly, pick a date in 1984 and check, out the Peanuts from that date and then find a whole bunch of other strips, like funny, whatever, contemporary strips on that date and see what Peanuts was up against. So I had to search for it. I couldn't find anybody who posted, like, an entire day's worth of comics. So the first thing I posted, I searched for was Calvin and Hobbes and discovered it didn't even start yet. I decided to grab a Calvin and Hobbes from December 3, 1985, which was the first week of the strip. And then I took that date and tried to find some of the other of, Schulz's contemporaries who had strips on that day, including Schulz. So I've got six or seven strips that were, you know, same genre, funny, not adventure strips, pretty much standalone. Four panel. Three, four panels.

Harold: Yeah.

Jimmy: so we're going to go ahead and I'll tell you what strips we're going to look at as I read them. And then we're just going to kind of read them and, just give her thoughts, see how they compare with Schulz, see where they came from, etcetera.

Harold: So you can find these all on

Jimmy: These are all on, so you could go over there and type in these dates as I read them.

Michael: And the last two, actually, I couldn't find on go comics. So they're just, images from Heritage auctions.

Jimmy: Okay. And if you want to follow us along and learn what we're going to be talking about ahead of time, go ahead. Go on to our website, sign up for the Great Peanuts Reread, and that'll get you the once a month newsletter that'll let you know what strips we're going to be covering and any special things like this, when we know in advance. Anyway, so here we go. This was Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson for December 3, 1985. Calvin's in his little wagon, his little red wagon, and Hobbes is getting ready to give him a push. And Hobbes, or Calvin says to Hobbes, there's a new girl in our class. And Hobbes says, well, what's her name? Calvin yells, who knows? And they're at this point, racing along on the wagon. Hobbes is pushing and Hobbes jumps in the wagon and says to Calvin, is she nice? And Calvin screams to the sky, who cares? Not me. Then Hobbes, with a ridiculously goofy, look on his face says, do you like her? And Calvin screams, oh, with some great lettering.

Michael: Okay, now, I was not up on Calvin and Hobbes at this period.

Michael: I read, I read some of the collections later, but it was years after it came out. But looking at it in context of Peanuts, the first thing I noticed, number one, it's much more dynamic.

Harold: Yes.

Michael: I mean, he's really into, you know, getting the action right in your face on these panels, which Schulz occasionally does, but not a lot of times they're just standing there. And also that Calvin, acts like a kid. He talks like a kid.

Harold: Yeah.

Jimmy: Well, in this one, he doesn't in all of them.

Michael: Okay. But anyway, that I said, I'm not that familiar with it, so that was my impressions. That, yeah, good strip, but it's mainly carried by that dynamic drawing.

Jimmy: Yeah, I agree with that. I think the highlight of Calvin Hobbes is the drawing more than the writing. I love the way he cartoons.

Harold: Yeah, it's, I mean, he's definitely influenced by editorial cartoons that had a, kind of a rougher brush line, sometimes beautiful, beautiful strokes on this that are a mixture of precision and kind of roughness that is so uniquely Bill Watterson's from the comic strip page. And then also, I think he's a little more influenced, by Schulz, in the world of animation, in the sense that he's following some of the rules of animation, it makes for dynamic drawing. We mentioned it before, there's a term called line of action, and line of action, essentially is drawing curves into your artwork that direct your eye from one thing into another that flow beautifully. You see it in panel four with Hobbes Arch, of his back with the beautiful stripes on the back. it's just really pleasing arc that leads basically from his butt all the way through his head and then his eyes looking straight into Calvin's and then down Calvin into his body. It's just a really amazing arc, visual arc that Schulz really didn't do based on his character designs. And even though he was somewhat influenced, I think, by his own animators doing his comic strip, Schulz, yeah. Didn't usually go there with that style. And this, I, remember when this came out, I was in college, and the artwork was just so dynamic and just drew you in, and it's so appealing. I think Watterson is just an absolute genius when it comes to these things, and he puts so much life into these. I love them.

Jimmy: My favorite, Calvin and Hobbes is like we were talking earlier when he, went ahead and said, no, no, if you're going to run my Sunday strip, you're going to run it the way I draw it. That era of Sunday strips is, I think, why Calvin and Hobbes is considered such a. Such a masterpiece to this day. nobody had the commercial clout or the, or someone like Schulz, who had the commercial clout, wasn't willing to. To, push newspaper editors that way. And, it allowed him to do some spectacular cartooning in the last half of his ten year career. I love how the little cart, the little wheels are off the ground when he's pushing it. But now, Michael, does this brain, does this, comic strip break your brain? Because the whole premise isn't logical. Like, sometimes, I mean, Calvin sees Hobbes is real. Nobody else does. And sometimes Hobbes gets Calvin into situations that couldn't have really happened if Hobbes was a stuffed toy.

