Saturday, July 31, 2010

January 30, 1953: Charlie Brown, Jr.


I've seen this strip about a half-dozen times now, and the thing about it that always strikes me is how much like modern Charlie Brown the doll is in the last panel. I always end up wondering if Charles Schulz edited the strip long after its original publication, because with that hat it's a dead ringer for Charlie Brown in his baseball days.

Friday, July 30, 2010



The TV has a point I guess. This is a rare strip in which the source of humor comes from outside the characters. While no adult is seen here, one can only guess that an adult wrote that sign and put it on the air.

By the way, it is not true that Peanuts has never pictured an adult figure! We'll see that for ourselves before very long.

Shermy's hair seems darker here than before.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

January 28, 1953: Ah, here we go


This is upping the ante a bit in terms of the violence level of the strip.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

January 27, 1953: The beginning of the courtship


Two days later, here's another important Schroeder strip; the first one between the familiar combatants, him and Lucy, on the familiar battlefield, at the piano, and with the familiar tone, Lucy's infatuation. The main thing missing is Schroeder's annoyance.

Schroeder could get very angry at Lucy later on, but so far no character has really gotten very angry at another. The worse we've seen is Violet throwing Charlie Brown out of her house, and so far, more times than not, they forget why she was angry before the end of the strip and invites him back in.

It's the calm before the storm.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sunday, January 25, 1953: Schroeder at his zenith


This is a good example of a kind of Schroeder strip that never gets seen later on. It does a fine job of illustrating his personality. Schulz here presents the true Schroeder, not some dilettante doodler at the keyboard but a determined artist. In the classic age of the strip Schroeder is by far most often seen as a supporting character, setting off Lucy's monomania or Snoopy's whimsy. Here he trains alone, building himself up to be capable of performing the music he hears in his mind, determined to live up to his vision.

While we might can sympathize with the spurned Lucy's pleas for affection, and his maniacal worship of Beethoven is often played for laughs, Schroeder is generally an admirable character.

Monday, July 26, 2010

January 24, 1952: MEOW


The first hint in the strip of Snoopy's dislike/fear of cats, which would find fullest expression in his battles with World War II, the unseen Cat Next Door with the incredibly destructive claws, a creature of wrath so potent as to nearly rival fell Lucy herself.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

January 23, 1953: The chagrimace


Thanks to Sarah Loyd for this name for the diagonal, straight-lined expression Charlie Brown wears in the last panel here, and he and other characters frequently use around this time. Aditya came up with the other good name, a "dashed" expression, which, while also a pun, doesn't seem to be quite as good. Sorry Aditya. :\

Saturday, July 24, 2010

January 22, 1953: Schroeder signs the fence


These days, the ubiquity of computers has give us the cut-and-paste comic strip. That is why we still have (although we really don't need it) B.C., although Johnny Hart died years ago now, the syndicate has a database of all the characters in a variety of poses, and can now just throw together a strip in a paint program. It's just another way that newspaper comics have come to suck as of late.

Peanuts, although its streamlined, iconic look might make one think it to be one of the few strips that could be conceivably improved by such a process, to my knowledge never used it. Thus, when you see a complex bit of art in multiple panels, such as Charlie Brown's signature here, you can be pretty sure Charles Schulz drew it the same way multiple times. It is fun to play spot the differences in those cases: the 'r' in Charlie is a little wider in the second panel and extents further below the 'l', the 'e' at the end has a slightly larger loop, the 'o' is crossed by the board seam at the right place, but the second dip of the 'w' in Brown is smaller....

Friday, July 23, 2010

January 21, 1953: Snowball


Lucy perceives that the key to a successful snowball throw is to eliminate unnecessary variables like wind resistance and arm strength.

I'm reminded of the Calvin and Hobbes strip where Suzie taunts Calvin for being a lousy shot with snowballs after he misses several times, and just then he hits her square in the head.

Sorry about that....

