Monday, May 30, 2011

March 11-13, 1954: Three again, again

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Some more glued-together strips. I'm going to have to go in and fix these when/if they correct these images.

March 11, 1954:
More head-patting from Snoopy, with another word-bubble depiction of his thoughts. The big punchline in A Charlie Brown Christmas when the kid puts his ornament on the Christmas Shrub, is kind of a callback to this.

March 12, 1954:
Taken with the last three strips, Schulz has alternated between Linus block strips and Snoopy head-pat strips this whole week. When he on a whim (it seems to me) made Schroeder into a musical prodigy it became a permanent part of his character, but Linus' block-building skills don't seem to have survived into the later years of the strip.

March 13, 1954:
Snoopy's versatile ears come to the rescue of his sensitive head.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

March 8-10, 1954: Three again

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Three more strips that were presented glued together.

March 8, 1954: Linus and his blocks again. As we saw yesterday, the kid gets a lot of use out of them. For him, a pile of blocks is a protean meta-object, a thing that can become other things.

March 9, 1954: How does Lucy say the words "Pat him on the head"? Is it a suggestion? A request? Is she just narrating her own action?

Charlie Brown's a bit more familiar with Snoopy than the others, calling him "ol' pal." It's still some time before we have conclusive evidence Snoopy is his dog, though.

Snoopy's face on that second panel is a winner.  In the last two panels he thinks again using word balloons.  In the third he does so near humans, but none of them throughout the strip seem to recognize his discomfort so I think it's safe to say they can't understand him.

March 10, 1954: Give Linus a stack of blocks and a place on which to stand, and he will build the world.

Friday, May 27, 2011

March 4-6, 1954: Three more glued together

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Second verse same as the first.

February 4, 1954:
Linus: kid of impossibility!  This is what I was talking about, some time back, about the Van Pelt children being kind of... uncanny.  While Lucy grows into her powers and becomes a supervillainess, Linus, taking Jesus Christ as his model, chooses the role of teacher.  Well, eventually.

February 5, 1954:
Poor ol' Charlie Brown.  Poor ol' frustrated Charlie Brown.

February 6, 1954:
This is a great strip!  I love the third panel especially:

We know these characters so well now that, even without the other three panels, we're pretty sure which of the two kids is saying YES and which was saying NO.  But even by their postures, Violet seems just that much more adamant.

A points of note in the art:
In the zoomed-in panel, notice that the characters don't look as angry in the other panels; their emotion is diluted by the energy they're putting into shouting.

P.S. There is a They Might Be Giants song for every occasion.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

March 1-3, 1954: Three by necessity

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Er, I think someone messed up.  These three strips are presented like this on gocomics' page.  Remember when some strips turned up missing a couple of weeks ago?  I think they were gone in order to fix another situation like this one, where multiple strips are glued together in a single image.  This probably happened when the strips were scanned out of a book; whoever did the scanning neglected to crop the other strips out of the one for March 1 (which is the one with Schroeder and Snoopy here).  The other strips are also in their respective places in gocomics' procession, but we might as well do all three now.

March 1: Not too interesting, although it is a Schroeder strip with nothing to do with music.  I do wonder how the car managed to make it up Snoopy's head; it's not a smooth trip between panels three and four.

March 2: This one's pretty funny.  The boys and girls in Peanuts, physically at least, are on equal standing, but it's still embarrassing for a young boy to be outmatched by a girl.  Notice the wavy lines around the feet; they're there to draw the eye and so confirm to the reader that they're standing on tip-toe.

March 3: Chase strip.  Also pretty funny.  In a way this one works as a joke on the size of Charlie Brown's head, which needs a large object like a stop sign to cover it up.  Oh, and isn't it very short for a stop sign?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sunday, February 28, 1954: Willful Little Lucy

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How much of this is meant to depict Lucy herself being stubborn, and how much just a very young kid rebelling against her parents?  I think often, in Peanuts, cases of the latter evolve over time into cases of the former.  That is, strips intended as general observations end up getting sorted by character, and so the kids accrete characteristics over time and in this way become complex.

