Tuesday, March 31, 2009

November 17, 1951: Bump! Bump! Klunk! Bump!!


This gag is a prototype of one that would be used later with characters like Linus and Sally.

Someone in the Metafilter thread remarked about Snoopy's warping to the top of the stairs.  Only explanation I can come up with is that Shermy must have fallen past him.

Monday, March 30, 2009

November 15, 1950: Could have been a dog


More character angst, more Snoopy cute.  Snoopy's ears would keep that trick much later.  Notice that in the surprise shot Snoopy has a visible mouth, which is uncommon for him.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

November 13, 1950: Snoopy as coat-rack


More Snoopy ultra-cute.  From the first panel with the three-quarters, behind-the-head perspective, to the last panel with Charlie Brown's coat on his snout.  But what's he doing at Patty's place?  Snoopy is often just sort of "there" in those days.
By the way, I've mentioned these characters' names frequently, but Patty's name has only been mentioned once so far, and Shermy and Snoopy have yet to be named.  Charlie Brown, on the other hand, is named frequently.

Note: A friend noted that Comics.com offers a mechanism for embedding a strip into a page.  This seems as close to an endorsement for putting 'em in the blog as any, and their embed code additionally links to the strip's page.  Two stones, one bird!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Novmber 11, 1950: Kind of calculated, isn't it?

CB is just so sensitive.

Friday, March 27, 2009

November 10, 1950: Snoopy's puppet head

1. Notice Snoopy's snout in the first panel is a little thicker than usual, which helps to make him look a little more like the modern Snoopy.
2. In the last panel, we see him doubled-up.  Snoopy is such a visually-strong character even in those days.  His mouth, opened at a puppety angle like that, is major-league cute.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

November 9, 1950: Frightens me too, bud

Another premonition of Charlie Brown's later outlook on life.
Notice, "another sixty years."  He was nearly ten years short, but still, Peanuts remains in print to this day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

November 7, 1950: Maww mcmaww mra-aww

A rare adult-spoken word balloon.  In television peanuts, these were usually presented as muted trumpet.
Also, this one makes it less obvious that Shermy is Snoopy's owner, although that impression gets reinforced later.  To be torn down again.  Really, it's hard to get a fix on Snoopy's owner until the strip starts to take its backstory more seriously.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

November 4, 1950: Om nom nom


Monday, March 23, 2009

November 1, 1950: Easy eavesdropping

Another strip that'd be unthinkable later.  Doesn't it seem weird, by the way, that Patty is talking about Charlie Brown so close to him?  He's right there.  He's not even hiding behind anything.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

October 30, 1950: The age before white-out

Notice the hasty lettering correction in the second panel!  I also like how it seems to actually turn out to be Charlie Brown's birthday.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

October 25, 1950: Dogs are indiscreet

Snoopy is just too adorable in these panels.  A few months later Schulz will make pretty much the opposite joke in relation to Charlie Brown's diary.

Friday, March 20, 2009

About this Blog

This blog is devoted to reading through every Peanuts strip, from the first to the last, pointing out the most interesting and funniest ones.  I'm not linking to every strip, but a good proportion.

Whether I make it or not I can't say, but there are thousands of awesome strips to come.  It'll be a while yet.  I already have 104 more posts scheduled to go, which takes me through about eight months of the strip.  And the strip is so frequently modern, even in the 50s, and good that it's been a breeze so far.

For following along, I don't, for the moment, inline any strips, instead linking to the appropriate page at comics.com.  It's not an optimal solution I realize, especially since they have popups and flash ads, but it's the best I can legally come up with.  If you own a copy of the Fantagraphics Complete Peanuts (lucky dog), you can follow along that way.  If you'd like one of those, might I direct you to the Amazon Store in the sidebar?

If you're forced to follow along by linking back and forth, the best way to do it, under most tabbed web browsers, is to middle-click (press "in" on the mouse wheel) on the link.  This will open the page in a new tab.

According to comics.com, eventually the Peanuts archive is going to be moving to the site snoopy.com.  I'm unsure if I'll be able to link to strips directly once the archive moves.

EDIT: I'm inlining them now, and I've edited all the prior posts to include the strips themselves.

October 21, 1950: Shermy loses his hand

1. In the first panel, look at where Shermy's hand meets Patty's.  It's drawn just cut off where the two should meet, with a gap defining the separation between the two.  In the last panel it's more obviously a case of Patty's hand overlapping Shermy's.  Schulz is still playing around with the format.  It looks like the cut-off hand thing was viewed as a failed experiment because succeeding strips don't do this.
2. Again, what is up with Snoopy and that flower?  Is his head a planter?
3. A romance between Shermy and Patty had been implied in an earlier strip, and here it's developed a little more.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

October 20, 1950: Snoop-in-the-box

Nice devious look on Snoopy's face in this one, and a good visual gag.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

October 19, 1950: Depression

A premonition of Charlie Brown's later personality.  In these early strips he's fairly well-adjusted.  Although there are scraps between the characters as we've already seen, they're fairly well-off.  The oft-collected "I'm not the hero, I'm the goat" sequence seems unthinkable in these very early days.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

October 18, 1950: Bulbous

Here we see that the characters' bodies are not nearly the width of their heads when viewed from the front.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Welcome to Roasted Peanuts!

This blog is devoted to going through the archives of the entire run of Peanuts, as presented on comics.com, from the earliest days to the end, and picking out interesting, memorable, historic, and above all funny strips.  Thanks to evilcolonel, via this Metafilter thread, for tipping me off to comics.com's presentation of Peanuts' run.

