Tuesday, November 30, 2010

July 23, 1953: Context

Peanuts

This might seem like a throwaway joke, but I think it points to something very important. The characters are missing a commonality of experience that would enable each of them to understand the other.

Without commonality, only with effort can people understand another's perspective. Here, by each assuming the other is speaking in familiar terms, the characters are unable to communicate effectively.

Using Schroeder for this strip works because he's the character with the most dissimilar perspective of the kids. He's an artist, and his focus is a higher goal. This, I would say, is at the root of his differences with Lucy. Even Snoopy is more in tune with the other kids than Schroeder.

We still get strips in which Schroeder is playing ordinary kid games, but as the strip continues we'll see him doing this less and less.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

July 22, 1953: How did we get from there to here?

Peanuts

This is a common pattern for strips around this time: Charlie Brown is exults in being right about something, and the character who was wrong, instead of giving him satisfaction, responds with a non-sequitur cut down.

The ages of the characters have already become somewhat obscured, and we're not even three years in. Remember, Patty is older than Charlie Brown, who is older than Violet. She's already taller than him (she might even be the tallest character), and she teams up often with Patty as equals, which implies comradeship. But when it comes to the characters' intelligence, Schulz still seems to go by the pre-established age order: in cases where characters are arguing, the correctness hierarchy, highest to lowest, is Patty, Charlie Brown, Violet, then Lucy. (Schroeder's sphere is specialized knowledge so he trumps them in his area of interest, Shermy doesn't appear very often, and Linus and Snoopy don't talk.)

Chagrimace!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

July 20-21, 1953: Piano interlude

July 20
Peanuts

The first strip comments on the plight of the working artist.

July 21
Peanuts

The second, the artist's quest for respect.

It is easy to see the Schroeder strips as a metaphor for Schulz's own desire to be taken seriously. Maybe this is why he often uses Schroeder as an audience for Charlie Brown's efforts at cartooning, in which we can just as easily imagine Schulz poking fun at himself.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sunday, July 19, 1953: Snoopy's come to accept the sprinkler

Peanuts

This strip, if your only experience with Peanuts is the later era, is striking in how it treats Snoopy like just a dog. No abundant imagination, no literary pretensions, no "world famous" anything, no Woodstock, no "Happiness is" smarm, no walking on his back legs, and no thought bubbles.

This strip is, I think, padded out a bit. Particularly Schroeder's line "We can't.. we just can't" and Lucy's "You don't understand," both of which seem kind of hollow; the only reason they don't just say "We can't because he's sitting in the sprinkler" is because that would spoil the reveal. Probably panels seven and eight could be removed and the rest rearranged to make the point in fewer panels. Remove the top line of three panels and just four remain, exactly the length of a classic Peanuts daily strip.

Still not a bad strip though. It is a funny joke in the end. Snoopy's smiling expression sells it for me.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

July 18, 1953: Picnic-school

Peanuts

This is the first time in my life I've ever heard of picnic-school.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

July 16-17, 1953: Linus, the Baby Gravity Hates

Peanuts

Peanuts

Linus falls over a lot. Yet oddly for such a clumsy child, when he manages to stay upright he shows himself capable of great feats of dexterity. I think it's due to the relative size of his head....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

July 15,1953: A trapeze?

Peanuts

Lucy's gym set sounds hardcore. Overlooking the parallel bars and trapeze, does it really need a siren?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday, July 12, 1953: A page-turner

Peanuts

The various characters are picking up quirks that help to differentiate them. In the near future:

Lucy is a reader, but also gets facts wrong readily and laughs off suggestions that she might be wrong. Charlie Brown, on the other hand, when he gets something wrong he's very self-conscious about it, and Lucy's continued willful ignorance will give him ulcers. Linus, even when he starts really talking, is pretty quiet. Patty and Violet aren't that different, but Violet is more antagonistic, cold, sometimes even hostile to Charlie Brown. Schroeder, well, is obvious. Snoopy has problems with inanimate objects.

I think it's obvious that Shermy is in the pool in the first panel, but it's less evident that the kid he's with is Schroeder. It probably is, but that's mostly because I don't think Schulz would throw an extra in there just to have one.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

July 9, 1953: An innocent question

Peanuts

This is another version of the "Can I put my hand in your glass of milk" strip from some time back. There are a number of jokes that are repeated enough to take on the status of running gags, but this one isn't repeated too often.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

July 8, 1953: Stormclouds on the horizon

Peanuts

That loud noise you hear is not the shouting of a little girl. It's the rumble of destiny.