Michael: Yeah. Now, I don't know. This is right at the beginning of the strip. So, I don't know if he established that right away.

Jimmy: Yeah, I think he establishes it, like, in the third strip. It's actually pretty, pretty cleverly done, how he does that.

Michael: Okay. No, it's. The concept is great, but then you just assume none of this has happened, right?

Jimmy: Yeah, but there's, ah, ah, yes, but there's like, sometimes he'll end up, like, tied up, right? How did he get tied up if Hobbes wasn't real? I don't know. I think this. There's a whole podcast in this.

Michael: All right, well, we'll work on it.

Harold: We got time.

Jimmy: All right, here is a good, old Garfield on December 3. Okay, this is a three panels daily strip. And Garfield, is wearing a sweater that says, I hate dogs. And he proudly marches out the front door of his house. And then there's a silent panel where we don't see what happens. He has left the house, and then he comes back in and he has been mangled and mauled. And, he thinks to himself, gee, I didn't think dogs could read.

Michael: Probably influenced by Snoopy and the cat. Because you never see the cat.

Jimmy: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Michael: I, don't quite get it. I mean, why is he wearing this weird blue thing? It looked. At first I thought it was an apron.

Jimmy: Well, yeah, it's. What did I call it? A sweater? Is it a sweater?

Michael: I don't know what it is because it has baby thing.

Jimmy: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's very odd.

Harold: Yeah.

Michael: I never cared for this strip, so this is, seems kind of typical for a Garfield.

Jimmy: And I believe, by this point, Jim Davis was operating an entire studio of cartoonists. Right, Harold?

Harold: I don't know when that started for him. this strip started with a 1978. So we're about seven years into it again. I remember when this thing came out. As we were saying, Calvin and Hobbes just took the newspaper, world by storm this year in 1985, when it debuted, Garfield did the same thing in 78. And we mentioned before, I found his early stuff. I mean, the early, early Garfield. If you guys look back, you type in Google, like, 1978 Garfield, he's almost unrecognizable. But seven years in, Garfield has really dialed into his own. To Jim, Davis's own style. It's more dynamic, I think, even in the seven years in than, say, the strip that I would read today, where is so often them? Garfield, sitting on a countertop and talking to John or hanging out in bed. It's very much the I hate Mondays kind of lazy Garfield who has something sardonic to say. And this era, this, I mean, this was, I mean, Garfield era is right around this. Maybe this is kind of on the tail end of the Garfield phenomenon, but this strip still kind of reflects to me as just a tiny little piece of it. But people just went crazy for Garfield. There's certainly people who love Garfield, he's at the top of the game in the newspapers today in terms of people's favorites. But, boy, he was a phenomenon right around this time. And, I remember that. I mean, I had my little plush Garfield. I had my plush Odie. I loved Odie. The little, dog friend, if you can call that to Garfield. Davis was on top of something in the early eighties, 

Michael: but cat people usually like cute, and this is certainly not cute in any way.

Jimmy: Yeah, it had. Yeah, that's interesting because it's not like a cat person strip. That's true. I don't know if, like, hardcore cat fans were like Garfield fans, right? Were they?

Harold: Well, you know, again, I think, I mean, his roots really do, visually, I think, come out of, out of underground comics, and then it kind of moves its way into something a little bit more mainstream, but still. So, I mean, he's an angry, selfish me generation cat. And people really responded to that, I guess. I mean, our listeners, I'm sure we have cat lovers. I wonder what they think of Garfield. But, yeah, I think it's easy to forget, and we've said this a lot, when you see something that is maybe not in its moment in the culture, like, if you look at a Garfield today, it's just part of the culture. But in this moment, when Garfield was out in those first years, it really was riding a wave of something. It was capturing something that people hadn't quite seen before. And I want to give Jim Davis props for that.

Jimmy: Sometimes I feel like, we have lived thousands of lives. Do you remember when we did videos for the Professor Garfield website? Yeah, Michael made the music for it. We shot the things in green screen in my house. And it was like, how did, where do ideas come from? I think we did three different videos for their, for their website. I don't even know how did Jim Davis's people contact-- what happened? How did that occur?

Harold: It's just one of those hazy moments in the past. It's like, yeah, it's like me, like I'm a Hollywood producer, Netflix television show. I was like, and I still, when I say it to myself, this laugh, it's like, really, it's so strange, you know, you look back on these things that you've done. And I met Jim Davis. I think I mentioned it in a previous. I was at the Reuben awards, last year, and I met him, and he shared a Schulz story with me that, how he helped him when he was doing, trying to figure out how to animate Garfield.

