Thursday, June 30, 2011

April 28-30, 1954: Comics, stairs and hoops

April 28, 1954:

The latest in the "Charlie Brown, Cartoonist" sequence. This one, I think, has an uncharacteristically clunky final panel. I find it difficult to imagine how Schulz could have thought CB's statement at the end works, it's very un-Peanuts-like.

April 29, 1954:

This is more like it. After the "Big Kids" Sunday strip, I think this is the first one to have a full thought balloon from Linus. I find the stairs in the second panel a little problematic, though. It's like the stairs sort of "slope" down off the side, like a carpeted hillside or something.

April 30, 1954:

Is it any wonder Snoopy forgets the kid's name? Anyway, this strip only works because of the limited size of the panels. Presumably Snoopy can see ahead off-panel, so why doesn't he notice the hoop is only as large as his snout beforehand? Maybe it's why Schulz draws him with his eyes closed in the third panel.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

April 27, 1954: With real working truck bed!

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This is a frequently-used structure by Schulz at the moment. It goes:

1. A character does or says something silly.
2. Another character, or in the case of Snoopy vs. The Yard plain old physics, shows why the thing done is silly.

It's not much by itself, so these strips usually have something else going for them, either funny art (as here), empathy with one of the characters (such as the silly one who realizes by the end his mistake), or in some cases the silly character bullheadedly persisting in his error regardless. This happens with Lucy a lot, but Linus also becomes susceptible to it, every Halloween....

META: Comments working again?

The previous post got a comment, maybe they're working again?  If you've had trouble commenting lately, try seeing if the comment form loads now.

April 26, 1954: Have you met Schroeder's brother, George?

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This looks very much like a pop culture reference of the time, the candelabrum on the piano being a trademark of popular pianist Liberache. Or maybe it's just something pianists did at the time? It is rare that Charlie Brown and Shermy are more disgusted with commercialism than Schroeder, Christmas specials notwithstanding.

Ominously, Schroeder's little gesture seems to have enraptured Lucy.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday, April 25, 1954: Patty tags out

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Patty's only kicked CB's sandcastle once in the strip so far, but this implies a regular reign of terror has been going on.  It's a funny strip all together though, and is another step closer to the Patty/Violet team act some of us remember from the early compilations.

META: Comments don't seem to be working

Just letting everyone know that comments seem to be broken for some reason on newer posts.  I have done nothing to break them, it must be on Blogger's end.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

April 24, 1954: Fashion arbiter of novelty records

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I assume this is a kid's record or some sort, or maybe a popular song of the day.  Regardless, Lucy's summation is probably accurate.  It is kind of a strange thing to write a song about I'd think.  Her diagnosis might be regarded as practice for the Psychiatrist's Booth.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

April 23, 1954: The aerodynamic properties of that ball seem unsuitable

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It's harder to throw, but you can't expect it to go so far if the batter gets a good whack at it.  However, if he hits it really solidly it will probably take several minutes just to put the ball back together.

I think this is one of the few strips with Shermy, Schroeder and no one else.  (Charlie Brown is mentioned but not pictured.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

April 22, 1954: So, it's his umbrella?

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This is a silly strip, it doesn't really have a strong gag but it's visually appealing.  One has to wonder about the practicality of a dog owning an umbrella though.  How does Snoopy close it?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

April 19, 1954: Lucy, team paperweight

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Lucy's mostly-permanent position in right field is some time off, but this is the first time she's shown as a player (excepting perhaps last week's rain-out).

The baseball gloves in Peanuts are laughably outsized compared to the kids.  This one's the size of Lucy's head!  It looks like her arm could just about fill one of those gigantic fingers.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sunday, April 18, 1954: Who needs peppermint?

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Here we have one of the more interesting questions about the Peanuts strip.  Schulz and Peanuts makes the claim, if I remember it correctly, that the two Pattys, the original and the "Peppermint" variety, were based on the same person.  At first that assumption seems laughable, despite the two sharing the same name, but think.  Besides this strip, every physical contest we've seen Patty in (marbles, mostly, and mostly against Charlie Brown), she's won.  And their times in the strip don't intersect very much; one wanes right when the other waxes.

Oh well.  Idle speculation aside, I think this strip has a hilarious final panel.  I don't know of any other strip that would think to end it so understatedly, or half as effectively.

One weird thing though: look at the backgrounds of the last two panels.  They're completely different!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

April 12-17 1954: A week at once

Let's do a batch of six this time.

