Friday, April 30, 2010

September 23, 1952: Coconut, bleah


The clever thing about this strip is that it's hard to tell just from looking at her if Patty purposely chose coconut to spite Charlie Brown. She is poker-faced while ordering.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

September 22, 1952: Linus' second strip


Not much to say here, except it contains the second through fifth drawings of one of the strip's major characters.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sunday, September 21, 1952: Man's Superiority Over Beast


I love this strip:

Lucy saying "Oh, my, yes!" in the second panel. No one says "Oh my!" anymore. It makes me want to revive it.

Snoopy's laughing poses in the last three panels show considerable visual ingenuity. The second panel there could be a counterpart for WEIRDSNOOPY. Snoopy has gone back to being small again in this strip, even though panel seven would probably read a little better if he were longer.

The funniest thing about this strip, I think, isn't Snoopy's laughing, or Charlie Brown's disgruntlement, but Lucy's silent watching of the hilarified dog. "This certainly is an odd thing that is happening to that animal. I should quietly observe the situation."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

September 20, 1952: Snoopy the Daschund


Snoopy gets longer when he runs or lays down. Look at his appearance two days ago:


He has a much greater volume when he's in motion! It's easier to draw a larger animal when moving; it's hard to picture a little lump like Sitting Snoopy getting up and having a stroll. I expect that Schulz noticed this too, which may be why the dog gradually increases in size.

The strip itself is another on the theme of Snoopy steals something then eludes his human pursuers in some manner. Kind of light as far as gags go.

The "YIPE!" is a little interesting. Schulz has been using these outline letters for onomatopoeia for a while, and they, like the fancy question-marks, are a subtle trademark of the early strip. They're fairly striking.

Monday, April 26, 2010

September 19, 1952: Linus' first strip


And here's Linus. This puts the breaks on the introduction of new characters for a little while I think. So far that makes, in order of introduction: Shermy, Patty, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Violet, Schroeder, Lucy and Linus.

Linus is a little rancorous at the beginning, but settles soon into his Wise Soul persona, which pares nicely with Lucy's developing belligerence. Notice he doesn't start out with his blanket.

Linus doesn't undergo the drastic redesigns the other characters have, and are still having, but he still has some developing to do. Notice his hair, while unruly, has more structure here that it does later on.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

September 18, 1952: Snoopy and the Radio


Snoopy leaps up and sticks out his tongue at Charlie Brown. It's not yet a "BLEAH!" but it's a step there. How does he do that with his ears?

It's a lot of fun to look at Snoopy in weird poses like this one, and I imagine it must have been a lot of fun to draw.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

September 16, 1952: Schroeder's dad is awesome


Watch Violet's arms in this one. Posing them in a way that looks natural and relevant to the scene is harder than it looks. There is an exaggeration to them here, but it's not too exaggerated.

Friday, April 23, 2010

September 15, 1952: The blue cup or the red cup?


Here Charlie Brown and Lucy reenact a shot from The Matrix that was left on the cutting room floor.

Seriously, it's another strip of Lucy asking for a drink of water from Charlie Brown, a scene that Schulz gets a surprising amount of mileage from.

Lucy's becoming more willful. While it's kind of sad that the sweet little girl is becoming more demanding, she becomes a much better, much more fun character when she grows into her full crabbiness. In a way, Lucy is just as iconic to Peanuts as Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sunday, September 14, 1952: I'm a success!


This is one of the best early strips I think, it's just really funny and original IMO, despite a couple of pretty weird quirks. Its action can occur only because Lucy never looks down. The really weird thing about it is how Charlie Brown doesn't tell Lucy the cause of her "success," that she was being held up by Snoopy. The whole thing has an air of allegory about it.

Lucy's phrasing "I'm a success!" is very odd. It's funny partly because of its oddness, but it is oddly specific, like it might be a reference to something in Schulz's life.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

September 12, 1952: Seven Spades


If you have a strong hand of one suit in Contract Bridge, you can bid strongly in it and try to make it trump. If you have seven cards of a suit, then the most any other player can have is six, guaranteeing you one trick and probably worth several more. And Spades is the strongest bidding suit, beaten only by No Trump.

Snoopy's reaction here is great.

September 8, 1952: God of the moving image

(For some reason this one didn't go up when it was scheduled....)


We've seen plenty of radios in prior strips, but this is the first TV set.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

September 11, 1952: Stoking the flames


Charlie Brown will eventually come to regret treating Lucy so badly.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday, September 7, 1952: Perspective problems


Besides a step in the development of Charlie Brown's trouble with kites, the second panel here is weird in that the perspective is a bit wrong; it looks like Charlie Brown is much larger than the other kids in that panel.

Also notice, all the kids are here except for Shermy.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

September 3, 1952: Ludwig Van Beagle


This is the first strip in which Snoopy imitates someone. There is a great sequence in the early classic era of the strip in which Snoopy imitates a number of things (which includes one of Peanuts' relatively small number of pop-culture references). This strip also leads towards Snoopy's developing imagination.

Friday, April 16, 2010

September 1, 1952: Snoopy's sense of dignity


Charlie Brown is known to remark, later on, "Why can't I have a normal dog like everyone else?" Such is his enthusiasm for the game of Fetch that he describes it out loud. Snoopy will have no part of it.

Impressing stick fetching upon the reader's mind in a form that sounds somewhat demeaning is essential to the joke. Phrasing it like that, and posing that exposition as Charlie Brown's excited words, that is not I'd call standard joke construction. Jokes have constructions you know, and there are fewer ways for putting them together than you might think. Finding a new way of building a gag is a difficult task. One of the aspects of Schulz's work I enjoy the most is his ability to so often to construct new kinds of gags. Many things about Peanuts seem to express a kind of genius, but to me this may be the greatest thing about it, Schulz's ability to present a joke to us in a clean, iconic way, that is understandable but not overstated. It is wonderful.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sunday, August 31, 1952: But it's his pool, right?