Jimmy: Oh, yeah. Great story.

Harold: Very nice guy. And, you know, I think he's been very true to his own vision of what he. You know, it's so funny. Like, if you take Jim Davis and you take Bill Watterson and their philosophies of, what you should do with a comic strip, what. What you. What the right thing to do is, in some ways, they're polar opposites, right? Because everybody wanted a plush Hobbes doll, and he refused to do it because I think what he said, hey, if I create the plush Hobbes doll, then I'm coming down on one side or another of whether Hobbes is real. And that.

Jimmy: That is a Michael level.

Michael: I really respect that.

Harold: And, you know, I respect it. But I also. I'm disappointed by it, because I think, you know, it's not wrong for Davis or Schulz to say, I've created something that people love and people want. It informs. Who am I to deny them that? And I think that's, legitimate as well. So, yeah, I mean, I wish there had been licensed Calvin and Hobbes things, and we didn't have these knockoffs of Calvin peeing on whatever you want him to pee on in the back of your car on a sticker. I mean, that's what we got, because he wouldn't go there. And so the few people who were willing to sneak in and do a knockoff that wasn't authorized, that's really all we have outside of the strip. But it does keep the strip pure, you know, people know this. Know Calvin and Hobbes for the strip. And that. That says that's something, you know.

Jimmy: Do you know what Calvin was doing in the original panel? That is the famous peeing panel.

Harold: What is that?

Jimmy: He was filling a water balloon.

Harold: Well, that's kind of appropriate. Well, then I'll have to always consider he's just. He's just basically squeezing that balloon. Yeah, that's all that really is.

Jimmy: Thankfully, that's trying to sort of. I haven't seen one of those a long time.

Harold: Thankfully.

Jimmy: December 3, again, 1985. Now we're talking! Bloom County. Now I actually remember. This is part of a sequence where Steve Dallas, who is the local hedonistic lawyer, is, looking to get himself a mail order bride. So he is sitting there at a bar, having a martini, and, flipping through, a catalog of brides. And Opus, the penguin, is watching this occur, and Steve says to Opus, see, first I pick out a girl from these pics, write her a few letters, propose, send some dough to the, in quotes, bride broker. Next panel he continues, and then fly her over here. And we get married. Thus she gets America, and I get lifelong devotion and pampering. And Steve looks to Opus and says, so what do you think? Opus yells. I think white slavery is immoral. And immorality, makes my feet itch. And then in the last panel, we see Opus scratching the heck out of his feet. And he says, which, of course, makes me secretly wish that several lovely go go dancers would massage them. Which, of course, is just the typically embarrassing moral contradiction I'm always caught in.

Michael: I like your Opus voice, by the way.

Jimmy: Thank you.

Michael: I love this strip. This is the rare case, though, I think, of a blatant copy.

Jimmy: Oh, boy.

Michael: Which I think first people went, like, copying. Doonesbury surpassed the original.

Harold: Yeah.

Michael: This became my favorite comic.

Jimmy: Whoa.

Michael: Period. I wasn't reading Peanuts, but I definitely was reading Bloom County and Doonesbury.

Harold: Yeah. What did you like about Bloom County?

Michael: I like the fact that it was unhinged from reality completely. Where Doonesbury was definitely, you know, the daily story, which was great. And, I loved them both. But the fact is, it's Opus. My vote for the greatest comic character of all time. I think Opus is absolutely brilliant.

Jimmy: Yeah, Opus is a great character.

Liz: Why?

Michael: I can't even explain why. It's just, it's solely original. I mean, we've seen a million cartoon animals that can talk. Opus is not like any of them. He's  really a significant personality. and it's just open to the most preposterous situations. You kind of accept it, because here's a penguin talking.

Jimmy: Yeah. To me, like, if I thought, if I had to say what comedy was in the eighties, the thing I would think of is David Letterman and Opus and Bloom County reminds me of, like, a comic strip David Letterman, where it was the form of what was a regular old talk show. But it was deeply weird, and it was commenting on older talk shows. And sometimes the joke was that the joke wasn't funny. At which now doesn't seem. That seems so hacky, and it's nothing.

Harold: It's sort of.

Jimmy: But back then, it just seemed unbelievably fresh and unhinged. It felt like literally anything could happen. And that's what I feel like in Bloom County as well.

