Monday, October 31, 2011

December 30, 1954-January 2, 1955: Once upon a time they lived happily ever after

gocomics' archives are missing the strips from December 27-29, 1954. Anyone have access to these strips? Perhaps it's just as well as, other than the Sunday strip, these aren't particularly inspiring, IMO.

December 30

The doggy tradition of eating anything offered to them has its pitfalls.

December 31

But the wool fibers are the best part!

January 1, 1955

Another of the surprisingly long-running series of strips involving Snoopy trying to watch television.

Sunday, January 2

This is a good one. The exchange in the lead panel, "Charlie Brown" in a sing-song voice delivered by Lucy followed by a weary "Good grief" from the other, was probably duplicated in at least one football strip. We've had one strip so far in which Lucy pulled away the football that Charlie Brown was trying to kick (twice), but it was accidental, and it hasn't become a yearly tradition yet. This strip brings us closer to the antagonistic relationship that is at the heart of the football strips.

It's also pretty witty. "Once upon a time they lived happily ever after. The end." That's what we call simplifying the equation right there.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday, December 26, 1954: Schroeder's Mania

Read this strip at

"You'll never believe this, but I was hoping you'd come over.." Gee thanks, kid.

This strip neatly encapsulates much of Schroeder's character. I remember seeing it in a compilation when I was maybe eight or so. Even then I had trouble believing in the existence of 12-volume biographies of Ludwig van Beethoven in comic book form, Beethoven ballpoint pens and Beethoven bubble-gum, but maybe there's some Beethoven subculture out there I've had no contact with. Is that Beethoven brand bubblegum, or is it bubblegum with Beethoven trading cards? Anyway, "Very scowly."

I imagine one of Schroeder's parents getting him the train in a desperate attempt to broaden the kid's interests outside his overpowering obsession. Because idolization is one thing, but this is bizarre.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

December 20-25, 1954: Square Balloons and Christmas Day

December 20

Here's another early sequence, in which Linus confounds Charlie Brown by blowing balloons into cubes. I've joked about Linus having uncanny powers, but how else can you explain this?

December 21

At least you can stack them neatly this way.

December 22

Look at Lucy's look of horror in the second panel. This strip makes it a little more clear what Schulz is getting at with this sequence. Although blowing up balloons into squares is a marvelous skill, Charlie Brown seems to think it's something wrong somehow, and Lucy thinks it'll bring dishonor to her house. I guess people put more importance into balloon-inflating style back in 1954.

December 23

Even if he tries to blow it up into a rough sphere, it comes out square. This could be taken as a metaphor for something I suppose. Actually, multiple somethings.

December 24

What would happen if you gave Linus an innertube to blow up?

Christmas Day

"Hey! Come back with my pagan idol of music!" "Take it easy, I'm just replacing it with a good, honest Christian symbol! Er, that used to be an element of nature-worship. Merry Christmas!"

We'll have more of Charlie Brown and Schroeder and Christmas next time....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sunday, December 19, 1954: That kids really likes that rubber band

Read this strip at

When Lucy gives you rubber, Linus makes rubber-ade. And this is full-bore Lucy here, in full Hate Mode. The funniest thing about it I think is Linus' annoyed scribble of ire as Lucy addresses him with a serif'd "Hey!" He knows what's coming.

That's a weird look on Linus' face in the last panel.

Friday, October 21, 2011

December 13-18, 1954: Obsessing over Santa

December 13

I think this is second time a character has written things that are depicted as hanging over his head. (I forgot exactly when the first was, unfortunately -- it's possible I'm getting confused and this is the first, this post has been a few days in coming.)

The convention is odd, and I think originates with Peanuts. It is hard to come up with new conventions that are still at-a-glance comprehensible to the reader. This one is helped by the fact that Charlie Brown is obvious writing, and the words hanging in the air are hand-written. Thought balloons had to have been a harder sell.

December 14

A hint that Charlie Brown doesn't get much for Christmas. This could be taken as another hint that his family is working-class; the first such hints were from Violet snobbishly lording it over him, and Shermy's huge train set contrasted with CB's tiny loop.

December 15

Once again, an early Peanuts strip presents a scene that wouldn't have been out of place in Calvin and Hobbes.

December 16

If you ever find a discarded calendar with December 17 circled in red, you'll have a pretty good idea who owned it. Schroeder's affection for the composer is alternatingly touching and worrying. I am reminded, for some reason, of that guy who left roses and cognac on Edgar Allen Poe's grave all those years.

December 17

To reveal that Santa travels around the world on a flying sleigh pulled by reindeer would be a let down.

December 18

That's a pretty harsh response, heh. I wonder if we can consider that it's Charlie Brown's parents who sent him that rejection slip, in order to manage their son's expectations for Christmas presents?

The blog has been updating sporadically lately because the blogging client I usually use, Blogsy (basically the only worthwhile iOS blogging client I've seen), was broken first by Apple and iOS 5, second by Google and WebAUTH 2.0, which hangs if you try to upload more than three images within a limited time. I hadn't noticed how slow the Blogger web interface workflow was until I was forced to go back to it for a while. Blogsy still isn't completely fixed yet, but at least it's useable again.

In more relevant news, the writer of Sally Forth (rather an underrated strip if you ask me) keeps a webcomic called Medium Large that referenced the Great Pumpkin yesterday. (Warning: language, NSFW)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

December 6-11, 1954: The Fussbudget Sonata

December 6
This is an intensified version of a previous snubbing strip.  Charlie Brown still hasn't quite started taking snubs to heart.

