Compared to other comics, Peanuts characters are unusually poker-faced. The only hint of the kid's slow burn leading up to the last panel, perhaps, is that Charlie Brown is a little too happy in repeating Lucy's mispronounced line.
It's difficult to imagine him getting away with this later on.
There are some character combinations that seemed to inspire funny situations to Schulz, while some others didn't get used much. Lucy is funny with many other characters (Charlie Brown and Linus now, Snoopy and Schroeder later on). Patty is most often shown interacting with Charlie Brown or Violet. Maybe that's one of the things that led to poor Shermy's obsolescence, he doesn't have many other characters who react to him.
To get this joke, you must know that remembering what cards have already been played is an essential skill for playing Bridge well. Any serious Bridge player would know taking notes like this is not allowed.
If you know nothing about the game, you would not believe the levels of anal-retentiveness involved in high-level Bridge. There are elaborate systems of bidding designed to communicate to your partner information about your hand, but there are also rules regarding this, that if you use such a system the other team must be aware of it. I don't really understand it entirely myself.
This is the first real sign of Lucy's loud, angry persona. Not in what she does; she's been cranky before. The key element is how Charlie Brown recognizes it, and Patty reacts to it in the last frame.
The letters of the word BANG here appear to be stenciled or pasted, or at least drawn with mechanical aid, instead of hand-drawn. I wonder if that was how they were originally rendered or if the syndicate replaced them?
The first panel contains an excellent drawing of Snoopy walking. You can plainly see here that he's changed a lot since his original appearance:
Although, looking at Patty there, he's not changed nearly as much as the other characters. If Peanuts' art style remained like that throughout the strip's run, would it be as popular? It does look very fifties.
Instances like this can't be good for a kid's self-esteem. It is difficult to imagine, by the way, these little kids playing bridge. Charlie Brown's supposed to be about four or five right now, although it's possible that it's not Contract Bridge.
I'd like to point out that Charlie Brown breaks the fourth wall in the last panel.
The third panel here is a good depiction of emotion. It's easy to represent happiness, just draw a smile. Anger is a scowl and slanted-downward eyebrows. Snoopy's emotion here is wounded pride, which is rather harder to represent. It helps that the dialogue clearly tips us off as to how Snoopy feels.
I remember looking with just as much bewilderment at the bridge column in our local paper as a kid.
Glancing at the last panel by itself, it looks very close to the classic Peanuts look. Patty is almost completely in that style, Charlie Brown's head is just a little too oval and his eye a little too thick.
It's Snoopy's first time doing the "Happiness" dance, here with forelegs folded in a Russian style. It's also Snoopy's first time as the life of the party.
It's not his first time with a thought balloon. If I'm remembering right, it is the third legitimate time his thoughts have been represented. One of the two times was with the now-familiar thought bubble (with small circles replacing a tail), and the other time was like it is here, with a tail on the balloon. It is also the second time Snoopy's doghouse has been depicted with a TV antenna.
This is an important strip along Snoopy's development. Except for the way it is drawn, it could easily be a strip from ten years later. It is solidly Classic, as opposed to Early, Peanuts.
As far as the question of Snoopy's ownership, this is another step away from his being owned by Charlie Brown or another kid, back towards his being a neighborhood dog who's just "around," although he does seem to own his own house. (And a TV set and electrical power.)
Some of the titles on the comics have violent names, like they did in the drugstore strip from some months back. Some of the titles are: "Zipp!" "Kill" "Wow!" "Smash" "Hate" "Killer Comix" "Slaughter" "War" "Ha! Ha!"
I mostly remember Patty and Violet for the times they double-teamed Charlie Brown in the classic age of the strip. If one interprets Charlie Brown as a stand-in for Charles Schulz himself, a view that may have some merit, that may indicate problems with female figures. I think it is possible to read too much into this, however; mostly it just serves to develop Charlie Brown's pessimistic personality a little more.
This duck features in another strip in a few months.
Interestingly, Snoopy is the character with the most expressive body language. There are not a lot of poses for the child figures in Peanuts, partly due to their distorted construction. Snoopy, maybe because he's a little more realistically depicted than the others, can adopt more poses.
Lucy's developing her egotism nicely I see. I don't really get how CB can take solace in the fact he came in second. I assume Schroeder is peeved in the last panel because he knows coming in last is the true measure of ability.
I've already mentioned that the Sunday strips were almost certainly not done on the same schedule as the weekday ones, which is why this Sunday strip mentions that Lucy has been going all week even though she has been seen without the ball in a couple of the intervening weekday installments.
I'm not quite sure why Charlie Brown sees Lucy's quest as a threat to his sanity. Maybe it has to do with the noise, or maybe he sees her possible accomplishment as a threat? Maybe he just doesn't want to live in a world in which a little girl can bounce a ball for an entire week. (Speaking of which, doesn't she sleep?)
I am not sure, but this may be the last strip in which Lucy refers to herself in the third person.
This brings to a close the second year of the strip.
In the second year were introduced both Lucy and Linus. Schroeder learned to talk. Charlie Brown's psychological problems began to become more evident. Shermy, already on his way towards irrelevance, only appeared a small number of times. Schulz's art style, fired in the crucible of a daily comic strip, has evolved considerably. Most of the characters have gradually eased into their classic looks, all except for Charlie Brown (who's oval remains as a vestige of the original style), Snoopy (who has so far changed fairly little) and Linus (who is currently the strip's baby).
In the next year there aren't any major character introductions, but Schulz's art style evolves a bit more. Snoopy and Charlie Brown both draw closer to their later forms. The very next month has the first of the strips where Charlie Brown fails to kick Lucy's football. But most importantly this is the year in which Peanuts' writing really matures into something recognizable and wonderful.
For comparison's sake, here is the strip from one year before:
Peanuts has sometimes been taken seriously by folks, including Schulz himself, but there are moments like this every once in a while. There isn't really any connection, other than motive, between Schroeder's discovery and his remarkably knowledgeable comment. I can picture Schulz laughing at the idea of a character annoyed at being in a comic strip and looking for any excuse to work it in.
A little like how Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy are rarely seen together (although for different reasons), you rarely see Linus and Schroeder in the same panel. As for why Linus reminds Schroeder of Beethoven, your guess is as good as mine.
The characters in this strip are solidly "Classic-era" Peanuts. The only characters who still have a bit of developing to do are Charlie Brown (whose thick oval eyes still reminds us a bit of earlier strips) and Snoopy (who so far has developed the least).
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