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*.


  1. Whenever Patty made an EXTREMELY rare appearance in the later years of the strip (e.g. in a queue for the school-bus/cinema etc) Schulz seemed to go out of his way to suggest that the girl in question is NOT Patty after all, but merely someone who looks like her. How so? Well, for a start, we never see Patty wearing her checkered dress anymore. Secondly, the Patty who pops up in the later strips of the 80s and 90s is no taller than Charlie Brown or any of the rest of his friends. After 1996, Schulz even stopped drawing occasional look-alikes of Patty and Violet. There's a baseball strip he drew in 1999 which kind of irritates me. You know how, in the late 60s and early 70s, Schulz occasionally drew the heads of the kids in Charlie Brown's baseball team in sillhouette form as they listened to Charlie Brown giving them pep-talks? Well, he always drew the back of Patty's head next to the back of Snoopy's head. In the 1999 strip, he draws a random kid, whom nobody's ever seen before, in lieu of Patty. Why? It wouldn't make any difference to anyone who had never heard of Patty whether he drew the back of her head or not in that strip.

  2. After seeing all these old comics, it is hard to imagine that Patty and Violet would be so unceremoniously dumped. They were huge main characters. I love Lucy too but there was room for the two of them--Schulz didn't take into consideration the fans' attachments to characters. For instance in soap operas when characters from long ago appear on a Christmas episode or something, it is such a warm pleasure to see them.

  3. What strikes me about this strip is how unnecessary all the word balloons are. I think it would read just as well, and maybe be a little bit funnier, if it had played out in silence. (Though without dialogue it looks more like poker than bridge.)

  4. Boomer - I just couldn't agree with you more. Once Schulz got rid of a character, we never saw him again, and Schulz went out of his way not to show him, even when it made the strip a little awkward. Think of all those baseball strips in the 90s when we only ever saw Charlie Brown, Lucy, Schroeder, and Snoopy on the pitch - you'd think that Charlie Brown's baseball team consisted only of four players. It wouldn't have hurt Schulz to draw Violet and Frieda in the background now and again! It certainly would have been appreciated if he drew Patty, Violet, and Shermy in the last ever Peanuts strip as well. And don't even get me started on how he neglected poor Pig-Pen... Not that I don't love Peanuts. I'm just saying.

  5. I hate to contradict these observations, but I do notice that Schulz uses abandoned characters in cameos and in the background from time to time. 49 years is a very long time to do a strip after all, and it's possible to miss some appearances. This makes it difficult to say, with certainty, that a given character forever vanishes after a certain date.

    While Schulz could be said to have neglected Pig-Pen, it's also true that he continues to appear, from time to time, throughout the strip's history. He's a constant, who appears in the early days and the later days, never wholly abandoned but never brought up to the status of full character either.

  6. The problem with Pig-Pen is that he's so one-note. If he's the subject of the strip, it's about how dirty he is -- his one character trait.

    If he's there but not the subject, just hanging out, the problem is that he (more than any other character, I think) imparts way more visual information than he needs to in order to fulfill the role of "kid standing around." So he gets set aside in favor of someone less distracting.

  7. In the 12 years between 1968 and 1980 Pig-Pen only appeared TWICE!! Also, after 1980, Schulz had the opportunity of drawing Pig-Pen and Peppermint Patty stories, but their relationship was left abandoned. All in all, Pig-Pen made only about a 100 appearances in the entire history of the strip. Snoopy appears almost THREE times that amount in a single YEAR!! Personally, I think Pig-Pen is the most visually appealing character ever to be drawn on paper.

    The March 2nd 1994 strip is a good example of how strangely different Patty and Violet looked when they popped up in later years