Saturday, April 30, 2011

January 25, 1954: Peanuts in THREE-DEEEE

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To think the idle joke about a failed gimmick in movie-making from fifty years ago would be absolutely as relevant today as when it was first read.

This is another of those strips where the emerging, vague un-dog-like nature of Snoopy's personality is the source of the humor.  When I read these strips I'm reminded of a Warner Bros. cartoon directed by Chuck Jones, "A Pest in the House," one of the few with a joke that explicitly recognizes how weird is that arbitrary line between its animal characters as animals (things that Elmer Fudd hunts, that sleep in holes, that hope around the woods and float in ponds) and as human-like creatures (that pester hunters, who dress up in women's clothing, that play poker and golf, who hold jobs).

The cartoon in question begins with an announcer speaking: "Once upon a time there was a labor shortage.  It became so bad that employers would hire anybody."  A pause, then, when Daffy Duck zooms on-stage: "Or anything...."

There's another cartoon like that, made later,I think it's People Are Bunny, where Bugs Bunny and Daffy are competing in a radio program's stunt game for a mystery price, where they're racing each other to the studio.  At one point Daffy is flung into the air and left to helplessly fall to painful cartoon injury, and Bugs, looking up from the ground, casually remarks, "I wonder if Daffy will remember that he can fly?"  There is a crashing sound, then he adds, "I guess not."  Later in the same cartoon a similar remark happens regarding swimming.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Sunday, January 24, 1954: Lucy flips out

Lucy goes on a glorious campaign of destruction here.  It's the closest she's yet gotten to her malevolent destiny.

I think maybe part of the reason Schulz drew this one is just so he could draw lots of tiny little things flying around the room.  Anyway, I didn't know Violet had a stamp collection.

The lead panels, as usual, aren't needed to get the joke, although they do explain why Schroeder is involved in the mob.  (Linus is too young for such things.)  Of all the offended chasers, everyone seems to be yelling at Lucy except for Charlie Brown, who is uncharacteristically grim-faced.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

January 23, 1953: Snoopy vs. The Yard: The Newspaper

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Another strip showing the dog getting stymied by some artifact of human civilization.  These are kind of boring I think, except for panel two, which is the closest I think we've gotten to this point to the "classic" look for Snoopy, that is to say the late 50s-to-60s look where Snoopy was long, lean and drawn loosely.

By the way, sorry for being a little slow with posts, shepherding the Kickstarter project has consumed a lot of my time over the past two weeks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

January 22, 1954: One, two, three....

Lucy's expression in the first panel may seem silly, but it conceals the seriousness with which she will bring to her task.  Lucy counting stars is a common running gag in the early days of Peanuts.

Monday, April 25, 2011

January 19, 1954:

January 20, 1954:

January 21, 1954:

Let's do a few this time:
January 18: This strip is a callback to December 16, 1953.  Like that earlier strip, Schroeder's legs reveal attention to how they're braced against the fence.  Nowadays it seems weird that a kid would get off of school for his birthday, or that of any random classical composer.  That fence is weird -- it's in both strips.  This must be the edge of Schroeder's yard.  Chagrimace!

Of note for trivia contests: Schroeder's birthday is January 18.

January 19: It would be so easy to derive a political message from this strip.

January 20: This strip is something of a callback to July 2, 1953.  In that strip the kids are saddened by the prospect of being left with a babysitter.  Here, they're gloating at the prospect of the other being left behind.  Gradually, their relationship is evolving.

January 21: I like this one for how the shape of the notes in the last frame fill in the space between the top and the piano.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

January 16 & Sunday, January 17, 1954: Trials of a Baby

January 16, 1954:

Sunday, January 17, 1954:

Surprisingly many of Peanuts characters have a special talent, one that overrides the limitations of real life.  Snoopy has many such "powers."  The force of Lucy's anger (later on) is terrifying to behold.  Charlie Brown's ability to lose has already been been demonstrated while playing checkers.  And Linus has a way of making or doing things that doesn't seem quite "right."  Stacking the blocks like he does in the first strip is an example.  He's also great at blowing up balloons halfway, and other unlikely feats of what I'm going to call, for lack of a better term, dexterity.

