Monday, August 4, 2014

August 4 is Snoopy Day! Let sleeping dogs lay!


Happy Snoopy day!

Friday, May 16, 2014

October 1955

October 1955 begins on here.  Come along and follow the kids through the run-up to and day of Halloween.

October 3:
This is a bit of playground lore that's not as well-known now as it was in 1955.  I remember being confused by it when I read it in the early 80s.  Wikipedia has more on the phrase, under the alternate spelling "Olly olly oxen free."  It also has a long list of uses in popular culture, including some quite recent, so maybe I'm the only one who's not real familiar with it.

October 4:
Davy Crockett vs. Beethoven again.  They're two rather idiosyncratic figured to be brought into opposition with each other.

There are all kinds of interesting things about Mount Rushmore.  There are few things that signal the United States of America as much.  The four faces are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt.  That last one seems somewhat out of place among the four; Washington and Jefferson were founding fathers, and Lincoln got the nation through the Civil War, but T. Roosevelt, while popular and charismatic and generally well-thought-of to this day, doesn't really hold the same place in US history.  He died in 1919, but was considered sure to be reelected in 1920, so maybe his inclusion was a memorial, or a tribute to years we could have had.

October 5:
Still giving the dog candy I see.  I don't think dogs generally appreciate mint, although reactions vary greatly.  A dog who was slipped an Altoid, I expect, would not trust such a thing coming from the hand of a human again for a long while after.

October 6:
I can't say for 500 years, but nearly sixty years later, we can tell.  Or we would if these strips were in color.

October 7:
We still don't know for sure who Snoopy belongs to, but this again implies he's Charlie Brown's.  It's also a cute drawing, and I rarely need a different excuse to post Snoopy.
October 8:
This is an unusually extreme example of Charlie Brown's ability to denigrate himself.  Where does this come from?  From what spring in Schulz's soul comes Charlie Brown's angst?  Maybe it comes from his earlier efforts to fund work as a cartoonist, which I think has never been an easy field to break into.

October 9:
It really is frightening if you think about it enough.  Explore this for a while if you don't believe me.

October 10:
Before he even got the words out of his mouth.  That's our girl!  The big smile on her face is the best part. And Charlie Brown is a character that expresses dismay very well.

October 11, 12 and 14:
Variations upon the theme of leaves.  The jumping into them in the strip from the 14th is interesting; earlier, Schulz would have probably drawn Lucy leaping in while remaining vertical, but this is funnier.

October 15:
Does this conclusively make Snoopy Charlie Brown's dog?  He's in the house while he's eating and begging at his table.  Speaking of which, that's got to be a short table.  And why is Snoopy thinking "chomp chomp chomp" and "smack smack" in the second and third panels?

October 16:
Lucy's face in panel 4 is the essence of shouting.  This is a good strip for establishing Linus' personality as the put-upon brother.  The way his mother tells him to "put that gun away," which Linus does by just unfolding his hand, I think is nice.  By the way, I just noticed that the "by Schulz"  byline in the lead panel hasn't been showing up lately in these Sunday strips, he's just been leaving his usual signature in the art.

October 19:
Those eyes at the end are far outside of the strip's usual art style.  But still, cute drawing of Snoopy.  Schulz seems to have a lot of fun drawing him at this stage.

October 21 & 23:
These strips present Charlie Brown's moroseness as self-absorption.  It's interesting that the double-act of Patty and Violet are subjected to it in the Sunday strip.

October 25-27:
Have some Beethoven.  Mentioned in the October 25th strip, Beethoven's 9th (and last) Symphony is considered by some to be the greatest piece of music ever composed.  It was the first symphony by a major composer to provide parts for human voices.  Judging from that Wikipedia page, it's possible that the text read by Charlie Brown refers to the audience reaction to the 9th Symphony.

October 28-31:
And we finished up with a few Halloween strips.  One of the prominent early themes of Peanuts are kids reacting to societal trends.  It's unclear why Lucy would be sued in the strip on the 28th; would ghosts be considered to have a copyright on that model of ghost costume, or would he likeness of them be consider defamation?  The costumes in the Sunday strip are reminiscent of those from "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," one of the great Peanuts specials.  (It'll still be some time before Linus invents the Pumpkin.)

Finally, the strip from the 31st is maybe a bit out of character for the Peanuts kids, but it's a great gag, and shows off Charlie Brown's leadership abilities, for once, in a positive light.  It would have been entertaining to see his plans in action, but it doesn't seem really the group's style to be that organized, so possibly it's best we don't see it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

September 1955

These are notable strips from September 1955, a sequence that begins here on the gocomics website.

September 1:
More "fussbudgeting."  I wonder about the origins of that word.  Anyone out there have access to an OED?

September 2:
Wikipedia, paraphrased, from Sputnik:
"Sputnik 1  was the first artificial Earth satellite. It was a 58 cm (23 in) diameter polished metal sphere, with four external radio antennas to broadcast radio pulses. The Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957. It was visible all around the Earth and its radio pulses were detectable. The surprise success precipitated the American Sputnik crisis and triggered the Space Race, a part of the larger Cold War. The launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments."

This strip went out a couple of years before that, so I assume they're talking about unsuccessful US efforts to orbit a satellite.  Anyway, over the years Charlie Brown's had so many stomach-aches from listening to his friends I'd think it's indicative of some deeper issue, maybe ulcers.

September 3:
This has some cute drawings of Snoopy in it, especially in the third panel.  Also, serif'd letters, which are an interesting idea in comic lettering.

September 4:
Snoopy dance!  We can't have seen it more than a couple of times to this point.  It makes a sound like stompity here.  A sunflower seed does seem like insufficient reward for all that effort, although its specificity is interesting.

Snoopy's expressions throughout this strip are great, but especially in the first and last panels.

