Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. This is Unpacking Peanuts. And today we are talking Snoopy. All of your favorite versions of Snoopy, from flying aces to failed writers. We're going to put them under the microscope and see what's what. Hope you guys are doing well. I'm your host for the proceedings. My name is Jimmy Gownley. I'm also a cartoonist. I did the Amelia Rules series and books like Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up and The Dumbest Idea Ever. Joining me, as always, are my pals co hosts and fellow cartoonists.
He's a playwright and a composer, both for the band Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. He's the co creator of the original Comic Book Price guide, the original editor of Amelia Rules and the cartoonist behind such great strips as Strange Attractors, A Gathering of Spells, and Ttangled River. It's Michael Cohen.
Michael: Say hey.
Jimmy: And he's the executive producer and writer of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a former vice president of Archie Comics, and the creator of the instagram sensation, Sweetest Beasts. It's Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: So guys, we are talking Snoopy. Michael, you put yourself in charge of Snoopy Watch at the very beginning of this podcast. What do you have to say about Snoopy and, his variety of personas starting back to the 50s? How big of a fan are you of those? I think I know the answer.
Michael: Yeah. Well, huge fan. yeah, I think Snoopy is morphed more than any other character.
Michael: And, you'll see, well, if you follow along on the strips today, we have some really early ones when he was a puppy, the little pointy snout. My golden age of Peanuts would be late 50s, early 60s, when we really had the balloon snout, which lent itself really well to animal impersonations. And there were a lot of them.
Michael: Because he could bend that thing into any shape. Pretty much. Later on, he sort of gets a little more normalized. Now it gets smaller. And you don't see the animal impersonations so much because he can't really bend it, distort it into those weird shapes. But he does take on more human personas.
Jimmy: It is really interesting how much of this does arise from just the pure cartooning of it, like you say, the way he's able to distort and warp Snoopy, particularly like in that late 50s era that really just makes these really effective and funny cartoon impressions. Harold, what are your takes on the Snoopy, flights of fantasy and stuff?
Harold: It's funny. It's not something I really thought much of about in the strip until we got involved in, these discussions. So I'm kind of in the backseat for these. I'm just going to enjoy what you guys have to say for the most part.
Jimmy: Very interesting. Well, I put the old, call out for the Peanuts hotline, on my social media, have people say what their favorite Snoopy persona is. And we got some interesting, responses we heard from super listener Rich out there in San Jose. And he said, my favorite Snoopy persona is Snoopy. He has all the other side personas, but I think that I like Snoopy best as himself.
Jimmy: That was echoed by Debbie Perry, another longtime, listener. She agrees she likes Snoopy best. And Shaylee Robson wrote and said, my favorite Snoopy persona would have to be the Easter beagle. Even though it was a short time thing, it was something I thought to be absolutely precious. Seeing Snoopy giving everyone Easter eggs in the animated special made me feel warm and fuzzy as a kid and an adult woman. So there you go. We got, some responses. I did not expect an Easter beagle shout, but that's a good pick.
Harold: Well, it's funny going back to what you were just saying. Yeah, I think I guess the personas, when we started talking about animals, what he's doing? Animals. That was the thing that, it never really registered with m me, but certainly personas when he's playing these other, the writer and all of those things. Absolutely, I got sucked into all of that of, yeah.
Jimmy: Now, is your favorite, Joe Cool, am I remembering correctly?
Harold: Oh, gosh, I don't know what my favorite is. I love Joe Cool. I love the supermarket checkout. That was one I always loved that. I don't know why, but that one just absolutely grabbed my fancy. Snoopy is the author that always fascinated me because, it's just funny, I don't remember how you just opened this up and said he was like the failure or whatever you call them. And it's funny, me as a little kid wishing that I could be sending in submissions of comic strips and getting back the rejection slips and all of that, I didn't think of him as a failure, I thought of him as a, working author. That's just what he was doing.
Jimmy: All right, well, by the way, you were right, because that's what it is, folks. That's what it is. Well, that's great. I, of course, have been a partisan of the grocery clerk, too, but I like all of them. I do love the pure cartooning of those 50s ones where he is distorting Snoopy. And Michael, I don't think we even need to say, but your favorite is, of course, the Vulture, correct?
Jimmy: Fantastic. Do you guys have any thoughts or insight as to how this type of thing would have sprung? Because I can't think of another character that has this type of rich fantasy world other than something like Walter Mitty, but certainly not in comics. Do you think it is one of the things that does arise out of Schulz just doodling on the old yellow legal pad or something like that.
Michael: Yeah, certainly possible. I think also, since he doesn't talk most of Snoopy, I mean he has the thought balloons, but he doesn't actually interact with a lot of the other characters, especially earlier on. other than the fact that he seems to be bored, there's nothing to do. Everybody else is running around doing stuff. And it seems to me he's like doing it for his amusement. And also I think he's trying to annoy people. People react to his impersonations usually kind of negatively.
Jimmy: Those early impressions. Yeah, he's a troll.
Michael: He's like a python. He grabs people's feet. So he's usually doing it just to stir things up .
Jimmy: or behind one of the kids backs when he's doing an impression like Lucy or Violet or something like know to make fun of them.
Michael: And the funny thing is they're so good that you know it's Snoopy, but you also know what animal it is.
Michael: They don't even have to tell you because they're really clever.
Jimmy: Masterful cartooning, perfect drawing, great work.
Harold: Well, it's interesting to see that to have a character wish to be another character, you have to really know who that character is in the first place or it doesn't matter. And I think that's a huge part of what allowed Schulz to go to another level is because we really got to know so when Snoopy's not being Snoopy, it means something too.
Jimmy: Also, it's strange that it's like Snoopy is not thought of as a loser, know, he's thought of someone who could basically kind of do anything. He's good on the baseball team. Right. But in his fantasies, he's a failure more often than know. He's not a he's a you know, someone who's constantly getting rejection slips. He's not a world War I hero. He's constantly getting shot down by the Red Baron. And that's a really interesting thing. I mean, within the context of the world of the strip, you can kind of make sense of it by saying, you know, his example of a human is Charlie Brown, right? So of course Charlie Brown always fails. So maybe that's why Snoopy fails in his fantasies. But that's a really strange aspect of it.