Harold: Yeah. My favorite. And I was just thinking about this as we were looking at those 1984 comics from, Elk Grove. I don't know if you saw this one, Michael, or anybody here saw this one, but it's my all time favorite Bloom County strip. It's from October 4, 1987. You can find that as well on, Go comics. But again, it's just unhinged off the wall. You have no idea what's going on. But basically, the premise of this Sunday strip was that somebody took over the strip for Berke Breathed a guy named Mort Svensson. And it says, no notice to client editors. The regular artist, of this feature is on vacation for ten days at PTL's Heritage USA in South Carolina. Filling in for Mister Breathed this week is Mister Mort Svensson, 73, whose cartoons have appeared in the Saturday Evening Post and Parrot World. And then, so you have this very, very cartoony, 1950s magazine cartoon style. And it's this cheesy joke of these two characters talking. Can you keep me? Can you keep a secret, Binkley? Opus has tickets to cats. And he goes, Opus the penguin. The secret is safe with me. And then he runs off and yells as loud as he can to his dad, who's sitting in a lawn chair, smoking a pipe. He goes, hey, pop, Opus caught rickets from cats. And the father goes, And then he goes, say Steve Dallas, mum's the word. But Opus has crickets the size of rats. And then Steve's like, ah, ah. And then he's saying, Opus is being picketed by rats. And then you see the classic people. People, like clip art of people whispering in each other's ears. And then you see three guys wearing hats and ties and suits, classic fifties style, reading these newspapers, going, Hm. Whoo. Aha. as they see these articles that say, Opus tickled by bats, Opus picked too fat. Opus pickled in vats. And then this hilariously drawn Opus, he's like, say, why is everyone laughing? And then the actual Opus rolls the last panel of the strip up. It looks like the paper has been rolled back, so you can't see the full panel. And Opus is wearing a heritage USA hat. And I still heart Tammy, shirt with a little PTL pennant. And he said, we kind of just figured we should get back a tad early. I mean, that's nuts. Yeah.

Jimmy: That's what I mean by anything could happen.

Harold: Yeah, definitely. It's like David Letterman. It's a, it's a funny skit. He's thinking outside the box. Super inventive. You never know what you're going to get in Bloom County in the eighties.

Jimmy: And I had, talking about, you know, the merchandise and whether it's important. When I was 14, actually, if you want to read, Dumbest Idea Ever, you could get longer versions of this story. But this was my. That was my memoir of how I became a cartoonist. I was wildly depressed when I was 14, and Cerebus was a lifeline, and Bloom County was a lifeline. And I wore my Opus t shirt. It was just Opus. And I can't. I would kill to find one of these to this day. But I went. It was the day I first, like, went to a doctor to see what was wrong with me. And my mom, because she felt bad for me, took me to a place in the mall where he used to go. And you'd pick out a color shirt, and they would just iron the decal on. So I don't even know if this was a, legit item or if it was just a bootleg, but it was just Opus wearing, like, a big tie. And, I wore it like a totem. It was like my shield against the horrors of the world. Love love love Bloom County.

Jimmy: Inexplicable to me what he did with it. Like, he ended it early, like Watterson did, but then he tried to do it, a version of it called Outland, and then he brought it back.

Michael: Yeah, but Outland was brilliant.

Jimmy: None of them ever really captured the magic.

Michael: I loved Outland. Nobody else seemed to take it seriously, but I thought it was really good.

Harold: Yeah.

Michael: And then Opus came back, and it was Opus again. So, yeah, I have to.

Jimmy: I'll have to go back and check those out.

Harold: They were.

Jimmy: They ran in my college newspaper, but I haven't read them since then. All right, and that brings us to good old Doonebury. Bloom County. Original formula. Oh, okay, now, I cannot remember the name of DUKE. Okay, so it's zonker and uncle Duke's secretary. I cannot remember.

Michael: She's the Vietnamese girl, isn't it?

Jimmy: Yeah, she. Yes, and she. Yes.

Harold: Aka Marcie.

Jimmy: She's. Yes, she's totally Marcie. She's completely Marcie. And she is normally with this uncle Duke character, who is a parody of Hunter S. Thompson. This. We are getting layers within layers in this episode. Holy cow. So Zonker is on the phone. This is obviously a long sequence. and he says, 23 million. Mom, are you sure there hasn't been some mistake? And then I, whoever she is, I can't remember her name, says, that's certainly a remarkable hungry prize, sir. Then Zonker says, mom, I want you to have half of it. Okay. No, no, I absolutely insist. 50%. And she says, that's very generous of you, sir. And then Zonker says, what? No, mom. No. And the other character who I've got to while we discussed this, I'll Google. I just hope it all works out for you. Then Zonker says to his mom on the phone, okay, 60%, but that's my final offer. And the other character says, they say money can really change people.

Michael: It is Marcie.

Jimmy: It's totally Marcie.

Michael: Yeah.

Harold: Yeah. What do you think of the Zip a tone here, Michael?

Michael: It doesn't stand out. I mean, it didn't affect anything. I just wondering why the little nuts in the bowl turned into french fries.

Harold: Yeah, he's having fun with that.

