Thursday, December 31, 2009

March 31, 1952: First non-traditional layout


Newspaper comics, for all the (potentially) wonderful things about them, are also heavily restricted in format. Charles Schulz is recorded as saying that for a long time he stuck with a four panel layout because it allowed the newspapers the most flexibility in arranging them. They could be run in a two-by-two box, or as a column of single panels. But here we see him experimenting within the form by sub-dividing the panels into two sub-panels each.

It works well here because there is little speech in this one. It wouldn't exactly lend itself to Linus expounding on the Old Testament.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sunday, March 30, 1952: Lucy's developing taste in music


Lucy is especially baby-like in this one. Since the strip has a new resident infant, it frees Schroeder up to solely be the musician. Weirdly, in this strip Lucy has probably said more than Schroeder has in the entire run up to this point.

This is the first strip to exhibit Lucy's early tendency to refer to herself in the third person. Of all the Peanuts characters, I think Lucy might be the one to change the most. Even more than Snoopy.

There are weirder things still here. Lucy looks extra creepy in the first panel up there, and her words in the next-to-last panel seem oddly chosen, if explainable by her lack of skill in the language. In the last panel Schulz finds a good compromise between the circled-eyes look and general character appeal. It is a prototype of the parenthesis eyes that Lucy would adapt for the majority of Peanuts' run, the same type that Linus has out the gate.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

March 28, 1952: Lucy, Live on Stage


The curtains at the sides lend this strip an odd theatrical appearance.

The strip itself is another of those instances of Lucy pestering her father, who as we've noted before are reputed based on the childhood antics of Charles Schulz's daughter Lisa.

This may be the creepiest yet we've seen of Lucy's wide-eyed early look. In that first panel especially she looks like visions of Hell hold no secrets for her.

Monday, December 28, 2009

March 26, 1952: That's just-- an alibi!


It's Lucy's first strip with characters other than Charlie Brown or her unseen father. The girl looks pretty miserable in the second panel, doesn't she?

Also of note here, it's Violet's first strip with her hair done in a ponytail, probably done so she doesn't look so much like Lucy.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

March 24, 1952: Bring me my bear, servant!


The fifth sixth Lucy strip. Another instance of Lucy's demanding interactions with her unseen father. Apparently Schulz got the idea for these strips from his then-newbown daughter, Lisa. I hope he didn't get the idea for Lucy's later personality from her as well!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sunday, March 23, 1952: More Baseball


The first baseball-themed Sunday strip, and a foreshadowing of the career of Charlie "The Goat" Brown.

Patty playing umpire in the first panel is especially nice.

In panel 5, which base is it that Charlie Brown is running to? There seems to be some confusion between Patty and Violet on the matter. If you look closely, the drawing of Patty in that frame is a bit of a throwback; she's reverted to her old round-headed look. It's interesting that I didn't notice how all the characters except Charlie Brown have been slowly moving from having oval heads when viewed in profile or three-quarters to having recessed eyes and prominent foreheads.

Friday, December 25, 2009

March 22, 1952: About face


It's a turnabout/chase strip in which Charlie Brown didn't intentionally insult Patty. He seems to be growing out of his smart-aleck phase.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

March 21, 1952: Charlie Brown before the great kite slump


Your eyes do not deceive you, he is actually flying a kite. And flying a kite low is a hell of a lot harder than flying one high. As the kid gets older his physical skills go to pieces.

Maybe we need a word for Charlie Brown's life before he became such a failure. Maybe we should call this his "pre-goat period."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

March 18, 1952: Requiem for a composer


The second appearance of Schroeder's bust of Beethoven. While we remember that Charlie Brown introduced Schroeder to the piano pianoforte, this strip implies that he also introduced him to Beethoven.

I kind of wish I lived in a world in which little kids were up on major classical composers, although it'd be a little intimidating.