In the lead-in panels, Schulz shows Lucy being contented with a word balloon containing a musical note.  I suppose it's meant to represent her humming.  It's not the first time he's done this.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

February 27, 1954: Eleven?

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Counting stars again?  We've had four strips so far on the subject:
Charlie Brown gets her started
Lucy isn't keeping track
Standing on one chair
What about it?

There's just something marvelously quixotic about it, in a profound sense.  What could be a more hopeless endeavor than to count all the stars?

NOTE: I'm not sure where my mind was yesterday whenb I wrote this, but I just noticed it doesn't actually have to do with counting stars, although it does involve touching one. Have been a little distracted over last few days.

Monday, May 23, 2011

February 26, 1954: Charlie Brown Cartoons Again

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Another "Charlie Brown, Cartoonist" strip.  Schulz used these a lot both to poke fun at himself and, perhaps, at other cartoonists.  At the time, I think he was still working at Art Instruction, Inc.

This strip is interesting for other reasons though.  The look on Schroeder's face the whole time is fascinating.  He isn't upset in the last panels; it's more like he thinks Charlie Brown has rejected him.  Or maybe he's just sad that his criticism didn't find reception in CB's round head.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

February 25, 1953: The Peanut Butter Sandwich That Broke the Camel's Back

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I love this one.

How is Peanuts unlike other comic strips?  Look here.  It's not that Charlie Brown ripped the sandwich apart.  It's Lucy's expression of dismay, and her horrified observation, "He tore it to pieces with his bare hands...."

Saturday, May 21, 2011

February 24, 1954: In sync, no less

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Do they mean to be insulting?  They said it at exactly the same time, and with wide smiles.  I'm guessing they rehearsed this.

Friday, May 20, 2011

February 23, 1953: At the Writin' Fence

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I think we can safely assume that the upper graffiti is Patty's doing.  It is important to the joke here that Lucy is depicted as very young, so as to provide an explanation for the illegible scrawl on the bottom of the fence.  In fact, I think Schulz is actually cheating Lucy slightly shorter than she usually is, so the joke is clearer.

The strip for February 12, 1954 (presented here, fourth down) has Shermy writing on a similar wall.  On that strip, njguy54 commented that Shermy's use of cursive was "interesting."  It was, there, since who writes in cursive on large, vertical surfaces?  But the use of cursive here is much more important, since it provides important visual similarity between the two writings.

Did Schulz plan the two strips at the same time?  Probably; there are many examples of similar strips separated by a small number of days, enough to suggest part of his creation strategy: to hit upon some idea, to mine it for joke potential, then to draw some or all of the ideas, ideally seperated by a few days to keep things mixed up.

At some point, I conjecture, Schulz realizes that he doesn't always have to spread the strips apart like this, and he takes to running "theme weeks," where a number of consecutive strips feature a similar premise.  That eventually leads to sequences of linear storytelling, such as Charlie Brown progressively leading his baseball team to failure.  (Another sequence leading to that is the upcoming Lucy in the Golf Tournament story that plays over consecutive Sundays.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

February 22, 1954: The sun is a mass of incandescent gas

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We're here on the ground floor of another emerging Peanuts story theme, Lucy's willful ignorance.  She's come a long way from her doll-like, third-person-referring, self-pitying ("Poor Lucy") early personality.  Her mistaken knowledge of the universe, and her spreading that knowledge to Linus, is an upcoming cause of Charlie Brown's stomachaches.

The way the path behind Charlie Brown, in the first panel, curves up only to disappear is strange when you notice it.  I think it's being represented as disappearing over a hill and Schulz didn't draw the horizon.  My guess is, drawing the horizon line would connect the two characters visually, subconsciously connecting them when the whole theme of the strip is disconnection.

Lucy's pose in the second panel is great.  She puts a lot of energy into her mockery.