Harold: I find that's a really good you if you're going to fantasize about something, fantasizing about failure. That's another uniquely Schulzian thing.
Jimmy: Yeah. Because he did it himself in the creation of Charlie Brown. And I think when people talk about 40 some years into the strip, they're going, are you Charlie Brown? And he'd be like well I guess okay. Yeah.
Harold: And I think maybe in a way what Schulz kept fueling his success with failure and vice versa. It's like as he became more and more successful, he was so ambitious with making these strips that he was winding up increasing the ability for himself to delve into failure. It was like failure equaled success, and success equaled failure. Every time he raised the stakes in one area, he was able to delve into an area that most of us wouldn't want to go. And in a strange way, I think because this strip was so popular and loved, we were willing to go or more people at least, were willing to go with him into the failure, because it was done in success.
Jimmy: Yeah. Yeah.
Michael: Another aspect of this with Snoopy, especially in these earlier strips, which we're going to see when we get down to it, is he was really resentful about being treated like a dog.
Michael: And I think this was a way of him kind of escaping that, like, oh, he's just a dog. He's all these dangerous animals. He's a polar bear, he's a know, kind of a threatening animal, rather than just kind of this--
Harold: I just regret he never impersonated Miss Francis.
Jimmy: Or what about good, old Albert Payson Terhune
Harold: oh, wow. Wouldn't that have been something?
Michael: He did do a very good Beethoven.
Harold: Yes, that was pretty darn good.
Jimmy: So they have a list on the Peanuts Wiki of all of the various personas he has done. I mean, it is hundreds. Let me just quickly read a few that they came up with on this list, until I run out of breath. And over the 50 years, this is what they have in chronological order, according to the Peanuts Wiki. Snoopy has been, a bird, a car motor, a shark, a wolf, a rhinoceros, a spaceman, a snake, Violet, a pelican, Lucy, a moose, Beethoven, Mickey Mouse, a giraffe, a kangaroo, an alligator, a lion, a python, an elephant, a polar bear, a mule. That's all as far as I got.
Michael: With the Mickey Mouse stands out. That was, like, brilliant.
Jimmy: Brilliant. Circus dog, sea monster, penguin, anteater, TV antenna, helicopter. Dracula. Oh, we remember Dracula. That's a great one. It goes on and on and on. So this was clearly a hugely rich vein, for Schulz as a cartoonist, and I think it's going to be fun for us to look at. And, we're going to start right now at the very, very beginning.
If you guys are out there following along and you want to know what strips we're going to be covering next, here's how you can do it. You can pause this podcast right now, go over to unpackingpeanuts.com, and sign up, for the great Peanuts reread. That will put you on our mailing list. And you'll get a monthly newsletter where my pal Mr. Howard Buchholz will send, you a heads up telling you what, strips we're going to be covering that month. So you could read ahead on either GoComics.com or with your fancy Schmancy Fantagraphics books, or, I guess on the Peanuts Wiki, which I'm not sure how that works, but they're all up there, too. So do that, and then, come back, press play, and we'll be here getting started. And let's get started at the beginning.
August 9, 1951. A very cute but annoyed pigtailed, Violet, is, tromping around outside, and she says, “I thought I told Snoopy to stay out of that bird bath.” She walks over, and there is Snoopy, in fact, sitting in a bird bath. And she says to him, “you get out of there, Snoopy. You're not a bird.” It's the very classic, very early, super cute puppy Snoopy. Violet walks away. Snoopy has now been lifted, I guess, out of the bird bath. And Violet says, “no one is allowed in there unless he has wings.” We then cut to panel four. Snoopy's back up in the bird bath. Violet checks him out, over her shoulder, and there is Snoopy extending his ears to make it look like wings.
Jimmy: And that's it. That's the first time we, see our boy Snoopy trying to be something he's not.
Michael: But he's also doing it to annoy.
Jimmy: Definitely, yes. But there's another element to it, too, where he's doing it because he wants to get his way.
Jimmy: Which is, I guess, annoying as well.
Harold: It seems playful.
Jimmy: Playful, yeah. That's a great way to…
Michael: yeah, he's too young.
Jimmy: It's very interesting to see this early style of Peanuts, after being way out in the wilds of the 70s, just how much it's changed. It is fun looking at those really inky looking Violet, hairlines that, he put in there with possibly, I guess, a brush or a super flexible pen.
Harold: Yeah, it looks pretty brushy to me.
Jimmy: Yeah, definitely.
Harold: Again, we're always talking about how he breaks the rules of physics to make just a good panel, and she's walking away when she turns around to look at him, she's closer to the bird path than when she was walking away.
Jimmy: Yeah, that's true. It's also strange that I guess he felt the logic being he had to have Violet get Snoopy out of the bird bath because that's know reason for yelling at Snoopy in the first place. So she removes him from the third panel, and then we have a lot of extra motion that we're not seeing. We don't see Snoopy coming out of the bird bath. We don't see him going back in. I think probably in five or six years, he would have just had Violet looking at Snoopy, saying, no one is allowed in there unless he has wings, commanding him to leave now, as opposed to having him removed from the bird bath. And then it would have just been Snoopy do the automatic thing with the wings. And I think it might have been more effective. but that's only because I got to see how Charles Schulz would have solved it over the next few thousand comic strips.
November 17, 1955. Charlie Brown and Snoopy are sitting on the curb Snoopy looks annoyed at Charlie Brown, who is saying, “I won't believe it until I see it. Do you hear me?” The next panel, we see both of these characters looking as Violet, just minding her own business, walks by. In panel three, Snoopy has followed in line right behind Violet and has basically just tucked his ears up so that it looks like her bun in her hair. But this is enough to convince Charlie Brown that “all right.” He says in panel four, “I was wrong. You can do imitations.” And Snoopy is delighted at this.
Jimmy: So this is the first time that Snoopy is actually walking on two legs, and, the first time he imitates a person. So what do you guys think about this one? This is the beginning of that really great, cartooning where he's doing straight up imitations.
