Tuesday, August 31, 2010

March 21, 1953: Charlie Brown Is Not A Manipulator


Shermy's developed a fair amount since the early strips. Here's a strip with him from March 28, 1951, just two years before:


Of course Violet's changed a lot too, but we so rarely see Shermy.

The very earliest strips, to me, look like the kind of thing that might be drawn for a magazine periodical like the New Yorker, which fits Schulz's early sale to the Saturday Evening Post. The characters as we see them in today's strip up above are actually less stylized, they have proportions closer to the human norm, but they're also more obviously something of Schulz's own devising.

March 17, 1953: Mmm, cellophane


It's weird that Snoopy didn't notice the candy was wrapped until Charlie Brown told him. But this strip is most interesting for its continued cementing of the fact that Charlie Brown now seems to be Snoopy's owner, when he calls him "ol' pal." It's not been explicitly said, but it seems to be more heavily implied now.

March 16, 1953: Lucy's sense of propriety


More of Lucy's fussiness. What is interesting I think is that later on Lucy's fussy behavior is actually mostly taken for granted, it's more told than shown in later strips. (Her actual behavior is mostly Selfish-Evil.) So it's nice to see some genuine fussy behavior from her.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday, March 15, 1953: Snoopy's Hopak


This is a strange and remarkable strip, and not just because Snoopy's using full thought balloons for either the first or second time now. (I think I remember a prior use of the bubble-tailed balloons, in a single strip. But up until now all of Snoopy's other thought bubbles have had tapering tails like speech bubbles.)

The hopak is a traditional Ukrainian dance. The MIGHTY PEDE says it is sometimes known as the "Cossack Dance." In the United States we tend not to have traditional national entertainments of that sort (except, of course, for terrible action movies, brainless reality shows, sports team blathering and Fox News). Anyway, Snoopy really sells this one, and other than for the folded paws this becomes what we might identify in the middle period of the strip as the Snoopy dance. I think we've seen him do it once before, but here it is identified as a dance.

Schulz probably chose a Hopak because it's entertaining to see a dog perform it, and to draw Snoopy doing it, and it's an especially nice trick for one, but it's still conceivable unlike, say, a waltz.

Most comic strips subtly change art styles through the years. The Peanuts characters change a fair bit, but most characters are recognizable in their later forms. Snoopy pushes this the most; he's much changed in these early strips and the furred, bipedal, typewriter-using, figure-skating, Sopwith-flying, moon-landing creature of the later years.

The Snoopy Dance is relevant to this because its primary identifying characteristics are the upright posture and the flapping hind legs. Both are no longer unusual in Snoopy's late bipedal stage. Perhaps recognizing that, Snoopy's dance moves become a more general, smiling prance rather than a modified Hopak, which is a shame.

Moving on to the other characters, they are quite lively in this one, with everyone clapping and shouting "Hey!" I think this is the best party atmosphere we've seen in the strip to this point. It's also another ensemble strip without Shermy, that loner.

Isn't that rather a lot of food Violet is giving to Snoopy? I don't mean for a dog, I mean for anyone.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

March 13, 1953: Good luck with that, Charlie Brown


The argument concerning relative worth re: men and women sounds maybe a little more troubling today than it did back then. I usually excuse it as a childish kind of "go team!" cheering. (Thesis: sports team loyalty is taking the place of the casual chauvinism and racism of earlier decades. You have two hours. You may pick up your pencils... now!)

Friday, August 27, 2010

March 12, 1953: Head-over-heels


This is the first strip in which a character is thrown head-over-heels just from the force of some other action, usually a loud noise. We have had a case sort of like this back in the first Lucy football strip, but it didn't happen in the iconic Peanuts fashion. This is the first time in which it's mere noise that causes the tumble.

The head-over-heels motion will become one of the most distinctive elements of Charles Schulz's visual comic language. It looks natural on the page, but it doesn't animate very well; the implied force is away from the noise, so the subject can't stay on-screen long enough to read the motion well. Also, is the victim spinning, or just being thrown back? And what kind of sound should the somersault itself make?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sunday, March 8, 1953: Towards a More Neurotic Brother


Security blanket aside, Linus ends up being perhaps the most well-adjusted of the Peanuts kids. I can only assume it's because, when Lucy is your sister, the slings and arrows of fortune just don't seem to be as bad.

March 7, 1953: Baby vs. Dog


My favorite thing about this strip is the exclamation points in the first panel. No attempt is made to justify or even explain the aggression on both sides. It's as if they're saying: "Oh. It's YOU."