300 posts!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

March 17, 1952: Lucy Lucy Quite Contrary


This is Lucy's fifth strip, and the earliest that tends to show up in abridged anthologies seeing as how it's the earliest glimmer of her fully-developed, ultra-antagonistic personality, and how it still has her saucer-eyes.

Those are some big thought balloons.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, March 16, 1952: CAPITAL PUNISHMENT


If your opinion of Peanuts has been determined entirely by "Happyness is a Something Saccharine" plaques, then take a look at panel 5 here. SNOOPY in an ELECTRIC CHAIR. It is also Snoopy's first thought balloons, although there are no words in these. The dog has not yet learned the rudiments of human language.

Dogcatcher jokes have been a staple of cartoons since at least the Termite Terrace days. Snoopy, being ownerless at this time, would have a special cause for avoiding the Homeless Police.

An ice cream bone? Just this one I envy those papers that clipped off the top panels.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

March 15, 1952: 100m Piano Toss


This strip is a variant of the same kind of sudden reaction as the turnabout strips brought up before. Tossing objects is still a common expression of cartoon anger, isn't it? Do this in real life and I don't like to think of how the police would react.

I'm pretty sure I have never heard the term "pianoforte" outside of Peanuts.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

March 14, 1952: He's not THAT snoopy


Snoopy's appearance has been gradually progressing all this time, but this strip seems like one of the more obvious changes.

The later jokes of Snoopy acting a lot like a person, and being treated like one, evolved out of gags such as this one. When Snoopy has been half-human for twenty years it is hard to get humor out of his doing things not expected of dogs, or being treated as human.

Really, what could the girls be so defensive about? They're, what, six?

Friday, December 18, 2009

March 13, 1952: Suddenly materializing chair and footstool


Lucy's fourth strip.

Where did Charlie Brown's chair and footstool in the last panel come from? Did he pull them up and sit down just so he could luxuriate in the punchline?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

EXTRA: Old-school Peanuts figures

Thanks to RAB of Estoreal for pointing me to these figures Dark Horse is putting out of Peanuts characters then and now.

Of course there is nothing wrong, exactly, with the modern representations. But there is a charm in the old depictions that is missing in the newer ones, and that's especially evident in Old-School Snoopy.

The evolution of a comic strip is an interesting thing.  The Garfield of today is unrecognizable compared to the Garfield of the strip's beginnings, and that was in 1978.  In that case, they began as remarkably unattractive characters, enough so that one can only think they were intended to be ugly.  Peanuts went the other way; strikingly composed and sharply designed characters, over the first few years of the strip, transitioned into slightly more realistic, yet definitely less attractive realizations.

Why would Charles Schulz move towards lessening the cute-factor of his characters? My theory is to stave off a perception that his work was kid's stuff, which would be especially important as the strip began to lift off to philosophical heights and cultural relevance. Of course, you may have different ideas.

March 12, 1952: Lucy is top-heavy


Lucy's third strip here. She looks fairly different with those huge eyes, doesn't she? Probably added to make her more visually distinct from Violet, they don't last very long.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

March 11, 1952: Throws like a girl


It's a fairly funny joke here, not the usual source of humor in this one. Most comics (including Peanuts up to this point), it would just be enough to stretch the first two panels here over four.

Consider, for a moment, the comic strip Nancy. Nancy is, itself, a kind of classic, an endless elaboration upon a basic set of jokes. And yet, it cannot really be said to have evolved over time. Ernie Bushmuller was a craftsman. A really good one actually; few comic strips could have maintained the level of competence he provided for Nancy over that period. That is a good word for what Nancy is: competent.

Schulz, we see here, was not interested in mere competence. We can see here that he wasn't interested in applying a formula over and over again forever, that he was engaged with his work and responding to it in an iterative manner. In this strip, he comments upon a kind of joke that just a year earlier he would have made without second thoughts. This is why Bushmuller was a craftsman, but Schulz was an artist.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

March 10, 1952: Because he is a dog


A dog eating half of a tiny piece of candy quickly is worthy of two exclamation points from Charlie Brown?