Other projects have severely weighed down on my time lately. Am working on some more posts, starting now. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Monday, July 19, 2010

January 20, 1953: Snoopy and Schroeder


I think this is the first strip with just the two of them. Later on there are some memorable strips that pair the two that I, um, don't remember at this minute. Heh.

How large is Snoopy in the last panel? The more I look at it, the more he seems to be huge! We know the kids have to reach up to reach the door handle, and as this strip shows Snoopy is still pretty small relative to them. But sitting down in the last panel, his head come up most of the way to the door! Am I just seeing things?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

January 19, 1953: Lucy's back in school


She wasn't "expelled" for very long.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

January 18, 1953: Linus' security ball


Linus demonstrates that he might have some security issues. He's so happy in the second panel!

Just because I thought was funny, the Peanuts strip up at today was this one from 1963:


It's nice to see Schulz, even at the height of Peanuts' popularity, not taking the strip all that seriously.

Friday, July 16, 2010

January 15, 1953: Modern Snowman Art

This is another of those posts that Blogger shuffled off to the Drafts folder without telling me:


Another snowman strip. Peanuts is becoming a bit more topical. But more interesting than that is the way Charlie Brown is drawn in side-view, especially in the third panel, which is closer to the classic (as opposed to early) Peanuts look than ever before. When viewed from the front it's less obvious, since his eyes are still pretty far apart from that angle.

January 17, 1953: The unnamed expression

We already did this one, on December 20, 1952:

A strip I passed up, from December 30, 1952:

Another strip I passed up, from January 8, 1953:

Now today's strip:

I think we need a name for that expression Charlie Brown has in the first strip, second panel, and Linus, Lucy and Charlie Brown wear in the last panel of the other strips. It definitely isn't a full "smile." "Smirk" doesn't work because it implies derisiveness. I guess it's a kind of grimace, but

It's a rueful expression. Schulz uses it when a character's plans haven't worked out as he or she wants, or he suffers some reverse. It's not an angry expression, and it doesn't seem to represent straight frustration. One could almost always tie the word "sigh" to it, which hasn't been used an awful lot so far.

I think it needs to be named because it's going to crop up again and again. And ideas?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

January 13, 1953: Schroeder has standards


This is a rather funny strip; the turnabout in the last panel is pretty sharp. Again, for this one to work you have to know about Schroeder's music snobbery, which isn't information you can glean from this strip by itself. Of course now we all know about Schroeder and his peccadilloes, but Peanuts wasn't in a huge number of papers in those days.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

January 9 & 10, 1953: Onceuponatimetherewerethreebears...


Not to pile on the Calvin and Hobbes comparisons, but I seem to remember Calvin's Dad doing the same thing to get through a loathed reading of Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie.

Lucy's response here demonstrates her developing personality; she is becoming less reluctant to express displeasure.


Another story-reading strip makes a Schroeder & Beethoven joke without actually showing Schroeder. A strip like this doesn't work unless the reader brings into it knowledge from other strips, a type of gag that doesn't work unless the characters have strongly defined personalities. (Or, in Schroeder's case, a strongly-defined personality quirk.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

January 7, 1953: That's kind of harsh


Say what you want about Calvin, but at least he never got expelled from school. What must have Lucy done?

January 6, 1953: Stadium boots?


I'm not familiar with this phenomenon. Girls used to wear clompy boots in the winter?

Friday, July 9, 2010

January 5, 1953: Bread an budder, bread an budder...


This strip serves two purposes. It sets up the premise that Lucy absolutely must, for whatever reason, have her sandwiches with the crusts cut off. And it continues to establish her fussiness, which has been alluded to before when her mother called her a "fussbudget" but hasn't yet been seen far beyond the ordinary. Both will be referred to in future strips.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sunday, January 4, 1953: The Cookie-Hound


Snoopy at his cutest harasses the hapless Linus for his cookies. Eating a whole box of the things probably isn't very good for either of them.

