Wednesday, October 3, 2012

August 8-13, 1955: How dare they sully the good name of Crockett?

Sunday, August 7 isn't on the gocomics site.
August 7:
Charlie Brown experiencing this kind of outburst is rare, through the overall history of the strip. This is more the kind of thing the other characters would do, although CB will do it if it regards someone he really admires. Less often Davy Crockett, more often Joe Shlabotnik.
August 8:
Linus hasn't spoken a word to another person yet, but he plays baseball. (Of course, Snoopy never speaks to another person -- or rather, doesn't say things other than "Boo.") Everyone remember Schroeder-the-musician, but Schroeder-the-catcher appears frequently, if less distinctively.
August 9:
Canine prodigies are disconcerting. Sarcastic ones moreso.
August 10:

Yeah Linus, I know how you feel. The blanket hasn't become a big element of the strip yet, but we're getting there.

August 11:

How does Schroeder know about used cars? I like how the kids don't refer to the baby sitters by name, just by their attributes and reputation. It's an impersonal relationship, that between the high school student and her temporary charges. The most legendary babysitter in comics would have to be Calvin's nemesis Rosalyn. It's really difficult to picture a character like her in Peanuts, and not just because she's an adult.

August 12:

Charlie Brown has mostly laughed at this kind of rejection up to now, but this is getting more to his familiar personality from later strips.


Since the last post, the comics world took a grevious blow when Richard Thompson, creator of the best modern comic strip going by a wide margin, Cul De Sac, had to lay down his pen due to encroaching Parkinson's Disease. I'm sorry I wasn't about to work in more references to it in these posts; it is wonderful in a way that fans of Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes will find familiar, but still manages to be distinct from both of them in both style and tone. Alice is kind of like Calvin but more realistic and much more random; Petey is like Charlie Brown except much more introverted and nervous. The strip ended just after its fifth birthday, and in far fewer newspapers than you'd expect from its extreme brilliance, but I'm still suffering from a strong sense of deja vu from when C&H closed up shop. Thompson says he's quitting because the disease made it hard to keep up with the strong deadlines of a newspaper strip, so I'm hoping, kind of like Michael J. Fox, that we haven't heard the last from him, or his brilliant creation maybe in some other form.

Friday, September 21, 2012

August 1-6,1955: Boring days in Peanuts-ville

Not a lot to say about most of these strips.
August 1:

Patty and Violet have taunted Charlie Brown with party exclusion before, but now it's starting to look particularly malicious.

August 2:

Not really a lot of joke here, I guess. It does look a little more like Snoops is Charlie Brown's dog, however. I wonder, in the future post-apocalyptic culture-to-come that treats comics as holy texts, if the mystery of Snoopy's early ownership will become fiercely-contested dogma and the subject of vicious crusades?

August 3:

That's a lot of effort Charles Schulz put into that big star on the left. Remember: these panels are blacked-out, so those stars are all made out of negative space.

August 4:

It just occurred to me, we don't see an awful lot of the Peanuts kids hanging out around water throughout the strip. I remember seeing C.B. at the seashore some time back (Patty and Violet mistook his head for a beachball), and there have been several wading pools.

August 5:

I wonder... is that tree back there the same tree, earlier in life, that we would frequently see the kids laying beneath later on?

August 6:

Charlie Brown's attitude in panel 2 is largely my own opinion on riddles. Neither of us would do very well if tasked to win magic rings from slimy cave-dwellers.



Monday, September 10, 2012

Sunday, July 31, 2012: 1,000 posts!

This strip is a solid point of development towards Snoopy's status as a foil to Charlie Brown. There's a lot of other classic elements in this strip: Charlie Brown's failures as a ball player, Schroeder's role as catcher, Snoopy kind of playing a role as a fielder and his playfulness, and CB's impotent reaction to it at the end.


* The short distance between the pitcher's "mound" and home plate, and how Charlie Brown has to throw the ball in an arc to avoid the strip's title.

* Snoopy's cloud of "R"s in panel five.

* The tiny Patty off the field in panel six. There's another tiny figure in the background, but I can't tell who it is.

* Panel nine: "Oh good grief!"

* The vigor and looseness of the entire sequence. I think this is Peanuts art at its height right here.

* Snoopy's smug expression in the last panel. That dog!


And that's 1,000 posts, I think! (Blogger's numbering might be counting some future posts I have scheduled that haven't appeared yet.) Posts have been slow as of late, and for that I apologize, but it's been some weird times out here. We've got some interesting strips coming up though so it should pick up for a while, hopefully I can keep up the energy through the next thousand.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

July 25-30, 1955: Fun is Good Enjoyment

July 25:

Lucy's smile in panel three is an atypical expression for her.