Michael: Yeah. Isn't this a sequence where he's imitating everybody?
Jimmy: Yeah, he does Lucy, right?
Jimmy: As part of this. That's a really very funny one, too, where he curls one ear around to look like the front of her hair, and the other one in the back to look at the back. it's really interesting because at really well, it's conceptual, but it's not really based on Snoopy trying to be other people internally. It's just absolutely about the physical appearance, which makes it absolutely about the cartooning, which I think is pretty interesting. Yeah.
Michael: No, I think these are great.
Harold: I can't believe how small the heads are on the characters here in 1955. It seems so odd to see Violet, like three and a half heads high in her design in 1955. It just seems so different than the Peanuts, that world we're living in now and reading it halfway through.
Jimmy: So one of the things that I find so amazing about it is that it's so different, and yet it's so Peanuts. All of it registers as Peanuts because it's by one guy, I guess. But there are huge differences over the periods of decades. I remember Michael, once, many years ago, said something we were talking about comic books, and he said, what was your favorite Kirby-- or not favorite? What was your first Kirby comic you read when you were a kid? I'm like, oh, boy, what was it? I'm like, oh, it would have been Kamandi: Last Boy on Earth. And Michael goes, ah, the decadent period. I think maybe because I was born in the 70s, I'm drawn to the decadent period. I like it when things are going kind of slightly off the rails. And here's a classic that Michael will have a lot to say about I'm sure.
August 19, 1967. Snoopy is perched on top of the very corner of some sort of rectangle. We can't see what it is. Possibly his dog house. He's in his vulture pose, and he says, “here's the fierce vulture waiting patiently for a victim.” We're in closer on Snoopy now. He's still in the pose. “Waiting, waiting, waiting.” In panel three, same exact drawing. “Waiting” thinks Snoopy. In panel four, we pull back to see Snoopy is perched on the very edge of the TV screen that Charlie Brown is trying to watch. And Charlie Brown says, “you can't possibly realize how annoying that is.”
Michael: Yeah, there's not a whole lot you could say about this. I m mean, there's pretty much four identical Snoopy poses. and it would just be super annoying. I could not watch TV with this dog staring at me like.
Jimmy: I one of the reasons I picked this is because it's those basically four identical drawings of Snoopy. And when you're really getting close and just start looking at them, you realize, wow. I mean, it is pure gestural drawing. You can't even imagine that there ever was pencil lines underneath that defining it.
Michael: Yeah, it looks like his nose is dropped down on his face a little bit just to simulate the beak.
Jimmy: Yes, for sure. Yeah. You really see that in panel two.
Harold: I think it's like classic peanut head Snoopy.
Jimmy: Yes, it is a peanut shaped yeah, right, exactly.
Harold: When I was looking at this, we were talking an episode or so ago, trying to further identify the concept of 1970s brown and Shoe was brought up, by, I think, a listener. And you were talking about it. Looking at these Snoopies, there seems to be something Shoey about the looseness and the grunginess of the ear shading on this that seems to predate that here in 1967.
Jimmy: Yeah, I think I remember reading somewhere, Schulz said that he really felt like he should pull, out a brush and black in things like that with the brush. But he described it as laziness. And he said, I'd just scribble it in with the pen.
Harold: no time.
Jimmy: I got another 16,000 of these to draw or whatever. But I think it works.
Harold: 100 letters.
Jimmy: Yeah. I love the scratchiness of filling in blacks like that. I'm doing more of it now on this new book I'm working on. And I think it gives it a good-- it really lets you know someone drew it.
Harold: right. Yeah.
Jimmy: And I had to throw at least one more vulture in for Michael, so
August 23, 1974, the world famous vulture is perched atop a very spindly tree in his classic vulture pose. Then in panel two, he's looking around and says, “there is nothing more terrifying than the sight of a vulture perched in a tree waiting for a victim.” Then in panel three, we see something just off panel has, attracted Snoopy's attention. And in panel four, we see it is Woodstock in his vulture pose, perched on a different branch of the same tree, causing Snoopy to sigh.
Michael: Yeah, and Woodstock is not pulling it off.
Jimmy: He really isn't. He's trying. You would think being a bird, he would have the edge, but all right.
Michael: He does a good one. We saw a really good one the other day.
Harold: What was it?
Jimmy: Yeah. Well, he did a pelican.
Michael: Yeah, that was a great pelican.
Jimmy: This vulture first try and the vampire bat, he also all right, so this is some crazy Snoopy drawing. What do you guys think of this stuff?
Michael: Boy, this does not look like Schulz. Panel three.
Jimmy: Panel three things go a little awry.
Harold: I think panel three is hilarious.
Jimmy: Oh, it is hilarious.
Harold: Oh, my gosh. If you guys can go to, August 23, 1974, and take a look at one of the most funny, wonky Snoopy drawings we're ever going to see.
Jimmy: Just that.
Harold: in the Picasso world of Snoopys, this is about as crazy as it gets. You got the strong forehead leading off to this ear, as if it's almost like if you cut off, you put your hand in front of everything to the right of that forehead and the beginning of the snout and the ear, it looks like a profile.
Harold: And then you pull out here, and then the eyes are almost straight on at you with a wonky angle. And then the nose has shifted. If you put your hand on the left hand side, it looks like Snoopy is 180 degrees looking the other direction. if you cover it up and you just cover just one eye It looks like his ear is over his forehead 100%.
Harold: He's done 180 degrees difference with Snoopy.
Michael: This is cubism.
Harold: Oh, my.
Jimmy: Yeah. It really has moved into some modern art territory.
Harold: It's great. It's so fun. When you look at the 1967 version and the 1974 version again, it feels like the animation that he has experienced through Bill Melendez's gang animating his work, because, you know, he analyzed that stuff, you know, he critiqued it. He was uncomfortable about it. He said, well, that's not what they look like. And then they said, but they have to move. We have to be able to transition them. All the troubles that Melendez had to do to bring those characters to three dimensional life, at least the feel of three dimensional life since they're having to move in space. It seems like Schulz being the brilliant guy that he was, he's always studying, always learning, always reading. one of the things you see here is the line of action, which in animation is usually an arc of some sort that allows, a movement of a character. The more their actual body shape follows that, the more fluid it feels. And in the 1967 version, Snoopy's head is, kind of hanging much higher than where his neck falls and then arcs back up to, his back. But he has a pretty pure line going from the tail to the back of the neck of the head. And then there's just a little bump for the peanut. a big that's a big difference. And it does feel like an animation influence.