To avoid rights encumberances, the strips are not inlined but linked to the relevant pages of Comics.com.  Honestly I find their ads annoying (they use pop-up ads in addition to filling their pages with additional banners and flash ads, and until recently demanded pay registration to see archives), but it is legal, can be mitigated by using a good browser, and by doing it this way I should avoid copyright problems.  To try to put a happy face on the situation, it also provides for an element of suspense before loading the linked-to strip.

EDIT: We've been inlining them for a while now, using comics.com's helpful embed code. Thanks guys!

Peanuts' first strip was published on October 2, 1950.  It introduced the now-obscure characters Shermy and Patty, but also brought us Charlie Brown.

At the start there were only these three characters plus Snoopy, who was introduced in the third strip, apparently with a flower growing out of his head.  (Now I see that it's tucked into his collar.  Still seems a bit weird, though.)  All the other characters were introduced later.  Violet showed up early in 1951 and quickly settled in with the other characters.  Later on she became mostly interchangable with Patty, but in these days she was slightly more matronly; an early sequence focused on her making mud pies for Charlie Brown.

Of the other major characters, Schroeder shows up in 1951 as a baby.  Lucy also first appears as an infant, one with (for Peanuts characters) freakishly round eyes.  Linus, Sally and Rerun were likewise introduced as very young children.  Back in 1950-1, Shermy, Patty and Violet seem to be about kindergarten age, while Charlie Brown is too young for school.  In the first year school only figures in a few strips, and only one's actually in a classroom.

Generally, Peanuts characters would age until they got to the first grades of school, then would stop.  As a result, Shermy is older than Charlie Brown, who is older than Lucy, who is older than Linus, who is older than Sally, and the characters recognize this, but in the strip they are all generally the same age.  There are a couple of exceptions: "Peppermint" Patty seems to be a little older than the other kids, and Rerun has to remain fairly young to distinguish him visually from Linus.

The strip was heavily stylized right from the start.  In fact, the characters were arguably more stylized in the early days than they'd be later on.  Look at the size of those heads! They're almost like melons on sticks.  However, Schulz was far more likely to present three-quarters perspective in those early days, with much of the visual appeal of the strip coming from these distorted, yet charming, children being represented in more normal surroundings.

Sometimes this necessitated a bit of cheating: in the third panel of the second strip, Patty's punching of Shermy is done with a whir and a "whop," probably because it'd look weird to show her arm stretched out that far.

The second strip has Patty outright punching Shermy, and the fourth has her taking his umbrella!  Until the advent of Lucy -minor chord-, Patty and/or Violet would usually get assigned the job of Thurberesque female spoiler.

The fifth strip is Snoopy's second.  He's almost unrecognizable in these early days!  Notice particularly his pointed snout.  Actually, if you look carefully it actually seems to be rounded in those days, but the nose's positioning at the end makes it look like it comes to a point.

This one's particularly interesting due to the shifting size of Patty's head.  From the front she looks fairly normal, but from the side it's huge.  You might think this is because their bodies are wider than they are deep, but this isn't the case, in other situations their bodies are roughly cylindrical in proportion.  The reason Patty looks different in the jump rope panels is her arms have to be longer in order to accomodate the rope being above her head.  I do not intend to imply, by the way, that this is a weakness in Schulz's art.  Any time you have greatly distorted characters you'll eventually have to cheat like this.  It is an aspect of Schulz's genius that he was able to change the distortion in such a way that it's barely noticable when the need demanded it.

This strip implies that Snoopy's original owner was Shermy!  Actually, although Shermy has the strongest claim to ownership of the dog, most often giving him baths and walks, the other characters do too, and he hangs out at their houses nearly as if he were an additional kid.  Later on Schulz rewrote history, making him the property of Charlie Brown, who got him from the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm. (This information comes from the Metafilter thread.)

These strips come from the earliest age of the strip, when it was focused primarily on one-time gags and if there were a story it'd be a simple sequence of related jokes along a theme.  Creating a comic strip is, IMO, a grueling occupation.  Being funny once in a while most of us can handle, but being funny frequently is hard enough that people make their livings as stand-up comedians.  But even comedians don't come up with entirely new acts every time they perform, and they don't have to draw their material either.  I cannot name a single comic strip artist who kept up a daily pace for more than twenty years without falling into a Beetle Bailey-like rut except for Charles Schulz.

Some people (especially in the Metafilter thread) made the comment that the later days of the strip were a pale reflection of the classic days, and it is difficult for me to deny this.  But what can be done about it?  Bill Watterson chose to end Calvin and Hobbes rather than let the strip fall into the same kind of disrepair, but with the result that it is now exiting the public consciousness, in danger of being drowned out by those horrible truck stickers.  On the other hand, Blondie is now a creature so divorced from its roots that they are unrecognizable; it was originally a comic serial about a gold digging flapper and her playboy paramour.

While Peanuts may not have kept up its brilliance for its entire run, really, what could?  It is my opinion that even at the end it never degraded into Blondie territory, and Blondie itself is still better than many of the rest on the comics page.  I am not sure if I'll be able to maintain interest in a Peanuts blog after the classic years are through, but there is a lot of material to get through before then!  I intend to savor them while I can.

EDIT: Fixed a couple of links, changed a little formatting, performed some other minor edits, and inlined the strips.