Tuesday, November 29, 2011

February 21-26, 1955: Beware the Rhinoceros

Schroeder gets out of the house some.  Playing ice hockey on a frozen pond is sort of a winter analogue for vacant lot baseball. I wonder how much this happens anymore.

The second time Snoopy uses his imagination leads off a week-long sequence, and I think this is the bit that really causes it to "take."  They're a good opportunity to expand the character into something unique, and they have the additional virtue of making possible a lot of really fun drawings.  Snoopy's open smile upon finding his victim is my favorite part of this one.

February 23
In these early strips Snoopy usually restricts himself to being some kind of animal.  A rhinoceros is an interesting choice -- not a lion or a bear an elephant or something more usually recognized as a strong, powerful animal.  Not that rhinos are slouches of course -- just that I'd think they would be thought of iconically by their horn, not their strength and size.

Charlie Brown seems worried that Snoopy actually thinks he's a rhinoceros.  But how would he have been able to figure out what Snoopy was pretending to be?

February 24
WHOOPS!  I think this is the first time Snoopy has actually attacked anyone on-panel.

February 25
Some rhinoceroses are self-conscious about their appearance.  Anyway, a real rhino bump would be nothing to joke about.

Up until now Lucy's crabby personality has manifested in three primary ways: by reputation (her mother calling her a fussbudget), her dealings with Linus, and in defending her strange opinions against Charlie Brown.  Here is a fourth: the bucket of cold water on Snoopy's head.  It's also the first instance of her physically standing up to another character, here in the second panel.

I really love the goofy grin on Snoopy's face in the first panel.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sunday, February 20, 1955: Lucy's not the most discriminating thinker

The recent gags about Lucy believing weird things, to Charlie Brown's dismay, have led up to this brilliant strip.  <small>THE WORLD IS MADE OF SNOW</small> is truly a battle-cry for a proudly gullible age.  I'd be surprised if there wasn't a Faucett collection of Peanuts strips with the title "You're Out of Your Mind, Charlie Brown!"

The things that really make this strip though are Charlie Brown's expressions.  Lucy is solidly settling into her roll as the kid's personal tormentor.  Although I note Violet is also a pretty strong foil.  Here Lucy is the volleyball, but Violet is the one who spikes it back over the net.

META: On Blogsy

And now, a message from me, about someone who is not a sponsor.  I just want to take a moment to express appreciation for Blogsy, the iOS app I  mostly use to maintain Roasted Peanuts.  It's the best blogging app I've seen for the platform.  Really nice!  It's had its ups and downs, but it's really evolved into an indispensable part of my blogging workflow.

This is a spontaneous message of appreciation, because I use their program every time I post, it makes my life a lot easier, and if I can drive another customer or two their way it makes it more likely to be maintained longer and get new features.  So you see?  Completely selfish motivation.  Anyway, back to Peanuts!

Monday, November 21, 2011

February 14-19, 1955: Snoopy hates that balloon

February 14
Sight gag.  Did kids of Charlie Brown's age play hockey?  I think he's around seven at this time.

The splash lines around Charlie Brown's head are very effective.  If I have occasion to draw a splash, I find I do it the same way.  I probably picked that up from Peanuts.

February 15
Modern times.  If this strip were updated for the present day Charlie Brown's farm would probably be industrial agribusiness.

February 16
Brutal honesty.  More cartooning banter between Charlie Brown and Schroeder.  What is it about Schroeder that makes him a good test audience for C.B.'s work?  It might have to do with him being the mot artistically-developed of Schulz's personalities.

February 17
Turnabout.  That is a very angry Snoopy there in panel three.  On panel two though, in my experience deflating balloons don't go swish.  Instead they make a noise that is charitably referred to as a raspberry.  I wonder if this has to do with a change in balloon construction in the fifty-five years since this strip.

February 18
Unexpected honestly mixed with ignorance.  This is the first time any of Schulz's characters has really engaged in writing. While the  intellectual development of the characters is fluid depending on the needs of the strip, there does seem to be a sort of consistency to it.  To my knowledge Schulz doesn't use Lucy for jokes about school reports, like he does for Peppermint Patty or Sally, which sort of implies the character is a good writer just from the absence of examples of her being bad at it.