July 26:

Whoop? Although it's difficult to think of a better bit of onomatopoeia to use here. Maybe "whine," but that's not really a sound effect. Maybe "ouch," but Snoopy can't talk. Speaking of which, Snoopy's got another thought balloon here. I think he's finally in the phase where he mostly uses thought bubbles.

July 27:

We've not gotten huge amounts of hate out of Patty and Violet yet, although it's flared up from time to time. Charlie Brown does seem to be giving Violet cause for her outburst here. How about a little personal space, kid?

July 28:

Although Snoopy doesn't talk to the characters, they've never shown themselves (to my knowledge) to have any doubts that Snoopy understands them. Charie Brown's phrase here, "You just aren't much for doing things right, are you?", sounds idiomatic in a midwestern kind of way to me, like something that might have been floating around Schulz's hearing that he thought to call up. But that's just a guess, of course. The drawing of Snoopy running here is very nice, and the next strip shows that it's not the only way Schulz has to draw it. You can imagine pretty well what Snoopy would look like in motion from these.

July 29:

This is a very "Peanuts" kind of punchline, taking something the kids have figured out (regardless of whether it's true or not) and extrapolating it to draw further conclusions. I don't think an awful lot of strips would think to do that.

July 30:

Oooooo! Not only do we not get to get the bug's "house," presumably a hole, we don't even get to see the bug. The hyphens between the Ts in "pret-t-t-y fancy" are a good textual representation of a spoken idiom. (I guess "idiom" is the word of the day.)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sunday, July 24, 1955: WHEN Will I Ever Learn?!

What appears to be an ordinary gag shows unexpected depths when examined more closely.

What does Snoopy mean by "WHEN will I ever learn?!" At first glance it looks like he's expressing regret that he enjoyed himself too much and, in his excitement, hit the pavement. But look at Patty and Violet's faces: they don't smile, or frown, or act even act surprised the whole time. Even in panel six their expressions are remarkably deadpan. In panels eight and nine their reaction is mostly: "Well, that happened. Lemonade?" Because of this, I propose that Snoopy's thought balloon in the last panel has more to do with disappointment at the lack of concern expressed by the human girls than any regret for going overboard.

Oh, also, this is Snoopy using thought balloons completely in the modern style, with a trail of bubbles as if talking to himself. I don't think it's absolutely the first time it's happened, but up until now, except for one or two early instances, he's either been completely wordless or used word balloons. That marks a major advancement for the strip.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

July 18-23, 1955: Pig-Pen Cleaned Up

These strips might be slightly out of order or not match up with their dates due to a problem with my blogging client.
July 18:

Another strip that shows off Linus' genius. Lucy still seems mostly proud of her little brother at this point.

July 19 (?):

Snoopy vs. The Yard: Horseshoes. Not a lot to say. The last panel seems to exist mostly as a way to explain to people what's going on in panel 3, in case they couldn't piece together that a game of horseshoes was being played from the stake.

July 20:

Not an awfully kind for a kid to do to her little brother!

July 21:

This isn't that much better either, but I like Linus' reaction, and how it catches Lucy off-guard. Don't put up with it Linus! Fight the Man! Er, Girl!

Lucy pines away for Schroeder a lot, but you see very few strips, that I remember at least, that hint that Lucy might have a crush on Charlie Brown. Other than all the abuse she's heaped on him over the years, I guess. That might actually be considered a pretty solid hint, now that I think of it.
We barely recognize Pig-Pen either. He kind of looks a bit like Shermy like this.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

August 4 is Snoopy Day! Calloo Callay!


Happy Snoopy day!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sunday, July 17, 1955: The Eternal Battle

Who is better: Christian Slater or the Earl of Sandwich?

Who is better: R. Crumb or George Foreman?

Who is better: Alfred E. Neuman or a cardboard cutout of Darth Vader?

What I'm asking in my roundabout way is, what criteria are they using? Apparently they're going by the personal flaws of their opponents, which I guess is as objective a measure or anything.

Peanuts would eventually earn a long history of abstract first panels, but I have to admit I don't quite get this one. Is that supposed to be an olive branch? It wouldn't fit in with the theme of the strip, which is that neither side is willing to give an inch.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 10-16, 1955: Snoopy and Croquet

Sunday, July 10:

How did Linus get into that crib so easily? Other than that, not a lot to say about this. Except maybe that "lap, lap, lap" and "smack, smack, smack" seem a little weird.