Ho ho ho!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

February 18, 1954: Lucy's quest

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Charlie Brown's patience with Lucy over her misguided project begins to wear down here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

February 20, 1954: Violet's short attention span

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Violet throws Charlie Brown out rather often.  She forgets why she was mad at him fairly often too.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

February 18, 1954: Baby Linus has a lot of energy

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Schulz uses a few different styles of large-form lettering, and we can see them all here in close proximity.  We find outlined and filled in examples of:



sharp-cornered (in the M)


rounded simulated pen strokes 1

rounded simulated pen strokes2

Saturday, May 14, 2011

February 8-12, 14, 1954: The missing strips are back

The strips I mentioned yesterday as having been missing are back, so let's have a look at them.

February 9, 1954:

A nice inversion of the usual way these Schroeder vs. Charlie Brown strips go, with Schroeder proving to be the one who annoys Charlie Brown.  One of Schulz's particular observational gifts appears to be being able to see all sides of a situation.  No character is wholly admirable or horrible.

Scribble of ire!

February 10, 1954:

Snoopy vs., not the yard, but the living room.  Panel two is weird; it seems obvious that Snoopy is trying to pick the top up, but it's not something we often see Snoopy do.  Panel three isn't immediately readable, but thinking about it I think Snoopy is being pushed away by the top's rotational force.

 February 11, 1954:

Charlie Brown returns to the idea of perfection.  At first he thought he was perfect.  Now he aspires to perfection.  Soon he'll realize his faults (and those he doesn't see Lucy will be happy to point out) and despair of ever overcoming them.  Isn't this how it goes in real life?  There is no truth more clearly and bitterly seen than that which comes from disappointing disillusionment.

February 12, 1954:

Fence gags aren't common in Peanuts, but for some reason Schulz decided now was a good time for one.  There's another coming soon, with Patty and Lucy.

Sunday, February 14, 1954:

Lucy counting the stars.  This is the first one where she seems to be serious about it.  Interestingly here, the sky is not represented as solid black; instead the grass in the background is solid.  You can only really tell it's night from the characters' words and the moon hanging in the sky.

Friday, May 13, 2011

February 13, 15, 16 and 17, 1954: Lucy, Patty and Violet

The strips for February 9-12, and the 14th, are currently missing from Universal's website.  We'll skip those for about a week, then will probably try to get them from another source.

February 13, 1954:

Lucy seems to be exhibiting problems with her indoor voice.  When she's shouting, notice the post of dismay Violet is wearing.  But Lucy doesn't have "angry eyebrows" in any of these panels.
Sometimes Charles Schulz will draw a doll in one of the panels, and I'm always amazed by the effort that goes into them.  Like I said about the last strip, showing a character small isn't really like just drawing it at a smaller scale.  The doll here shows so much attention to detail looks like it could well have been a new character.

February 15, 1954:

 Here is what I meant by "angry eyebrows."
I assume this is before class started, or else I'd think Violet's outburst would cause a disruption.
The change in Charlie Brown's poses from panels 2 to 3, and from 3 to 4, are strange.  He goes from happy, to flinching like he's about to be hit, to a kind of casual leaning back.  Violet is still pretty angry in the last panel though.
For some reason my attention is drawn to Violet's exclamation in the third panel.  It doesn't have an exclamation point, and it has an apostrophe noting the removal of the "e" in "the."
This is not the first strip that shows characters in a school setting, but it might be the second.

February 16, 1954:

This is classic Lucy, and helps to show what a terror she's developing into.  Although there's no spite shown on her face it's difficult to avoid assuming some.  We also get a somersault here, although it's not the side-view one we usually get later.

February 17, 1954:

The question presented by this strip is, is Patty's long pause her intended to be hers, or are we just sort of seeing Charlie Brown's mental state illustrated?  The latter is a bit of a stretch, so I believe it's the former.
Note Charlie Brown's expression in the last panel is not a chagrimace.  It's more like a frown.

META: "This comic is currently unavailable"

Dammit gocomics and Google.

Concerning gocomics:

It seems that a number of strips, including the ones I was just coming up on, currently display graphics stating "This comic is currently unavailable check back soon."  At this time this includes comics for Fabruary 9-12, 1954, as well as the 14th, the 18th, the 20th and the 22nd.  There may be others too.