Jimmy: I mean, that's the kind of drawing you would see with Hobbes later on. Much more, polished and, overtly animation inspired, I think, in Calvin and Hobbes. But it's definitely what you're talking about, I think.
Harold: definitely. Yeah.
Jimmy: I love the panel three or the panel four, just, the whole composition. I love Snoopy's expression that he's annoyed at Woodstock. And I just love that Woodstock is going along with Snoopy, which is great, and it again speaks to that fun relationship the two of them have.
Harold: And we can't overlook panel two. It's full of all the dialogue, so it kind of takes over the art. But if you just took the art by itself and took away the border and the balloon and all the wording, that, too, is a brilliant drawing of.
Jimmy: Snoopy as the vulture can't sleep on the tree. I think the tree looks great.
Jimmy: It's such a Charles Schulz tree. Going back to the Christmas special and everything else that's a spindly. Old Charles Schulz tree. I love it. So, okay, we're going to take a break now and, get a little snack or whatever, and then we're going to come back and we will, talk about some more personas. So we'll be back in a few and, we'll catch you then.
VO: Hi, everyone. Have you seen the latest anger and happiness index? Have you admired the photo of Jimmy as Luke Skywalker? Or read the details of how Michael co-created the first comic book price guide? Just about every little known subject we mention is referenced on the Unpacking Peanuts website. Peanuts obscurities are explained further, and other stories are expanded more than you ever wanted to know, from Albert Payson Terhune to Zipatone. Annette Funicello to Zorba the Greek, plus the latest tier list, and of course, the Shermometer. check it all out at unpackingpeanuts.com/obscurities.
Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back. Guys, how about we check, out what people have to say that hit us up on the hotline.
Jimmy: All right. This is from Troy Wilson.
“Tough competition here, I suppose I would have to go with world war I flying ace with a close second being Snoopy as a vulture.”
Harold: Good choices.
Jimmy: Those are good choices. Those are good choices. I like the world war ace. And we heard from Joshua Stauffer.
“My favorite Snoopy persona is Flash Beagle. In 1984, Snoopy brings his happy dance to a whole new level in an animated parody of the movie Flash dance.”
Yeah. So Flash Beagle is Joshua Stauffer's. Now, I'm sure neither of you guys know Flash Beagle. Maybe Harold.
Harold: Oh, I know, Flash Beagle.
Michael: it's in the future. I don't know, anything about it.
Harold: Yeah, I think with leg warmers, it's going to be the top of the list.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's a whole musical special. I do think there is a great maybe I'm wrong, but there is a great segment in that I think that special called Listen to Lucy, where they're basically playing Simon Says. Yeah, that's a really nice job. All right, so that's the hotline. Thanks for calling, and if you want to call us and just talk Peanuts, you can always leave a message anytime, day or night. And that number is
Jimmy: All right, so give us a call. Let's go back to the strips.
Michael: Well, I was just wondering, do you, Jimmy, happen to know, just off the cuff, what the first human character that Snoopy invented or imitated off the just now?
Jimmy: I'm here now, just searching the recesses of my mind palace to try to come up with it. I believe the first person other than made up person oh, I think he may have been, Dracula at one point. So he was Dracula. That was probably the very first time he appeared as a person. Why don't we check out that strip?
April 18, 1960. Snoopy, walking on his hind legs, is glowering at something. In panel two, we see, he has approached the baby, Sally Brown. His arms are raised over his head with a wicked grin on his face. in panel three, this impresses Sally not at all, so she sticks out her tongue at him. And then Snoopy, now walking as a dog again, walks away annoyed with himself, saying “rats. I'll bet she would have been scared if I had really been Dracula.”
Jimmy: So that's the first time he's doing a human who is know, just someone from around the neighborhood. He's also done things then, like a trapeze artist, a professional bowler. So, this is all from the Peanuts wiki, not actually my mind palace where they went. And like I said, they have like hundreds of these things. They're all cataloged. One thing that I thought was really strange is that August 22, 1965, Snoopy first makes his appearance as the French Foreign Legionnaire, predating the World War I flying Ace, which is really strange. But 1965 is the big year for the Snoopy. That's where the jump happens, because we have the world famous author, the Foreign Legionnaire, the World War I flying Ace, all in that one year.
Michael: Now, was there some kind of media event, like a movie or a TV show about a World War I flying Ace?
Jimmy: The story that is told by Schulz is that and mostly corroborated by his son Monte, is that Monte used to make World War I airplane models because model kits were huge in the made dozens of airplane and car models and spaceship models and stuff like that. Monte would do that as well. He made the Sopwith Camel and brought it in and said, according to Monte, he said, wouldn't it be great if Snoopy was a World War I pilot? And according to Schulz, he saw the model and said, that's really great. I should put Snoopy as a World War I pilot. So that's where it comes from. Probably somewhere in the middle of those two versions.
Michael: Okay. Now, I thought maybe because the Foreign Legion Snoopy did not take off, like, in an airplane, that it wasn't just in the Zeitgeist at the time, and it wasn't used that much, where I thought maybe there was a big Hollywood, movie about World War I or something.
Jimmy: I mean, there were, like, movies like The Great Waldo, Pepper, but those were later. Those were seventies, I think. Yeah, I can't think of anything off the top. Harold would probably have a better idea.
Harold: Well, I think something that was happening around that time, we could maybe check and see if it lines up.
Michael: The Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.
Harold: Well, right, because Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World came out in 63, and so these epic kind of comedy things started to happen. And I think the flying machines may have been 65. And then you got all the other stuff, like, around the world, 80 days, which was much earlier than that. But yeah, there was a thing for those kind of epic. But the flying machines, I think, was 65. What date does the first Snoopy come one come out?