And can't you just imagine Lucy writing a newspaper column?  Probably "Diary of a Fussbudget" can be found on the Opinion page.

February 19

Another sight gag.  More lines like the surprise lines in the first strip.  Sometimes Snoopy is disdainful of being expected to perform dog-like activities, but sometimes he goes along with it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

February 6-13, 1955: Square Balloons and Valentine's Day

We have a fairly uninteresting Sunday strip to lead off, so I included the following week with it. And then just to go that little bit farther, I included the next Sunday strip in with it.

Sunday, February 6

Well, they can't all be winners. Although the sight of a snowman with extremely long arms is kind of amusing. Next!

February 7

More of Linus' square balloons. This does make it a lot easier to store them. By the way, I like how the cartoon convention that blown-up balloons automatically float upward is ignored here. People don't typically exhale helium dammit.

February 8

I wonder if Charles Schulz drew this one in response to letters asking Violet's question.

February 9

This is a good example of something Schulz is good at, taking an absurd premise and elaborating upon it entertainingly. I believe it's not impossible to create a balloon that would blow up into a cube, but I don't know if you could do it with just latex.

February 10

We've seen Lucy at the piano before, and we've seen Schroeder cut her down, but this, I think, is the first time when the setting retreats into the background and it's really settled into the Schroeder/Lucy formula. This strip could just as well shown up ten years later.

February 11

Chagrimace. More willful ignorance from Lucy. I guess some skepticism is healthy, but what a thing to be skeptical of.

February 12

Every year, thousands ones of children accidentally construct cages around themselves using building sets. Won't you please give today to the cause of outlawing these horrible toys?

Particularly noteworthy: this is the first time Linus makes an utterance that isn't obviously either baby talk or an internal monologue. From here, it's only a matter of time before he starts quoting the Old Testament.

Sunday, February 13

That car in the first two panels is entirely a throwaway, but it helps to underscore just how much the world has changed in the years since 1955.

That's an uncharacteristically mocking attitude from Schroeder in panel 2.

This is the first strip that focuses on Charlie Brown's problems with Valentine's Day, I think. Although the object of his affections isn't the Little Red-Haired Girl, this is definitely the kind of silly mistake he'd make with her later.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

January 31-February 5, 1955: Charlotte Braun terrorizes the neighborhood

January 31, 1955

Charlotte meets Linus. This may actually be the only strip that features the two of them. Unlike Pig-Pen, who has a similar kind of gimmick attribute, Charlotte doesn't stick around for that long. This may be her last hurrah in fact.

February 1

The problem with Charlotte Braun is that she doesn't have much of a personality beyond loudness. Pig-Pen is so comfortable in his own skin that he kind of transcends his gimmick. Charlotte's gimmick lends itself to obnoxiousness though, so as Lucy becomes bossier she kind of steals Charlotte's niche.

Thinking about how Charlotte Braun disappears from the strip leads me to brainstorm completely made-up Peanuts characters who have similar one-note gimmicks. Maybe a girl who has really big hair? One who walks loudly wherever he goes?

February 2

I've noticed that this mistake, of assuming the range of one's experience matches that of the breadth of the world, is one that lots of people fall prey to, including myself from time to time.

February 3

This is far from the last time Lucy stomps something inches away from Snoopy's nose. There's a memorable bit later where she cures the common cold by having people cough on the ground, then she smashes the cold germs flat with her feet.

February 4

I think that counts as a chagrimace, but it's wider than usual, which I think is more from Schulz's developing art style than intent. It might be argued that Charlie Brown, after some earlier strips, is due to have a couple inches knocked off of him, but of course the characters eventually take it slightly too far.

February 5

I don't think this is the first time Patty and Violet have teamed up on Charlie Brown, but it's the most egregious example to date, and it only intensifies from here. But: "Charlie Brown lives in a purple house?" That's kind of reaching isn't it?

OFF-TOPIC: American Censorship Day

This is an off-topic post intended to help spread the word about the harmful "PROTECT IP" act moving through the U.S. Congress. To find out more: http://americancensorship.org/ (EDIT: Removed the code that put the link in the banner.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 1933: Tum De Tum Te Da Te Dum ♫

Read this strip at gocomics.com.