Question for you. If Linus weren't on the scene yet, would it be suitable to use this same strip, all other things being equal, with Lucy when she was an infant? Even with her put-upon early personality, it doesn't quite seem like it would be a suitable strip for her, which indicates that the characters' do have a developed personality at this point.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

January 1, 1953: Shaking it dislodges the notes


Just a playful strip. The notes spelling words, of course, is a variation of the Christmas Day strip just a week before.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

December 30, 1952: The Disdain of a Dog


Linus is the most recent character to bear that weird, slanted frown, which turns up frequently around this time.

More interesting perhaps is that this strip clearly shows how Snoopy's design has progressed. His snout is thicker, his ears clearly rise up off his head a little, he sets a better pose standing, and he seems to definitely be a larger animal than the early form of the character. He seems a bit more like a real dog here.

500 posts!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sunday, December 28, 1952: Forgetting something


Lucy's expressions and poses here seem somehow unLucylike. Especially with that dopey grin she wears in panel four.

The foolish one here actually turns out to be Patty for suggesting it in the first place.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

December 24 & Christmas Day, 1952

It's the canonical summer holiday, in the U.S. at least, so let's look at a couple of Christmas strips!


A brief touching upon the theme of the commercialization of Christmas, which of course provided the dramatic thrust of the Peanuts Christmas Special.


Schulz is moving away from bland celebrations of a holiday and towards more sophisticated jokes about it. The usual "YAY ITS CHRISTMAS" panel here is undercut by Schroeder's displeasure at being obscured. Note: no Shermy, Lucy or Linus in the last panel.

It is worth noticing that Patty and Violet are already starting to become a bit rarer. Lucy has usurped their roles, a little, as the strip's girl character.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

December 23: The Fullness of Glasses


This is a well-constructed, if a bit over-written, strip, that illustrates the difference between two characters' outlooks. As such it more clearly defines their personalities, although in Lucy's case it's still looking at her larval phase.

Friday, July 2, 2010

December 22, 1952: Musical Fake-out


Well at least Charlie Brown has been studying classical composers in preparation for his little talks with Schroeder.

What we are seeing here is the mining of a situation, slowly, of all its obvious jokes. This is what cartoonists, and indeed sitcom writers, primarily do, they pick a situation and think of ways it is funny, or can be made funny. But the soul of humor is novelty, and a situation can only provide so many jokes.

What happens when all the obvious jokes have been made? In the case of Garfield the strip just continued to mine, reformulating the old jokes as best they could, the characters never evolving beyond their simple personalities. This is actually what happens to most comic strips, and it's why most of them become much less interesting 20 years after their creation. 20 years is 7,305 strips, 7,305 separate, supposedly individual, jokes. By way of contrast, stand-up comedians never come up with all new material for every performance.

Cartooning is a difficult-enough business to get into that most young hopefuls focus on the short term, impressing the syndicate gatekeepers enough to get into the business, and not with how they're going to maintain their work for decades. The great Bill Watterson, perhaps recognizing how hard it is to keep it up until your keel over at the drawing table, wisely stopped Calvin and Hobbes just over ten years in. But ten years in Peanuts was in its prime.

This is worth mentioning now because jokes about knowledge of classical composers are already approaching the limits of how far they can go. What Schulz is doing, slowly, is segueing from jokes about situations (composer knowledge) to jokes about character types (musicians), and eventually to jokes about specific characters (Schroeder).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

December 20, 1952: 4,000 games


The key difference between this strip and prior "Oh Those Kids" strips is the expression on Charlie Brown's face in the last two panels. Before, if Schulz did a strip like this, Charlie Brown would have a neutral expression at the end. Here, he's speaking sarcastically. With just a lowered eyebrow drawn over the eye, the entire point of the joke has changed.

The Peanuts characters are unusually difficult to draw in complex poses, due to their short arms and legs, but Schulz does a good job with CB's legs in the last panel.