Wednesday, September 29, 2010

April 23, 1953: Schroeder scoffs


One thing Schulz does, it seems to me, in the early days is repeat information unnecessarily. Schroeder's words in the last two panels are practically the same.

Here at Roasted Peanuts, we don't rest until we've dissected and bean-plated* each strip until all humor has been annihilated.

So, is there a way to have written this strip that could eliminate duplicating most of the text in the third panel? The obvious change, I suppose, would be to change Schroeder's words in either the third or last panel to something like "That's ridiculous!" Since the comedic point of the strip is Schroeder's lack of realization that (to spoil the joke completely) his playing Beethoven on his toy piano is just as ludicrous, it doesn't seem to me like anything is lost through this change.

This isn't meant to denigrate Charles Schulz's abilities as a writer. He was still developing at this point, but the comic itself is great. The fact that it does leave unstated the disconnect between Schroeder's statement and his actions, refusing to point to it outright and trusting the reader to make the observation himself, is a sign that he's already an excellent gag man. Most other comics would explicitly state the point of the joke and wreck the comedy almost as badly as I have, here, in explaining it.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

April 22, 1953: Another chase strip


Usually turnabout/chase strips only concern two characters, but Patty in this one is just a bystander.

So, let's return to the subject of the implications when one character chases another. Why does a character do so? It usually happens when the chased insults the chaser, or uses an exceptionally bad joke, usually appears angry while chasing, and it is implied that the chaser seeks violence. (Otherwise, what would that character do if he catches the other? Make him or her see reason through argument?)

Because of this, when a girl chases a boy it is funnier than when a boy chases a girl. We have reason to believe that Schulz saw it this way too; he has been recorded as saying a girl punching a boy is funny, but a boy punching a girl is disturbing.

The implications here are slightly allayed due to Lucy's spirited "WHEEE" in the last panel. At the very least she doesn't seem to feel threatened.

Monday, September 27, 2010

April 21, 1953: Put 'em up, Snoopy


A very funny strip. The key to the humor, I think, is how Linux Linus maintains the same expression through it, just as if he knows how Snoopy will react.

Contrast this with Snoopy's discomfort around cats during Faron's short-lived stint on the strip, and his total fear of the dreaded Cat Next Door, he of the doghouse-rending claws.

EDIT: Made the correction above. Damn muscle memory.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

April 20,1953: Lucy's winning streak continues


We return to Lucy and CB's checkers rivalry. We're still establishing Charlie Brown's loser personality here. There's persistence, and there's stubbornness, and then there's this. It's like it's not even admirable anymore. I mean, sheesh. There comes a time when you just have to give up, you know?

I'd think the most aggravating thing, to them, about their rivalry here would be that every so often they have to pick up the board and move a little further down the fence as they fill up the vicinity with tally marks.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sunday, April 19, 1953: Shermy Pitches


In this early baseball strip Charlie Brown's team is losing even though he's catching this game.

Look at that first panel for a moment. There are six kids pictured. Counting from the left, it's hard to tell who the second and third ones are. The second kind of looks like Charlie Brown, and the third like Shermy, but they're already in the shot viewed up close. This would make these two kids the first "extra" human characters in all of Peanuts. (Animals have had a couple of extras so far, an anonymous dog and a bird.) Some of the other panels have unknown extras too, as well as Lucy and Schroeder a couple of times.

Friday, September 24, 2010

April 18, 1953: Stylish Snoopy


The construction of the punchline of this joke is pure comedy 101. For some reason, I consider, it is important that the reader sees the punch of this kind of joke, that it's a sight gag, instead of reads it out of a word balloon. This lets the humor value of the drawing of Snoopy with a haircut assist the main joke (that of a dog, an unlikely competitor, beating Shermy to getting the first haircut of the summer).

It is important, I think, that the payoff be a sight gag, but I'm not exactly sure why. It might be because the rest of the strip is primarily verbal, so it needs the sight gag for variety. Or it might be because Shermy's reaction is spoken, and having two characters speak at the essential moment of comedy would be unwieldly. It might just have to do with that nebulous comedic concept, timing. Or maybe, if the punch moment of the strip were told instead shown, it'd seem arbitrary and forced.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

April 17, 1953: Lucy's Space Suit


More playing Space Hero with the boys. I mentioned Lucy's late-era change of outfit yesterday. Her updated attire actually doesn't look that different from her sleepers here.

Schroeder actually looks pretty cool in the first panel. Are those 3D glasses? How about Charlie Brown's TV-antenna beanie?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

April 16, 1953: Playing Guns with Girls


The gender norms of Peanuts are worthy of examination. They're rather complex.

