So, what are you waiting for? Put on your zig-zag shirt, grab some popcorn and your Sweet Babboo, because Charlie Brown and the gang are waiting for you on the big screen!
So, what are you waiting for? Put on your zig-zag shirt, grab some popcorn and your Sweet Babboo, because Charlie Brown and the gang are waiting for you on the big screen!
As Peanuts celebrates its 65th anniversary this year, Jeannie Schulz, wife of creator Charles M. Schulz, shares insight into the history and future of the legendary comic strip in an interview with GoComics.
Q: As we celebrate the 65th anniversary of Peanuts, we congratulate you and the entire Peanuts crew on continuing the legacy of Charles Schulz, AKA, "Sparky." Why do you do think Peanuts continues to captivate such a large, loyal audience today?
A: It may sound strange – but I liked this explanation the first time I heard it: Peanuts teaches us what it is to be human. And Sparky said frequently that these are people we would like as our friends. Beyond that, it is the simplicity of the humor and the simplicity of the art which engages people. (Neither is really simple, however, as we know.)
Q: Regarding Peanuts, what was Sparky most proud of?
A: Sparky was extremely proud of the fact that the strip was completely his creation. It was created from his ideas, his sensibility, his mind and his hand.
Q: Do you have a few favorite comic strips you can share with us?
I love Lucy’s Zen-like answer. It is a perfect rejoinder to Schroeder’s indifference.
This strip, which is midway in a six-day series, perfectly shows Snoopy’s mind, which is completely removed from the reality of the Peanuts gang.
When Snoopy replies “Good,” his curt answer is funny because it is so typical of the outré world he inhabits.
Q: What are a few of your favorite memories of Sparky?
A: Among my favorite memories are walking into his office and seeing him behind his desk, pen or pencil in hand. And also seeing him sitting in his blue lounge chair at home, feet on the ottoman with our little dog, Andy, on his lap. It was perfect contentment on both counts.
Q: Every holiday season, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" hit it big in the Nielsen ratings. With so many entertainment options available these days, how do you account for the ongoing success of these animated specials?
A: The holiday shows continue to draw viewers because people obviously like to go back to favorite, feel-good traditions, and the charm of these shows does not wear off.
Q: The Peanuts gang is hitting the big screen this November in a new 3D computer-animated film – a very different style from past Peanuts animations. How did you decide to go this route?
A: Regarding the CG animation in the new Peanuts movie, Sparky’s son Craig Schulz and his son Bryan worked long and hard on a movie script, going through many scenarios and in the end, working with Fox’s Blue Sky Studio was the format they chose.
Q: Sparky has influenced countless artists with his timeless work. How do you think Peanuts will continue to influence the cartooning industry in years to come?
A: I do think Peanuts will continue to influence many young people interested in cartooning. At the same time, every year, someone new comes on the scene and becomes someone to follow. Sparky would have appreciated that, as he felt artists should develop their own style that comes from their own sensibility.
Q: As the President of the Board of Directors at the Charles M. Schulz Museum, what does a typical day look like? What current and upcoming projects are you most excited about?
A: Each day I go into the Museum to see what is going on and the various projects in each department that I can weigh in on. I look over most of the written work – for example, texts for exhibitions, the newsletter, etc. The staff has regular advance meetings to plan every exhibit, and I sit in on those. Also, we look at the comic strips themselves that will be exhibited in our “strip gallery” in order to be able to add interesting comments to the cases. We have artists from Creative Associates who have been working with the artwork for many years who weigh in, and occasionally Sparky’s secretary from the late ’60s. These are always fun.
Q: What is your hope for the continuing legacy of Peanuts?
A: The Museum was created to show original Peanuts artwork, to collect Peanuts archives and to talk about Sparky’s creative life. My hope is that future students and scholars will continue to study at the Museum and continue to discover new aspects of Sparky’s work.
On October 1, the U.S. Postal Service will issue 10 A Charlie Brown Christmas forever stamps at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center (2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa, CA 95401). Presented in a double-sided booklet of 20, the stamps feature 10 still frames from A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Featuring 10 still frames from A Charlie Brown Christmas, including Charlie Brown with his sapling tree and Snoopy’s doghouse lit up in a prize-winning light display, these special stamps are a wonderful way to add a personal touch to your holiday mail or give the perfect gift to any Peanuts fan.
Many famous artists and cartoonists have been recognized through Google Doodles – Scott Adams, Jim Henson, Dr. Seuss … the list goes on.
With the 65th anniversary of Peanuts approaching, The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna makes a request to Google in an open letter: Honor the legendary Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz with a Google Doodle.
As the article notes, there is no better time than now.
“That’s right, this Nov. 26 will mark the 93rd anniversary of the cartoonist’s birth, in Minneapolis (the same month that 'The Peanuts Movie' will open). Before that, Oct. 2 will mark the 65th anniversary of the debut of the Peanuts comic strip — in fewer than 10 newspapers. And Dec. 9 will mark the golden anniversary of the first broadcast of the first Peanuts TV special: the Emmy-winning 'A Charlie Brown Christmas.' Yes, this season, the occasions to celebrate abound.” – via The Washington Post
Happy National Children’s Day to all of you proud parents out there! On a day that celebrates children and their futures, we couldn’t think of a more perfect opportunity to showcase our favorite ways to brighten, not only your child’s days, but their future, as well!
Finding ways to both entertain and educate your kids is not always an easy feat to accomplish. In a previous blog post, we showed you how to “Beat the Summertime Boredom” with some of our kid-friendly interactive comic features:
Now, we’re expanding beyond the digital world of GoComics to tell you about some awesome comic books. Published by our sister company Andrews McMeel Publishing, all are sure to keep your child learning and laughing for days to come, because – let’s be honest – Reading with Pictures is just more fun!
A constantly held game-system controller will be replaced with a new favorite book that they can’t put down.
With series like The Complete Big Nate, kids won’t have to stop reading! They can follow one of their favorite comic characters through his many book adventures!
Speak to your child’s imagination with the magic of Phoebe and Her Unicorn.
Introduce them to the comics that brightened your own childhood. The Peanuts gang is still just as lovable as you remember, and their books are equally as timeless.
Celebrate National Children’s Day with a gift that truly keeps on giving, because a book is never just a book – it’s a key, unlocking a world of wonder and adventure.
In my opinion, there is no better way to spend a summer day than a trip to the ballpark. The smell of fresh-cut grass, the warmth of the sunshine beating down on the diamond, the taste of a ballpark hotdog (which, for whatever reason, always tastes better here than anywhere else), the “crack!” of the ball coming off the bat, followed by the silence of bated breath as everyone waits for it to clear the outfield fence … Baseball is summer in its purest form.
That being said, one could not write a post about the beauty of the ballpark without talking about the Peanuts gang. Their baseball team may not be the best in the neighborhood, but it is definitely the funniest.
From the first pitch of the season…
To the bottom of the ninth in the championship…
The gang constantly reminds us what the game of baseball is all about. It’s not about how many fans you have…
Or whether you win or lose; it’s about how you play the game.