The second strip is the first time we get something akin to a stream of dialogue from Linus.  Until now his words have been things like "dottie dottie" or loud laughs of derision in the face of Lucy's selfishness, but here are several full sentences.  Noteworthy, however, is that although his words are in speech bubbles so generally are Snoopy's, and neither character has been shown using full sentences to communicate with the other characters.

I like how big kids are represented as running in herds that clean the floor of toys in their wake, like cattle devouring whole fields of grass.

Friday, April 22, 2011

January 13-15, 1954: Snoopy's ears creep me out

January 13, 1954:

January 14, 1954:

January 15, 1954:

Snoopy's ears demonstrate once more how they can be held rigid in place in weird poses at will.  They're almost like additional limbs.  Of course they have their limits: they don't seem capable of supporting much weight, and they don't seem capable of supporting Violet's ire, that killjoy.

The third strip gives us a lot more Snoopy drawings than the standard daily strip.  I love the one at the top-left of the third panel, where you only see his feet peeking into the frame.  But there's a three-quarter "puppet head" view of Snoopy smiling in that one too, which we haven't seen for quite a while.

Charlie Brown is the one giving Snoopy his walk, which points the "owner" needle more firmly towards him again.  But we've still gotten no concrete indication of whose dog Snoopy is.  This may be the first time, however, that Snoopy's relentless enthusiasm has gotten on the kid's nerves, which is an oft-used gag over Peanuts' run.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

January 11 & 12, 1954: The Van Pelt kids with blocks

January 11, 1954:

January 12, 1954:

The first one is more an observational strip about human nature than Lucy's personality specifically, although we might conclude that she's been somewhat spoiled by her tremendous winning streak at Checkers against Charlie Brown.  The second is a more typical strip about sisterly concern, but it does give three more of those great serif'd sleeping Zs.

(I should note that, despite what the title of this post might lead you to conclude, Lucy and Linus' last names have not been revealed in the strip yet.  Or if they have, I certainly don't remember it happening.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sunday, January 10, 1954: Snoopy and a Baby #1

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The times when there's a baby on hand for Snoopy to wordlessly react with are relatively short when compared to the length of Peanuts, which is a shame because I think they're among the funniest, most whimsical strips of its run.  Snoopy develops a great double-team act with Sally when she arrives on the scene.

Snoopy's head drawn in profile in panel 5 is archetypal Snoopy.  There is just a hint of the direction the character would be taken in later there.

Monday, April 18, 2011

January 9, 1954: Counting stars gaiden

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Charlie Brown's exasperation at Lucy counting stars is one of the more iconic strip themes of early Peanuts.  So far by my count we've only seen one Lucy star counting strip, and she more guesses than counts in that one.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

January 7, 1954: Anyone want to buy half a snowman?

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Wow, that's a smug look on Charlie Brown's face in the third panel.  Whatever happened to annoy Patty, anyway?  The "inside" of the snowman is shaded for some reason, like it was filled with chocolate.  The carrot and buttons are missing, so it actually looks like Patty took slightly more than half of it.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

OFF-TOPIC: Computer game Kickstarter project

It isn't relevant to Peanuts in the least, but it is something I've been working hard on, and I'm very excited about it, so I figure it should be mentioned here, like, once.

I'm working on a computer game project about exploring caves.  It's called "In Profundis," and I've just launched a Kickstarter project for it.  If you're interested in such things, why not go have a look, and maybe contribute to the cause?

In Profundis Kickstarter page

There, all done.  We now return you to our regularly-scheduled comic strips.

January 6, 1954: Ribbit

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Snoopy looks kind of frog-like in the first panel here.