Jimmy: Oh, that was a thing. I don't know how long that went. But in the eighties, when he came back from his sabbatical, he took a fairly long sabbatical, in the early eighties. And when he came back, he updated the Strip entirely. It was previously set at a Commune, the Walden Commune on a College campus. It was very crudely drawn. He came back, and it was like this really sophisticated, graphically strip. he had an anchor that helped him out with that. And it was just a radical change with Doonesbury. And one of the things he was doing during that time was he would have one panel where he would just change something in the background.

Michael: Oh, really?

Jimmy: Breathed also does that.

Michael: Well, I'm really looking at it more intensely than I ever have. Normally when I read comic strips, I just whip through them. I had books of Doonesbury, and books of Bloom County. And. Yeah, I didn't stop and think. I just wanted to whip through them.

Harold: Yeah, I think one of the things that people said who were critical of Doonesbury is how static it was. And so he's. He's playing with that by changing background elements and giving you little Easter eggs. If you. If you're looking like the, the pen disappears from the pocket of, the lady character in the last two panels as well. And the ships are sailing and, in the background on the sea that's moving. So, yeah, it's. He's trying to add some. Some vibrancy, and something original things for you to. If you're looking, you're going to maybe enjoy just seeing a little changes here and there.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Michael: he was always taking shortcuts.

Harold: Did he actually ever do photocopy? Because I know there was people kind of claimed it looked like that. This one obviously is not. And. And he has the ink now.

Michael: Well, look at, ah, look at those bottles. Yeah, I don't think he redrew those.

Harold: Those are just, yeah, they, they're different. I can see, I can see different inking, different pieces.

Jimmy: Oh, yeah. No, if you look at the, the labels, the label on that one that.

Harold: Curved, you could see in the fourth panel.

Jimmy: it's touching the side. And in the second or in the third panel, it's not. No, he redrew the, but again, he does have an anchor for this, and I think it was the same anchor. I can't swear, but I believe it's the same anchor the whole time.

Harold: And I'm guessing what he did is he, he drew, he penciled once the, the rough, rough background, and then let the anchor see it through.

Jimmy: You know, that's what there are, there's a Doonesbury book. I can't remember what it's called. but you can see online, you could see examples of his pencil, artwork. He actually pencils it pretty tightly. It's sort of, it's sort of shocking. I think he really did not like the fact that people criticized the art. I mean, that was the thing. Oh, it's brilliantly funny, but, boy, it's not a good looking strip.

Harold: Yeah. He took steps to really, to fix that. I mean, in ways that you don't normally see an artist to do. I mean, m in terms of artists who really cleaned up their actual, the other one I could think of is, Bob Montana, who created Archie. Oh, yeah, he goes off to war. His early comics are really, really rough looking, and the characters look very crude. He goes off to World War two, and when he comes back, it is the most gorgeous artwork. It is like the late forties. Archie. Sundays are amazingly drawn. It's the same guy. You know, he didn't have a ghost artist as far as anybody knows. He just got really, really good.

Jimmy: Yeah, it's amazing. It's really fun to watch. And it shows that comics is not all entirely about talent. A lot of it is skill and.

Harold: Putting in hard work.

Jimmy: And sometimes, continuing without change and just having an immaculate consistency is the goal. which brings us to Cathy. December 3, 1985. Cathy is in her boss's office, and she says to him, tonight, no, I cannot work late tonight. Mister Pinkley Irving had to work late all last week, and I have a big, self righteous speech planned for tonight. She continues in panel three. If I have to work late, it ruins everything. It upsets the whole balance of equality. And the boss says, it was your turn to cook dinner. And then Cathy says, it was my turn to have the tantrum.

Michael: Never liked this strip. Looking at it now. I mean, okay, you're limited. You're a cartoonist, you're limited. The characters have to be very simple so you can draw them a million times. And so they're, recognizable. So you do things like, okay, no eyebrows. Eyebrows on the side of the head, right side of the eyes. How about the eyes touch each other?

Jimmy: And no nose.

Michael: No one's done that before. That is the ugliest thing I've ever seen in my life.

Harold: I don't, I don't mind that, that look. I don't mind the eyes touching. But the one thing that's surprising to me is hands. Now, as an artist, when you're getting started, one of the harder things to draw is hands, because we know our hands so well, we look at them all the time. And Cathy Geisweite, who draws the strip, Cathy, when she started out, she looks like kind of a beginning artist, and that's part of the charm of it. I think she did, not, draw. I'm sure she was getting, she was getting better. Yeah, she was getting better as she went. But at the same time, you now have a look. And so it's like the Doonesbury question. His early stuff that he did for, was it the Yale newspaper, and then the early syndicated strip in the early seventies is very sparse. It's very rough, it's kind of charming. I think I kind of like early Dunesbury, very much more so than the, the polished stuff later in terms of the art style. But Cathy's hands are, you know, you see four little circles at the bottom of a, sleeve, and that's her, those are her fingers. And it's, it's like, I think she made a choice. As much time as she was spending drawing, she could have figured that stuff out. But once you establish something, maybe she said, I shouldn't, I shouldn't mess with this. This is, I should be consistent. And, you know, Schulz changed so much over the 30 years. When I look at Cathy, I don't really remember strips that looked a lot different than this over a period of 30 years.