Sometimes you’re going to balk…
But, you have to take it in stride.
… And when all else fails, you can always cheer yourself up with one of those delicious ballpark hotdogs (or two, or 23).
Bottom of the ninth with two outs; Giants with a one-run lead; Alex Gordon on third, Salvador Perez is at the plate … we need a hit here. Gordo’s just NINETY FEET away from making it home and tying up Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. As a die-hard Royals fan, I’m a believer; I’m bordering on cardiac arrest, but I know we’ve got this.
As Royals fans and baseball enthusiasts all know, Salvy fouled out and Kansas City did not go on to win.
(Pause for a single tear)
Although it was a sad ending, it had been an amazing playoff ride after a rollercoaster of a season, and … the best part … it’s about to start all over again! The Super Bowl is over, football season is officially done, and (sorry basketball fans) I’m already in full baseball mode!
If you’re not pumped already, then just keep reading! If you still don’t get amped up after this post, check your pulse!
Even if you’re not a fan of the game itself, you have to respect the history of America’s pastime. February is Black History Month and this is the sport that brought us Babe Ruth and, of course:
There is no sport as nostalgic and special. From early childhood going to the ballpark with your folks …
To playing in Little League …
Your first ball cap ...
Talking a little smack when your team was up …
And being too nervous to watch when they weren’t …
Whether you’re a die-hard baseball fan like me, or you just like sitting in the sun on a beautiful summer day eating peanuts and Cracker Jack, you can’t not get excited about the fact that spring training is just around the corner!
Let’s go, Royals!
In celebration of the 65th anniversary of Peanuts, we’re restarting this iconic comic strip from the very beginning. Follow along as we stroll down memory lane with Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the whole gang as they retrace the adventures that began on newspaper funny pages in 1950. Those were the days!
USA Today published a sneak peek into "The Peanuts Movie," arriving in theatres next year, and we can’t wait!
Moviegoers can expect to see 3-D computer-animated characters including Snoopy, Woodstock, Linus and Peppermint Patty. However, even with modern technology and animation coming into play, director Steve Martino has made it a priority to stay “true to the look and feel of the comic strips.”
With Peanuts celebrating its 65th anniversary next year, we are excited to see the gang come to life on the big screen!
Charlie Brown's father is a barber. Possibly an invisible barber. I realized after typing "invisible barber" that such a thing is a concept I apparently find really unsettling. I'll revisit this newfound fear on my own time, and instead speculate that, judging by how infrequently the elder Mr. Brown seems to be home, he is instead a very, very busy barber. Other than his father's profession and his implied corporeal legitimacy, no further details about Charlie Brown's parents are ever stated. The following strip is the only instance in which his mother ever directly appears. She might be a Ghost Mom, it's impossible to say.
Aside from ghosts being very scary, it's never of much actual concern that adults are nowhere to be found in Peanuts. The strip is constructed in such a way that they aren't necessary. The scope of the world is kid-sized and free of any real threats, if you set aside the entire world's constant, subtle nudging of Charlie Brown towards suicide.
Like everyone else, I started reading Peanuts pretty deeply into its run. After having the basics explained and figuring out the rest through context and by not being really stupid, I followed it for a few decades until it concluded. It's a really good strip to hand to a kid-- the lines are soft and sparse, the threats are all existential and open-ended, so there's always hope for a happy outcome, and no one's sarcastic. It's incredibly, miraculously thoughtful, which is a pretty great example to provide your average grubby, pre-moral kid. I don't have the data handy at the moment, but there's a disturbing correlation between juvenile diabetes and kids whose first comic was Family Circus.
Still, one thing always nagged at me, due largely to the expectation of safety that comes from being fortunate enough to grow up in a stable, loving household: where are all the adults?
Not that I thought adults needed to be regular fixtures-- I still can't really imagine how an adult's face would look in the Peanuts universe. But everyone's always so mean to poor Chuck, and it'd be nice to see that he had a reliably safe place to go where someone loved him. Snoopy's love seems conditional, at best, and sure, that beanbag chair is probably warm, but it's no substitute for a hug.
The strips shown here are literally the only ones in the entire run of Peanuts where adults show up. I'm glad to see that the kids do indeed have actual, tangible elders to whom they could turn instead of just spooky, translucent ghost-parents. I guess the adults in these strips could all actually have monster faces, but that seems like a pessimistic assumption to make, so I'll assume they don't.
Even though Charles Schulz was talented enough to keep the cast from ever acting like child-shaped adults, they really acted like genuine little kids for the first few years. It's for the best he edged them forward a bit, developmentally, to not only give them more to do, say and think, but also to allow for enough autonomy that they could inhabit a world custom-built for them, instead of peeking around the corners of a world where they were new arrivals.
It's fun to muck around in the early years of the strip to see Schulz build out his characters and watch his illustration style loosen up. The lines he draws gradually go from uniformly even and neat to nervous and loose within the first decade as he gets to know the cast. His backgrounds start off as expertly detailed and subtly imposing, staged with just the right things that someone three feet high would find noteworthy. Within the first ten years, things recede into arid landscapes that serve to best frame the day's activity: here's where we are, here are the props we'll be using. He starts off as an amazing illustrator, and almost immediately grows into a masterful storyteller. While I would've really liked to see more of the early years' tight, precise linework, the strip grows into the quiet, mannered masterpiece for which it's remembered once Schulz softens the edges on his panels.
What I'm saying here is: Peanuts is pretty good. I guess he knew what he was doing.
It's only after sitting here for a long time, trying to type something worthwhile about adults' cameos in this strip that I think I've figured out how Peanuts could possibly work so well when its ridiculously sympathetic protagonist seems so utterly alone and unloved. Peanuts is so adored and admired because it pulled off something almost no other cartoon ever could, bringing the reader in to fill a role so notably absent in the strip.
Turns out, Charlie Brown has plenty of adults around who love him: us.
Humor is rooted in truth, and truth, as I understand it, is rooted in fact. So when I tell you, "Hey, look at this video full of amazing facts about comic strips," I hope you don't knock a bunch of pictures off the wall behind your chair as you're blown backwards by the sheer force of hilarity.
It's a spiffy li'l rundown of all sorts of miscellany, though we've covered some of it before. The internet's not so bad, after all.
Hold onto your butts:
My job is tricky to explain in casual conversation. When asked, I usually say something along the lines of, "I work with comics," before muttering something witty about Marmaduke. There's more to my job, of course, but I've learned that illuminating my role in bringing a puzzle-hungry nation their daily Sudoku infusion is a conversational dead-end with anyone whom I'd like to continue speaking.