Jimmy: October 10.
Harold: Maybe that does line up.
Jimmy: Yeah. From what I've only heard, it's the model thing. Now, the models might have been made because of the movie. You know what I mean? It might be once removed Influence.
Harold: it came out in June 16, 1965. So it does line up pretty well.
Jimmy: There you go.
Michael: That makes sense. And the Foreign Legion was kind of dead as a trope. It was hot in the 40s and 50s probably.
Jimmy: Yeah, I don't think anyone like Gen Z out there would even really know what the Foreign Legion is. Or, for that matter, me, until I Googled it, back when we were talking about it for this podcast.
Harold: Yeah. And that was a very popular movie when it came out.
Jimmy: Oh, you're talking about magnificent men. Yeah. you know what? That's a good shout, Michael. I think you, might be onto something.
Michael: Thank you.
Jimmy: Ah, right, let's see. What now? Again, like I said, guys, this is not the definitive list. This is, some strips I chose of Snoopy's persona. So if you have other thoughts out there, let us hear them. That will bring us to the World War I. Flying Ace.
April 26, 1966. The World War I. Flying Ace is perched atop his Sopwith Camel. He thinks to himself, “here's the World War I flying Ace, searching for the Red Baron.” In panel two, he thinks. “I don't think he knows that my Sopwith Camel is powered by a rotary engine with a right hand torque, so I can evade him by turning hard to the right with the pull of my engine.” Panel three, we see Snoopy's doghouse biplane is littered with bullet holes. And Snoopy, now grounded by the Red Baron, walks away scowling, thinking “he knew it.”
Michael: Now, I wonder if this is the first time we actually see some effect of his imagination.
Jimmy: There is-- hang on. I have it right here. Hold on. Shut up. I don't want to hear a word about that.
Harold: I think somebody just hit the bell.
Jimmy: It's not a plate that has a piece of cake on it, I'll tell you that much. All right. Actually, here I will read this little section from the David Michaelis book, Schulz and Peanuts, which I have previously disparaged. So, I beg forgiveness from whoever was offended by that. I'm going to read this about, the creation of the World War I Flying Ace. This is from page 393, a chapter called The Dawning of the Age of Snoopy.
The World War I Flying Ace took off one day late that summer of 1965, while Sparky was at a drawing board and the 13 year old Monte came in with a model plane. Sparky's recollection was that as they talked about Monte's focker triplane, it crossed his mind to try out a parody of the World War I movies, hell's Angels and the Dawn Patrol, which had gripped him as a boy at the Park Theater.
Harold: Yeah, that's going back.
He thought he might take off on the classic line, captain, you can't send young men in crates like these to die. And then it came to him, why not put Snoopy on the doghouse and let him pretend he's a World War I Flying Ace?
Now, this isn't in this section, but the other thing about this, which I can't find the exact quote now was, when Mort Walker saw the dog on top of the doghouse, acting like a pilot of a plane, which was actually a doghouse, and then saw the bullet holes in the doghouse. Mort Walker said to Schulz, I don't know anything about cartooning. Because he could really yes. Because he could not grapple with just the surrealism of it. And he looked at that and saw the success of it and was like, this is something that's beyond me. It's pretty wild for someone who is a huge success.
Harold: Yeah. And given the liberties that as a cartoonist that he would take with what he did, it's interesting that there were certain rules that he'd never even considered to break or bend.
Jimmy: And it is funny when you think about it, because, again, when you go back to this thought of Schulz in his polyester pants and long sleeve dress shirt with a sweater vest or whatever, and you think, this has to be like the most by the rules person going. But it was in his art. He just followed his muse wherever it took him, it seems.
Michael: Well, he did have rules, but at this point, especially with the Red Baron strips, he starts breaking them because that was one thing I didn't like, is you actually start seeing the fantasy. You see him, in the cafe, drinking. At that point, it seemed like it was no longer the classic Peanuts I knew. It was in a different world altogether now.
Jimmy: But does it bother you when, like, for instance, in this strip, you see the bullet holes, but nobody else sees the bullet holes?
Michael: Well, there's no one else to see the bullet holes.
Jimmy: That’s what I mean
Michael: Are they there if no one sees them?
Jimmy: Exactly. They don't exist. Right. It would be more if, I'm putting words in your mouth, but is it more when, let's say, Marcie would walk up and notice the bullet holes or something?
Michael: I don't it's-- it's definitely weird, and it's definitely something he hadn't been doing. So you accept the rules of Peanuts, and they're not clear, but it's rarely jarring.
Michael: But there were a few times in the 60s where I went like, whoa, I can't accept that.
Jimmy: Right. One of the things I find interesting about going through this reread with you in particular, because you were, an OG fan, is you seem to accept some of the stuff that came later if you had no knowledge of it at the time. I'm thinking of this talking school building. Like, you're open to that, but you don't like the things that you encountered, then that sort of turned you off it.
And it's funny, I got the DC comics app, so you could read all the old DC comics and stuff like that. And I find that that's true for me with some of those things, too. Once there was enough distance or just not any kind of personal connection to it, I was able to see some of the things in a different light than the stuff I read when I was, like, 16 and just was like, this is not happening. This is not working for me anymore.
Michael: Yeah, because I was a big fan of the Flash, and I read almost all of them, probably from the late 50s on. And it's one of the most preposterous superhero comics ever. I mean, one of the villains, like, rides a tricycle and wears…. but everybody just went along with it. The villain of the month. And then there was one issue, because the guys who were doing Flash that time were also doing it back in the 40s.
Michael: And the 40s was totally different. Anything went. And there were these characters in the original Flash called the three wise guys, which was basically the three stooges. I mean, they were clearly cartoon characters, and because the authors remembered them from when they were younger, they had, oh, let's bring back the little wise guys. People freaked out. I mean, based on the letter column, like, this isn't the Flash. The Flash can't meet these three cartoon characters. And people were so outraged that the guy on the tricycle the Trickster was no problem. But guys who look cartoony in the Flash.