The last panel is a little cramped. Although they're moving away from each other, they're actually closer together there than in panel three.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

March 6, 1953: Who is Snoopy's owner?


This strip finally puts a solid finger on Snoopy's owner. If he's part of Charlie Brown's family, then he must certainly be his dog.

The drawing of Snoopy in the third panel is very appealing, I think.

Monday, August 23, 2010

March 4, 1953: When Charlie Brown was thawed out 1,000 years later, he found Snoopy fossilized in that state


This is just a great strip. Snoopy's in shock!

It's important to note that Snoopy isn't drawn exactly the same in each panel. His smile in the second panel fades in the third, and wears grieved eyebrow-lines in the last.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

March 3, 1953: Lucy and the sandwiches


This strip makes no sense if you don't remember Lucy's prior fussiness over cutting sandwiches. This indicates that Schulz feels confident enough in her personality that he can use the character as a symbol of it, just like Schroeder is a symbol of both the artist and musicians in general.

This is different from Snoopy being a symbol of, say, dogs, or Linus of babies, because that's obvious from immediate reading.

The only other example of what I'm talking about that springs to mind are Charlie Brown's tantrums when faced with another character's quirks. Violet's mud pies don't count because Schulz only uses that in a context where the reader is reminded of her mud pies.

March 2, 1953: Treat Schroeder's piano with respect!


This is the first of a long-running theme of the strip, other characters not giving Schroeder's piano the respect it deserves. By the way, isn't that an evocative drawing of the ringing on Snoopy's ears? Just wide looping scribbles. Looking at them, I can practically hear it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

March 1, 1953: Obsolete furniture


The funny thing about this strip is that most of us today are probably more familiar with rocking chairs than many of the examples of modern furniture seen here, or the record player.

This strip is pretty rich in detail. Schulz wasn't afraid of putting in some quality draftsmanship in the early days.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

February 27, 1953: Presaging Calvin


This one is sort of a companion strip to the one two days ago, where Lucy gives Charlie Brown a (pseudo-)scientific reason not to cut bread. Anyway, I wish folks online would be as ready to admit the ultimate source of their data.

This is a very Calvin-esque attitude for Charlie Brown.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

February 26, 1953: Snoopy, dog about town


I can only assume that Charlie Brown's comment, about the dogfight, is a turn of phrase that has fallen out of favor in the 50+ years since the strip first saw print.

Question 1: Who dressed Snoopy up in that outfit? He still doesn't have an explicit owner, nor opposeable thumbs. Evidently it was someone who appreciates tartan.

Question 2: How did Schroeder know where Snoopy was going?

Snoopy's role here is subtly different from his original personality. Here, he is sort of an honorary kid. He can't talk, but Charlie Brown and Schroeder know he can understand them. The disconnect between his obvious nature (dog) and the kids' treatment of him (colleague) is what provides the joke.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

February 25, 1953: Charlie Brown takes an oath


I love this strip. The joke is actually kind of subtle, that Lucy's fussiness (slowly being established through showing, instead of just telling) might actually have a rational basis, and that Charlie Brown could be convinced of it. (Or, alternatively, Charlie Brown has a very dry sense of humor.)

I can't imagine any other comic strip choosing to make this kind of joke in exactly this way. Maybe Bloom County, but no it'd have made it a little sillier. Maybe Mutts (with Mooch in Lucy's role?), but no, Earl wouldn't take Charlie Brown's line at the end. This style of humor, in comics, is unique to Peanuts.

I can imagine Lucy's making this explanation on Ask Metafilter or something. (Her username would be "fussbudget," of course.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

February 24, 1953: Snoopy the Opportunist


Further establishment of Snoopy's food-crazy personality.

Sometimes a crazy sight gag can stand on its own, and sometimes it needs a reaction frame to set it off. This one, I think, needs the reaction panel.

February 21, 1953: Snoopy fetches


A simple, elegant strip.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

February 19, 1953: Lucy works on her psychoanalysis degree


Lucy provides a dismissive, yet possibly accurate, diagnosis of a character from literature. It's the first time Lucy does something that could be considered psychiatry (seen practiced later from her famous booth), and the first time the strip has directly named some behavior as neurotic, an important step towards the sophistication of its classic period.