My hilarious quips about Marmaduke do double duty to disarm the listener with my insight and to vaguely establish that I don't mean comic books, I mean syndicated strips. I take a silly amount of pride in my association with them. More often than not, this is met with, "Comics? Cool, I love ______!!" (fill in Calvin and Hobbes, Pooch Cafe, The Far Side, Dilbert, Frazz, etc), which is always nice to hear, though the only credit I can take for a given strip's success is not betraying the trust instilled in me by adding mustaches to all the characters as a funny prank. But peoples' word choice is always the same: "love" instead of "like," even if they're not still active readers. The effort that goes into getting a strip in front of an audience is an exercise in passion, which is a gritty sort of love-- for the fun of drawing, the precision of language, the grind of working out all the myriad details along the way so that someone in a kitchen somewhere can chuckle softly to himself before moving on with his day. Obviously, silly characters doing funny things is going to be inherently appealing, but there's more to them that makes them stick firmly and fondly in the mind of readers.
Ponderously articulated or not, something about the medium connects with lots of people on a really deep level, and the feeling stays put, resistant to eroding over the years into one of those youthful pastimes that, in hindsight, goes from character-defining to a deeply regrettable stage in learning how to have good taste. Maybe it's because there's no risk in enjoying a given comic, no cultural cache to be gained by affiliating oneself with, say, F Minus instead of Betty. They're all great if you're a fan. Comics are around for you to enjoy, and require as much or as little attention as you care to give them. Take a break for as long as you want-- they'll still be there for you whenever you return, and they'll still be great.
Seeing as it's Valentine's Day, and I clearly spend a lot of much time thinking about how people relate to comics, I thought it might be worth exploring the way the comics relate to each other. Sound like a stretch? Wait until you see the nonsense I have planned for St. Patrick's Day.
Manifestation: The most conventional type of relationship on our spectrum, but only because most people didn't realize how broad the boundaries of love could be until the advent of the Color Internet opened our eyes to the elasticity of amour. Deep into their marriage, with no kids in the house to distract them, Jimmy Johnson's Arlo & Janis have built a lasting love on a foundation of attraction, respect, and mutual bemusement with those dang smartphones.
Notable for: The gentle, profound sense of purpose that comes with finding someone with whom to share your life; spooning.
Preferable to: Escaping through the bayou handcuffed to a fellow member of your chain-gang, blood feuds and foreign game shows where you have to sing karaoke while being lowered into a vat of frogs and snakes.
Manifestation: Unshakable, innate and as evolutionarily beneficial to our species' continued propagation as thumbs, tool use and the absence of velociraptors. In Robb Armstrong's Jump Start, that broad, unconditional bond stretches across generations, social strata and the vicissitudes of occasions where use of the word "vicissitudes" is appropriate. Also, one of the grade school-aged kids is a doctor, somehow!
Notable for: A sense of belonging, security and comfort; people who will store all your old action figures when you move into your own place.
Preferable to: Being a wooden boy brought to life by a fairy; Dickensian orphanhood.
Boy & Dog:
Manifestation: In Red & Rover by Brian Basset, Red (boy) and Rover (dog) spend all day playing, cuddling, and nurturing each other through a big, soft world that seems to exist on the dateline between a post-WWII midwestern idyll and our modern world. The simplicity of a place where all the toy shops sell model planes and the televisions are gigantic and sit on the floor allow Red and Rover to constantly share the same purity of excited affection usually only witnessed briefly in your dog's frenzy when you first get home from work.
Notable for: Being so good and cute, oh yes it is, oh yeah, such a good strip, such a good-- you wanna go outside, strip? C'mon, comic strip, let's go to the park! [pat pat pat]
Preferable to: Boy and Cat. There'd be no strip if Rover was a cat, unless every plot revolved around Red walking around the house calling for Rover to come out, while Rover hunched under a bed, listlessly cleaning himself and occasionally yawning.
Boy & Squid:
Manifestation: In Mark Tatulli's Lio --whose tone is sort of like The Wonder Years mixed with the episode of The Twilight Zone where the telekinetic kid keeps sending people to a cornfield with his mind-- there is occasionally a giant squid. I'm not sure if the squid has much of a backstory, but he seems to hold Lio in whatever the squid equivalent of "buddy" is. They have adventures that span a spirited mix of science, spite, shenanigans and sweetness, and the squid is gentle enough with Lio not to squish him when they hug. Yet.
Notable for: The fact that there's a giant squid just hanging around in the yard, and no one raises a stink. We've come a long way, America.
Preferable to: Squid and Boy. In most instances, a squid would find it pretty tricky to even get a kid's attention, since it would have to swim dangerously close to shore to be visible from land. Even then, it would have to gauge its timing perfectly to ensure that anyone was present when it appeared, that the shore-based prospective friend wasn't a predator, would be intuitive enough to understand the squid's appeals for companionship, and had an apparatus on hand to keep the squid's skin supple in the open air. Assuming the squid could find friendship before the seagulls spotted him, he would have to be emotionally prepared to never again return to the ocean, since there's a lot more potential for excitement in the variety of environments offered on land. Expecting the human to prefer seeking adventure while the two of them paddled around on the ocean's surface would put a lot of strain on the relationship, and the only excitement they'd be likely to find would be sunburns and jellyfish. Plus, the mindset of ocean life is a lot more old-fashioned than we forward-thinking mammals, and they would likely shun the both of them by retreating scornfully into coral. So sad.
Boy & Stuffed Tiger:
Manifestation: There is no artistic medium more suited to depicting the daily exploits of a child's imagination than comics, and no example of comics as an art form than Calvin and Hobbes-- but you know that already. Calvin's a kid, Hobbes is his stuffed buddy, and you should probably stop reading this right now and go read today's strip, instead. Hobbes is a great listener, coconspirator and foil, but he's also a crucial voice of reason to rein in Calvin's rampaging id. It's a bit like Fight Club, except, it's about a kid and a stuffed tiger being wonderful, instead of grown men hitting each other and crying about Ikea. Other than that, it's exactly like Fight Club.
Notable for: Being a perfect object that will stand the test of time, as well as any and all hyperbole I keep shoveling onto it.
Preferable to: I dunno, Life of Pi?
Cat & Lasagna:
Manifestation: Garfield's enlarged heart is limited to tough love for nearly all the players in his life, as exemplified by how often he breaks into his customary half-lidded smirk, which is a pretty efficient way to synthesize the inscrutable smugness through which most real cats relate to the world. Garfield's broad, guileless grins are reserved for those specific things which benefit him directly: Jon or Odie being injured due as a result of his actions or due to his conscious inaction at a crucial moment, napping-related miscellany and food either intended for him or unguarded enough for him to steal. Lasagna's rich, textured layers are the ideal indulgence for his appetites, and as he's pondered whilst gazing longingly into his own reflection 'pon many an emptied plate over the years, a delight with more secrets than he has lives. Which is to say, at least ten, but probably more. Maybe twelve!
Notable for: Personally, I've always derived a great deal of enjoyment imagining the sound of a kitty furtively snacking on a dish of lasagna in an otherwise quiet room. They have such teensy mouths!
Preferable to: Mondays. AM I RIGHT?!
Dog & Bone:
Manifestation: Pretty much any cartoon that has ever featured a dog as a cameo or reoccurring character. Chiefly, Marmaduke, who is never specific about his intent after finding a bone, be it gifted to him or pilfered from a plate, but is very, very serious about obtaining as many bones as he can, as frequently as possible, even if he has to chew through some healthy flesh to get to them.