This is a case where Charlie Brown's responsible for his own disappointment, to some extent. It's his pool, right? That's why he filled it? I guess he doesn't want to throw his friends out when they're having such a good time. (Schroeder especially is getting into it, although I doubt he really needs to hold his nose as he jumps in.)

Why is it necessary for Charlie Brown to empty the whole pool just because Snoopy is sitting in it?

As a kid, I'm not entirely sure why, I loved the picture of Snoopy sitting, smiling, looking out of the pool at Charlie Brown. It's something about his profile, or his attitude maybe. Or maybe it's just really cute.

The shading on the underside of the pool as CB empties it is an unusual touch for Peanuts.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

August 29, 1952: Charlie Brown plays it safe


This time the game is more obviously Bridge (although it could be another bidding game like Spades, I suppose). A nice, subtle touch here is the smile on Patty's face.

For those who are not familiar with the game... In Bridge, a good hand is generally one in which you have one suit with a lot of cards. If you're the highest bidder then you determine which suit is trump, so if you have a strong suit it's mostly to your advantage to bid high. But there are many other factors at work as well. For a game that so limits the types of actions available to players, Contract Bridge is remarkably subtle and deep.

To add to the list of things Snoopy can say: *gasp*.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

August 28, 1952: Ol' Pal Ol' Sock


It's only the second strip Schroeder has had a full line, and disappointment rules the day.

"Ol' sock?"

Monday, April 12, 2010

August 27, 1952: Bridge building


The card game Charlie Brown and Patty are playing here is probably Bridge, a game we hear Schulz was devoted to around this time.

As time passes, there are two types of character roles generally in Peanuts: those who we are expected to empathize with and those we view from without. Charlie Brown is nearly always someone with which we are to identify with, but with other characters it varies. After she settles into her role of Resident Crab Lucy, a force-of-nature type, is viewed from outside. Linus can play both roles, the former when interacting with his sister, the latter when playing the part of inscrutable wise kid. It's the difference between having a three-dimensional character and a two-dimensional one: both are actually necessary, but it can be troublesome to have all one or the other. (With three dimensional characters, it is easy to have them come out bland and wishy-washy. They tend to need elemental, two-dimensional characters to bounce off of and define them.)

Patty and Violet seem to be used more as persecutors for Charlie Brown later on, but here she and CB are used identical roles.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday, August 24, 1952: Lucy can catch!


The soul of this strip is the last panel, and is one of the first really modern moments of Peanuts. The way in which Charlie Brown replies to Lucy's query, the way it's phrased and the attitude behind it, is essentially Schulzian. I don't think I can quite put it into words yet. I'll just note it for now.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

August 23, 1952: WEIRDSNOOPY


Beware the wrath of WEIRDSNOOPY

Scribble of rage!

Friday, April 9, 2010

August 22, 1952: A Grand Coup


The second strip with Lucy beating Charlie Brown at checkers. "A grand coup!" sounds awkward to me, maybe it was some gaming lingo that was going around Schulz's bridge circle, or something?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

August 19, 1952: Snoopy the impassive


Q. No one has been able to tell us what kind of dog we have. I am enclosing a sketch of one of his two postures. He only has two. The other one is the same as this except he faces in the opposite direction. - Mrs EUGENIA BLACK

A. I think that what you have is a cast-iron lawn dog. The expressionless eye and the rigid pose are characteristic of metal lawn animals. And that certainly is a cast-iron ear. You could, however, remove all doubt by means of a simple test with a hammer and a cold chisel, or an acetylene torch. If the animal chips, or melts, my diagnosis is correct.

--James Thurber, the Pet Department, The Thurber Carnival. Original text with illustration.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sunday, August 17, 1952: Ragequit


This is the beginning of a running gag in which Lucy builds up an incredible winning streak against Charlie Brown at checkers. It's a major part of the building of CB's defeatest attitude.

It is interesting to note Charlie Brown's reaction to his own behavior in panel 7. When he went on a rage tirade a few weeks ago, enough that the girls hid behind trees to get away (similar to Lucy's reaction here), we accepted it even though it'd look pretty disturbing in real life because comics exaggerate and illustrate emotions to enable us readers to more easily see them. Here, however, the comic takes his behavior and has him react to it with realistic dismay. It's a rather cool little deconstruction of the form.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

August 14, 1952: Schroeder's address


Another of those little facts to file away for use in trivia contests. Schroeder's address is 1770 James Street.

Monday, April 5, 2010

August 11, 1952: Comic strip logic


Well, it makes a kind of sense. Presumably it wouldn't have worked if it hadn't been a toy telephone, or if Lucy had been talking to a person.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

August 9, 1952: HE SPEAKS


The most interesting thing about this strip is that, finally, Schroeder says something more than a word or two, and in English.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

August 8, 1952: Charlie Brown wins one


Is Snoopy actually playing, or is Charlie Brown playing both sides? For the most part the dog has shown mostly dog-like abilities. But if he's not really playing, then why does he seem invested in the game?

Charlie Brown certainly put the game away fast in the last panel.

Friday, April 2, 2010

August 7, 1952: Music humor


You know, I get the feeling that real musicians probably crack bad composer puns all the time.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

June 23, 1978: Happiness is....

It never ceases to amaze me how different the strip looked in the early days. Well, at least he stopped doing those saccharine "Happiness is..." bits.