"Have you ever been a dog?"  "Of course not."  I think this strip is actually funnier if you give it the 3eanuts treatment.

Friday, April 15, 2011

January 5, 1954: Snoopy and caramel

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Should this go on the list of Snoopy powers?

Charlie Brown's mistake here is in assuming Snoopy is a dog.  He's more likely some kind of Shmoo-like creature.

Schroeder's reaction is made a lot funnier, I think, without a word balloon spelling out "HA HA" or something like that.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

January 4, 1954: Schroeder, the proto-Linus

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A character is needed for Charlie Brown to talk with sometimes, and the character chosen depends on what role he must play in the strip.  If it's an equal then it'll be Shermy, if it's something that involves playing or social matters it'll be Patty.  If it involves throwing him out of her house then Violet. 

Already, Schroeder doesn't get much play outside of his piano, but he works here because he's a little younger than Charlie Brown and thus apt to ask questions regarding the shape of the sun. Lucy could also perhaps have filled the role, although it won't be long before her willful ignorance of such matters becomes prominent.

This is exactly the kind of strip that Linus would be in, if he were old enough to talk yet.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sunday, January 3, 1954: More of Lucy's infatuation with Schroeder

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We've recently seen more hints about Lucy's developing self-centered personality.  We've seen a little of it before in one prior strip, but this here is the true beginning of Lucy's long-running crush on Schroeder, what Charles Schulz had been known to call her "weakness."

While Lucy can be bossy, crabby and fussy, in some ways she's rather admirable.  She has a very strong personality, is (usually) very confident, and doesn't often take 'no' for an answer.  The second panel here is a good depiction of this side of her.  Generally the Schroeder strips depict Lucy at her best, although this is far from universal.

Panel three is rather abrupt if the first two panels, which newspapers sometimes remove, are missing.  The only previous hint of Lucy having a crush on Schroeder was that other strip almost a whole year back.

Most Lucy vs. Schroeder strips make the musician a bit more inscrutable.  We're usually on Lucy's side in the struggle.  That had yet to develop in this strip, which is more egalitarian in presenting clash of the characters' wants.

We get another somersault here.

January 2, 1954: Charlie Brown is not a good cartoonist

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Have we seen enough about Charlie Brown's failings as a cartoonist yet?  They're entertainingly meta, but still, we've seen the joke before.

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Year's Day, 1954: Linus is still scornful

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This strip is a reprise of the joke from Sunday, 2/15/53.  In that earlier strip, Lucy doesn't seem quite so vicious, because in that one Linus is trying to play with her stuff, while here, Lucy is outright taking Linus's cookie unprovoked.

This might mark the first moment where Lucy seems to be truly evil, in a way it's impossible to explain with another motive.

I love Linus's face in the second panel.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, 1953

December 25, 1953:

December 31, 1953:

The Christmas strip is another message to the reader, which I don't think generally work for Peanuts, but at least there's a joke to it this time. It's funny that, if you give him enough space, Charlie Brown draws his letters with serifs.

The New Year's Eve strip isn't holiday-specific, but is funny. It's something of a follow-up. I love Schulz's giant serif Zs, which we can take to indicate the sound, and loudness, of Snoopy's snoring. Schulz returns to this particular gag later.

The motion lines make it look like Snoopy is being thrown out of a basement.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

December 24, 27 (Sunday) and 28, 1953: Three with Snoopy

December 24, 1953

December 27, 1953

December 28, 1953

Three good no-thought-bubble Snoopy strips, presenting the dog as annoyance, victim and helpful friend.

Friday, April 8, 2011

December 23, 1953: 10,000 games

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I think this strip marks the end of the checkers winning streak series.  Poor Charlie Brown should have quit while he was (less) behind.

This strip implies strongly that all of Lucy and C.B.'s games have been against each other.  If the two tried playing against other opponents, maybe it wouldn't have gotten to 10,000 games?  Of course Lucy prefers it this way.