This one's posted mostly for the haunted look from CB in the last panel. Weird.

March 7, 1952: William Tell


It's been a little while since we've seen Snoopy. So, here: Snoopy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

March 6, 1952: Three-quarters angled down Violet head


This is a fairly ordinary strip, but it's worth posting for the view of Violet's head in the third panel, which is quite interesting. The angle works pretty well I think.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

March 4, 1952: PLEEEESE?


Before her awesome rage-based powers became evident, Lucy was quite the charmer.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

March 3, 1952: Dear god, it's HER


Aww, isn't she cute? Little did anyone, least of all Schulz himself, know that with the introduction of that (literally) wide-eyed little girl jumping rope, there was created perhaps the most concentrated entity of wrath ever to grace the comics page.

The Fuss-Budget. The Mistress Crabby. The Atom Bomb. She that doth provide the football, and she that taketh it hence.

So faint not dear reader, but yet be warned! It has awakened!


Friday, December 11, 2009

Sunday, March 2, 1952: This should satisfy the health inspector


"You've come to the right place... more or less."

It's another joke collage, and another chapter in Violet's obsession with mud food. Muud.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

March 1, 1952: Whee!


How did he get out of his house so fast? How could the characters think they were hiding behind that tiny fence?

The third panel here is most interesting to me, since it depicts three characters running. It's not as easy to depict a cartoon character running, cleanly, as you might think, and those squat Peanuts characters have special issues with it. The general pose these running characters adopt is leaning forward slightly, front leg lifted up and bent, rear leg bent and folder under the body, and arms held out a little with hands crumpled. They are also shown "hovering" in the air. Note that their legs are a little longer when running, so they don't look too strange, but in the last panel their legs must be quite a bit longer for them to be holding that crouching pose.

Note that characters who are actively trying to run lean forward a little, but Charlie Brown, who isn't trying to run very hard because he's not intent on escaping and doesn't know why he's running, is leaning backwards a little. This post also helps to keep him distinct from the other characters, since his head is moved out from behind Patty's. Also note Shermy's pose in the second panel, with his right leg pulling away from the door a little in anticipation of his run. These are the kinds of things a good nuts-and-bolts cartoonist thinks about. It is hard to imagine, say, Scott Adams, whose cartoons are more about irony and banter, and who uses characters mostly as containers for dialogue, it is hard to imagine him spending much time worrying about these things.

Finally, did kids every say "whee" like that?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

February 27, 1952: Ay, there's the rub


There is an unusual convention in this strip, the character who, out loud, comments on something happening in the strip to the reader, who cannot be heard by the other characters in the strip. Notice that Schulz isn't using thought balloons for Charlie Brown. It's a kind of theatrical effect, that of a spoken internal monologue.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

February 26, 1952: Dolls are not good melee weapons


It's been a while since we had a turnabout/chase strip! Patty threatening to hit CB with her beloved doll is nice.

Monday, December 7, 2009

February 25, 1952: "Yes sir, this shampoo is just the thing for your fleas."


In the Peanuts backstory Charlie Brown's father is a barber, which mirrored the occupation of Charles Schulz's real-life father. You can't be blamed for not knowing this fact as it seldom factored into the strip in later years, perhaps due to the awkwardness of making use of the fact after Schulz's own father passed on.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday, February 24, 1952: Sure I've heard of crocodiles


The throwaway first-panel joke, I think, is funnier than the rest of it, though Patty's comment in panel 5 is pretty good.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

February 23, 1954: Hey, guess what it's made of!



At least now she sees that it's not edible.

Friday, December 4, 2009

February 21, 1952: *sigh*


I think this is the first "sigh" in Peanuts, but I could have missed one. It is another step along the way for Snoopy's personality though, growing out of the state in which something as simple as fetch could occupy him.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

February 20, 1952: OMG NEU CHARACTAR


Hey everyone meet Olsen!

I can't say he lasts very long. Especially once the sun comes out....