April 12, 1954:

This is the first strip of a new running gag, where Charlie Brown reads something about Beethoven aloud to Schroeder from a book, and he reacts loudly to it.  Like Snoopy vs. the Yard or Linus' surreal block-building skills, or indeed Charlie Brown drawing cartoons, this goes on for a bit.  Schulz must have found the idea interesting.

April 13, 1954:

More development of Charlie Brown's defeatist personality.  There is no hard dividing line between what I call "early" Peanuts and "classic" Peanuts, the strip's evolution isn't actually reducible to those terms, but if we accept them anyway I'd call this definitely a "classic" strip.

April 14, 1954:

This is the first time Snoopy has been shown digging.  It's a good pose for him.  The first panel shows Schulz's new, loosened style for drawing him.   Snoopy has already evolved quite far from the cute little puppy that walked beneath Patty's window.

The throwing of the golf clubs is slightly shocking, because they are presumably the result of an action performed by (gasp!) adults.  We should be coming up soon on that weird section soon with Lucy in the golf tournament, which actually has adult figures in it, although never their faces in detail.

April 15, 1954:

Next on his reading list: "Who's On First," by B. Abbot and L. Costello.

April 16, 1954:

This shows, a bit, how Peanuts kids differ from real kids.  What child in the world has ever said "Well!  What an insult!" in response to anything?  I assume from this that the fussing in question is a kind of unspoken, whiny kind of thing, which Schulz didn't attempt to depict visually like he did with the white noise from a few days ago.  He could have depicted the singing with a musical note, but it would have spoiled the joke.

April 17, 1954:

Oh I am so not making a "two girls one dish" joke.  I'm only mentioning it here to prevent any of you from bringing it up in comments.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sunday, April 11, 1954: I'm getting worried about Charlie Brown

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I think this is a very important strip.  It establishes that Charlie Brown doesn't just play baseball but is kind of obsessed with it.  Of course it could well have been a transitory aspect of the character at this point, valid just for one strip, but already Charlie Brown is really the only character of Peanuts' cast who works here.  Linus is too young, Schroeder isn't so serious about anything that isn't music, and Shermy is kind of a non-entity.  Snoopy is still too dog-like, and anyway can't talk.  While Peanuts' girls aren't very girly overall, it would take a tomboy type to be this obsesses over sports, and "Peppermint" Patty is still many years away.

At the end of it we kind of feel sorry for Charlie Brown, standing alone in the driving rain, even as we recognize his predicament is his own making and continuing.  Part of that comes from Schulz's art, which is top-notch here.  One of the most effective techniques in his cartoonist's bag of tricks is the way he depicts rain, which requires great attention to line thickness and patience in just rendering all those lines.

It's very easy to mess up, but the effect is wonderful.  The way the lines blend in with each other in the last panel, how they get darker above the horizon to provide the illusion of a blurred backdrop, the care he takes to make sure that the important parts of the panels aren't too broken up by the crosshatching, it all demonstrates the immense care Charles Schulz took in rendering the strip.

Notice where a character has a dark portion of his clothes or hair, that he changes how he shades it in.  He's also careful to make sure the rain doesn't make it difficult to read a character's identity of expression.  Character faces are mostly unobscured.  This strip must have taken Schulz some serious time to put together, and all for one day's output.  Whether you think Peanuts has yet attained the status of art, it's certainly got the chops when it comes to craft.

Here's a question for you: who is the kid in the next-to-last panel?  Shermy is the character is most fits, but he ran away in the previous panel.  He is carrying a baseball glove in panel six and is holding it overhead in panel seven, so I guess there is some continuity there.  But looking closely at panel six, it's not entirely convincing the way he holds his glove there.  It looks huge there in any case.

Friday, June 17, 2011

April 10, 1954: Linus' favorite show

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I wonder how Linus feels about the Viacom 'V of Doom.'

Thursday, June 16, 2011

April 8, 1954: I can't resist a sight gag

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I probably should stop linking to every sight gag strip.  This one's pretty funny for that last panel, and contains a chagrimace, and it has to do with baseball, and has an non-musical appearance by Schroeder, but other than those four things isn't that interesting.

Well, the floppy baseball in the first panel is funny too.  Other than those five things, it isn't that interesting.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

April 7, 1954: Snoopy doesn't "do" fetch

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Snoopy is both centered a bit more as being owned by Charlie Brown here, he uses a thought balloon, and shows some of the Snoopy-like personality at the end.

