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!
GoComics Book Club keeps you in the know about books for all ages, relating to your favorite comics and authors!
October 20 is a banner day for Snoopy! He has five brand-new books for kids on sale, just in time for the premiere of The Peanuts Movie (11/6/15/)!
First up is Snoopy: Contact! from AMP! Comics for Kids, geared to middle-grade kids. Snoopy is one small dog with one huge imagination! From day to day, he can be found stalking the other Peanuts characters as a fierce ready-to-prey vulture, leopard, mountain lion, piranha, or creature from the sea. But his grandest flights of fancy are when he’s airborne as the Flying Ace on his Sopwith Camel seeking out the evil Red Baron. His forays take him through the World War I French countryside in repeated attempts to achieve his quest. In Snoopy: Contact!, enjoy his adventures along with his other unusual encounters: catching bird burglars stealing his Van Gogh, challenging Lucy to an arm-wrestling contest, and becoming the Cheshire beagle.
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.
If you’re following on our Instagram, Facebook or Twitter accounts, you know that the GoComics team, along with some of today’s top comic talent, spent the weekend in the Big Apple, mixing and mingling with the coolest fan base on Earth!
Allow us to give you a little recap of our favorite moments from this year’s New York Comic Con:
The GoComics/Andrews McMeel Publishing booth was on point, our team ready and waiting to meet all of our fabulous fans:
Gavin Aung Than (Zen Pencils) stopped by to kick off the U.S. book tour for his new book: "Zen Pencils Volume Two: Dream the Impossible Dream!"
We had a blast celebrating 65 years of Peanuts with Abrams Books! Those who picked up a golden ticket and received a Peppermint Patty sticker from Abrams received a NYCC-exclusive Peanuts prize pack!
Ginger Meggs cartoonist Jason Chatfield signed autographs for Meggsie fans! We know his following in Australia is huge, but the turnout at NYCC could give fans from Down Under a run for their money!
Calvin and Hobbes dropped by the booth and stole our hearts:
The kiddos loved their free autographed prints from author and cartoonist Ruben Bolling. Get your copy of his latest children's book, "Ghostly Thief of Time," here.
Young fans were thrilled to meet the man behind G-Man! Thanks to creator Chris Giarrusso!
We witnessed Peanuts fan art in tattoo form:
New York Comic Con 2015 was another week for the books!
In the six months since the first “crack!” of the bat on opening day, baseball fans have seen top plays and suffered tough losses. But, as World Series record holder Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” and for eight playoff teams, the battle has only just begun.
An electric time of year for baseball fans, October brings a wave of tangible excitement and hopes of a 2015 World Series trophy coming to their home stadium.
In Kansas City, we’re feeling the magic, as everything in sight is blue – from fountains to flags – and we prepare to cheer our beloved Royals to victory.
Stationed in the front windows of the GoComics headquarters, even Snoopy is rooting for the boys in blue!
Sure to be a wild ride, this year’s playoff season may involve a few heart-to-hearts.
But, this is one emotional rollercoaster that I’ll gladly ride. Thankfully, witnessing a Kansas City Royals World Series win is on my list of OK-to-cry-in-public, judgment-free events.
What is your most favorite Peanuts comic strip of all time?
Is it sentimental? Hilarious? Inspiring? Philosophical?
In celebration of the 65th anniversary of the beloved comic strip, we’re giving our fans a chance to win an archive-quality Peanuts comic strip of their choice!
To enter, browse the Peanuts archive here. Then leave a comment on this blog post with a link to the Peanuts comic of your choice. Please include your first and last names. This contest will end Tues., Oct. 13 at 10 a.m. CT. Five winners will be randomly selected and announced that day on this blog.
We’re celebrating the legacy of Peanuts all month long. Learn more and partake in the festivities here.
For as long as I can remember, there has always been Peanuts. From the funny pages to my beloved A Charlie Brown Christmas VHS, which broke after excessive, year-round viewings, Charlie Brown and the gang were there at every turn, as an escape from a bad day, serving as inspiration for adventure and to teach countless life lessons.
Being the longtime, devoted fan that I am, I was surprised how much I didn’t know about Peanuts! Since becoming an intern at GoComics, I’ve learned so many new things about my old favorite – it’s like discovering it for the first time.
One thing I’ve always known is how much Lucy loves faking Charlie Brown out with a football. But, I didn’t know that, as the Charles M. Schulz Museum shared on their Peanuts timeline, this common scenario was based on creator Charles Schulz’ “childhood memory of being unable to resist the temptation to pull away the football at kickoff.” … I would’ve never pegged Schulz to be the Lucy in that situation!
I knew that the character of Snoopy was based on the Schulz’ family dog, but apparently, according to a quote from Charles Schulz, featured in the Charles M. Schulz Museum, their dog was also “the brightest dog [Schulz] ever met,” who had “a vocabulary of at least 50 words – words he understood, that is.” … No wonder Snoopy is so smart!
Inside is an article, which perfectly describes the magic of this comic and why I appreciate it even more as an adult than I did as a kid:
The wry and wistful characters created by Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz have all but come to life for readers in the U.S. and abroad as they demonstrate daily and Sunday an engaging wisdom beyond their years, a simplistic yet somehow impressive understanding of the assorted problems that perplex their elders.
– Time magazine, April 9, 1965.
Attention, lovers of Peanuts, photography, and/or free swag:
All September long, you have the chance to win tickets to the premiere of The Peanuts Movie!
It’s so easy, even Woodstock could do it (if he had thumbs)! All you have to do is spot, snap and share!
Our friends at Peanuts have outlined the simple steps:
1. Spot Snoopy in real life – on a billboard, in the clouds, at the store … anywhere inspiration strikes you!
2. Snap a photo!
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.
Here’s the World War I Flying Ace zooming through the air in his Sopwith Camel…
Those words began many a Peanuts comic strip, announcing the start of another exciting mission starring Snoopy’s alter ego – The Flying Ace – as he soared across the sky in his Sopwith Camel fighter plane, cursing the Red Baron. With today (August 19) being National Aviation Day, we couldn’t help but think of our favorite comic canine/World War I pilot and reminisce on his many brave adventures:
To celebrate National Aviation Day with more of Snoopy’s high-flying adventures and cursing of the Red Baron, view our Peanuts collection, dedicated to The Flying Ace.
Happy birthday to the only pup you know who can do ‘The Beagle’!
In honor of Snoopy’s big day and love to boogie, we’re giving away two copies of his newest book: Keep Calm and Do the Snoopy Dance, a collection of more than 100 joyful quotes and sayings, highlighted with cartoons of our beloved beagle in all his happy-dancing glory!
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).
Have you heard the news? Peanuts is turning 65 this year!
To kick off the yearlong celebration, we’re giving away THREE Peanuts prize packs, which include:
- Archive-quality print of the first Peanuts comic strip (in color!)
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with a link to your favorite Peanuts strip on GoComics (Click here to browse the archives) and include your FIRST and LAST names. This contest will end on Mon., Jan., 12 at 10 a.m. CT. The winner will be announced that day on this blog. Sorry, worldwide comics fans -- this contest is open to U.S. and Canada residents only.
The GoComics team had a blast assembling a larger-than-life, 8-bit Snoopy in our front windows last week!
As our Kansas City friends and Royals fans will notice, Snoopy is proudly rooting for our hometown’s baseball team! If you happen to be in the area, stop by the GoComics headquarters (1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106) and snap a photo with Snoopy! Don’t forget to share it with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
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:
"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.