Harold: And yeah, it's kind of an, it's, it's amazing that she kept the consistency of kind of this, it's, it's almost like, I guess you could call it like a primitive style. Yeah.

Jimmy: Like the naive school. It also has a, reminds me of South Park in a way where it's, you know, the most basic construction to get the contents across.

Harold: Yeah. And in terms of gags, I mean, I think one of the jokes is that there's. She's constantly doing themes and variations on things of Cathy freaking out and this and that. And certain people love that because that's a place where they are and they feel stressed and they relate to Cathy and they want to see a fresh version of that every time. This is a very controversial statement, but I think story wise, Cathy is the Krazy Kat of the eighties because it's just very narrow themes, tons of variations on it.

Jimmy: she has definitely given us the finger in the third panel.

Michael: You think so?

Jimmy: There's no way.

Michael: Which finger?

Jimmy: Third tails the finger. She only has one.

Michael: I mean, to me, I never had paid any attention to this strip, the way it's staged. The fact that there's four panels of people talking and they're looking out at the reader. They're not looking at each other. They're not moving. Really. To me, this is just bad cartooning.

Harold: To me, they are looking at each other. I don't. You guys have also said when the Peanuts characters are kind of in that pose where they're just slightly off head on, I don't read that as them looking at me usually. and same thing for here. I feel like these characters are cheated toward us like you would in theater, but they are looking at each other. I don't. I don't. I don't feel like it.

Michael: This looks like a stage.

Harold: Yeah, totally.

Jimmy: It does look like a stage.

Michael: You know, Burns and Allen or something. And they.

Jimmy: Yes. Burns and Allen was a was for comedians back in the day, George Burns and his wife, Gracie Allen. That's an obscurity.

Harold: Our own obscurities explained.

Jimmy: Well, if you said, you never looked at this. I had out and we were making controversial statements. I never looked at Garfield. Garfield was blank to me. It just. Whatever. Yeah.

Harold: When did you first see Garfield, do you think? Was it like, right at. Right when it came out or it was a while before it came into your world? I don't.

Jimmy: It made so little impact on me. I don't even remember. But 85. Well, it was only in the paper we didn't get to. There were like two. There were actually two papers in Girardville area at that time, if you can believe it. And it was in the one we didn't get.

Harold: The first Garfield book, which I think may be called, like, the Garfield treasury or something. To, me is a revelation. If you've only seen, like, the more modern versions of it. It just shows you where he was coming from. And he does kind of homogenize it. He really homogenizes it over time. But that early stuff, I mean, I can see why it became, a sensation, but there are a lot of people who never experienced that version of it. That then, once it was getting popular, is when he kind of settled into this space that we know so well as Garfield.

Jimmy: All right, that brings us up to old BC. Now, BC is about a caveman drawn by Johnny Hart, who was also involved in a strip called the wizard of ID. and in this one, our caveman, named BC, is riding along on what looks like some sort of self powered unicycle that he's invented out of a stone wheel. And then he's zipping along, and in panel two, screech. he screeches to a halt because he has seen something off panel. And then in the last panel, we see, he has reversed direction and is going back the way he came because he has seen a sign that says, no studs past this point.

Harold: Now, how many of us guys, have picked up a stud finder and made the joke? Of course. Turn the thing on.

Michael: Yeah, this doesn't work.

Jimmy: But what I don't understand is what's.

Harold: That would be like a tire stud. 

Michael: It took me a while to figure this out, but not a good gag. Oh, I mean, this guy's been doing this for 30 years, and there was no character development. Yeah, it was still my second favorite strip after Peanuts in the sixties. You didn't know, even though. Is that his name? I mean, you didn't even know.

Jimmy: Yeah, yeah, it's BC.

Harold: Yeah. nice art style. It's. It's very loose. Even the panels, are obviously hand drawn, so it's got this kind of rough, handmade feel that I think was. Was also pretty edgy in its time, and I think it started in the late fifties, so. And, yeah, he was pretty consistent with gags. I have, I think, also the very first BC collection, and reading through that, it was consistently well done. I mean, and it had a. Had an attitude toward to it. I mean, there was some snark in it that you didn't really see much in, newspaper strips. I think he was kind of the first one to introduce the half opened eye, snarky character that I attribute that to him. I don't know if there was someone before him that was really big in that area, but that's what I think of. Yeah.