In fact, the paragraph I just gave you us slightly out of date.  That was yesterday, which I couldn't post because Blogger was down.  Now the strips in question don't even show the error image.  Just navigation elements.  See for yourself.

I think I know why.  When I was looking through these strips before, I noticed that a few of them had been poorly cropped.  Specifically, there were three or four strips in the same image,  I seem to remember noticing they were like that back at

I was all set to remark upon the problem when I got up to it, but what do you know, they seem to have found it just about the moment I got up to them.  I wonder if anyone at Universal reads this blog?  A pleasing, and yet unsettling, thought.

I'm going to hold off on discussing those strips to see how quickly gocomics fixes the problem.  (I could get them from Other Sources, but let's give them a week to fix it themselves, it's not like it should be a particularly hard thing to correct.)  There are some interesting strips affected so I'm loathe to skip them for long.

Concerning Blogger:

You'd think that Google themselves would know something about site reliability, but geez.  Blogger was down all of yesterday, and there was a worry that some posts would be lost.  That doesn't seem to have happened, at least in my case, but the outtage is the reason there was no post yesterday.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

February 8, 1954: Lucy is Loud

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Lucy's not been an overly loud character so far, but the sheer size of her voice becomes a distinctive feature in the coming years.  (But not before another character becomes known for it....)

This strip depicts Lucy in four different sizes.  One of the interesting things about comic strip art, I think, is that it is almost always depicted in set sizes.  Considering how fluid is the medium, it seems weird that characters are always produced at the same sizes each week.

There is at least one good reason for this.  Comic characters are drawn using pen lines, and those have set thicknesses.  If you reproduce a comic character, especially a black-and-white one, at a larger size but without using a thicker line, they tend to look a little funny, like they're "lighter" than they should be.  The opposite happens if you draw a character smaller but use the same size line.  And comic artists, who must be able to precisely reproduce characters, probably have concerns about their ability to do that with different thicknesses of pen.

If you draw the character at its usual size and just resize it using printing equipment, however, it will stick out if it shares a frame with other objects drawn at normal size.

The solution, as Schulz demonstrates here, is to redesign the character at different sizes, simplifying it the smaller it's drawn.  Lucy gets less detailed the further away she gets from the viewer.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sunday, February 7, 1954: The nerve-wracking sled ride

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In an unusual inversion from the norm in later strips, here it's Charlie Brown's imagination that's active and Snoopy is the realist.  I can't help but think Charlie Brown realizes his little sled ride's kind of pathetic; otherwise why would he talk it up with exclamations like "Down! Down! Down!" or "Racing like the wind..."

The chain he's using to hang onto the sled is a nice touch, as is the care Schulz uses to draw the sled.  It's very well-rendered!

The lead panels, which can be kept or left off of a strip at the newspaper's option, are a continual problem with Peanuts' storytelling.  Schulz has to write each strip so that it works either with or without those panels, which sometimes messes with his timing.  Here he presents what is probably a little too much lead-in, which slightly damages the joke.

EDIT: As Sarah Loyd rightly noticed, Snoopy is sporting a chagrimace in the next-to-last panel.

Monday, May 9, 2011

February 6, 1954: You know the thing I like best in the world? CAUSTIC SODA

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There is spite, and there is this.  There's something almost affectionate about holding an entire party specifically to focus on something a particular, pointedly-uninvited person likes, although it's rather a lot of trouble to go through.  I can't help but think that the result would be rather a slapdash affair.  Why would you do otherwise, when the "guest of honor" won't even be there?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

February 5, 1954: Charlie Brown has to be honest

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This strip is a counterpart to earlier strips about the disparity in musical knowledge between Schroeder and Charlie Brown.

The action lines of Charlie Brown pumping the top handle are a little more detailed than is usual.  The arc of musical notes over the top in the second frame is nice.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

February 2, 1954: Grape is the lightest of the flavors

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We've returned to the subject of Snoopy's amazing ears.  Lucy's reaction is interesting.  Increasingly we're getting a sense that the Van Pelt kids, for whatever reason, have their own ways of seeing the world that is different from the other kids.  Linus is able to stack blocks in strange and physics-defying ways, and Lucy seems to have secret knowledge about the gravity-defying properties of grape (or, more likely, artificial grape flavoring).