Put a crayon in Lucy's hand and the world is her kitty.  Comic characters are susceptible to manias that would get real people committed.  Can't you just imagine a Batman villain whose schtick was drawing lines between dots?  "The Connector."  It can't be any less silly than the Riddler, whose gimmick is providing clues by which he can be caught.

Every once in a while Schulz allows himself a metajoke.  The strips in which people make fun of the size and shape of Charlie Brown's head are among these ("Is that a beach ball?"), as are the ones where Charlie Brown can't hide behind a tree because his head is too wide.  One strip Schroeder even threatened to put in a transfer to a different comic strip.  The last panel here is another such joke.

Some time later, Lucy will ask Charlie Brown if he thinks she has beautiful eyes, and, perhaps risking a pounding, Charlie Brown says they look just like little dots of india ink.

The first frame here is one of Schulz's more abstract lead panel designs.

January 24-29, 1955: Snoopy unmoors from reality

January 24

Another early Linus/Snoopy interaction. That's a rather overstated frown in the last panel there.

January 25

A simple gag about a kid not understanding an idiom. Yeah yeah, let's get to the real reason we're here:

January 26

THIS. One of the most important strips in Peanuts' entire run. The first strip in which Snoopy fantasizes about being something else. In these four panels we see the origin of the World War I Flying Ace, Joe Cool, and a hundred World Famous things. They are cute strips of course, but there are strange depths buried there.

This strip is a bit problematic mechanically though. Schulz uses a thought balloon for Snoopy's thoughts in the first panel, but in the second the balloon does double-duty as a thought and speech balloon, which makes it seem like Snoopy is speaking in English.

Charlie Brown's wide, amused smile is, in its way, as funny as Snoopy's snarl.

January 27

Lucy is willfully wrong about something else. Some notes here:
1. The subplot about Charlie Brown's paddleball is a nice touch.
2. The letters asked about and responded with are written with serifs and with little single-quotes around them.
3. Charlie Brown's annoyance that Lucy refuses to believe 'F' follows 'E' in the alphabet is interesting. He seems to care that Lucy get her facts straight, and takes it personally when she refuses to see reality. That's admirable in a way, but will probably cause him problems later in life, for there is no shortage of Lucys in the world.

January 28

When I was a kid, I would read these strips where Lucy is referred to calmly as a fussbudget, and the sarcasm flew roughly two miles over my head. It didn't help that Lucy would then respond without a trace of irony. The humor of Peanuts could be really dry sometimes.

January 29

Violet's smile throughout this strip is vaguely infuriating.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 1955: Charlie Brown's deep attachment to an ephemeral thing

Read this strip at gocomics.com.

This is one of those strip concepts Schulz returns to later. I remember there being a similar strip involving Snoopy, who befriends a snowman, and is heartbroken when it melts away. Cut to Charlie Brown and Linus, who have been watching. Linus: "Poor Snoopy, he's too sensitive." CB: "I notice he's not too sensitive to eat the carrot." I'm paraphrasing, but it happened more or less like that. Even the carrot eating is here, which makes me wonder if that later strip weren't a conscious callback on the part of Schulz.

Anyway, this strip provides a good example of Charlie Brown's developing depression. He really takes this too seriously. I mean, going so far as to beg the sun to stop shining? Wow. A futile statement of man protesting against the universe! I smell a thesis coming on....

As the first panel indicates, snowman building is an artistic statement with Charlie Brown. He's a sculptor who works in the medium of snow, and he's at least got Schroeder's admiration for it.

I wonder if this isn't some kind of statement, conscious or not, by Charles Schulz about the ephemeralness of his own medium? Peanuts will probably be around much longer than other concluded strips, mind you. There are a lot of forgotten newspaper comics out there.