July 11:

Up to this point, class distinctions haven't really entered into Peanuts that much. We had that strip in which Shermy plays with his elaborate train set, then Charlie Brown goes home to play with his simple oval. This is just another version of that really. Still, it takes some effort to piece it together, but one can eventually detect a continuity effort to depict Charlie Brown's family as less well-off as the other kids. This comes to a head in a memorable Sunday strip in which Violet, after bragging about her dad, is dressed down quite effectively by Charlie Brown showing her where his barber dad works.

July 12:

Well you know what they say a stopped watch is still right twice a day, unless it's a daylight savings day, in which case it is possible that it could instead be right one or three times depending on circumstances.

July 13:

Snoopy seems to have an innate perching instinct which eventually finds expression atop his doghouse.

July 14:

Snoopy is a fun character to see in weird poses, which I suspect is the inspiration behind his imaginative flights of fancy in upcoming years. He's not there yet, but this is a step along the way.

July 15:

As Snoopy becomes more "filled out," and more humanoid, he also becomes much less mobile, which I think eventually comes to harm the fun of the character. Well, you're free to disagree with me.

July 16:

I'm reminded of that earlier Sunday strip in which Charlie Brown fills a wading pool from a hose, runs over to turn off the water, comes back to find Snoopy sitting in the water, and is so disgusted that he empties the pool and starts over. What's wrong with Snoopy sitting in the pool too? Is it wet dog smell?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

July 4-9, 1955: Getting more unpopular every day

July 4:

The "fussbudget" joke continues. Despite what Lucy says this is far from the last we'll be hearing of it.

July 5:

But here we have the beginning of another running gag, that of Lucy teaching her brother about the world. This time, broadly speaking, her lesson is accurate (if a bit depressing). Tomorrow however....

July 6:

It's funnier when Lucy, who as we've already established with Charlie Brown has a somewhat tenuous grasp of the world, spreads well-meaning disinformation to Linus. It's only a matter of time before this is giving Charlie Brown headaches too.

Notice the different backgrounds in each of the panels here. I think Schulz changes them up as a way of illustrating that the "camera" in each is pointing in a different direction.

July 7:

Well, yeah. They're called adults. They still exist, even if we almost never see them in the strip.

When I first saw this strip I assumed the bike had to be a Penny Farthing bicycle or something, which would make Linus' reaction more understandable. But that's not an old-timey bike, that's a reflector on its front, or at least I think that's what it is.

July 8:

For being a comic strip about children, parents are mentioned seldom, probably because mentioning them too often might bring up questions about why we never see them.

The drawing of Lucy walking away in panel three is also a rarity; usually characters either leave the scene to the side, or they just disappear between panels and leave us to figure out they left the scene. We also have another example of serif lettering in panel 3.

July 9:

Charlie Brown is committing an error in his reasoning, conflating "not liking," with "dislike." You don't dislike people you've never met, but neither can you like them.

Yeah, I'm a real hit at parties. Bleah!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sunday, July 3, 1955: Serif Grief

Snoopy is back to using thought balloons here, though just one, and he's thinking in lower-case and serif letters.

The content of this strip is pretty light. This could just as easily been a daily strip. The art is worth a little examination though.

Snoopy is still getting longer and more cartoony. We get six drawings of his head in three-quarter perspective here, and like many comic characters when you view them at an angle the cartoonist has to cheat to keep the character recognizable and expressive. This is really one of the black arts of cartooning -- how to distort heavily-stylized characters so they still read as the character when viewed from angles other than straight ahead of the side. The "weirdsnoopy" image I use as my Google portrait, and the hand puppet-like drawings we saw in the very early strips, show what happened when Schulz was still working on getting Snoopy to look good at an angle.

I can only assume it took him a lot of work to find a good three-quarters look for Snoopy, because it doesn't look like an intuitive solution to me. Snoopy's nose is wider when viewed from an angle, his snout seems shorter, and his mouth, instead of wrapping around his snout as a real dog's would, is drawn on as if his face was a flat surface.

I think this is a place where the progression of the art indirectly influenced Snoopy's character development. Drawing him this way is necessary to keep Snoopy's expressions readable, which is especially important here since Snoopy still doesn't use thought balloons very much. These expressions would not work on an anatomically canine head, because a real dog's mouth wraps around his snout. So, to keep Snoopy more relatable and more of a full character, Schulz has to draw him a bit more like he was a human, distancing him from his doggy roots.