Notable for: The observation that dogs liking bones is a relatable occurrence from many peoples' experience with real dogs.
Preferable to: Dogs eating steaks all the time. Besides it being unhealthy for the dog in the long-term, they'd probably start acting like they thought they were better than us because of their high-class diet. If we are to retain any semblance of social order in these troubled times, we must restrict dog-steaks to "treat" status. The last group to permit their canines to dictate their own diets were the Romans, and one of the only things that remains of their legacy are totems of Romulus and Remus, which stand as a chilling portrait of beastly subversion of Man's supremacy. If we are to remain on the right side of the leash, we must not waver.
Boy & No One:
Manifestation: The brutal, crushing saga of Charlie Brown's annual Valentine's Day heartbreak at the hollow, laughing mouth of his mailbox. Spending time alone when you're a kid isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it provides a space for introspection and nurturing personal interests, but the isolation forced upon ol' Chuck thanks to the world's utter derision for him can't be healthy. It's a credit to the mastery of the medium exhibited by Charles Schulz that we think of Peanuts as warm and largely innocent-- it certainly can be, but reading year after year of Valentine's Day strips in a single sitting makes it clear that a huge portion of the run was devoted to different ways to humiliate, belittle and reject Charlie Brown. It's stated repeatedly that the reason he never gets Valentines isn't because he forgot to file proper change-of-address forms or Woodstock used them for nesting material, it's because literally no one likes him. To his credit, he takes this in stride and remains steadfast in his hope, but his posture slumps a little more every year when propped up against the mailbox's post. Poor kid. Why won't his parents put down their trumpets and hug him?
Notable for: The fact that this emotional hellscape never, ever relents, except for a few weeks in the 70s where Charlie developed a rash, had to wear a bag over his head, and was mistakenly popular at camp because no one could see his face.
Preferable to: Uh, I guess being uniformly and cruelly ignored is slightly better than the opposite, where you're a household name for starting a plague. It's also better than being chased into a cave by a mob of villagers. At least the neglect is largely benign and consistently frosty enough that it stops being much of a surprise after a few years. If I may say so, I think you're a good man, Charlie Brown.
After a sobering look at my word count, I think we can probably conclude our survey for this year. If anyone needs me, I'll be at my desk, putting makeup on my stuffed Garfield doll so we don't look out of place when we go out for our Valentine's dinner this evening. Please don't judge me.
When you're a kid, snow is a rare, precious resource-- a chance to reshape the world to your will, if only for an afternoon. The scope of potential projects is perfectly kid-sized: limited to basic geometric shapes and defensive functions, you're going to end up with either a ball or a wall, regardless of the outsized ambitions you had while your folks did a spot-check on your winter clothes before turning you loose.
(Clicking on these strips will make them appear larger in a new tab, as if by magic!)
Snow-wise, the smartest kid in the world's efforts are going to look mighty similar to those of the dumbest one's, assuming that the smart kid isn't too stuffy to go outside and do kid things, and the dumb kid isn't so monstrously thick that he just sits there in his own frozen filth, eyes lolling as he brays wordlessly at an unfeeling sky. Y'know what? Rather than distract from my point with further extremes, let me revise my previous statement: smart or dumb, you're going to end up with a fort. Maybe it'll have a ceiling, but that's more a question of the density of the snow than the child.
Snow means a chance to take a scoop of the ground in your hands and make something real enough to be a separate place, just for you and your invited guests. You can make something big and heavy and lasting, relatively. It's hard to remember, especially as adult-sized instances mount, but failure is a pretty regular outcome of most kid-plans. I can remember grand schemes to make all sorts of things, from burglar traps to comic books to movies, and finding as soon as I moved beyond the scribbled imagination phase that, oh, right-- I'm a dumb kid who's so young that I've only recently been allowed to use crayons unsupervised. Not only do I not know how to do most things, I literally can't do them, even with expert instruction. Also, these crayons taste terrible. Maybe the red ones taste better...
But snow? Mastery comes instantly. The only real hurdle, at least for me, was tracking down a full-sized carrot and negotiating a spare scarf and/ or gloves out of the house after explaining that I needed them so I could leave them outside where they'd be ruined forever. For fun!
The popular depiction of snowmen gave me unrealistic body image expectations for my own creations-- suitable branches were both too high up in trees and technically still living; most of the snow I was able to gather ended up full of stray leaves and acorns that muddied its pristine whiteness, and I couldn't begin to guess where one found lumps of coal. To this day, I'm not sure where I could get my hands on coal. Trains? Probably trains.
Of course, the fun was in the doing, not the did. I've never since found a stillness so pure as that which surrounded me while kneeling my slippery snowpants, tickling a tiny snowball along a listing path, nudging it ever larger as I scooted along behind, merging our separate tracks. The normal sounds of our neighborhood flattened out between the low sky and high snow, making the world feel so much closer and scalable; the sunshine muffled and wide behind a slate of clouds that took away all the shadows and made the day feel like it would never end.
I don't have much to add to these snowman-centric strips from our pals Bill Watterson and Charles Schulz, but after reading the comments to last week's post, I thought it was worth highlighting the acknowledged influence Peanuts had on Calvin & Hobbes' wintry exploits. There are loads more points of inspiration throughout the rest of the strip's run, but if I shared them all right now, it'd be springtime by the time I finished typing. Enjoy.
If you're looking for an expensive knock-out gift for a cartoonist, I don't see how you could go wrong with the first Fantagraphics volume in its series reprinting all the Peanuts Sundays:
I was struck by how different, and complex, the early Sundays are compared to later work. Lots of detail, and backgrounds, and grownups, and extensive dialogue, and even a two-Sunday series. Check out this 16-panel beaut:
And this action strip:
It's a beautifully made volume. Although I could only find the above two strips in black and white online, everything in the book itself is in rich, vivid color, thus:
There were a lot of write-ups I tried to pair with these, but they all seemed superfluous, as the following strips pretty much tell you everything you need to know. Granted, the only possible reaction anyone could have to these would be a few hard blinks as the word "Why?" struggles free of one's throat, but I have no answers to give you, and Mr. Schulz is unavailable for comment, as his days are now spent "up there," jammin' with Jimi.
(In an impressive display of my coding prowess, clicking on these strips will make them appear larger in a separate window.)
As I'm unencumbered by any insight whatsoever, please enjoy the following Peanuts strips about the time Charlie Brown got a rash on his head that looked like the stitching on a baseball, then hallucinated that the sun was a baseball, then went to camp wearing a bag on his head to hide the rash. It's as weird or weirder than the week Garfield became all about a giant dog for no reason whatsoever. I like to think about a person who hadn't read the funny pages in a few weeks opening the paper to the final strip in the story arc, and how much it would mess up the rest of his day. Even with a little context, the ending to this saga is as inscrutable as hieroglyphics were before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. Godspeed.
