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.

Sunday, June 19, 2012: Head over Heels

Lucy's loud voice is again reinforced as a character trait. But we also get some of the playful and energetic Snoopy of the classic era of the strip, which became less visible later when his proportions ballooned out. He's very dog-like here.

This might be the first somersault experienced by a character solely due to a very loud voice or sound.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

June 13-18, 1955: "Dot" is a sound effect

June 13:

At this point the girls aren't always disgusted with, annoyed by or bored at the sight of Charlie Brown, as this strip shows. I think the thinness of the tree could be taken as a metaphor for the thinness of Violet's affections, which makes this strip poetic in a way.

June 14:

I had not heretofore suspected that "dot" was onomatopoeia. but it is a kind of appropriate noise for jabbing a piece of paper with a drawing instrument like a crayon or pencil.

June 15:

I expect that today's kids don't get messed up as much, on the average, during their summertime adventures.

June 16:

This is exactly the kind of thing a Lovecraft protagonist with unknown blood ties to fiendish creatures, ancient sorcerers or some godling's spawn would do, and it's also similar to such a being's probable reaction once he discovers the universe obeys his or her whims -- at least, if he didn't immediately faint from the shock.

June 17:

I think Charlie Brown just might not have been laughing at "Pig-Pen"'s ambitions. A bit of youthful can be good for a kid, although probably something along the line he'll probably have to clean up more. For example, I can't picture, say, Mitt Romney covered with dirt. (In fact, his skin looks stain-resistant, like maybe some kind of polymer.)

June 18:

Ah, the ease with which the winds of love turn when you're seven. The characters are seven now aren't they? Originally I think they were intended to be just before school age, but now we've seen some moments in school, they were probably aged to that point since school is a ripe source of storylines, although we haven't seen very many yet. (And when Rerun shows up and enters kindergarten both Linus and Lucy, being siblings, kind of have to age to make room for him.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday, June 12, 1955: Chomp Chomp Chomp

It's harder than you think to come up seven different ways to draw a smiling, begging dog. My favorite drawing, however, is the next-to-the-last one where Snoopy is basically threatening to eat Linus's head. The kid knows he is but a paper beagle, however.

META: Back after iPad trouble

I'm back! I had some machine trouble two weeks ago -- my iPad took a nasty hit on a hardwood floor and the screen died! My blogging workflow is iPad centered at the moment, so it made it somewhat difficult to post to Roasted Peanuts.

Some searching around the internet revealed that iPad 2s are held together with hot glue. So I borrowed a heat gun from a helpful uncle and managed to reseal the cable. Except in the process of opening it, we accidentally severed the digitizer cable. ARGH.

I ordered a replacement and installed it successfully. But after it was in, the screen backlight stopped working!

The problem, it turned out, was simply that the backlight didn't want to work without a hard reset of the power running to it. Turning it off wasn't enough, it wanted zero power. I didn't know this, I thought it was broken and was looking into the best way to figure out what was wrong and finding out how much replacement parts for THAT would be. Then the battery finally died. I gave it a look to try to gather more information about it, and on the off chance that the complete cessation of power would start it working again -- which it did, which I was rather surprised by.

Anyway, we're back in action now. Thanks for bearing with me.