Saturday, June 18, 2011

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

Read this strip at

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.


  1. I remember a very similar strip from later on...I think in that one Charlie Brown was yelling at everyone (in a bold font, no less), something along the lines of "COME ON, YOU GUYS!".

    This one seems much more sad and desperate. Especially the way CB is so small in the last panel compared to the amazing rainstorm.

  2. Though this appears to be the first, bits about CB standing fast on the pitcher's mound during a rainstorm -- long after everyone else has run for home -- pop up throughout the life of Peanuts. In fact, I'm currently reading the Fantagraphics anthology from 1975-76, and one series has CB and his pitcher's mound floating "out to sea" in a heavy rain (in fact, he ends up dumped in an alley) while the other kids watch safely from indoors. Of course, no one makes much of an effort to try and rescue him...

  3. Also interesting here is the fact that Schulz doesn't even attempt to give us a closing gag, the way he would in many similar strips to come. He just simply has Charlie Brown repeat the same phrase. As John notes, that serves to make the final panel all the more poignant.

  4. I think the mystery kid is actually Shermy with his mitt on his head and from a different perspective - though that would mean Shroeder is a very fast runner to have left hime behind...