Friday, November 19, 2010

July 7, 1953: Charlie Brown gets it wrong

Peanuts

A scene from the midpoint of the arc of Charlie Brown's personality, on his way towards the lovable sad sack we all know. I'd say it's only partway there because there's actually a bit of egotism in this, that CB assumes the girls must be talking about him, that he lacks in later strips.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

July 6, 1953: Whither the pigs?

Peanuts

Chagrimace!

Lucy has quickly become the most frequent female character, and second only to Charlie Brown in recent appearances. Patty and Violet are nearly interchangeable now. Although Violet joined the cast as a "young" kid character, she was never as naive as Lucy can be.

Lucy is especially unique because she can combine her naivety, somehow, with sarcasm. That combination sticks to the character for quite some time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sunday, July 5, 1953: First use of "real" extras

Peanuts

We've seen one-use animals other than Snoopy before (a dog and two birds), and we had one strip in which we saw other kids from a distance. But this here is the first time in Peanuts we've seen entirely non-regular character designs as throwaways. Also included: the first kid with glasses, and a kid with a "Jughead" hat.

Note: of all the extras in that sandbox, only two of them are girls, and both are cast members. Also, Violet wears her hair down this time; she's got it in a bob most appearances now.

The tiers of Peanuts characters:
"Cast" characters are the main guys. There are some characters who, once they arrive, are frequently seen for a while. Some of these are long-term characters (like Charlie Brown, who was in the first strip and the last).

We might call "understudy" characters those who join for a little while, like Frieda, but then digress into occasional appearances, usually disappearing completely some time later. Eudora is also one of these, I'd say.

Some never seem to progress beyond being bit characters. These guys are usually introduced as part of a story, and sometimes get used as extras in group scenes. Roy is a good example; he's not quite an extra, and in fact has an important place in Peanuts history for introducing Charlie Brown to "Peppermint" Patty, but he never really joins the main cast. I think "5" and his sisters, the twins "3" and "4," are also in this category. (The digit kids aren't much remembered now, but are notable for appearing in the dance scenes in A Charlie Brown Christmas.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

July 3, 1953: Slow approaching doom

Peanuts

We haven't actually seen many of those tricks. I guess it's comforting to know that Lucy will keep on with them for a long time to come.

One thing about this strip... Linus never does catch up with Lucy in height. His development slows down due to the Peanuts Time Warp effect and he always remains just a little behind her.

Maybe Schulz ran out of ideas for baby jokes, because he now seems in a hurry to have him achieve parity with the other characters. The kid doesn't have much infanthood left.

Monday, November 15, 2010

July 2, 1953: Lucy and Linus, sister and brother

Peanuts

This is the first time the two have actually seemed to be "together" in anything. Fellow-feeling is a remarkably uncommon trait for the Peanuts characters to have; most of them are loners at heart. Exceptions: Snoopy and Woodstock, "Peppermint" Patty and Marcie. Maybe Patty and Violet, although we haven't seen much of that yet.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

July 1, 1953: That's a big outfield

Peanuts

At some point Lucy's problems with outfielding become more the result of her fussiness and ill-temper than more personable factors. At least her absence from play doesn't see to have caused Charlie Brown's team any problems this time.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

June 29, 1953: Lucy in the outfield

Peanuts

The beginning of a long-standing Peanuts theme, Lucy as problematic baseball player. Note here her position is center field. I'm not sure, but I think most of the time she is a right fielder.

June 30, 1953: Linus' first steps

Peanuts

Linked for notability.

When Rerun joins the cast much later, in a way it's almost like these early strips with Linus return. Rerun looks so much like Linus, even if his personality is a little different, that it's hard to escape the conclusion that Schulz named him as a self-referential joke.

Friday, November 12, 2010

June 28, 1953: This isn't an argument, it's just contradiction!

Peanuts

Charlie Brown has a bright future ahead of him in cable news.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

June 27, 1953: He who hesitates is lost (or at least gets no ice cream)

Peanuts

Lucy is what we might call an expert drinker of other peoples' milkshakes.

Chagrimace!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

June 26, 1953: August 4 is Snoopy Day!

Peanuts

Mark it on your calendars!