Jimmy: Carmine Infantino is drawing the Flash again when I was a kid, 30 years later, or whatever, pretty wild. . Yeah, it is really strange. Boy, nowadays, people that work within the, you do anything with an intellectual property that someone loves. So yeah, people love what they love.
Jimmy: And here's something I love.
June 12, 1971. Snoopy in his Joe Cool shades is leaning up against the doghouse and he thinks, here's Joe Cool hanging around, trying to figure out what he's going to do this summer. He thinks, “if I had some wheels, I could go to LA.” “On the other hand,” he thinks, “if I had some wheels, I wouldn't have to go to LA.” Then he takes the familiar pose again up against the doghouse and thinks, “here's Joe Cool hanging around, trying to figure out what he's going to do this summer.”
Jimmy: And since he can never get too much Joe Cool, here's a second one.
May 8, 1972. “Here's, Joe Cool. Walking across the campus.” And we see Snoopy with his shades on, walking around outside. In panel two he's just looking around out in the field and he says, “as I see it, I have two choices. I can go to the student union and eye chicks, or I can go to the library and study for my finals.” In the last panel, we see Snoopy leaning casually up against his doghouse, thinking, “here's Joe Cool hanging around the student union, eyeing chicks.”
Jimmy: Okay, so what do you guys have to say about Joe Cool? I'm a big Joe Cool fan.
Michael: I did not know any Joe Cool types.
Jimmy: No, I don't know that anyone knows them. do you ever just see them at a distance? You know what I mean?
Michael: I don't think I was aware of this persona when I read these. It didn't strike a chord.
Jimmy: How about you, Harold? Especially growing up around, colleges?
Harold: Well, gosh, it's hard to put into words because Snoopy this is Snoopy pretending to be a student, right?
Michael: Who’s pretending to be a student.
Harold: But what he can do as a student is so little because he's a dog. He's not at a college. He's hanging out either at the school or at his dog house. And so he's creating a world just like he would with the World War I flying ace that is just completely fabricated with nothing but his interior life. So, I don't know, I mean, the idea that somebody could be hanging out and not doing much is Snoopy's conceit, which I think is kind of the fun of there. There aren't a ton of Joe Cools out there in real life, but here's a dog's idea of what it is to be cool in a world where cool was increasingly important.
The whole idea of cool, we've talked about this before off this podcast, but the idea, of cool really seemed to kind of kick in in maybe the super strong and in the mid 50s with Marlon Brando, and we had this whole wave of coolness that was often shown in, say, rock music. And it was it was this odd posture that, for a time, seemed to really dominate the mind of youth, and it seemed to think it seemed to look like it would never go away. And then all of a sudden, it just kind of petered out. He's kind of captured this concept of the person who doesn't show their emotions. The shades are the classic thing, right. You don't see emotion, and that you're on top of things, but detached at the same time. That was very much the culture. And the idea that Schulz is kind of parodying cool and showing that it actually can be quite empty because you're so detached and because you're supposedly above everything, but you really have nothing going.
Jimmy: And it's interesting listening to you talk about this, that we still use the word cool all the time. Oh, that's cool, this is cool, but it doesn't mean the same thing as it did back then. The detached part was part of I mean, that comes out of cool jazz, I think, right, Michael? which means, like, laid back and detached and blah, blah, blah. Yeah.
Michael: Don't show your emotions in public.
Jimmy: But that's not what it means.
Michael: Miles Davis was like the birth of the cool. I mean, the thing with Miles Davis is he would not acknowledge applause. He would, like, walk off the stage when other people were soloing.
Michael: You don't show emotions and you express them in your art.
Jimmy: That version of cool does not have the same cultural cachet as it did way back when.
Harold: I mean, it had tremendous yeah, yeah.
Jimmy: Well, the other thing that it is, is so obviously, tied into his life with his kids going off to know it feels like a parody gentle of that.
Harold: Yeah, he's seeing his kids maybe trying on personas and putting on ears and this know, again in America, that's one of the things that people seem to always be able to do is you reinvent yourself whenever, you know, and not every culture has that. And I think that this era of cool where Snoopy is all about reinventing his persona. That's what we're talking about this whole episode. He's constantly reinventing himself, trying out this and that. And cool was one that wasn't just personal to Snoopy, like, say, a vulture. This was something that I think huge amounts of people were saying, hey, you know, I want to appear like I'm above it all. I want to appear like, nothing can faze me. I want to appear like I've got it all together. It's cool and collected. And that's something that he's writing the Zeitgeist on, but in his own idiosyncratic way.
Michael: Well, these are empty people who are posing now. You think of someone who who's the coolest person in this period. It would have to be like John Lennon, but John, even though occasionally he'd be wearing shades, would act goofy all the time
Jimmy: Yes it’s very different,
Michael: which is the opposite of cool. He'd be like trying to get people to laugh all the time.
Jimmy: Right. Dylan would be more classic
Harold: I don't know, because Lennon’s sense of humor would often put up dividing lines between him and an audience. He's above you. Or he's putting somebody down who's not with it. Which is certainly part of that cool persona.
Jimmy: Yeah. But he'd also make goofy faces and stuff all the time. Yeah. Which you cannot conceive of Miles Davis. Like making mugging for the camera. Right.
Harold: Yeah. But still, it's this kind of era of superiority to it that I think does fall in line with the idea. He's like, I can get away with this because I've achieved a certain--
Michael: But in the early seventies, I can't think of anyone I mean, like Jim Morrison. Well, he was dead. They're probably all dead. I don't know. Who in the 70s would personify this kind of cool?
Harold: Let's say in movies, I think of like Steve McQueen,
Jimmy: Pacino, before he became--
Michael: no, but that's hot.
Jimmy: Yeah. I withdraw, my Pacino nomination. Yeah.
Michael: That's like it's boiling over.
Jimmy: Yeah, you're right. Well, yeah, but especially later. He's not boiling over in the Godfather.
Michael: I would think of some of the Spy TV shows. I mean, those guys were cool.
Harold: right. Yeah. James Bond. Absolutely cool. Yeah.
Jimmy: There you go. All right, well, this has been another episode of Coolcast, where we talk about all the hip, laid back things. I will just close by saying I think we could use a little more of this now, because everything's hot now and everything's boiling over, maybe a little bit, being not above it all, but maybe being detached from your hottest it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world these days.