It's like Paper playing against Rock.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

December 20, 1953: Sorry I asked!

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I love this strip!  It presents the world of the kids in a way that makes it seem all real, like there's always a dozen things happening at once.  My favorite joke in it, however, is the one in the lead two panels, which is just a throwaway but has some pleasing off-screen violence.

The metaphorical opening panel uses Charlie Brown's trademark zig-zag shirt pattern, but the zig-zag is nowhere to be seen elsewhere in the whole strip, and is in fact a little uncommon in the strip at this point considering the kid usually covers it with a jacket in the winter months.  Maybe he was just reminding the reader of it.

There is a lot of prototype Calvin and Hobbes here, both in the snowman gag and the humorous sled crash at the beginning.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

December 19, 1953: Really really really really....

This is just about Patty at her most charming.  Before she became half of the soul-destroying tag-team of Patty & Violet.  Peanuts & Schulz: A Biography implies that most of the strip's characters were based, at least originally, on real people.  I don't think it's necessarily useful or accurate to make this claim beyond the level of inspiration, but still.  I wouldn't like to think that happened between Charles Schulz and whoever Patty and Violet were based on.

(It's also possible, now that I think about it, that I'm conflating Patty and Violet's later roles.  Well, getting these things straightened out is part of the reason I'm going through the whole course of the strip.)

In the last panel there is an odd space in Patty's word balloon, like a word got whitened-out between Schulz and print.  (Also, for some reason I feel like there should be an exclamation point after her statement there, but that's not really a big deal.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

December 17 & 18, 1953: Two with Linus

 December 18, 1953

Both of these strips show off Linus' overalls, which would much later be seen on Rerun.  Whether they are hand-me-downs is unknown to me.

The first strip is another of the "Snoopy and Linus annoy each other watching TV" series.  The second has an unusual "Oh, my!" pose from Charlie Brown in the first panel.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

December 16, 1953: For your calendars

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The old mania shows through.  This obsession with all things Beethoven only grows over time, until it becomes perhaps Schroeder's most endearing characteristic.  I don't think the teacher is going to buy it as an absence excuse though.

According to Wikipedia, we're not actually sure when Ludwig Van Beethoven's birthday is, but it does say that December 16 is our best guess.

Concerning the art:
How about that jacket Charlie Brown is wearing?  Is that leather?  Denim?  Or just (yawn) corduroy?  
Those are some pretty well-thought-out poses for Schroeder on the fence there.  Schulz draws him having to lift himself up to see over the fence, which is exerting, so he braces himself against his feet in a couple of ways.    Very nice!

December 15, 1953: When Lucy had a conscience

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Is this remorse from Lucy for scaring the heck out of her brother yesterday?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

December 14, 1953: Lucy goes that extra mile

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In this strip, we begin to see that Schulz is becoming more careful about showing emotions.  It's not just the hilariously shaken image of Linus in the last panel, it's that we can't get a good read on why Lucy did this.  She betrays no satisfaction or joy throughout the process.  It's like she's just doing what her mother told her like a good little girl.  But why is she sneaking up on her blissful brother?  Why is she shouting at him?  Later on the thrust of whole strips turn on whether a character's mouth was drawn with a slightly upturned stroke.

This is the third strip to use the "somersault" visual shorthand for violent disruptive motion.  The first time was in the first football strip (which has still yet to become a yearly thing).  The second time was, interestingly, another instance involving Lucy shouting near Linus.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sunday, December 13, 1953: Schroeder's ready for the big time

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Sometimes with these I think Schulz throws in realistically-proportioned adult objects just to demonstrate that he can draw well technically.  Of course Schroeder couldn't actually play the adult piano because his arms are too short; he'd barely be able to reach the keys unless the bench were right up against it.

I notice that, in some of the Sunday strips we've seen, there's a blank spot between a couple of the panels in the bottom row.  It's really noticeable because it always seems to overlap two of the panels.  Is this the result of some problem with their source documents?