September 5:
More on satellites.  Lucy, I think I remember Schulz saying at one point, is a character that expresses indignation well -- apparently, even when it's misplaced.  Of course these days all satellites are equipped with advanced dog-detection and evasion programming, and special maneuvering jets they use on re-entry to enable them to avoid crushing wayward canines when they fall through the atmosphere at the end of their working life.

September 6:
This is the first strip where Snoopy actually roleplays as some other animal.  Before he just moved like a snake, by way of demonstration, but here he acts the part.  In upcoming decades this would become one of the most defining aspects of the character.  Snoopy's body will become increasingly flexible and malleable to support these flights of fancy.

September 7:
More slithering around.  We've also got a nice stylized question-mark.  Of course snakes, like all wild animals, don't have it nearly as good as Snoop does here.  In my part of the country, folks kill most snakes without second thought.  Much like....

September 8: this.  Snake sequence #3.  BTW, seeing Lucy playing with a doll seems a little weird to me.  It seems like she should at least be putting pins into it, or something.

September 9:
Lucy keeps skate keys hidden all over the neighborhood.  In case of skating emergencies.  (If you get the reference I'm making there, well, I admit it, I'm a fan.)

Yahoo Answers (sometimes it's actually helpful!) supplies the meaning here, which confused me as a kid too.  It seems that it used to be that roller skates were originally worn over shoes, and the key was inserted to adjust a metal frame so the straps fit securely over them, in the manner of tightening a bolt.  Nowadays roller skates seem to be used less frequently outside of places like roller rinks, which is something of a shame.

September 10:
Charlie Brown's come some ways from his smart-alecky roots, although I don't think he ever quite loses that entirely.

September 11:
Snoopy is a fun character to look at, and this strip is nearly entirely his reactions.  The best ones are panels 1, 5 and 7.

September 13:
This one's has its roots in a sort of sarcastic adult observation about the manner in which kids treat their possessions.  The Lucy has a set procedure for this indicates that she's seen her fair number of boxes of new crayons. Linus' admiration is the heart of the strip, though, that extra touch that makes it more than just kiddie shenanigans.

September 15:
Linus is becoming more talkative, and as he does he moves further into the regular cast.  I like the joke here, which kind of implies that the severity of a condition requires doctors drive a larger vehicle, in order to freight all that severity around with them.

September 18:
This one refers to the strip from last month, continuing with Snoopy's croquet hoop antics.  Croquet hoops are fairly low to the ground, so Snoopy can't be that large a dog to get away with this.  There's some cool lettering in this one.  Check out the serif'd outlines on the lowercase "hop" in panel 10.

September 19:
Can you imagine how creepy it would be to see a real dog with the expression Snoopy wears in the last panel here?

September 20:
You just know Lucy would be a big hit there.  The whole joke here comes from the incongruous final panel, which is intended to shock the reader just enough to be funny.  There's another similar strip I remember reading in which Lucy laments that she never really gets what she wants for Christmas: real estate!  It's important that the reveal be short to maintain the timing of the joke.

September 21:
Again I ask: how does Snoopy blush through fur?

September 22:
I've remarked before about Schulz's rain, which appears to be labor-intensive.  It looks like it was lightly applied, which produces the thin, reedy lines seen here.  Keep in mind, one of the secrets to cartooning is that artists typically work much larger than you see in the newspaper, so those thin rain lines weren't quite so thin when he drew them.  While Schulz does a good job with avoiding the thought bubbles and speech balloons, you can see a couple of places where the rain intrudes slightly into the bubble. 

September 23:
I think this strip is the first time Linus quotes anything.  Later on, he'd become known as the biblical scholar of the group.  I notice that Lucy's clothes here somewhat resemble the clothes she'd wear in later strips, once her wide-bottomed blue skirt became too old-fashioned to retain.

September 24:
Wait, what?  Are the ducks hunting the dogs?  Maybe I don't get it.

September 25:
Panels 2 and 4 here are interesting for being early examples of characters walking in perfect profile on the ground, without a shadow or horizon line behind them.

September 26 & 27:
Schroeder gets to show off his musical knowledge again.  I looked up the song Schroeder mentions in the first panel: yikes!  If it's the right piece, that's a formidable bit of playing.

The shrunken character representing embarrassment is something we've seen before.  One thing your more inventive comic artists might do is try to supplement the fairly arbitrary, traditional visual language of comics with new ideas.  For those new to comics, Berkeley Breathed supplied a helpful visual guide to some of the more common of these visual representations.  It might be interesting to add: Japanese comics, or manga, shares some of this visual language, but also has a completely different set of them, more formalized, and so firmly established that they've branched out into anime as well, so characters will sport, say, a large stylized sweat droplet to indicate strain, or throbbing veins for anger, even when those states could be indicated through speech and animation.

September 28:
Blankets may provide emotional succor, but ultimately, are purely material.  It doesn't seem to be a sacred object to Linus yet.

September 29:
Surprised and shaking Snoopy is best Snoopy.

September 30:
And we end with my favorite strip of the month.  Charlie Brown's reaction makes this one for me.  Sticks and stones can break his bones, and a good insult will send him reeling too!  He actually seems to be in pain there.  Lucy's joy at inflicting damage upon Charlie Brown's psyche doesn't seem to be personal.  She doesn't hate him, the joy she feels is more at the exhibition of personal skill.  Look at that wide smile in the first panel.  Hurray!

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That's September.  We didn't skip too many this time out I notice, there's still a good ratio of interesting strips to skipable ones.  Next time, for October 1955, the kids'll be fascinated by autumn leaves, we'll look at the origins of a mysterious playground phrase, Lucy throws Linus into a state of existential dread, and, of course, there's Halloween.  Stay tuned!