Chilling. It brings to mind something novelist and role model F. Scott Fitzgerald said regarding his time in Hollywood, "Wear a mask long enough, it becomes your face." Not that it's a relevant quote beyond it being about a mask, but it's pretty tricky for me to drop references if I have to ensure they're more than tangentially germane.
"Mr. Sack" is a pretty menacing nom de guerre-- if Charlie Brown hadn't so clearly entered a fugue state at the end of these strips and disconnected completely from reality, he could've harnessed his innate leadership ability and charisma to set up a sort of camp-based Keyser Soze persona.
Hey, also, I just realized that Charlie wearing a cruddy bag on his head at summer camp is eerily similar to the idea behind Jason Vorhees, especially in the first "Friday the 13th" sequel. Jason wasn't as helpful, though.
I think we all remember what happened after these strips, when Peanuts became an odd precursor to DePalma's "Dressed to Kill" and all the Sundays were drawn by Peter Max for a few years. Thankfully, not drawing Sundays freed up Schulz's schedule enough that he took up tennis, and used his enthusiasm to get the strip back on track by 1978. Ever seen a bird play mixed doubles with a dog? It's crazy!
©Peanuts Worldwide, LLC
Treats! Treats for the taking! For those bold or cunning enough to pry them loose from the hands of their bearers, the spoils are endless. There is no sound like that made when rummaging through a full bag of pilfered, miscellaneous candy. It sounds like electric rain.
The pillow sheds its skin like a fluffy, soiled snake, and spins off the balcony and into the night, making no sound as it falls to earth in an Arby's parking lot. The pillowcase is no longer a stage on which dreams play, but a bag into which dreams are deposited. There will be no sleeping tonight. The morning light seems impossible from this vantage, as far away as the rumored estate across town where they hand out King-Size Kit-Kats. Inside my mask, my hot, recycled breath gives my lungs a fullness that feels like courage, and the only sound I can hear is that of my own pounding heart, thrumming the words "free treats" over and over, faster and faster.
Halloween is a miracle. A MIRACLE. However, as it was forged by the hand of man rather than that of the divine, it is technically a conditional miracle: you'll need a costume. If you're anything like me, the idea of spending any amount of money or effort acquiring one of these feels foolish and wasteful, as there's very little utility to a "Sexy Frankenstein" costume for the rest of the year, unless you get invited to a lot of baptisms. So you find yourself pressed against your window, watching the rain deflate your pillow in the yellow light of the parking lot, concluding yet again that your enthusiasm for treats has led you to act in haste. As a possum toddles over to your pillow and begins yanking towards the sewer, you know there's no turning back now, and it's time to turn your attention towards this year's options for a Last-Minute Costume.
Initially, the bed seems like the ripest tree: with the pillow now appropriated as a marsupial's birthing chamber, the sheets could be harvested for ghost-skin, the comforter for, uh, maybe some kind of fat ghost costume? No, no. Think harder! The window for free candy is only open for so long, and it's already sliding closed. If you miss it, you'll need those sheets to make a noose for yourself!
I've managed to survive over 30 Halloweens through a mixture of panic and luck. This year, I decided to figure out my costume early, meaning during the mid-morning of October 31st instead of waiting until 7:30 tonight. As I'd already left my bedroom for the day, I had to scan my current surroundings for ideas. Thankfully, in my line of work, ideas are what keep the lights on (our standard contract with creators allows us to use any and all lightbulbs that appear over their heads in moments of inspiration).
And so, dear reader, here are some options for you to explore to make your own comics-themed Last Minute Costume. Just be sure to brand yourself with a copyright symbol on an area of exposed skin to ensure you stay on the right side of the law. I suggest using a heated, bent coat hanger on the top of whichever hand you don't use to write.
© PAWS, Inc.
Concept: Maybe you've heard of him? He's a fat cat with fattitude and cattitude and a rad badness that makes even Heathcliff swoon. His milkshake brings all the boys to the yard!
What You'll Need: Spray-on tanner, black magic marker, coffee mug and a defined ranking order for days of the week.
How to Assemble: Throw on a white undershirt and light-colored boxers, hop in the shower, slather yourself in the cheapest spray-tanner you can find for maximum orangeness, then add Garfield's signature markings with as permanent a black felt-tip marker as you can acquire legally. If you keep your bathroom door closed, the fumes of the tanner and marker might also lead you to believe you are in fact literally a cat. Bring the mug along for verisimilitude.
Concept: The lighter side of the proletariat.
What You'll Need: Day job, glasses, white short-sleeve button-down shirt, red and black striped tie, oversized black sweatpants and black shoes.
How to Assemble: Put on clothes. Go to work. Search workplace for candy dishes on coworkers' desks, empty into oversized pants (cuffed at bottom with elastic to contain the added weight). Remain droll throughout to minimize suspicion.
© Bill Watterson
Concept: Your favorite comic.
What You'll Need: Bleach, hair gel, red and black striped shirt, khaki board shorts, bengal tiger.
How to Assemble: Bleach and style hair in the classic "forward spiked" style, then dress as usual, careful to let hair dry sufficiently before putting on shirt to keep it safe from accidental bleaching. Once in costume, gently coax bengal tiger out of the back of your car, where you've kept it pinned since smashing through the retaining wall of your local zoo's jungle habitat. If you've tranquilized the tiger prior to transport, you may find him sluggish and difficult to move, in which case you should rebrand your costume to accommodate this "real life Hobbes" aspect, when Hobbes appears as a mere stuffed animal. The tiger will likely come around in a few hours, whereupon you can transition into the "Calvin returning home from school" costume, when Hobbes tackles the crap out of him and begins to violently maul his face and neck (see below).
© Bill Watterson
© Ziggy and Friends, Inc.
Concept: A simple, gentle strip about a man without pants.
What You'll Need: Solid-colored T-shirt, jar of bees, disposable razor.
How to Assemble: After slipping into the T-shirt (the color is up to you, but it should be tailored for modesty, as it will be the only article of clothing you'll wear), shave off all body hair with disposable razor, then violently shake jar of bees for one minute. Unscrew the jar's cap, place nose into jar's opening, then think about delicious candy while the bees do their work on your nose. With any luck, you're not deathly allergic to bee stings, but are just allergic enough for hilarious swelling to ensue!
Concept: A big dog who thinks he's people and the people who somehow accept this with affable resignation rather than mounting fury.
What You'll Need: Sugar cubes, goggles, giant femur bone, red nylon leash, brown spraypaint, quarter horse.
How to Assemble: Go to your barn and fetch your horse. If you do not have a barn, simply unhitch your horse from whichever tree to which you've lashed him for overnight grazing. Feed your horse a handful of sugar cubes to distract him, gently place goggles over his eyes (horse goggles can be found at most gas stations), then thoroughly coat him with brown spraypaint (the preferred shade is Krylon's "Big Huge Dog Brown"). Once completed, remove goggles and replace bridle with red nylon leash, then head out for a great night, leading him along. Carry the giant femur bone because Marmaduke loves bones, and your horse might need some correction if he's spooked by the red packaging of a Fun-Sized Skittles bag.