On the matter of Snoopy's ownership, there is a quite informative, unofficial FAQ on Peanuts hosted on  It is item 4.29.  It is detailed and informative and is probably the definitive statement on the growing certitude over who owns Snoopy, and I'm pasting that item here.  It's seems to be pretty much the last word on the matter:

Casual fans generally assume that Snoopy always has belonged to Charlie Brown, at least since the beagle was returned to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm after briefly being taken homeby his first owner, a little girl named Lila (this story lending itself to the second big-screen Peanuts film, "Snoopy Come Home").

But it didn't start out that way. When Peanuts first began in late 1950, with its small roster of characters, Snoopy was more a "neighborhood dog" who might pop up with any of the newspaper strip's first stars: Charlie Brown, Patty or Shermy. On October 25, 1950, for example, Snoopy can be seen eavesdropping as Patty makes a call from her toy telephone ... which definitely seems to be inside her house. In the November 7 strip that year, Snoopy is in Charlie Brown's house; and on several occasions Snoopy is shown keeping company with Shermy. On February 2, 1951, Patty quite clearly tells Charlie Brown that Snoopy lives in "that direction" ... which does NOT point to Charlie Brown's house.

The first suggestion that Snoopy might have a specific connection to Charlie Brown comes on April 11, 1951, when the beagle shows up dressed in a zig-zag shirt just like Charlie Brown. But even here, it's hard to be sure; Snoopy might simply be making fun of poor ol' Chuck.

Stronger evidence comes September 12, 1951, when we see that Charlie Brown has a picture of Snoopy in his room ... which seems to suggest that the beagle is, at last, specifically bonded with Chuck. (Or maybe not. A few weeks later, Snoopy goes "home" ... to Shermy's house!)

On December 15, 1951, Charlie Brown repairs Snoopy's doghouse ... which certainly suggests that our beagle's home is in Chuck's yard. Unfortunately, on April 3, 1953, Patty and Schroeder ask a passing Charlie Brown what color he thinks THEY should paint Snoopy's house!

That latter incident notwithstanding, by 1953 Snoopy still is visiting other kids in their homes, but there are no strong indications that he lives with anybody except Charlie Brown. On November 28, 1953, for example, Charlie Brown tells Snoopy to go to bed, and both definitely are in Chuck's house.

But ambiguity creeps in once more. On December 5, 1954, after slipping Snoopy a piece of candy that came from Pig Pen's pocket, Charlie Brown says, "Psst ... Snoopy, ol' pal ... you'd better come home with me, and have a drink of water." Take note of the words "with me" ... one would think, if Snoopy lives with Charlie Brown, that Chuck would simply say, "You'd better come home."

Finally, on October 15, 1955, Charlie Brown gives Snoopy some food from the dinner table, while saying, "There you are, old friend" ... a phrase that strongly suggests ownership. A few weeks later, on November 1, Charlie Brown gives Snoopy his dinner in front of the family TV set ... definitely in Chuck's house. On November 3, Charlie Brown tells Violet that "All the dogs in the city [now] have to be kept tied up." Violet asks if he has tied up Snoopy, and Charlie Brown says "Of course ... what else could I do?" Clearly, at this point, Violet is identifying Snoopy as Charlie Brown's dog. And a few weeks later, on November 18, Charlie Brown tells Patty that he has Snoopy (who's no longer roped to a tree) "tied up with a sense of obligation" ... another strong indication of ownership.

Feeding Snoopy becomes more of a habit; on December 8, Charlie Brown tells Shermy that he'll be out in a minute, after he "attends to the hound." On March 10, 1956, Charlie Brown tells Lucy that Snoopy always brings his supper dish to him when he (Snoopy) is hungry.

On December 14, 1956, Charlie Brown buys Snoopy a new collar ("...something more masculine"). On November 14, 1957, Charlie Brown refers to Snoopy as "My pal" and says that "Everyone should have a dog to greet him when he comes home."

And finally -- FINALLY -- we get the smoking gun on September 1, 1958, as Charlie Brown is writing a letter to his pencil-pal. As his faithful friend peers onto the table to see what's going on, Charlie Brown adds, "Oh, yes, I also have a dog named Snoopy. He's kind of crazy." As of that moment, Snoopy is -- without question -- Charlie Brown's dog!

Wow, not until September, 1958 huh?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

April 6, 1954: So that's what radio static looks like

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Some nice, although strangely un-Peanuts-like, abstract art here brought to field in the cause of drawing white noise.  Charlie Brown is still kind of silly/naive sometimes; Linus would be more the type to listen to static later.  Of course it has to be Schroeder who offers to fix C.B.'s radio, because he cares enough about music to help people experience it better.