Michael: I can't really remember why I liked it so much and Wizard of Id, but it just brings back.

Jimmy: It looks good.

Michael: Yeah, it looks good. And it doesn't seem to have changed very much.

Michael: Graphically since the sixties.

Harold: Yeah, yeah, he's pretty consistent. I mean, that looks pretty close to the late fifties version.

Michael: Oh, I had to put a Nancy in. I'm sorry, but.

Jimmy: Oh, yeah, here's Nancy by good old Ernie Bushmiller. Some, some cartoonist will tell you he is great. So here it is. Nancy is reading a book, and she says, twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Then in panel three, we reveal that there's actually been a Christmas tree there the whole time. We just haven't seen it. Nancy says, come to think of it, a poor little mouse doesn't have much fun. And then in the fourth panel, we see a little mouse peeking out of a classic mouse hole in the baseboard of a house, like Tom and Jerry cartoons. And Nancy, has placed her magically appearing small Christmas tree next to the hole, along with a piece of swiss cheese that says, merry Christmas. And the mouse is confused by this. Yeah, I love Ernie Bushmiller. Now I'm sold. I get it. You get it?

Michael: No, it's the anti Peanuts. If you put them together, they'd, like, both destroy each other.

Harold: No.

Jimmy: Why do you think it's the anti Peanuts?

Michael: It's so static and there's no emotions and she has no personality. But it's funny. I was. In the last few months, I've stumbled on some early Nancy strips from the, like, late forties, which are actually funny.

Jimmy: Hm.

Michael: Yeah. And it's totally unfunny.

Jimmy: What? Imagine if Nancy puts that book down and look at that arm that she's got. Her right arm. Imagine the size of that arm and what lurks beneath this panel. Like, I can't. I truly think this character is a nightmare inducing monster. I would rather eyes touching and no eyes or a no nose than this line. This looks like an alien attempting to document humanity.

Michael: Hey, I could come up with something better, maybe.

Liz: I'm sorry Todd

Jimmy: Todd Webb

Michael: No, wait. Is this the same Ernie Bushmiller who did Fritzie Ritz and Nancy back, in the twenties? How old is this guy?

Jimmy: Well, he may have had assistance at this point, I don't know.

Harold: To be fair, we're looking at 1985 strips. When I was looking at this, he got crisper and crisper as he went on. And when I was looking at this, I was kind of scratching my head.

Jimmy: Oh, this is old.

Harold: Yeah, this is old. This is not 1985.

Jimmy: It's maybe 19 is 1965.

Michael: It says December 25.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Michael: Oh, this is an old one.

Jimmy: Okay.

Michael: Because I, on heritage, it said it was 83 or 85.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Harold: And to his credit, I couldn't read if this is 45 or 65, if it's 65. As he went on. I think this is what some people absolutely love about his artwork is it's so incredibly crisp and iconic in, its storytelling. And when I was looking at this, I'm like, this is not the, basically, I remember reading in the eighties. And there's certain things he's doing here that he won't do later. Like, for some reason, the second and third panels do not have the full line. You know, the full gap of space in between the panels. They just, he just draws a line between them. I don't think he would have done, been doing that in the eighties. I can't remember when he stopped. I might be.

Jimmy: And just like the idea, like, oh, where does the copyright go? Well, how about right over the mean care?

Harold: And the, and the lettering got better as he went. This, this looks a little bit rougher than Nancy. I know. So, I mean, I give him points for that. Just, I don't even know what you call it, but that iconic crisp art in the later era, because he, I think he said, and Todd and others who know Nancy and have written essays and things about Nancy, he's going for something that's so simple and so pristine and so accessible. He was, he. I think he was well aware that this was probably the easiest strip to read on the page.

Jimmy: The famous quote is that it was harder to not read Nancy than it was to read Nancy.

Harold: Yeah. So if a three year old was being introduced to the newspaper page, I think Bushmiller had taken on himself that he was going to create this, the first strip that a child could understand. Let's say hats off to him for that.

Jimmy: You know who it reminds me of? Every conversation. Reading Nancy is like every conversation I have at comic book conventions. No, like, it feels like an artificial simulation of a legitimate piece of communication. It causes me physical pain.

Harold: I see where you're coming from on that. I, But yeah, I am interested in those people who have really adopted Nancy in recent years.