© Darby Conley
Concept: A dog and a cat do some stuff with this guy they know.
What You'll Need: A dog and a cat, this guy you know, a calendar.
How to Assemble: Group the dog, cat and guy into a room, then wait seven weeks. Your friends with candy from 2011 will cover for you. Once you're well past deadline, do a lap around your block, then return home and wait for next year.
© M Fry & T Lewis
Concept: Woodland creatures crack wise and ponder the big questions in the shadow of suburbia.
What You'll Need: A raccoon, a squirrel, a turtle, a burlap sack, bait, rubber gloves.
How to Assemble: Trick raccoon and squirrel into burlap sack (Important: SEPARATELY) with bait. Pick up turtle by side of highway, greeting him with "Hey, little guy!" because turtles don't mean any harm, and you're glad to see him. Gather animals in apartment, placing raccoon in bathtub, squirrel in kitchen cabinet, and the turtle wherever you wish, as he's not going anywhere. Begin negotiations with raccoon in order to establish trust, and see if he'll lend a hand getting the squirrel to agree to your inter-species pact in exchange for some yummy garbage. Once pact is forged, seal the deal with a handshake, after putting rubber gloves on both yourself and the raccoon to protect each party from germs. Let raccoon have some time alone with the squirrel in the cabinet, establishing beforehand that he'll give the cabinet door two quick knocks when they're ready to come out for trick-or-treating. Go find your turtle buddy, fill him in on what he's missed, then sit and enjoy his company. If everything goes well, the animals will gather candy from your neighbors on their own throughtout the year, even if your neighbors aren't home or lock their doors to keep the animals out!
Note: this process may take some time, so try and capture animals in mid-September.
I hope you've found something appealing among these suggestions, or if not, some inspiration. If you've found neither, we've nothing left to say to one another. See you out there, everyone! Boo!
Y'know how sometimes when you're eating shelled peanuts, and every thirtieth peanut or so is just a little baby peanut, without any peanut partner in it, sort of shaped like how an apostrophe might look if it were a real thing and not a punctuation mark invented by eggheads to demonstrate possession or the omission of letters? Surely you must.
I'm always a little hesitant to pry into those little peanuts; worried they might taste yucky or crunch a little too hard and throw off my whole afternoon. Nature did its best to let me know: Hey, peanut-eater-- maybe just toss this little one over your shoulder and take another feel-around for a normal one? There's no shame in it.
Other times, you find the four-leafed clover of the peanut world: the three-nut. You put it next to your ear and give it a little rattle, then show it off to whomever's around, saying things like, "I'm the best at peanuts!" or, "The prophecy has come to pass!" and you spring from your seat and pump-fake it into the faces of passers-by, cackling as they flinch and shriek. Often, the third peanut contained within the shell is suspiciously brown and overly round, but you choke it down smugly, tasting mostly pride.
Either one of these scenarios is preferable to the dark omen of finding what appears to be a normal twin-packed peanut that contains only one nut. In medieval times, finding one of these called for entire fields to be bricked over-- in fact, some disgraced scholars believe this is how man first discovered the advantages of paved roads: less mud, no further threat from cursed peanuts.
As you can clearly see, it's been a bit of a rough week, and I've resorted to increasingly desperate measures to illustrate why round two of the Peanuts Art v. Commerce column won't post until next week. (Spoiler: the different types of peanuts listed above refer to differing verisions of the inferior versions of the article I could offer.) Rather than offer very little in the way of content on the topic, or drum up even more nonsense to try and fill out a half-finished part two, I've elected to share the following Polish movie poster for "Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown!" because it has been sitting on my computer desktop for weeks and I didn't know where else to shove it:
Photo credit: here
More like, "Charlie Drowned," am I right???
Ah, we do have fun, don't we? This is technically better than nothing, by my calculations.
Okay, next week: back to work.
"I think what makes our licensing different from many others is the fact that our program is built upon characters who are figuratively alive-- they are continually growing and doing new things-- we're not simply stamping these characters on the sides of products just to sell the products. Every new thing that Snoopy does, or Charlie Brown does, becomes somehow an idea for a licensed product and it just seems to work. Snoopy is so versatile he just seems to be able to fit into any role and it just works. It's not that we're out to clutter the market with product. In fact anyone that says we're overdoing it is way off base because actually we are underdoing it. We could be turning out much more material than we do and there's no comparison between the amount of products that, say, Walt Disney Productions turns out, and what we do." - Charles Schulz, Charles M. Schulz: Conversations, p. 103
In this corner, weighing in at 38.5 picas, 600 dpi… the "Velum Felon," the "Graphite Grappler", the "Sequential Strangler"… from a lonely, quiet studio apartment… ART!
And in this corner, weighing in at 21 grams… the "Capitalist Decapitator," the "Free Market Mangler"… the invisible hand clenched into a fist… here to blow his opponent to Adam Smithereens… COMMERCE!
I once heard a marketing expert describe the concept of a "brand" as something that allows a consumer to not have to think; meaning that when you walk into a store and see your preferred brand of, say, jeans, you already know that those particular jeans are going to meet a certain level of quality and provide a level of satisfaction at a certain price that you prefer over other jeans. It's trust, but it's also faith that your chosen brand will continue to meet your expectations, and mitigates the feeling of risk a consumer might otherwise feel when faced with endless choices. If everything goes as hoped, the nouns "trust" and "faith" become verbs as you engage with your brand and toss a wad of sweaty dollar bills on the counter to complete the transaction. Step 3: new jeans!
Peanuts has been a powerful brand for decades, rooted in something shared freely that asks nothing in return save for the attention necessary to finish reading a comic strip or enjoying a holiday special. The cast pops up regularly on all manner of products, but actual endorsements are rare and handled with the same gentle touch that makes the strip so special to so many fans. Sure, insurance companies are boring on their best days, but Snoopy buddying up to the MetLife logo doesn't serve to twist anyone's arm, it's more like, "Hey, look. There's Snoopy. Also insurance. I wonder what that does?" And what dirigible in our modern world is more gentle than a blimp-- a hot air balloon? Please. Those things are navigated mainly by luck and powered by scary fire. Blimps are like friendly manatees in the sky!
It's an honest, approachable brand created by a kind, decent man. Every single professional cartoonist I've ever known or heard speak has a story about "Sparky" (and they all call him "Sparky"-- all of them, without exception) offering advice, guidance and inspiration. If one considers how much these interactions impacted each cartoonist, and how their work improved as a result, that means that Charles Schulz is the most influential figure in the history of illustration by an unfathomable margin.
Thus, brand preservation is paramount-- not just for continued viability and revenue, but because Peanuts is the rare property which forged a lasting, personal bond with its audience day by day for decades. It's a force of good.
