Tuesday, September 27, 2011

November 22-27, 1954: Phooey to you, Charlie Brown!

November 22, 1954

People haven't really given apples to teachers, that I'm aware of, in the years since 1954, where as Charlie Brown remarks was already an outdated notion. And yet, we get this joke, the lore of teacher-apple-giving still lives. (My guess, which could easily be wrong, is that the custom arose as a way of helping to support teachers, who were traditionally spinsters.)

November 23, 1954

Oh, how I love this strip. It's awesome. I love it so much that, over on Metafilter, I've started using "phooey" as a general term of disdain, usually against people who are trolling or spouting incredibly stupid opinions. (Them: "I don't vote, and I don't see why anyone should!" Me: "Phooey to you. Phooey all over you.")

I think why I love this, more than how funny and yet satisfying it is to read "Phooey to you Charlie Brown," is that Schroeder says it twice. The first time we don't know why he's angry; the second time reminds us of his anger. It is perfectly constructed, it reads great, the sentence has a great rhythm, just, wow. This is one of my favorite strips to date.

November 24, 1954

This is either the beginning, or close to the beginning, of Lucy's obsession with bugs, which drives a good number of strips to come.

November 25, 1954

In case you hadn't noticed, Charlie Brown embarrasses easily.

November 26, 1954

A strip like this reminds us of how relatively recent casual sexism was. I'm not sure many comic characters could get away with Charlie Brown's rude summation, although to Schulz's credit it is rare that a male character gets away with declaring superiority to females without some form of rejection, refutation or comeuppance. Calvin might declare how much better boys are than girls, but he certainly wouldn't be allowed to get away with it.

November 27, 1954

The animated adaptions of Peanuts, in addition to not showing adults, also replaced speech with muted trumpet noises. I think the later days of the comic tried to get away with not printing adult words, but in the early days at least Schulz was not above the occasional adult speech balloon.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday, November 21, 1954: The Most Aggravating Person In The World

Read this strip at gocomics.com.

This is a wonderful strip overall. Although the punchline (or punch panel) is kind of flat and could have been done in a daily strip, the buildup to it is marvelous. Charlie Brown and Lucy's argument is wonderful and energetic, especially panels six and seven, where the characters lean into the other as they express their anger. Although most of the strip is just talking, it's far from static talking heads, Charlie Brown really acts out his frustrations.

The first two panels make the strip, for that feeling of dread Charlie Brown suffers through knowing what's about to happen while powerless to stop it. (It also gives us another use of thought balloons, which are far from a standard part of Peanuts at this point.) Lucy, as is often the case, argues from a misguided position, but she still believes in it and defends it.

I'm not sure I've seen a strip yet with this much shouting and anger. That recent Lucy and Schroeder strip had Schroeder quite angry, but it was a single burst of emotion, not a sustained assault. This seems like a breakthrough strip to me, in terms of Schulz's depiction of conversation and anger, and just the energy he infuses into it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

November 15-20, 1954: I've known people like that

November 15

This strip begins a sequence where Charlie Brown frets over Lucy's willful ignorance of the world. Coupled with the Sunday strip we just saw, I think we're now just at the beginning of Peanuts' "classic" period, where Schulz comes to more fully inhabit his characters and deal with them as people, with developing personalities.

November 16

Sarcasm is no use; Lucy is impervious to it.

November 17

One interesting thing about this sequence is that Charlie Brown is depicted as really worked up over Lucy's ignorance. Could it be that she's trolling him? From a modern perspective, from all the willful ignorance we see in the world today, I think I sympathize with Charlie Brown a bit more here.

November 18

For some reason here, I imagine Lucy as Stephen Colbert and Charlie Brown as one of his guests. That's a pretty funny drawing of Charlie Brown there, although it seems to suggest he might have a neurological condition.

November 19

Panel three here, that's one of the most frustrated looks we ever get out of Charlie Brown, I think. Later on he's more the type to suffer with a sigh, but he boils over here.