Jimmy: So we're going to wrap it up by, looking at December 3, 1985, which is Peanuts, and it's Sally and Snoopy strip. And this is how we'll bring our season to a conclusion. So Sally is writing a letter to Santa. She says, dear Santa Claus, I saw a recent picture of you in a magazine. You look fatter than ever. She continues, I know how you usually fly through the air with your reindeer and sleigh. In the last panel, she says, I'll be surprised this year if we even get off the ground. To which Snoopy, who has been watching this whole thing, just has a ridiculously happy smile on his face.

Michael: That's a weird little expression for Snoopy. I haven't seen that before. He doesn't really look like he's happy. I mean, he's smiling, but.

Jimmy: I think he got a kick out of Sally.

Harold: Yeah. I mean, to me, these strips about characters being fat are Schulz at his most callous and insensitive. And I don't think it dates well.

Jimmy: It sure doesn't date well these days.

Harold: The show Snoopy approving of Sally is Schulz's way of saying, no. I mean this. I do not like it when people are fat. That's, that's not a good thing. And he's, he's done it before. We've seen it in previous years. And of course, we've been saying he's, he's been super conscious, he's super active. He's very fit guy himself in terms of sports and activities. He's created an ice rink in his community. He's all about fitness. And he, he will take a pretty mean dig. And the fact that, I mean, if it was just Sally, it could be okay. Sally's a little, you know, she's a little, she's not totally on top of what's appropriate to say. But with Snoopy, that big smile, that's, to me, that's a, just a twist of the knife that Schulz is putting in there.

Michael: Never did introduce a fat character. I mean, there was a few beanbag strips. Yeah. But, it was a short, it was a short gag. He never had a permanent character.

Harold: Yeah. Although you could say Snoopy's a fat character. I think that's fair to say. But obviously, Snoopy doesn't think so, necessarily, if he's, enjoying Sally's writing.

Jimmy: When David Letterman retired, Jerry Seinfeld came on and did stand up. And he did the first stand up he ever did on Letterman, which was about the fattest man in the world. He's 1200 pounds, ladies and gentlemen. The man has let himself go. He's like, what do you do if he loses 400 pounds? Say, wow, you're really looking great. And after the interview or after the stand up set, he sat down and Dave said, oh, that's great. still holds up today. And Jerry goes, no, it doesn't.

Harold: Well, it makes me think of the Joan Rivers era when she was attacking, Elizabeth Taylor for being fat. It just kind of has that. Why is it this callously just pushing in your face? You know, it's just like this is something that genuinely bothers Schulz about people and he's got to say something, you know, that's the sense I get. And he usually doesn't do that sort of thing. He's usually very. He identifies with the character who's in pain or falling short, but not in this case. No.

Jimmy: It's great about that, though, is the fact that he's a person, like a real person with like this is drawn by a human being who is saying some things, and sometimes he's gonna say things that we don't agree with. Right?

Jimmy: That. Or not just don't agree with, but that it doesn't work.

Harold: But it.

Jimmy: But, but it feels still true to him. And I think as long as that, as long as it's 90 ten positive to negative, I think you're good. I think it's a little seasoning.

Harold: Sure.

Jimmy: I think what happened when it gets to like, like Al Cap or like where you sound like the Joan Rivers thing, when it's just an unrelenting mockery, it's like, you know, take it back down a notch.

Harold: Yeah, yeah.

Jimmy: Unless it's Ernie Bushmiller, then he's got it coming.

Harold: Oh. Oh.

Jimmy: Listen, thank you all for listening, to us talk, for another. Whatever it was, six, 7 hours. I really appreciate it. You guys are growing in bigger numbers every week. I love to see that. Please keep writing. We love to hear from you. And like I say, I worry when I don't hear.

So if you want to keep this conversation going, email us through dot follow us on social media. Liz will give you the info at the end there. 

Okay, so we are going to go on spring break where we're going to take a couple weeks off, right? And then we're going to come back with, what is it, 1950?

Liz: We're doing alternating weeks. We're going to be off a week on a week off on a week off. Whatever.

Harold: There you go.

Jimmy: We're alternating weeks. You'd think I'd know that. I know I signed off on that at some point, but some days everything's new to me. Okay, so that's what we're going to do. come back. When we're back, we'll be diving into the second half of the eighties. And until then, for Michael Harold and Liz, I'm Jimmy saying be of good cheer.

MH&L: Yes, yes, be of good cheer.

Liz: Unpacking Peanuts is copyright Jimmy Gownley, Michael Cohen and Harold Buchholz produced and edited by Liz Sumner Music by Michael Cohen additional voiceover by Aziza Shakraula Clark for more from the show, follow unpack Peanuts on Instagram and threads unpacking Peanuts on Facebook, blue Sky, and YouTube. For more more about Jimmy, Michael, and Harold, visit Have a wonderful day, and thanks for listening.

Jimmy: A who's who of who?

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