For decades, all the female characters wore dresses nearly all the time. Late in the strip's run Lucy's default outfit changed to what looks like a jogging suit.

Considering that the strip is still in the early 50s this isn't surprising. The girls, however, don't appear to be so traditional regarding to their choices of games to play. They play dolls and house (or Mud Pie Chef) sometimes, but they've been just as apt to play Cowboys and Indians, or Space Hero.

This is really progressive if you think about it: even as late as Calvin and Hobbes, Susie, when playing, is nearly always seen at some girl-oriented activity like playing Tea Party or House. (This is probably because it's so entertaining to watch Calvin react to stereotypically feminine things.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

April 13, 1953: Second Use of "Fuss-Budget"


The first time it was used Lucy wasn't really all that fussy. Her behavior has been edging closer towards making the label a reality.

Monday, September 20, 2010

April 9, 1953: The Mystery of Schroeder's Piano


One thing about Peanuts is how it plays sometimes with the line between cartoonishness and reality. Between the two, it usually sticks pretty close to reality, at least in its physics, which makes the occasional launches into surreal logic, such as here, more effective. That's important. If crazy things happen all the time, the reader comes to expect them, and they have much less of an impact. Lots of webcomics get this wrong.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

April 8, 1953: On the mound: Charlie Brown's pitching isn't that great


These are the strips that initially establish Charlie Brown's lack of playing skill. Not really a lot to say about them other than that.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

April 6, 1953: On the mound: Charlie Brown dodges his first line drive


A notable series much later has Charlie Brown getting hit by a line drive and lamenting how his reflexes are going as he gets older.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sunday, April 5, 1953: Charlie Brown's first breakdown


Remember when I said that a character's personality tends to become set the moment other characters refer to it? This is what I mean. Charlie Brown's exaggerated reaction could be taken as cartoonish hyperbole right up until Violet and Patty remark upon it. That proves that his hysterics are intended to be hysterical, and the relief the reader feels at having any first reaction to CB's weird behavior as weird justified lends extra comedic punch to the strip.

Roasted Peanuts: dedicated to over-analyzing each strip to the point where all humor is lost!

(P.S., Again I feel compelled to remind you: don't give your own dogs chocolate creams, or indeed chocolate anything. Chocolate is toxic for dogs.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

April 4, 1953: Of interest to trivia quizzers

Q: In the comic strip Peanuts, what is Violet's last name?


[In case the img source for this comic goes dark later: it is Gray.]

Characters with last names that we know:
Charlie (and Sally) Brown (of course)
Linus and Lucy (and Rerun) Van Pelt
and now: Violet Gray

There are a few other characters with known last names. "Peppermint" Patty has one, Reichardt.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

April 3, 1953: Kid spite


So they asked Charlie Brown for his opinion specifically to go against it? That's not very friendly. The wide smile on Schroeder's face doesn't seem to bear much malice; they don't appear to be intending to pass judgement on Charlie Brown with their action. It's just the way they decided to pick a color.

After a few strips that appeared to fairly solidly clinch Snoopy's owner as Charlie Brown, this one throws the question back up in the air a bit. Why would they be painting Snoopy's house if he were exclusively CB's? Wouldn't they grant his opinion a bit more weight in that situation?


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

April 2, 1953: On the mound: I think they're scoring a little high


How does a team earn 89 runs in a game that's not even over yet?

One potential problem, avoided I think, with this strip is the use of the word "home" in the last panel, which is a baseball term. Schulz plants the idea of Schroeder's home life in the reader's mind in the third panel however, which allows CB's line in the last to be more cleanly read as referring to Schroeder's house instead of home plate, would would have confused the joke.

Monday, September 13, 2010

April 1, 1953: On the mound: Charlie Brown's fast ball


Between this strip and the previous one, we're establishing Charlie Brown's notable lack of skill as a pitcher.

There are a number of stages in establishing a trait for a character:
  • First, the trait is exhibited in a joke, but isn't remarked upon. It just happens. The character is being used more as a stand-in for a kid rather than himself.
  • Next, the character, after the trait has been exhibited a few times, becomes known for it. This stage comes when other characters begin remarking on the trait as being associated with the character. The remarking shows that Schulz is intent on taking the character in this direction, so he mentions it to it'll stick in the reader's mind.
  • Later the character becomes so associated with the trait that Schulz can just use the character as a shorthand for the trait, without even having to explain it in the strip, relying on the reader's past knowledge of the character to supply the punchline. Schroeder is arguably in this state already with his distinctive musical ability, but the other characters are still gelling.
  • Finally, the character may become so associated with the trait that the character's presence itself may become a punchline. I don't think we see this for quite a while, though.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

March 31, 1953: On the mound: Schroeder the catcher


This is the very first of a staple strip-type of Peanuts throughout its history, Charlie Brown the pitcher interacts with a member of his team who has come up to talk to him during a lull in the game. It even has Charlie Brown's usual expression of annoyance at having to put up with one of his teammates. It is missing the pitcher's mound, but that's fairly minor.