One could attribute this to their youth.  And indeed the other young member of the cast, Schroeder, also exhibits a unique psychological property -- he's a musical prodigy.  Youth, in Peanuts, seems like it may be a quality tied with genius.  This doesn't last forever however; to my memory, Sally doesn't really seem to ever exhibit these kinds of abilities.

Snoopy seems to be really pleased with himself concerning his trick now.

Friday, May 6, 2011

February 1, 1954: Status in Charlie Brown's neighborhood

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There was a recent comment about Violet's family likely being wealthier than Charlie Brown's, which seems likely.  This strip is evidence that Shermy's might be too -- or at least he might be more of a train freak.

Shermy's train set is obviously set up in his family's living room, or some sort of sitting room.  How long must that have taken to set up, and how many times would his family have stepped on it by accident?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sunday, January 31, 1954: Snoopy, Time Lord

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This is the first strip that implies that Snoopy's doghouse has some extra-dimensional property, that it's bigger inside than outside, although one can take Schroeder's comment to suggest that the rec room is in a basement, and thus underground.  Dog houses don't usually have basements, true, but....

This strip is also evidence that Snoopy is not yet considered to be Charlie Brown's dog.  If Snoopy really were his, wouldn't he already know all this?  As a kid I stumbled upon this strip and wondered why the neighborhood kids were invited into Snoopy's doghouse while Charlie Brown was not, even though he was Snoopy's owner.  It seemed to project upon the kid a sense of being a social pariah that I think stuck with him when I read other, later strips.  Viewed in context with the Peanuts strips up to this point, he doesn't seem to be quite so excluded.

Does Snoopy's rec room have as low a clearance as his entrance?   That could be considered to be something of a flaw if the people he usually has over are all kids.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

January 30, 1954: Not a scale model

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When I was in first grade, the library at the elementary school I attended had a number of Fawcett Peanuts collections.  Of course Peanuts is a lot more than just a kids' strip, and I think this may be why I gravitated towards it.  But because of this, some things about it were confusing, and one of the bigger things is illustrated well in this strip.

Notice Snoopy's reactions here.  They are played very far down.  He provides no dismissive thought bubbles signalling annoyance.  He develops no frown or gaping mouth of dismay.  The only clues to Snoopy's internal state here is how he looks at the camera in the second panel, and his overall actions.  He just leaves.  That's rather cold.

Charles Schulz would become a master at depicting the understated reaction.

Note: Argh, Blogger sometimes marks posts as draft when it's supposed to be publishing them.  This should have gone up yesterday.

Monday, May 2, 2011

January 29, 1954:

Charlie Brown is still something more of a smart aleck than a whipping boy here, but it is an early example of Patty and Violet teaming up against the kid.  Later on he loses this ability to reflect feelings of inadequacy back upon assailants.

Look at Patty's satisfied arms-crossing in the first panel.  Man, that's some serious smug.  Also in the first panel, that's quite a lot of detail on the background there.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

January 26-28, 1954: Cold weather gear

January 26, 1954:

January 27, 1954:

January 28, 1954:

The first two strips here are reminiscent of the bits from A Christmas Story where Ralphie's brother Randy is so over-covered with coats and scarves he can't put his arms down, or get up once knocked over.  I suppose that kids aren't bundled up so well with heat-preservers these days.  Of course Schulz grew up in, and at the time was living in, Minnesota, which is rather infamous for its harsh winters.

The third strip is a demonstration of Snoopy's boundless enthusiasm, which I think became less apparent in the final years of the strip.  Shermy is in the first panel mostly to give context to the object Snoopy is chasing; hockey pucks don't real well if they just show up unheralded.  I think the last panel is a rare design misstep on Schulz's part; the motion lines produced by Snoopy look to more like a solid object than an effect of the dog's motion.