How did Snoopy communicate his desire to have a specific day to Charlie Brown? It's not like he's learned to type yet.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

June 25, 1953: Stop that draft

Peanuts

This is Lucy more as we recognize her, gloriously unreasonable.

Monday, November 8, 2010

June 24, 1953: Snoopy vs. the Yard

Peanuts

Another of those strips in which Snoopy, naive in the ways of yard equipment, investigates something and gets surprised by it. Here the reaction shot from Charlie Brown is needed to complete the joke.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

June 22, 1953: Lucy and the bugs

Peanuts

When I read this strip, I have a strong sense that we are now firmly in the era of classic Peanuts. The characters are solidly of that style, as opposed to the early or modern styles. There's still some evolution left to occur within the style, everything becomes just a little simpler over time and the characters get slightly more realistically proportioned, but we're mostly there now I think.

Two things that really drive this sense home for me. First, the theme and writing of the strip are solidly of the classic versions of the characters. We haven't really seen a crabby Lucy yet, but Lucy was never an entirely angry little girl, she has good days even in her tyrant years. And second, Charlie Brown's eyes when facing the reader, here, seem to be closer together than we've seen recently, which was the major thing about him that still harkened back to the old style.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sunday, June 21, 1953: Linus thinks

Peanuts

Being thoughts, this doesn't count as Linus' first words. I'm not even sure this counts as Linus' first thought balloons, but I can't find the strip in the archives in which he complains about "big kids," which is the prior use I remember so maybe that comes later. But I think it is the first example of Linus' voice really coming through clearly to the reader, even if it isn't audible to other characters.

Linus is interesting because we first get a few strips with him thinking before he actually starts talking. Sally also does this when she shows up. I think Rerun gets it too.

Friday, November 5, 2010

June 20, 1953: Peanuts' evolving sense of humor

Peanuts

A different strip would have Snoopy bite down on the bone, have a sight gag of his reaction, and then maybe him chasing Charlie Brown. In fact, Peanuts itself wouldn't really be above that kind of joke right now.

But where this strip shows growth is that Schulz purposely passed up the chance to draw a funny picture of Snoopy biting a rubber bone to make a strip where he's embarrassed because he expected treachery and didn't find it.

Schulz also avoided Talking Head Syndrome (where a strip's joke is entirely dialogue, using art pretty much solely to attribute speech) by giving us good drawings of mortified Snoopy, laughing Charlie Brown and thoughtful Patty.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

June 18, 1953: Lucy in a chase strip

Peanuts

Charlie Brown is enjoying that ice cream a little too ostentatiously, isn't he? That's why this strip is funny.

Although Lucy certainly becomes the most rancorous Peanuts character, this kind of harassment is not really what we think of as her "style," I think.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

June 16-17, 1953: We Love Lucy: WINNAR FOREVAR

June 16, 1953
Peanuts

This is a brilliant strip. Lucy's ludicrous winning streak inflates bizarrely into megalomania, and all Charlie Brown can do is close his eyes in dismay. Sublimely silly!

June 17, 1953
Peanuts

Well at least he's charitable about it. Why should he deny Lucy the experience of winning another game of checkers?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

June 13 and Sunday, June 14, 1953: The evil side of Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown isn't a very nice kid in these two comics.

June 13, 1953
Peanuts
Patty and Violet's reaction at the end here (including off-screen violence) is a bit exaggerated. I mean, they didn't have to follow CB's suggestions.

Sunday, June 14, 1953
Peanuts
This one is actually a little disturbing, considering that Schulz actually drew the flashbacks of Charlie Brown's antisocial behavior. Violet's reaction here seems quite justified. We can accept Charlie Brown's rueful chagrimace at the end as due to regret over personal failings rather than a "that's the way it goes" kind of resignation.

Is that how Violet fell off her tricycle? Because CB pushed her?

Who really throws lumps of sod at people? Did Schulz choose a clump of earth because it's less injurious than, say, a rock?

Wait a second, did he say plaid ice cream?

June 12, 1953: Gimmie that milk, fool

Peanuts

Setting aside why CB (using "Good Grief" for the second time) feels he needs to obey Lucy's request for his milk.... is she drinking through her nose? Why doesn't the liquid spill out?

(Sorry this is a little late. Blogger likes to sometimes take posts I mark for "scheduled" and set them to "draft" without telling me.)