Photo credit: ebay
Long ago, we lived a world where consumers expected far less from their licensed products. As a result, a brand could withstand associations with cheaply made/ dangerous/ unpleasant wares. After some intitial hiccups (see below) Peanuts learned to be more discerning at a slightly faster rate than the general public, narrowly escaping the fate of, say, Garfield (though if anyone asks, I didn't say Garfield, okay?), but not before a few landfills' worth of products filtered into and out of stores.
To be clear, the following products are not a case of Peanuts betraying the public's trust, they're examples of products betraying Peanuts' trust. The jerks.
Charlie Brown and Woodstock on Skis Balance Toy:
Photo credit: ebay
After Weebles but before Atari, the word on the lips of every kid on the playground was "fulcrum"!
Charlie Brown Dictionary Set:
Photo credit: ebay
A noble aim, to be sure (the covers boast "2500 words defined"), but A) A dictionary's appeal is centered entirely in its utility, B) I don't believe children have strong feelings either way about dictionaries, C) Assuming a child did object to having words defined, a kid-friendly variation isn't going to win him over and D) The best they could come up with for the cover of "A" was Charlie Brown holding an apple in his baseball mitt?
Charlie Brown's Encyclopedia of Energy:
An example of something that really can benefit from the addition of Peanuts characters to improve appeal to children, so long as one doesn't question why in the world a kid needs a whole book about solar power and the versatility of propane:
Photo credits: ebay
Posh Puffs Softly Scented Full Size Pop-Up Box of Tissues:
Photo credit: ebay
I hear ya, Snoop, though I'm not sure tissue boxes are the place to advance your prenatal agenda.
Charlie Brown "Skediddler":
Photo credit: ebay
Upon first seeing this, I thought, "Oh, that's for doctors to show to kids before their first spinal taps, so the process isn't as scary for them, like that time I got all those immunization shots from that clown." Then I thought, "I don't remember seeing any framed diplomas in that clown's office," then I thought, "And it wasn't so much an 'office' as much as it was an 'alley.'" I have some calls to make.
Snoopy "Cherry Pie" ceramic mug:
Photo credit: ebay
Marketing Exec 1: Gotta get the art for this year's batch of mugs to the printer by tomorrow. Here's what we have so far: one mug featuring Snoopy, and one featuring cherry pie.
Marketing Exec 2: Listen, I was running the numbers, and we're going to have to cut our budget in half-- our customers' mug budgets have really suffered thanks to the gas crisis.
Marketing Exec 1: [shakes fist at sky] OPEC!!!!
Marketing Exec 2: There's time for that later, Phil. Right now, we need solutions.
Marketing Exec 1: I've got it! Put Snoopy on the mug with cherry pie!
Marketing Exec 2: You're mad! Has Snoopy ever indicated a preference for cherry pie?
Marketing Exec 1: He's never come out against it, I know that much.
Marketing Exec 2: Good enough for me. [High fives all around]
Charlie & Lucy Costume:
Photo credit: ebay
I realize that a lot of this has to do with the crime scene-like photography and poor condition of the product, but this costume chilled me to my core. Also, I'm pretty sure that Charlie Brown's outfit wasn't a shirt with a photo of himself on it-- early tests proved that the recursive nature of Charlie wearing Charlie wearing Charlie could cause a black hole, if the printer used an unstable enough paper stock.
"Halloween Fun" Costume:
Photo credit: ebay
Pretty mellow this year, eh, Chuck? Also, is the costume intended to be Charlie Brown, or the concept of "Halloween Fun"? The answer is lost to history.
Photo credit: ebay
Sorry about ruining your lives by showing you this, everyone. See you at therapy!
Thematically muddled, to be sure, but at least it won't fuse to your skin when the neighborhood organizes to try and destroy you with fire:
Photo credit: ebay
Whew! We've accomplished a lot today. Next week: Actual, substantive discussion of art versus commerce, as well as a flowchart that will guide you through the steps to acquiring a Snoopy mascot for your event or party. Really. That's a thing.
My brother and I always got along, except when we shot each other. This sort of thing happened fairly regularly on weekends and summers between the years 1987-1993 with the full permission of our parents.
Trauma was usually kept to mere flesh wounds, inflicted mostly to ignite a vendetta or slow the victim down while still keeping things sporting, depending on how late in the day it was. Grievous injuries knocked us flat on our backs, but still left us capable of delivering speeches and imparting information to those knelt unscathed at our side, so they might avenge us with proper motivation. We left this world troubled only by how itchy the grass felt as we twitched and grew still, careful not to stare at the sun.
"Guns" was a game that was more like a play, where we each assumed multiple roles and gave each other line readings to ensure maximum melodrama. It was usually some sort of revenge tale, my brother and I always assuming the roles of good and bad guy, respectively. My rationale for playing the bad guy was: I get to shoot more people if I'm the bad guy. I remain a man of action to this day.
There weren't rules in the usual sense, but there was most certainly structure. Mindless running and/or gunning didn't do much for either of us, so pursuit was always in service of the story, and the outcome always hazily predetermined-- Matt won, I lost, every time. There was a lot of room for improvisation leading up to the twilight ceasefire, and whatever gaps existed in our plastic arsenal (we never could find a decent grenade) we could make up for with imagination and serviceable sound effects (most boys can approximate the sound of a machine gun or explosion with their mouths without any outside instruction).
My mom did her best to steer us away from our violent aspirations, but over time, her hard-and-fast rule of "No guns" changed to "No guns in the house" to "No guns at the dinner table" to "No using guns at the dinner table instead of utensils" to "No eating guns."
She eventually gave up altogether when Matt and I figured out that by taking a sizable bite off one corner of a piece of toast, you could make a buttery pistol. Those were some tasty guns.
One of the best things about the first few years of Peanuts is how well Charles Schulz portrays the lives of little kids. The world is spacious and taller than the panel can display, with nothing quite scaled to their size. Schulz fixed this a few years into the strip's run largely by dropping a lot of the detailed, careful linework from the first years, but there's an authenticity to the cast's behavior that he mined perfectly before moving on to more fertile, character-based arcs.
Peanuts characters sit on the floor because they can't reach chairs, look around things instead of over them, and always seem to be hiding just a little bit; hesitant to leave themselves exposed because things are so new, they're not sure if they should be scared or not. They are distractible and pre-moral and possess a confusion about the world that rings true, when the world is first revealing itself and kid-logic has to stand in for fact. They're not yet mini-adults, character traits established and silhouettes distinct, waxing philosophical about the shapes of clouds, they're dopey kids with gigantic baby heads. Snoopy is a dog who mostly just acts like a dog, observing quietly and capable of expressing himself only through body language and selected punctuation marks, which serve to show that he's either startled or confused by a given event.
1950s kids being 1950s kids, they end up playing a lot of "Cowboys and Indians," though I could only find one strip where anyone dressed like anything other than a cowboy. Eventually, they drop the pretense of a unifying fiction and just play "guns," in an era where such a thing wasn't so, uh, loaded. No actual violence implied or intended-- it's basically tag meets hide n' seek.
This sort of context would've been helpful a few months ago, when I found this strip:
Because without it? It's a strip about the time Linus shot Snoopy in the brain.
