Saturday, April 12, 2014

September 1955

These are notable strips from September 1955, a sequence that begins here on the gocomics website.

September 1:
More "fussbudgeting."  I wonder about the origins of that word.  Anyone out there have access to an OED?

September 2:
Wikipedia, paraphrased, from Sputnik:
"Sputnik 1  was the first artificial Earth satellite. It was a 58 cm (23 in) diameter polished metal sphere, with four external radio antennas to broadcast radio pulses. The Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957. It was visible all around the Earth and its radio pulses were detectable. The surprise success precipitated the American Sputnik crisis and triggered the Space Race, a part of the larger Cold War. The launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments."

This strip went out a couple of years before that, so I assume they're talking about unsuccessful US efforts to orbit a satellite.  Anyway, over the years Charlie Brown's had so many stomach-aches from listening to his friends I'd think it's indicative of some deeper issue, maybe ulcers.

September 3:
This has some cute drawings of Snoopy in it, especially in the third panel.  Also, serif'd letters, which are an interesting idea in comic lettering.

September 4:
Snoopy dance!  We can't have seen it more than a couple of times to this point.  It makes a sound like stompity here.  A sunflower seed does seem like insufficient reward for all that effort, although its specificity is interesting.

Snoopy's expressions throughout this strip are great, but especially in the first and last panels.

September 5:
More on satellites.  Lucy, I think I remember Schulz saying at one point, is a character that expresses indignation well -- apparently, even when it's misplaced.  Of course these days all satellites are equipped with advanced dog-detection and evasion programming, and special maneuvering jets they use on re-entry to enable them to avoid crushing wayward canines when they fall through the atmosphere at the end of their working life.

September 6:
This is the first strip where Snoopy actually roleplays as some other animal.  Before he just moved like a snake, by way of demonstration, but here he acts the part.  In upcoming decades this would become one of the most defining aspects of the character.  Snoopy's body will become increasingly flexible and malleable to support these flights of fancy.

September 7:
More slithering around.  We've also got a nice stylized question-mark.  Of course snakes, like all wild animals, don't have it nearly as good as Snoop does here.  In my part of the country, folks kill most snakes without second thought.  Much like....

September 8: this.  Snake sequence #3.  BTW, seeing Lucy playing with a doll seems a little weird to me.  It seems like she should at least be putting pins into it, or something.

September 9:
Lucy keeps skate keys hidden all over the neighborhood.  In case of skating emergencies.  (If you get the reference I'm making there, well, I admit it, I'm a fan.)

Yahoo Answers (sometimes it's actually helpful!) supplies the meaning here, which confused me as a kid too.  It seems that it used to be that roller skates were originally worn over shoes, and the key was inserted to adjust a metal frame so the straps fit securely over them, in the manner of tightening a bolt.  Nowadays roller skates seem to be used less frequently outside of places like roller rinks, which is something of a shame.

September 10:
Charlie Brown's come some ways from his smart-alecky roots, although I don't think he ever quite loses that entirely.

September 11:
Snoopy is a fun character to look at, and this strip is nearly entirely his reactions.  The best ones are panels 1, 5 and 7.

September 13:
This one's has its roots in a sort of sarcastic adult observation about the manner in which kids treat their possessions.  The Lucy has a set procedure for this indicates that she's seen her fair number of boxes of new crayons. Linus' admiration is the heart of the strip, though, that extra touch that makes it more than just kiddie shenanigans.

September 15:
Linus is becoming more talkative, and as he does he moves further into the regular cast.  I like the joke here, which kind of implies that the severity of a condition requires doctors drive a larger vehicle, in order to freight all that severity around with them.

September 18:
This one refers to the strip from last month, continuing with Snoopy's croquet hoop antics.  Croquet hoops are fairly low to the ground, so Snoopy can't be that large a dog to get away with this.  There's some cool lettering in this one.  Check out the serif'd outlines on the lowercase "hop" in panel 10.

September 19:
Can you imagine how creepy it would be to see a real dog with the expression Snoopy wears in the last panel here?

September 20:
You just know Lucy would be a big hit there.  The whole joke here comes from the incongruous final panel, which is intended to shock the reader just enough to be funny.  There's another similar strip I remember reading in which Lucy laments that she never really gets what she wants for Christmas: real estate!  It's important that the reveal be short to maintain the timing of the joke.

September 21:
Again I ask: how does Snoopy blush through fur?

September 22:
I've remarked before about Schulz's rain, which appears to be labor-intensive.  It looks like it was lightly applied, which produces the thin, reedy lines seen here.  Keep in mind, one of the secrets to cartooning is that artists typically work much larger than you see in the newspaper, so those thin rain lines weren't quite so thin when he drew them.  While Schulz does a good job with avoiding the thought bubbles and speech balloons, you can see a couple of places where the rain intrudes slightly into the bubble. 

September 23:
I think this strip is the first time Linus quotes anything.  Later on, he'd become known as the biblical scholar of the group.  I notice that Lucy's clothes here somewhat resemble the clothes she'd wear in later strips, once her wide-bottomed blue skirt became too old-fashioned to retain.

September 24:
Wait, what?  Are the ducks hunting the dogs?  Maybe I don't get it.