So that's Joe Cool. I truly love Joe Cool. Let's move on, though, to another favorite, the good old the writer here on--
August 30, 1971, Snoopy is atop his dog house, and he is typing away his first panel. We just see. He has typed the letter E. In the second panel, he has typed the word Everything, and he's now thinking then he's back to typing. In panel three, he types Everything You Always and then in the last panel, he types everything You Always Wanted to Know about Beagles, but Were Afraid to Ask.
Jimmy: The reason I picked this is that I wanted to pick it way back when, but I wasn't choosing them then or something, and I forgot about it. This is as risque a joke as Charles Schulz will ever do. But it's meaningless. I assume to people today.
Liz: I got that book for Christmas.
Jimmy: Did you really? Do you want to tell us what it is or should I?
Liz: Please, you go ahead.
Jimmy: It is a title of the hit bestselling book, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask. So for three panels, I think there were some people might have been white knuckling it out there, seeing what Snoopy was, going to title this book. I think that's fun that Schulz went there. I think it's really cute. And the only character who could do it would be Snoopy.
Michael: Yeah. About the Snoopy as the writer, though.
Michael: I don't think this is a persona because I think he's actually writing. He's not pretending to write. He's actually writing.
Jimmy: You know what? You just blew my mind. I'm trying to act cool about it.
Harold: I tend to agree. Yeah. He is an author. He is sending in his manuscripts, apparently, and he is getting back real life responses.
Jimmy: yeah, you know what? Never thought of it that way, but I agree. you are right. but since I already picked another strip, we'll do that one too.
October 15, 1972. We have one of these symbolic panels because this is a Sunday strip and it's Snoopy typing away at the typewriter with a blindfold on and little hearts appearing above the typewriter. Panel two. Lucy.
Harold: What does that mean?
Jimmy: Who knows?
Lucy knows, something's up, though, because she sees him doing this and hears type, type, type. In the next panel, when the strip actually starts, we see Snoopy is typing away on a new story “Toodleoo Caribou, a Tale of the Frozen North.” I know we covered this one, but it just cracks me up. “The stall was empty. Someone has stolen my Polar cow, shouted Joe Eskimo.” This is Snoopy's Story. Snoopy's back to typing. “This is the work of Joe Jacket, who hates me.” Lucy comes up and says, “may you see how your new novel is coming along?” “Be my guest.” Lucy reads “Joe Eskimo and Joe Jacket were rivals for the heart of Sally Snow, who lives south of the iceberg. Joe Eskimo thought back to the night he first shook her hand.”Lucy reads on, “I think you are very nice, he had told her. And they shook hands.” Lucy looks at Snoopy. “They shook hands?” and she walks away saying, “I think your love scene needs a little something.” Snoopy says, “I always get so embarrassed.”
Jimmy: I love that. I love the eye roll, the commas that become upward, rolling eyes. I love that.
Harold: Good old Snoopy writing his chaste novel of love.
Jimmy: Now, do you think it's a novel or a short story? This is going to be an epic.
Harold: golly, I was thinking this was going to go at least novella length.
Jimmy: At least. Yeah, I would think so.
Harold: He's introducing a lot of characters here.
Jimmy: Yeah. And you know, someone like Joe Jacket has a backstory. There's no question.
Harold: There's a lot going on. Yeah. Joe Eskimo and Joe jacket and just a couple of panels. There's a lot going on here. There's a lot of texture and nuance.
Jimmy: Some real, high foreheads there Michael, too, especially second tier.
Michael: How are we doing? Oh, yeah, this is classic forehead territory.
Harold: And Snoopy follows the edict, that they say, write what you know. Totally.
Jimmy: I love that, too.
Harold: That's just great. If this is in Hennepin county, it can't be that far away from the frozen north.
Jimmy: I like that. She lives just south of the iceberg.
Harold: Yeah, right. She's not living in total frozen tundra.
Jimmy: You don't want to deal with those north of the iceberg people there.
Harold: No, those people are just roughing it for the sake of it. All right, that's very cool.
Jimmy: Here's something embarrassing I'll tell you about myself. I grew up in this place called Schuykill county, Pennsylvania, or the scook as it's called. And my whole life did people--
Harold: Its called the skook?
Jimmy: Yeah, the skook. Yeah. The fact that the skook backwards is kooks total coincidence. I lived there for, like, 22 years, and people would say, oh, they live south of the mountain. Oh, yeah, they're up, north of the mountain. I have no idea what mountain they're talking about to this day.
Jimmy: Still don't know what they're talking about. The entire town. I think they mean the town of Frackville, but I refuse to acknowledge that as a mountain, so I'm not 100% sure what they mean.
All right, now here we are, folks. Finally, we have arrived at the pinnacle of, basically art, and it is Snoopy as the world famous grocery clerk.
August 27, 1970. Snoopy, wearing a little apron, is standing, atop his doghouse, and, miming something, and he thinks to himself, “here's the world famous grocery clerk working at the checkout counter.” Coffee, 89, mustard, 23, olives, 68, eggs, 59 magazine--” Then, having said magazine, he looks up, flashes a big, cheesy grin, gives his imaginary customer the side eye, and thinks, “going to do a little heavy reading tonigh, eh?” And then he watches the imaginary customer walk away with a smile on his face as he thinks. “Whenever a customer buys a magazine, you always ask him if he's going to do a little heavy reading tonight.”
Jimmy: And as I've said, I used to do that at the store, and it was never once recognized by anyone.
Harold: For those of us who lived in this era, for those of you who just know about scanning, there was an art form if you were around, an amazing cashier. They had all of these really heavy mechanical buttons that they were pressing to add up to these numbers, and they were having to read the price or having memorized it, they're just running through. They know that the asparagus-- del Monte asparagus is $0.69, because usually it was stamped in some weird purple ink on top of silver. And these people who were really good were flying through this with this beautiful symphony of clicks and rattles. And it was like while they're reading the stuff and carrying on conversation, they were rock stars. They were rock stars. They were amazing. It's a lost art. And I would love to know if anybody ever really captured much of people doing that who were really good at it on film or something, because it was something to behold.