Monday, June 13, 2011

April 5, 1954: Snoopy will not be deterred

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Another Snoopy power! This makes sense once you realize that Snoopy's open mouth is magnetically attracted to treats. (Oh if you want to be boring you could say he just smelled it.)

Snoopy is slowly becoming looser in design, and it has been good for the character. He was almost like a piece of clip-art at first, but now he's slowly growing larger (more obvious when he's walking -- note how large he is in the last panel compared to the rest of the strip) and his mouth is capable of opening wider, in the second panel here particularly. He's slowly turning into the outgoing, wildly imaginative werewolf we all know.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday, April 4, 1954: Lucy sees the night-time sky as a challenge

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There are multiple ways one could interpret this strip.

The least charitable is that's it's twee and annoying.  A cute little girl doing a cute little thing.  The kind of place "Happiness is a warm puppy" comes from.  Bleah.

If Peanuts never became anything more than that, then this would probably be the way we would look at the strip now.  But because we know that more complex things were going on inside of Schulz's head, things that were demonstrated by later strips, we can get a better sense of what he was trying to do, and I think that saves this strip.

The point of the strip isn't to look at Lucy and go "awww," the point is to empathize with her.  I think the third panel is the one that proves this, and it's a shame it's one of the ones that was removed from some newspaper printings.  She's been told that it's hopeless, but she is confident in her abilities.  The strip is about her disillusionment when faced with the vastness of the universe, which is a lot bigger than she is.  At the most charitable, we could possibly interpret Lucy's "SLOW DOWN" in panel 11 as Man's rejection of his station, but that might actually be too far for this one.

Schulz does a pretty good job of drawing stars here.  On normal paper, it's a lot easier to depict black dots on a white field than white dots on a black one.

Notice his signature in the first panel, where it intersects the black.  Snazzy!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

April 3, 1954: Issues in Mud Baking

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Her problem is she didn't bake them long enough so that they formed a crust.  Violet should look into getting a kiln.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

April 1-2, 1954: Two on Baseball

April 1:

The second panel here is a particular favorite of mine.  Lucy is weighing her options.

This may be the first direct instance of direct violence in Peanuts.  There have been chases before, and chases of being hit by projectiles (like one where Lucy hits Charlie Brown with a snowball at very cose range) but I don't think anyone has actually hit another kid before now, with hand or weapon.  I'm sure one of you will correct me if I've remembered wrong.  (In fact, I'm looking forward to it.)

April 2:

Now that another character has directly remarked on Charlie Brown's lack of playing skill, it has become a bit more solidified as an attribute of the character himself.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

March 29-31, 1954: Three at sea

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I'll say this much about Universal's archives having poorly-cropped strips at this point; by doing three at once, we're making fairly good time through 1954.  Although they do prevent me from skipping strips, or organizing like strips together (like the saga of Linus' block building skills).  These three strips finish out March.

March 29, 1954:
This strip implies some kind of empathy between the young Linus and Snoopy.  Snoopy is running towards Linus at full speed, so Linus knows to build a wall for Snoopy to jump over, and he knows that Snoopy will see this as a fun thing to hurdle, and not an effort to get him to crash.

It doesn't look like Linus is building quickly here, but he can't have had more than a few seconds to construct that wall.

March 30, 1954:
This is one of the earliest indications of Charlie Brown's poor baseball skills.

March 31, 1954:
Charlie Brown lecturing Snoopy?  Another point of evidence that he is Snoopy's owner, at least legally -- Snoopy isn't exactly reverential here.

Serif Z!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sunday, March 28, 1954: An outsider's view of the Van Pelt family

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The first two panels have more of Lucy's ability to rule it over Charlie Brown in checkers, but the main thrust of this strip is twofold.  First, Lucy shows a rather astonishing lack of interest in Linus.  I think this is the first time her dislike of her brother has really come to fore.  Like many of the relations of Peanuts this is fluid and comes and goes over time, but in the long run at least it seems to be an aspect of Lucy's character that sticks.  It makes me feel kind of sorry for both of them.

But the reason Linus likes to play by himself, it turns out, is that he is insanely functional, like in an autistic sense.

It seems like the way a Cthulhu cultist might not be able to talk without inserting ftagn every other sentence, but has bizarre, yet correct, insights into the nature of the universe.

META: Dammit Blogger

Blogger in Draft's interface has changed completely since yesterday, it's going to take some time to retrain myself for this.  So far my reaction has been: GUH, if I wanted "blogs I'm following" to be the main thing I see upon logging in, I'd go to Google Reader.

Monday, June 6, 2011

March 25-27, 1954: Three, golly gee

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More glued-together strips from Universal's slightly malformed archive.