September 25:
Panels 2 and 4 here are interesting for being early examples of characters walking in perfect profile on the ground, without a shadow or horizon line behind them.

September 26 & 27:
Schroeder gets to show off his musical knowledge again.  I looked up the song Schroeder mentions in the first panel: yikes!  If it's the right piece, that's a formidable bit of playing.

The shrunken character representing embarrassment is something we've seen before.  One thing your more inventive comic artists might do is try to supplement the fairly arbitrary, traditional visual language of comics with new ideas.  For those new to comics, Berkeley Breathed supplied a helpful visual guide to some of the more common of these visual representations.  It might be interesting to add: Japanese comics, or manga, shares some of this visual language, but also has a completely different set of them, more formalized, and so firmly established that they've branched out into anime as well, so characters will sport, say, a large stylized sweat droplet to indicate strain, or throbbing veins for anger, even when those states could be indicated through speech and animation.

September 28:
Blankets may provide emotional succor, but ultimately, are purely material.  It doesn't seem to be a sacred object to Linus yet.

September 29:
Surprised and shaking Snoopy is best Snoopy.

September 30:
And we end with my favorite strip of the month.  Charlie Brown's reaction makes this one for me.  Sticks and stones can break his bones, and a good insult will send him reeling too!  He actually seems to be in pain there.  Lucy's joy at inflicting damage upon Charlie Brown's psyche doesn't seem to be personal.  She doesn't hate him, the joy she feels is more at the exhibition of personal skill.  Look at that wide smile in the first panel.  Hurray!

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That's September.  We didn't skip too many this time out I notice, there's still a good ratio of interesting strips to skipable ones.  Next time, for October 1955, the kids'll be fascinated by autumn leaves, we'll look at the origins of a mysterious playground phrase, Lucy throws Linus into a state of existential dread, and, of course, there's Halloween.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Remainder of AAUGHust 1955

So, my new plan is to do a post every week or two, covering a month.  Not every strip in that month, because there are a lot that are just some wordplay or a minor joke.  But still, a good number.  Here's a few now!

August 14

She certainly "broke," all right.  Lucy continues to develop into the terror we know and love.  This is an excellent strip from the time; it's got good art, and not only does it show the characters' personalities clearly, but it even ends with a good sight gag.  The only weird thing about it is Schroeder saying "Where's the chalk?" in the first panel, which doesn't have a purpose as far as I can see.

August 15

Is that really how a dog says "bow wow?"  This one's linked for containing an extensive Snoopy thought bubble, which are still rare at this time.  It's also the second strip in a row to contain a "good grief," one of Peanuts' particular catchphrases and a favorite of Charlie Brown.

August 16

And this one got selected for showing Linus' increasing blanket mania.

August 17

Poor ol' Charlie Brown.

August 18
1. Snoopy and Linus are a prominent double act in the early years of the strip.
2. Linus' shirt lacks its characteristic stripes here.

August 19

A use of "rats," just about strongest curse a Peanuts character will ever utter.  In any case, we know Snoopy has his day, it's August 4th.

August 20

Presented for laugh value.  The aspect of this strip that elevates it for me is Charlie Brown's warning.  Snoopy's leaps have a lot of character, the design reminds me of the looser, leaner, 60s Snoopy.

August 21

Nice backgrounds in this strip!  I've remarked about them before of course, but this one has a wealth of unnecessary detail.

August 24

This is a good example of a kind of joke that you rarely see outside of Peanuts, taking something we take for granted, extrapolating it in an unexpected direction, and illustrating a reaction.  Also, it gives us an early AAUGHH!

August 25

More serif Zs, and a good ornate question mark above Shermy's head too.  I'm surprised more hasn't been said about Charles Schulz's attention to detail in rendering language.  You art majors out there, I'm sure there's a decent paper in this for you!

August 28

"I thought I heard hoofbeats?"  Wait, what?

A good example of Snoopy as energetic mischief maker, a prominent role for him in this age of the strip.  Also note the looped 'W' in WHAM.  Let's also note, for a moment, Charlie Brown's warning in panel 6, which breaks up the Zooms, gives us an effective comedy beat right before the collision, and makes Snoopy's crash more painful by showing us another character reacting with dismay at it.  While the action of Snoopy running around is entertaining, if you read it while leaving out the sixth and last panels it's just the scene of an accident.  It's Charlie Brown's annoyance that makes the strip funny.

August 29
This is the first time Snoopy has acted out one of his fantasies, an important step in the development of his rich internal life, which would become one of Peanuts' defining characteristics.

August 30

We've seen a reference to Miss Frances, of the nearly-forgotten preschool kids' show Ding Dong School, before.  Interestingly, the Miss Frances Wikipedia page mentions that Peanuts referred to them four times.  This is the second; the other two are in 1956.  It goes to show, Peanuts wasn't afraid to make pop culture references, even from a fairly early point.

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Well, that's a good start towards reviving the blog.  I actually had most of this written two days ago, but Blogger ate the images and some of the text and I had to rebuild it.  The next post should cover all of September, and from there we're going to try to do a month at a time for awhile.  Note these images are not linked to their gocomics versions.  Sorry about that, I just wanted to get the thing up after the hiatus, I'll go back to linking them to the official archive soon.