Friday, August 13, 2010

February 18, 1953: Obligatory flip-out


This is another case where Lucy's reaction to Charlie Brown's tantrum (running away, saying "Are you through?") are important because they show that CB's behavior is not merely cartoon exaggeration, it's supposed to be read as a tantrum.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sunday, February 15, 1953: Linus is scornful


This is the second strip in which Lucy demonstrates her great capacity for malice, after the "Don't murder me Charlie Brown" one a few months ago.

It could also be considered to be Linus' first word.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Valentine's Day, 1953: The First Time Charlie Brown Got No Valentines


The Little Red-Haired Girl is some time off, but still, this is the first time Charlie Brown is depressed from getting no valentines. It's got a "chagrimace" and everything.

Aren't school valentines a shamefully artificial thing these days anyway? In order to prevent kids from feeling rejected, I seem to remember that we were encouraged to just give one to everyone in class, regardless of gender.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

February 12, 1953: Hey! Hey!


Doesn't this actually just serve as more evidence that Charlie Brown's right? If Shermy had used Snoopy's name Charlie Brown wouldn't have thought he was being called.

Monday, August 9, 2010

February 9, 1953: Spite Candy


This is a great strip! I'm going to try to work "spite candy," or other spite things, into conversations.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday, February 8, 1953: J'ACCUSE


This is an excellent strip.

I love Lucy's direct, indignant accusation of Snoopy: "You took TWO!" Although nowhere in her counting panels does she say the word "two," which makes me wonder if the spoken-aloud counting is a sham.

If the counting is taken to be real, my explanation is that Lucy has developer her own, personal representation of the number system, which she uses internally and translates when speaking to others. When she's speaking out loud as an aid to counting however, she uses her own symbols.

The question marks (excusing the fact that there are three of them) in the last panel are a bit weird, like he's questioning now Lucy's counting system but his own inability to comprehend it.

Oh, and Snoopy has thought balloons with word balloon tails here again.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

February 7, 1953: Lucy's Fussiness


At this point we've heard Lucy described as a "fussbudget" once, but the only times she's really been fussy are with Charlie Brown, and even then not much.

In the second panel it's unclear that Charlie Brown is actually holding two glasses. The shading makes it look strangely like he has arm hair.

Friday, August 6, 2010

February 6, 1953: Snoopy's Thought Bubbles Return


It's been a few months since Snoopy had thought balloons. They still have the speech balloon tail. (If I remember correctly, one strip so far has had the standard "thought balloon" tail, with all the others having a tapering speech balloon tail.)

The contents of the bubble is more typically Snoopy this time, dissatisfied with the world of dogness.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

February 5, 1953: Schroeder the Alliterative Musician


Sometimes I think Schulz uses Schroeder as a way of subtly revealing his own artistic ambitions. It would have been funny to see Schroeder's opinion of American Idol.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

February 4, 1953: Schroeder the Ordinary Kid


Nothing to do with music at all! Even at this early date a high percentage of the Schroeder strips concern music in some way, so it's nice to see the kid have normal childhood experiences.

Monday, August 2, 2010

February 10, 1953: Why, you're just dragging a mechanical duck


Another great strip, Schulz is on a roll.

(ACK, didn't mean to post this one right away, it's kind of out of order and my comment doesn't make sense without the other ones right before it. Still, I love the strip!)

February 3, 1953: Charlie Brown Learns the Hard Way


Lucy's arm, and the fist at the end of it, becomes quite a terror in the years to come.

Sunday, November 23, 1952: CTHULHU RISES

Blogger sometimes takes posts I've set to publish and makes them drafts instead, which once in a while results in strips getting overlooked. Sometimes it doesn't matter much, but this strip is incredibly important, so I'm using it even though it's a couple months old by this point:


This seems to be the first act of full-on spite Lucy commits that cannot be explained by familial antipathy or mere childishness. It is an act of pure evil by her, and it's glorious. Look at that little smile on her face in panel six. It's against her favorite punching dummy, too. And Charlie Brown was so happy in the throwaway panels!

We even get that "down on his luck" slanted mouth in the last panel.

Schulz had many, many positive attributes as a cartoonist, but there are a couple of things in these early days he could have used some improvement on. One of them was in varying his phrasing; here, Lucy uses the "slaughter" line twice, which is a bit awkward. This isn't the only strip in which this defect can be seen. As Schulz gains experience writing dialogue I believe these errors eventually go away.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday, February 1, 1953: Lucy is sarcastic


I love Lucy's deadpan remarks in this one.