November 20

To finish out the week, a bit of silliness with Snoopy. Every one of these drawings of him is a winner, but I especially like the ones in the first and last panels. Peanuts have to be drawn carefully, I'd say; the characters depend heavily on the angle they are viewed at to read properly. This is actually true of most comic strips, but it's especially true of Peanuts. If the top of Snoopy's head were facing away from the reader in the last panel, I'm not sure there's any way he could be drawn that would read well. (Although it's entirely possible there IS such a way; I just can't think of it.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday, November 14, 1954: C'mon, forget about Beethoven for awhile

November 8-13, 1954 are missing from gocomics' archive.

Read this strip at gocomics.com.

We've seen Lucy and Schroeder fight over the piano before, but this one I think puts Lucy's case forth as sympathetically as we ever see. Panel seven in particular is surprisingly effective, almost pleading. The dramatic thrust of the strip seems to imply that it was the offer of hot chocolate in the next panel that caused Schroeder's rejection. How mundane! But what else could she offer -- er, that's suitable for a kid's strip, of course.

Schulz and Peanuts seems to suggest that Schulz got ideas and energy for the Lucy vs. Schroeder strips from his personal life with his first wife. Schulz's family disputes that he got as many ideas for strips from his relations with people that the book suggests. My own theory, which I've stated before, is that a cartoonist can't help but draw from his surroundings, that eventually the contents of your brain end up on the page whether you intend it or not, and that would seem to agree with the book's angle on Schulz's work.

This is also, I think, the first panel in which Lucy notes her own face as being pretty, a habit of hers that spreads to her dealings with other characters, especially Charlie Brown.

Friday, September 16, 2011

November 7, 1954: Linus Van Pelt: Master of Card Houses and the Slow Burn

Read this strip at gocomics.com.

Lucy is such a caring and supportive sister. Her laughter consists of the serif'd letters of malice.

I love how Linus carefully puts all the cards back in the pack before throwing it at Lucy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

November 1-6, 1954: Leaves can be surprisingly vindictive

November 1
This strip reminds me of later strips in which characters try to figure out what to do with jack-o-lanterns after Halloween. I seem to remember "Peppermint" Patty trying to make a pie.
November 2
Oh they look harmless, but don't make them mad!
November 3
More of Lucy's off-kilter way of looking at the world. She's old enough now that she knows a bit of the world, but isn't old enough that she has all the concepts right in her head, which I expect made her a fun character to write for. Which might explain why we've had a lot of her lately.
November 4
Why is Pig-Pen so happy in the third panel? The rest of it is easily understandable, but why is he so amused there? Is it because he knows Snoopy standing there and he sees the hole Charlie Brown is digging for himself? Is it just that he doesn't care how he is perceived?
November 5
Oh, to be delivered unto Lucy's tender mercies! Linus is right to be afraid. "AAGH" doesn't seem to be nearly frightened enough by my reckoning.
November 6
Well, getting a picture is a lot easier than taking a whole bath.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday, October 31, 1954: Have you tried changing providers?

There's another missing week in gocomics' archive, from October 25-30. It picks back up the following Sunday, Halloween, although it's not a Halloween strip.

Read this strip on gocomics.com.

Not the most complicated gag in the world. This is basically what people here in Georgia have to do to get a connection with AT&T.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sunday, October 25, 1954: Schroeder's shameful secret

And we're back!

Remember, one week before this Charlie Brown was heaping ridicule on Linus' blanket. At least the kid is open-minded! The thing that makes this strip for me is Schroeder's look of despair in the last panel. Oh no, I've been discovered!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

META: Hiatus continues

Just letting you guys know I'm at DragonCon. There isn't much Peanuts content here, other than the odd person with wearing a Charlie Brown shirt. The con ends Monday, probably regular updates will resume Tuesday. (I already have most of a new post written out, I might finish it sometime today if I can find the time.)