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

February 19, 1952: So now he's an art critic


Real dogs don't laugh. Here's a fun exercise... try to imagine what Snoopy's laughter sounds like. In the cartoons, it was always a weird kind of squeaky, babyish voice.

There was an animated version of the play You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown I saw some time ago, and it was notable for actually providing a voice to Snoopy's thoughts. This has always been the big things the comic strip has had over the cartoons; you don't hear what Snoopy is thinking, even as a disembodied voice. But that cartoon of the play did, and it was a really weird voice for him too. One could see how one could think of that as Snoopy's inner voice, but at the time it really didn't sound like it fit the character.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

February 18, 1952: Eulogy for the Neighborhood


After some years, the rest of the kids' neighborhood would fade into the background, and ultimately only be shown in a heavily simplified way, often as simple as a straight-on view. Schulz recognized this in his comments in Peanuts: A Golden Celebration. I kind of miss these types of settings. I think they really added something to the strip.

Monday, November 30, 2009

OFF-TOPIC: Beanworld Book 3

Hoka-hoka-hey! The long drought is finally over! Beanworld Book 3 has arrived from Amazon! I've been obsessed with Beanworld for months now, and to actually have not just one, but a thick book of new stories, it seems almost like too much. It is wonderful! This post from Scott McCloud's blog explains why, and also provides some art examples from the new book. (S.McC. has a letter in one of the earliest Tales Of The Beanworld comics, as does Bob Burden of Flaming Carrot!)

It may seem at first to be night-and-day different from something like Peanuts, but the heavily-stylized art styles are fairly similar. Peanuts are a kind of legume after all!

February 14-17,1952: Three strips about perception

February 14 (Valentine's Day):

February 15:

February 16:

All of these strips are about a character's perceptions being shown to be wrong, but in a way they appreciate.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

February 13, 1952: Charlie Brown Must Be Oblivious


We've been going through nearly every strip lately, but there's been a lot to talk about!

The reason I bring up this one is that I think I see in it an early version of the Charlie Brown Messes Up strips of the years to come. The payoff of this strip is unusual. The main comedic punch is in the third panel. If all Schulz cared about was that joke, he really only needed that panel. The others may be dispensed with wholly.

But I don't think Schulz was just concerned with the main joke here. The joke isn't about a clueless kid, it is about the kid's well-meaning observation being shown to be mistaken, and his embarrassment about this. About his realizing that he really should have noticed that he was standing on Snoopy's tail. In other words, this strip is about inadequacy.

Even now, most comic strips would just point and laugh and say, in essence, "That stupid kid! He is stupid! Isn't that funny? Ha! Ha!" By pointing at the stupid person doing something stupid and laughing, it helps to reassure ourselves that we are smart. Peanuts empathizes with the stupid kid, and in the process reminds us that we are all stupid, sometimes.

This is why Peanuts is a great comic strip.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

February 12, 1952: Building a Skating Rink


What is it with the kids' cavalier attitude towards other people's property? Someone must have put those fences up for a reason, presumably in order to keep kids from building skating rinks on them. And how about freezing the water?

I guess what I am saying is, there is a certain lack of realism in this comic strip. I wish Schulz would dispense with this nonsense and get back to little boys playing concerts and dogs living in hotels.

Friday, November 27, 2009

February 11, 1952: Cooking With Violet


In today's episode, we discover that questionable dirt-based desserts are only one of her specialities.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sunday, February 10, 1952: Treace Peaty


The main reason this one is here is because it is the first strip appearance of the famous Peanuts logo in the first panel. Later on it'd get the words "Featuring 'Good 'Ol Charlie Brown'" beneath it, but those are a long way off.

In the intro panels, Charlie Brown seems a fair bit more affectionate towards Snoopy than you'd expect a non-owner to be. Concerning the content, well, these were the days before political correctness. At least Patty is allowed in the game.