Jimmy: Well, when I worked at the grocery store, they were just transitioning to scanning. But not all of the things in the store were able to be scanned, so you had to know both. And I remember working with a woman who had worked for there for like 20 years and she couldn't stand scanning. She felt like she was good at something and it was taken away from her. It's like, well, any idiot can do this.
Harold: I get that. It was an absolute art form. And then if you happen to go to a store that had like top value stamps or S&H green stamps, there are these gigantic dials getting all of these stamps out. It was like this magical it was like going to Vegas when you shopped, because you would get these stamps, these colorful green and red black stamps that you would then lick and put into books and collect to get your next dining room table or whatever. They had turned this whole thing into an amazing mechanical art.
Jimmy: Yeah, we should explain the green stamps thing. Ah, you'd spend x amount of dollars and you'd get x amount of stamps for how much you spent and you'd put them in these books and you'd save up the books. And then you'd have a catalog and then you could pick out anything you wanted from it. In some bigger stores or big cities. Rather, they actually had a store you could go to and actually see the items as portrayed beautifully in the episode of the Brady Bunch about green stamps. That's how I got my first guitar, was a green stamp guitar.
Harold: Oh, see, there you go. And see, there has to be a museum somewhere in the United States that has one of those machines still running by some amazing mechanical person who's keeping all the things running. And they have to invite somebody in their like 80s. It's like riding a bike. They come in there and it's like, okay, we're going to give you a bin full of 100 items. Go. And that would be the coolest thing to see in that exhibition, would be watching that person blow you away.
Jimmy: 69. If you had two beans, three x 69, then there'd be a percentage. Oh my god, there was a 20% off whatever. Oh, and then people would bring their coupons at the end.
Harold: No, I would go to the museum that would capture that lost art, because that is genuine lost art. that I very fondly remember.
Jimmy: Harold, I think there are probably about a half dozen museums in this country of which you are the only person who has ever attended them. I think the Grocery Clerk Museum might be that, too, although I'd go with you for that one.
We tragically lost an amazing part of the 20th century to the Coronavirus in Pennsylvania, Roadside America, which was like a little you go over and you see a little village.
Harold: Oh, it's gone.
Jimmy: Yeah. The 20th century is fading from view, people, but not here, because here it's
August 28, 1970, and here's the world famous grocery clerk taking up his position by the checkout counter. He's on top of his dog house again and going down on the old cash register. “Two bread, 39 twice, peaches 27 cookies 49, peanut butter.” Then Snoopy yells out--well in his mind, “hey, Fred, how much on the peanut butter today?” Then he gives us a cheesy grin in the side eye and thinks, “actually, I knew the price. I just like to yell at old Fred.”
Jimmy: This is still a trope in stand up comedy and sitcoms. The calling out on the speakers, it's usually an embarrassing item or stuff, but I don't think it ever happens in real life anymore. But you used to regularly get people just shouting and I used to do it regularly as a cashier.
Harold: Yeah, right. It was a thing. It was a very special part. See, I think this was what was holding, just the overwhelming inexorable push of the cool on the world. There was a coolness to being a checkout person. It was coolness with activity, and noise and clicking and clacking mechanical sounds.
Jimmy: Of all my jobs I had, other than cartoonists, working at the grocery store was my favorite. You could go outside, collect the carts that would be killed a few minutes. You didn't have to do anything. I love spraying the produce down using a hose indoors. That's always fun. It's a good time.
So, yeah, that brings us to the end of the strips I chose. Obviously, there are hundreds of other Snoopy personas that we could have discussed, and we would love to hear from you. So if you want to follow along with us or give us a shout out on social media, you can find us on Twitter, on Threads, and on Instagram, and they're all at Unpack Peanuts and then YouTube and Facebook we are Unpacking Peanuts. And you can leave a comment any place there. You can also go to our website and send us an email or check out our hotline. And you could leave, a voicemail or send a text. And that number is
Liz: 717 219 4162.
Jimmy: Hey, Harold, before we head out, you're still on the road. Can you tell people, where they might have a chance to run into you?
Harold: Oh, I think the next chance is going to be none other than the Southington Connecticut Apple Fest. I'll be there, September 29, through the first it's a Friday through Sunday, and then the following weekend, October 6 through Eigth. So if you're in the Southington Connecticut area and you're interested in a Golden Delicious or Winesap, you can, drop by and, pick up, your Unpacking Peanuts vinyl sticker, some Sweetest Beast books, Mystery Science Theater graphic novel. And there's all sorts of good stuff that I'll have there available. So I'd love to get to see you in person and catch up. But do remember to ask for that vinyl sticker and identify yourself as an Unpacking Peanuts listener.
Jimmy: And if you do that, if you go to the Apple Festival and you meet Harold, who, by the way, my kids, when they were toddlers, called Mr. Apples just because he brought apples to our house once. But if you do that, here's what you want. You do go to the Apple Festival, meet up with Harold, get a selfie taken, send me that selfie. If you do that, I will send you my grandmother's apple pie recipe, which is, the best. But buy some Granny Smiths while you're there. You want to be ready for it.
Harold: Okay? Wow, what a deal. Well, thanks for sweetening the pot there.
Jimmy: Okay, so that's it for this week. Next week we're going to be back to the regular schedule going 1975 to 2000. Not in one episode. We're just going to do 1975, part one, but you know what I mean. It'll be good and exciting getting back to, the regular coverage of the strip. so until then, for Michael and Harold, this is Jimmy. Be of good cheer.
Harold and Michael: Yes, be of good cheer.
VO: Unpacking peanuts is copyright jimmy Gownley, Michael Cohen and Harold Buchholz; produced and edited by Liz Sumner; music by Michael Cohen; additional Voiceover by Aziza Shukralla Clark. For more from the show, follow UnpackPeanuts on Instagram and Twitter. Unpackingpeanuts on Facebook and YouTube. For more about Jimmy, Michael and Harold, visit unpackingpeanuts.com. Have a wonderful day and thanks for listening.