EXTRA: R. Crumb on C. Schulz

From Crumb on Others (warning: link is NSFW -- I mean, how could it be, it's R. Crumb):
"I liked Peanuts for a while. In the late '50s, early '60s, I read it. It was good; well written and funny. I didn’t mind the minimalist drawing style. He caught on because his stuff was so cute and still kind of poignant and meaningful that everybody liked it. Everybody! How could you not like it? Who could dislike it? [laughs] There’s not a thing unlikeable about it. And because of that, Shultz became the richest cartoonist – one of the richest men in America. I met him once actually, at a book fair in San Francisco. He told me he liked my work, which took me aback."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

EXTRA: XKCD makes a subtle Peanuts joke

Page: http://xkcd.com/972/
Hover over the image on that page to see the source of the joke made overt.  It's a reference to a very silly Lucy/Linus Sunday exchange, which starts off when Linus tells his sister "I'm aware of my tongue."

January 17-22, 1955: It Snow Trouble

Another snow pun for a title! Get used to them, it's far from the last....

January 17

We had another strip like this not long ago, where Charlie Brown didn't seem to come out of it too badly, but poor Snoopy was overwhelmed. Like in that strip, the funniest thing to me is how effortlessly Charlotte Braun belts out her words. There's a good set of lungs on the girl.

January 18

Oh no. Oh, no no no no no. What character in comicdom can get something as willfully wrong as can Lucy Van Pelt? Other than Mallard Fillmore, of course. Lucy actually knows she's wrong unconsciously, I think, which is why she sets herself against Charlie Brown's disagreement before she even hears his opinion. She's so happy with her discovery.

January 19

Notice... both here and in the previous strip, Schulz draws forward-facing characters with neutral expressions without a mouth, possibly for parity with the way he draws his characters when they face the side. He experimented with this a time or two before. He abandons it eventually.

January 20

I've had conversations with people that have gone exactly like this, right down to my depressed skulking away at the end.

January 21

Another mouthless face. And Lucy called Charlie Brown's face funny-looking.

Charlie Brown has some standard ways of expressing displeasure, which are already beginning to get set in. 1. "Good grief." 2. "I can't stand it." 3. "My stomach hurts."

January 22

Schroeder is practicing his scowl for the role.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sunday, January 19, 1955: Nervous energy

Read this strip at gocomics.com.

Charlie Brown started out very slightly antisocial. Now he's moved into obsessive compulsive disorder. He's shown some signs of depression, but it hasn't really set in yet. The market isn't yet large enough to support five cent psychiatrist booths, but it's coming.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

January 10-15, 1955: Lucy is hard on toys

January 10

A disturbing insight into Lucy's attitude towards property.

January 11

For some reason this strip reminds me of that disco version of Beethoven's 5th Symphony.

January 12

That's kind of hyperbolic. Lucy didn't even know what a metronome was before Monday!

January 13

Girls in Peanuts tend to be rather more rough-and-tumble than in other strips. Lucy, of course, eventually gets to where she won't think twice about returning a slug in the jaw for an insult. "Peppermint" Patty won't even be arriving on the scene for many years yet.

January 14

When someone tells you to close your eyes, yeah, it's usually a good idea not to if you can get away with it. Anyway, why doesn't Violet just rummage through her candy bag facing the other way?

January 15

An enthusiastic speech by Schroeder, boldly staking his claim as the neighborhood artist.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

January 3-8, 1955: It snow problem

January 3

Snoopy vs. the Yard: Snowflakes

January 4

This is the first sign of strife between Lucy and Linus concerning Linus' blanket. Still, Linus' holding onto a security blanket hasn't been presented in anything other than positive terms otherwise -- this seems to be more Lucy selfishly claiming Linus' property as her own than shame or anger that he's carrying it around.

January 5

Lucy might have just a touch of OCD....

January 6

It is funny when a character defines a trait so completely that it causes extraordinary things to occur. Pig-Pen seems quite pleased by his accomplishment, and even the snowman itself seems happier than average.

January 7

Lucy's mood continues to sour. Although Linus hasn't spoken much yet, we can already see their relative ages beginning to approach each other.

January 8

It's like, the snow might all melt tomorrow, so might as well get your snowman quota for the year out of the way now.

It's becoming harder to find insightful things to say about every strip, and it was never the purpose of the blog to re-publish every strip anyway, so it is probable that soon we'll go back to only notable strips, of which there are still a good number at this point.