March 25, 1954:
Patty is an expert at marbles.  I've had the same reaction that Patty gets from Charlie Brown and Shermy, from people who balk at playing Monopoly without the various house rules (like money on Free Parking or no auctions) that make that very long game much longer.

March 26, 1954:
Now isn't that a hellish visage to have suddenly thrust into your face?

March 27, 1954:
More developing of Charlie Brown's "loser" persona.  I wonder if Schulz knew he was fixing the kid's personality for all time in these strips, or if he thought it was just another story theme, like Linus' Newton-defying block building skills or Violet's mud pie fixation?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

March 22-24, 1954: Three don't you see

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More badly-framed strips from that odd place in the internet Peanuts archives, probably caused by an oversight when these were scanned in from print compilations.

March 22, 1954:
At this point in the strip, examples like yesterday notwithstanding, Patty is kind of like the female Charlie Brown.  Not in the sense of being defeated by the world, but in the sense of being an every-person suitable for use in general.  She is rather more competent than Charlie Brown though, and clearer-headed.

Again, the difference between Peanuts and other strips?  Poorer strips would probably end with a sarcastic comment from Patty and make that the punchline.  Competent strips would end with Charlie Brown pointing at Snoopy, and letting the reader laugh at that dumb kid himself.  Peanuts gives us that last panel, which sympathizes with Charlie Brown.  It recognizes that, hey, we're all stupid like this sometime, and when we realize that we are we should be embarrassed about it.  But we should also get out of the weather.

March 23, 1954:

Violet's fixation on the preparation of mud pies is one of the earliest recognizable traits exhibited by a specific Peanuts character.  We haven't seen it for a while though.  As I've said previously, when you're sentenced to come up with a joke a day for the rest of your life, you use what you think of.  Schulz attacked this somewhat dismal craft without complaint, and frequently with genius.

March 24, 1954:
Charlie Brown's insecure personality is developing clearly now, but Schulz still gives him an out sometimes, with the kids calling for him. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sunday, March 21, 1954: Eight stages of grief

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Beginning with panel eight:

1. Shock
2. Disbelief
3. Confirmation
4. Anger
5. Blankness
6. Taking off your shirt(?)
7. Wide-mouthed frowning
8. Sighing

They might not be the official stages, but they work for Charlie Brown.

This is possibly the most directly hostile act so far seen in Peanuts.  It would be worthy of Lucy.  There are no extenuating circumstances, and nothing sets Patty off, yet she accomplishes her self-appointed task with relish.  It's kind of out of character.  Even when she's part of the team act with Violet against CB, their methods are less overt.

Switch the gender roles here and the strip would turn out quite different.  Even this early, it doesn't seem to be in Charlie Brown's nature to do something this mean.  It's the kind of thing Calvin might do to Susie, but not without some form of judgmental comeuppance from the cartoonist.

Friday, June 3, 2011

March 18-21, 1954: Three in a tree

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Another triple.

March 18, 1954:
If you're as small as Linus, a bag of blocks is in fact a very useful thing to have.  Of course most little kids don't have the block-stacking skill or the utilitarian frame of mind to make the proper use of them.

March 19, 1954:
Linus' block-stacking powers have met their match.

March 20, 1954:
This is sort of a response to Charlie Brown giving Violet chocolates for Income Tax Day back on Monday.  Charlie Brown's "Wow!" in the first panel is mighty fancy, like a small version of the looping letters Schulz sometimes draws large.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

March 15-17, 1954: Three for free

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Three more conjoined strips, caused when whoever scanned these forgot to crop.

March 15, 1954:
A funny strip in general.  Charlie Brown is not one to let a card go to waste, even if it's not really suited for its purpose.  At least we should be glad Schroeder isn't giving out Beethoven's Birthday cards.  Yet.

March 16, 1954:
Snoopy is using thought balloons!  I think he used them one time before, but this time I think it "takes."  Good faces on Snoopy here.

March 17, 1954:
Patty is unexpectedly a marbles shark.  Not as bad as Lucy at checkers, but still.  What do marbles champs do with all their winnings?  She must have a huge collection of the things by now.  I wonder if the marbles companies engineered the whole "playing for keeps" idea, the same way Wizards of the Coast put playing "for ante" in the official rules to Magic: The Gathering?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sunday, March 14, 1954: Snowball Fail

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Charlie Brown doesn't have it in him to make a really evil face, such that Calvin could or, closer to home, Lucy of a few years from now.  There is sort of that aspect of Calvin picking on Susie here, although it's usually more of an outside source that gives him his comeuppance.