This is also, to my memory, the first time Schroeder has been catcher, which pretty much becomes his set role on the team.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

March 30, 1953: Lucy could take the circus or leave it


I didn't get this one as a kid, reading Peanuts compilations from the library of our elementary school. I didn't get the meaning of the phrase "holding it over my head". Just another demonstration that Peanuts isn't really made for children.

Circuses really aren't all that hot when you think about it. Too much forced joviality, too much seediness just off the sidelines. (Of course, the seedy atmosphere is why some people like it.)

Too many clowns.

Friday, September 10, 2010

March 28, 1953: Snoopy goes crazy


I think this strip illustrates pretty well why Snoopy is kind of jaded over Charlie Brown in later strips. He gets maudlin if you get too friendly with him.

We do get one of those rare, ultra-cute three-quarters drawings of Snoopy with his mouth open in the second panel.

A new tag introduced in this post: "allpurposeears". I wonder what that could mean.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

March 28, 1953: Patty and Violet Reject Charlie Brown


They've done stuff like this before, but this time it seems explicit and personal, which positions the characters more towards being antagonists.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

March 27, 1953: Back to the slaughter


This is the first time we've seen Charlie Brown in bed, and also the first time we see him fretting while laying there. Poor kid.

We're establishing Charlie Brown's classic personality here. Most of the time up to now he was, Schulz's own word, kind of a smart-aleck. Here we see him as the sensitive, put-upon type which is more in line with how we remember him.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

March 26, 1953: How many marbles?


What use would a kid have for that many marbles? Could we project that they are to 50s schoolyards as cigarettes are to prison inmates?

I'll admit, as a kid I had a bit of a marble collection. I never played the game though; I just thought they were neat. I don't really know if anyone still plays marbles anymore.

Monday, September 6, 2010

March 25, 1953: More Marbles


This is one of the first genuine sequences in Peanuts, a set of connected, consecutive strips that present a kind of narrative.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

March 24, 1953: Patty Plays Marbles


Patty builds a reputation as a marbles shark in upcoming strips, especially against Charlie Brown. This is the one that first establishes her fearsomeness at the game. One might take these strips as foreshadowing the other Patty.

The use of Schroeder as the concerned friend in this strip, instead of Shermy, is a bit interesting.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sunday, March 22, 1953: The Earth Invaders


One could take this as another Lucy-abusing-her-brother strip, except for the looks on the faces of Shermy, Patty and Charlie Brown, which make this strip more about human nature than Lucy's specific nature.

This is fairly notable for being a complex play scene with many characters, in perspective, with action poses, and with realistic living room scenery thrown in.

Friday, September 3, 2010

March 20, 1953: Lucy and the Basketball


This strip well illustrate's Schulz's emerging skill as a joke writer. Important to is he Lucy's repetition of the word "basketball," which helps illustrate the diverging things the two characters are saying. They're only on the same page in the first panel; none of them are even listening to the other in the others. Characters talk through each other a lot in Peanuts. I'm not even sure this is the first instance of it. The body language of the characters is also important here; in the last panel, Lucy's jumping rope emphasizes that she's more talking to herself than to Charlie Brown.

Psst! I'll be at DragonCon, like starting today. If this blog ends up knocking off a few days that's why, although I usually schedule several strips in advance in these instances. If by some fluke you happen to be at the con, I'll usually be in the board gaming room in a brown "Game Face" T-Shirt.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

March 19, 1953: That's the Charlie Brown we remember


I think this is the first strip to really solidify Charlie Brown's emerging personality. That of the depressed everyman, who considers himself mediocre and ends up being, so partly because of his belief, and partly because everyone can't be Dave Singleman. Who even his own dog (now cemented as Charlie Brown's in three strips) finds boring.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

March 18, 1953: Lucy Plays Space Gun


Usually the girls so far have engaged in stereotypical feminine pursuits when playing, but Lucy shows that (aside some some onomatopoetic problems) she is fully prepared for the coming age of high adventure in space, due to arrive some time, oh, around the 1990s.