As a proportion of Peanuts' 49-year run, Snoopy takes his more recent "bloated" form much more than this look. But that's a bit of a shame I think; I like this look for Snoopy, and I like it when he behaves like more of an everyday dog, although I think the more recent versions of Snoopy have their charms too. They're just different, incompatible charms.

Monday, July 23, 2012

June 27-July 2, 1955: More from Davy Crockett

Sunday, June 26 is missing from gocomics' archive.
June 27:

From the Wikipedia entry on "Coonskin Cap" (accessed 7/23/2012):

"In the 20th century, the iconic association was in large part due to Disney's television program Disneyland and the first three "Davy Crockett" episodes starring Fess Parker. In the episodes, which once again made Crockett into one of the most popular men in the country, the frontier hero was portrayed wearing a coonskin cap. The show spawned several Disneyland Davy Crockett sequels as well as other similar shows and movies, with many of them featuring Parker as the lead actor. Parker went on to star in a Daniel Boone television series (1964-1970), again wearing a coonskin cap.

"Crockett's new popularity initiated a fad among boys all over the United States as well as a Davy Crockett craze in the United Kingdom. The look of the cap that was marketed to young boys was typically simplified; it was usually a faux fur lined skull cap with a raccoon tail attached. A variation was marketed to young girls as the Polly Crockett hat. It was similar in style to the boys' cap, including the long tail, but was made of all-white fur (faux or possibly rabbit). At the peak of the fad, coonskin caps sold at a rate of 5,000 caps a day.[4] By the end of the 1950s, Crockett's popularity waned and the fad slowly died out. The fad is recalled by numerous cultural references, such as the wearing of coonskin caps as part of The Junior Woodchucks uniform in Disney's Donald Duck comics."

Peanuts was never above making, and making fun of, pop cultural references. The caps feature in this and the next four strips, making for one of Peanuts' earliest sequences.

June 28:

Another version of the previously-described "everybody or everything" style of joke, where the humor comes from watching an animal doing something in a human style. These jokes would lose their impact as Snoopy became humanized.

June 29:

I like Schulz's approach to drawing these caps, which is just different enough from Peanuts' normal art style to add punch to the joke.

June 30:

Good use of motion lines here, it is easy to picture Snoopy's motion in your head. This strip would probably be funnier it it cale before the June 28 strip, which already used the dog-wearing-cap sight gag.

And so Davy Crockett caps leave the strip. But probably not for long.

July 1:

Well, the Davy Crockett fad lasted a good while but it did eventually peter out. Those Davy Crockett shows were kind of like the Star Wars of the age. I don't know myself where that will end, but I hope it comes along soon.

July 2:

I recognize the name Willie Mays, but I guess Duke Snider's name didn't echo across the cultural landscape in the same way.

Friday, July 20, 2012

June 20-25, 1955: But is it art?

June 20:

A weird art error in this one, the rain is drawn in front of the word balloons in the second and third panels.

Inthe June 15 strip we saw Lucy freak out when she demanded the rain stop, and it did. Reader John Evans reminds us that there is a sequence with Linus later in which he says "Rain Rain Go Away, Come Again Some Other Day," it does, and he's disturbed by it. That sequence, compared to these two strips' close proximity, seems to imply an underlying current in Schulz's mind.

June 21:

As long as we're talking about insights into the mind of the creator, I imagine that this question was starting to weigh in as well.

June 22:

A comic strip? Can it be art? Now the question, if not completely settled, is at least easier to judge (despite the tremendously influential Krazy Kat), but then comics were regarded as almost a disposable kind of art form, purchased outright from the creator by a syndicate or publisher who then hired him to produce his own work, from which he could be fired at a moment's notice. Newspaper cartoonists now have an easier time of retaining control over their work thanks in no small part to the efforts of people like Bill Watterson who refused to think of their work in belittling terms. It is important to remember, however, that Charles Schulz did not have complete control over his work -- he never did regain the rights to his life's work, and throughout its entire run it was saddled with the name Peanuts, of which he was vocal in his dislike.

June 23:
Say what you want about the lacy border, it looks to me like a girl kite flyer would need to be quite skilled to keep that thing aloft.
June 24:

A back-and-forth conversation between Charlie Brown and Lucy is becoming one of the staples of the strip. Their different outlooks provide endless opportunities for humor. It is theorized by the author of Schulz and Peanuts that Lucy is based off of Charles Schulz's first wife Joyce, which might explain their their conversations are so frequent around now, as well as Lucy's growing antagonism over the years.

June 25:

Charlie Brown only added the rec room to be able to charge higher rent.