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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The text of ROASTED PEANUTS is copyright 2009-2011 by John Harris. No copyright is claimed over the comic strips, which are here under the principle of fair use. Strips presented for review purposes only. We love Peanuts a whole lot, and wouldn't dream of exploiting it. Please don't sue us; we're only trying to love. Thank you for reading this notice.