Actually, even in context, there are a bunch of early strips that emphasize Linus' skewed sense of frontier justice:
(Note: as always, you can shoot up all the strips in this post to a much larger size merely by clicking on them)
True to his gentle nature, Linus eventually trades in his guns for a much broader sense of security:
One of the rules from which my folks never retreated was "Don't point guns at the dogs." This turned out not to be too controversial for my brother and me, since they were too friendly to choose sides.
Charlie Brown, always outnumbered, eventually finds himself outgunned, as well, as the child soldiers draft themselves into a more noble pursuit for cleaner, renewable ammunition:
Sadly, the issues Schulz's characters faced back then are still tragically relevant to this day:
...though I'd argue many of the rhetorical tactics employed in our current reality seem far less civilized.
A kitchen in Prairie Village, Kansas, sometime in 1986.
Mom: I left the funnies out for you. You'll like today's "Peanuts."
Me: What's "Peanuts"?
Mom: Charlie Brown.
Me: Why'd you call it "Peanuts"?
Mom: That's what it's called.
Me: You mean "Snoopy."
Mom: No. Snoopy is in "Peanuts."
Me: Why do you keep saying that? It's called "Charlie Brown" and/ or "Snoopy." It's about them. He's a people, and Snoopy's a dog.
Mom: It's "person," hon, and the name of the comic strip is "Peanuts."
Me: Where's Dad? Go get Dad, please.
Mom [over shoulder]: Bill! Please come explain Snoopy to your son!
Dad [from other room]: He's a dog who acts like a person! He has a friend who is a bird!
Me [to Dad in other room]: BUT IT'S NOT CALLED "PEANUTS," IT'S CALLED "SNOOPY," RIGHT?!
Dad [from other room]: I don't-- the Beach Boys song? It's "Sloop John B." It's about a boat. Common mistake, especially for children!
Mom [to me]: That's why we're so big on you staying in school.
Me: NO, "SNOOPY" IS ABOUT A DOG.
Dad: "Sloop B. the Dog"? Hold on… [sound of footsteps approaching] What are you asking me?
Mom [to Dad]: The name of the comic strip is "Peanuts."
Dad: Yeah, "Peanuts." Correct.
Me: No, it's called "Charlie Brown." I saw it on TV. It's also called "Snoopy." I'm four, and this is one of the dozen or so facts of which I am certain.
Dad: The thing on TV is a different thing. The comic strip is called "Peanuts."
Mom: Charlie Brown and Snoopy are in it, but the title is "Peanuts."
Me: NO IT ISN'T. IT'S CALLED "SNOOPY" AND ALSO "CHARLIE BROWN."
Brother [entering kitchen]: Who's yelling?
Me: MATT, TELL THEM IT'S NOT CALLED "PEANUTS."
Brother: What's not called "Peanuts"? Peanuts are called "peanuts." I know that much. I'm five!
Me: I KNOW, BUT SNOOPY.
Brother: Oh, this is about comics? [brother exits kitchen, completely uninterested.]
Dad [gently pointing to title above that day's edition of "Peanuts"]: See? "Peanuts."
Me: …It's called "Snoopy."
Dad [taps finger on title]: "Peanuts." [kisses me on the top of my head.] It's okay, this is how we learn.
Mom: It's probably a nod to the "Peanut Gallery" on "Howdy Doody."
Me: I'm four! I have no frame of reference for that! Why's it called "A Charlie Brown Christmas," then?
Dad: Because "A Peanuts Christmas" would confuse viewers. They might just hear the title spoken and assume it's "A Peanut's Christmas," and like we learned the other day at the library, the peanut is the most…
Dad/ Me [in unison]: "…agnostic of all the legumes."
Mom: It's okay, sweetie. Remember last week, when you thought Nermal was real, and cried all night when you learned that not only was he fictional, but also male?
Me [frustrated]: He's so pretty, and sounds like a girl on the cartoon! [wipes away tear]
Mom: Here we go again…
Me: I WISH YOU AND MOM WERE INVISIBLE AND HAD TRUMPET VOICES. I CAN'T WAIT UNTIL THERE'S AN EASILY ACCESSIBLE NETWORK OF THE WORLD'S KNOWLEDGE FREELY AVAILABLE TO ANYONE WITH AN ELECTRONIC TERMINAL AND A MEANS OF CONNECTING TO A MODEM. THEN WE'LL SEE WHAT'S WHAT.
Dad [chuckling]: You and your imagination, kiddo.
Mom: Bill, I think it's maybe time we got him switched over to a cereal without so much sugar. Look how sweaty he is.
Me: Aaargh! [tumbles over backward]
As loath as I am to admit it, the folks were correct. I only wish I'd listened, especially before going through the lengthy and expensive process of emancipating myself from them as a result of this mixup.
So here's why it's called "Peanuts": Charles Schulz started a single-panel strip in the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 1947 that later ran in The Saturday Evening Post called "Li'l Folks," starring a bunch of children, some of whom were named "Charlie Brown." He then sold the strip as a multi-panel daily to United Features Syndicate, with standardized, named characters and a more built-out world for them to inhabit. The original name of "Li'l Folks" was deemed too close to two other popular strips of the day, "Li'l Abner" and one called "Little Folks," which, yeah, might get confusing.
The strip was rechristened by his syndicate editor as "Peanuts," which was indeed a reference to the "peanut gallery" on "Howdy Doody," which itself is a reference to the cheapest seats offered to Vaudeville patrons, where dirty-faced urchins gobbled peanuts (the cheapest snack available to thrifty hecklers) and frequently flung them at the stage to demonstrate their ill breeding and relative lack of hunger. Hence the phrase "no comments from the peanut gallery," which still pops up in modern usage to preemptively shush a crowd who might otherwise heckle or comment on a given speaker's message or performance. That said, any and all comments are welcome on our blog, even when they're computer programs auto-posting about deals on Air Jordan sneakers. Thanks for the attention, bots!
According to an article reprinted in the first of Fantagraphics' "Complete Peanuts" collections, Schulz never liked the title: "It's totally ridiculous, has no meaning, is simply confusing, and has no dignity-- and I think my humor has dignity." I'm inclined to agree, but upon reflection, it's a fine title: it frees the strip to focus on whichever character it prefers instead of just Good Ol' Charlie Brown or Snoopy, and is otherwise vague enough for readers to interpret it however they choose. Granted, on occasion, it can cause deep, painful rifts between parents and children, but on balance, Schulz's work has done more for the world than Christmas, and I'm willing to entertain the idea that I haven't always been so open to contradictory viewpoints. Not that I'm admitting I was wrong, mind you. I have the courts on my side for that one.
Thankfully, years of psychiatric treatment have molded me in to a much more reasonable fellow overall, and with the benefit of the generous health coverage we receive here, the co-pay for therapy is only five cents. There are a few drawbacks, like my very, very limited choice of doctors, and her office is technically outdoors, but at least her hours are somewhat flexible.
Next week: Snoopy with a mustache.