Also seen here is one of the relatively few childish mispronunciation gags in Peanuts. I am referring to Charlie Brown's mentioning Shermy and Patty wouldn't be interested in a "Treace Peaty." This Sunday strip is, like some of the other Sundays we've seen so far, basically a collage of jokes erected to pad out what would ordinarily be a weekday strip. Schulz doesn't seem to have yet learned how to pace these longer comics.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

February 9, 1952: Hut Times Any Other Number Is Hut


While not an exceedingly funny joke, this is the first inside-classroom strip, and the eventual site of Peppermint Patty's long struggle against academia.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

EXTRA: The least-accurate depiction of Charlie Brown ever drawn

His shirt is much less stylish (and much more cloying), but at least the kid finally grew some hair!

Don't believe me that this is actually a drawing of ol' Chuck? See for yourself. Found on musical oddities site Way Out Junk, it's from the cover of a rendition of the music from You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

Evidently they got the rights to the music but not the strip, so I'm guessing they had to purposely draw characters that looked nothing like the kids we all know.

February 8, 1952: Beware the Wrath of the Prodigy


Can't really blame Schroeder for getting angry over this one!

Two things. First, Peanuts characters seemed to mellow out a lot over time. Even the mighty Lucy rarely seemed to wear an expression of this ferocity. Second, the rules concerning the depictions of adults and their communications was much less in force here. In many later strips, you wouldn't have seen a word balloon over the radio, and the joke probably would have had to be reworked into a conversation between two of the kids.

Monday, November 23, 2009

February 7, 1952: Snob Dog


Oh come on now.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

February 5, 1952: Lather. Rinse. Repeat.


I've done this very thing, although in my defense I was in the kitchen at the time, and not standing out in a field far away from a stove with which to heat the can's contents. What is required here is another application of the Yossarian School of Philosophy.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

February 4, 1952: Albert Payson Terhune


Albert Payson Terhune. He wrote about collies.

Daily reading time for a dog? Very cute drawings of Snoopy here by the way. Especially in the third, although it looks vaguely un-Snoopy-like.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sunday, February 3, 1952: G.R.O.S.B.


This one is a little stereotypical I guess. It is a general Peanuts fact that the female characters are the equal of the male characters concerning strength, so they could have at least helped. (Lucy may be the same usually, but her FURIOUS ANGRY RAGE gives her super powers. Peppermint Patty is simply a mutant.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

February 2, 1952: The Rapids Under The Bridge


It helps one feel a little bit better about Patty and Violet in their cruel years to think that they have such a short attention span that they can't remain angry at Charlie Brown for more than three panels.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

February 1, 1952: And I'll Rock You Away To That Sugar-Plum Tree


Isn't it just a tiny bit hard to believe that songs like this were ever popular? I think this joke is actually a little bit funnier now because of that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

January 31, 1952: Dog On Skates


It strikes me that, right now, we are about halfway between the original look for Peanuts and the "classic" style of the strip's heyday. Charlie Brown still has an oval head and solid black eyes, but his proportions are a bit less stylized. Snoopy is still relatively small compared to the other characters, but he is a bit longer. (He's still far away from the balloon animal-like look he had in Peanut's later years.)

Oh, the strip itself? There have not been a huge number of funny-cause-he's-a-dog strips so far. (The one with the TV antenna atop his doghouse has been the funniest of that lot.) Thing is, as Snoopy's personality becomes better-known and he becomes less like a normal dog, these kinds of jokes become less effective. I remember, as a kid, seeing some old compilations of Peanuts strips with Snoopy jokes and not quite "getting" them because the humor was tied up in Snoopy doing non-doglike things, when most of my experience with the character came from the days when he had almost given up dogliness altogether.

Just today I saw a copy of one of the old Fawcett Peanuts collections, flipped through it, and found the strip in which Sally laments that she can't go to school because she's not old enough. Snoopy responds in a thought-balloon that you also have to prove you're a human. I remember that strip from reading it in 1st grade and not finding it especially funny. I like it a lot better now.