December 7
Charlotte Braun won't be with us long folks.  I mentioned before, I seem to remember, that her niche would be taken over by Lucy (whose fussing becomes better-illustrated as Schulz turns up her volume), and some parts of her character design would later be refined and used for Sally.

December 8
Charlotte Braun rarely appears in collections -- I think gocomics' archive and of course the Fantagraphics volumes are pretty much it.

December 9
Come on now, Lucy isn't really that bad a girl, at least not yet.

December 10
There's something about the way Lucy looks straight up that looks a little weird.  In the second panel, is that her chin or her cheek?

December 11
Is this an early example of Schroeder warming slightly to Lucy, or is it sarcasm on his part?

Lucy has been described, and has self-identified, as a fussbudget before, but I think here it's starting to become a defining attribute.  I think a lot of people's impressions of the characters originated from the early collections (some of which I read as a kid in first grade -- I devoured all their Fawcett Peanuts collections), and we're just starting to get to the era where strips would frequently be drawn from for those reprints.  That's the era that started frequently referring to Lucy as a fussbudget, so they would come to figure prominently in perceptions of the character.

The paddleball bit with Charlie Brown is a wholly unnecessary, but nice, touch.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunday, December 5, 1954: Large-format Pig-Pen

Read this strip at

1. "Poor ol' Pig-Pen" indicates a certain amount of resignation from Charlie Brown concerning Pig-Pen's condition.
2. The joke about raising a cloud of dust while running on a sidewalk would be reused multiple times over Peanuts' run. This is the first use.
3. This is a hilarious strip in how throughly it imagines the intersection between those two ideas, "Pig-Pen" and "candy." "I can't get it out of my pocket... IT'S STUCK!" Oh god.
4. Pig-Pen is totally ignorant of Charlie Brown's discomfort. That kid must have an amazing immune system. I'm reminded of a bit from James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small books where the Yorkshire country vet describes the amazing health of the kids of the local knacker-man, who have been brought up all their lives amid the end-products of the most amazingly deadly livestock diseases.
5. Charlie Brown's concern for Snoopy's well-being is touching in a way.  The dog helped him out, it's only right he return the favor.  (If the candy had fallen on the ground, it might not have gotten any dirtier but Pig-Pen might not recognize it as being any more sullied.  He may even have found it there.)
6. Good grief!
7. Scribble of... what, really?


Sorry for the delay in this update.  Foolishly, I went ahead and updated to iOS 5 only to discover my blogging client crashes when uploading images on it, so I'm going to have to use Blogger's web interface to post for a while.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

November 29-December 4: GOOD OL' CHARLOTTE BRAUN

November 29, 1954

He is a dog, after all. I'm surprised that Snoopy's amazing, candy-detecting nose failed to realize Charlie Brown had no candy on him.

November 30, 1954

Here is introduced the second of Peanuts' one-joke characters, and the first character to eventually leave its cast. 'Pig-Pen' lasts until nearly the end of the strip because there have always been, and could well always be, dirty kids. Poor ol' Charlotte Braun's niche gets taken up by Lucy pretty quickly though.

How weird is it that CB's friends tend to call him "Good Ol'" Charlie Brown, and that he remarks upon it?

December 1, 1954

This is one of those strips where the setting changes from panel to panel in such a way that it implies that the conversation is longer than we're seeing on the page. Particularly, between panels two and three, Violet and Charlotte suddenly go from standing on a path to sitting at a curb, and Charlie Brown has had materialize a tree to ineffectively hide behind -- which suggests that Charlie Brown has been stalking the two to eavesdrop on their conversation.

December 2, 1954

December 3, 1954

Charlotte's mouth in the third panel is pretty funny. I think, some time later, some of Charlotte's character was used for Sally; the hair is somewhat similar, and she has a similar head shape.

Snoopy shows distress very well. And I love how Charlotte doesn't even look particularly distressed when she shouts in the last panel. The reactions of Charlie Brown and Snoopy serve to illustrate her volume.

December 4, 1954

I don't think this will be the last time we see those words spoken. Scribble of ire!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

November 28, 1954: CTHULHU COMMANDS IT

Read this strip at

This is a momentous strip: it marks the first appearance of imposing, wrathful Lucy. While all the Peanuts characters are complex, I think it's safe to say that this aspect of Lucy's personality will grow and become the most prevalent. It's certainly the most memorable.

It is interesting, I think, that so many of Lucy's most memorable attributes have arisen so rapidly, and over consecutive Sunday strips. Last week we saw a particularly extreme example of her fussiness. The week before saw the first really empathic treatment of her affection for Schroeder. Schulz and Peanuts puts forth the theory that Lucy's character (other than some early bits inspired by their young daughter) was adapted from Charles Schulz's wife Joyce. If we accepted that, then these strips might suggest some marital strife at the time.

It is my own theory that, when forced to create a lot of material over a long period, that it's impossible to avoid revealing and using aspects of your inner self, that eventually it comes out onto the page one way or another. However, I don't think it's necessarily the case that we can draw a direct line from Joyce to Lucy. I think a canny creator will obfuscate matters, and end up combining aspects from different people to write his characters. Still, the rapidity with which Lucy is approaching her mature form suggests (but certainly doesn't prove) Schulz had some kind of breakthrough or epiphany as he was drawing these strips.

Some meta stuff:
Sorry the blog has been slow lately. I've been trying to catch up with old projects (especially In Profundis), and it's left me a little bereft of energy. Am plugging away at them though.