Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Greatest Peanuts Strips--40 to 31

40. 12/5/78

Previously on Peanuts, Lucy kicked Schroeder's piano sky high in the name of research. She returns with similar foul intent. Don't let Lucy's sign language fool you; there can never be peace between these two. Such fabulous frisson.

39. 5/8/63

Snoopy's desire to act humanoid (as featured in his many personas) doesn't mean he hates being what he is, which is a dog. It's just that he knows he's better than all those "pets," content to obey their masters and chase small objects in the name of exercise. He is eyes closed, stance defiant. Joe Better-Than.

38. 1/30/73

My favorite Peanuts kid has always been Peppermint Patty. Still, the athletically gifted, intellectually deprived tomboy narcoleptic (and if you're not in love with her after that description I give up) had no more ardent fan than her father, who had the sole responsibility to raise his little girl into a grown woman. From the glimpses his daughter gives us, Mr. Reichardt is a doting dad who encourages his daughters extracurricular activities while never failing to see (and reassure) that she is sweet and lovely, his "rare gem." He'll buy her a baseball glove, sure, but also flowers and sandals--whatever she needs.

Being told she can no longer wear her sandals to school crushes Patty's spirit. They're comforting in a multitude of ways, and losing them hits the poor girl like having a life raft deflate on her in the middle of the ocean. She needs some TLC, and Snoopy is right there--stocking cap and all--to give it to her.

(Oh y'all, you can't imagine what father-daughter relationships in art do to me. Rare gem, he called her. It is worth noting that Schulz took much inspiration from his children, and that was his term of endearment for daughter Jill. She even identified herself as such in her father's official obituary.)

37. 4/1/75

The baseball diamond was a familiar spot for the kids. Usually to lose. Suffer defeat. And so on.

As off the field, Lucy was Charlie Brown's constant nemesis (a title she would wear proudly), but everyone of his Worse News Wombats would set off massive heartburn for the barber's son over time. My favorite example of this is Linus's sorrowful soliloquy whilst lining up to catch a fly ball. (Man, did somebody put creepy-crawlys in Schulz' cereal or what?) Charlie Brown's ending lamentation applies not just to his own frustration, but that of his wayward outfielder as well, a neat trick.

36. 1/22/63

It is all about the last line. No more, no less. I wish I had come up with it, and I use it weekly.

Okay, I lied; it's about the rain too.

35. 3/30/93

Bu-bu-but...Charlie Brown never won! How could he have won?! This here strip defies conventional wisdom, and I love it. You can tell the people who knew their stuff and the folks with cursory smarts. Yessir ma'am, Charlie Brown's team won a freakin' baseball game and blocknugget Brown was the hero. Schulz gives this momentous occasion the gravity it requires, a single panel featuring Chuck in multiple stages of bliss, a disbelieving Sally taking it all in.

34. 8/19/60

Charlie Brown's snarling anti-rejoinder was borrowed famously by former big league pitcher Jim Bouton for his infamous tell-all Ball Four (and subsequently on Sportscenter by Ball Four disciple Keith Olbermann). It's a fantastic line. Sometimes delving deeper and examining the numbers is great. Other times...shut up.

(Love the "just ate a grape and gasoline sandwich face" too.)

33. 10/17/62

Charlie Brown never learned; try and help Lucy with some mother wit, and it just ends up unleashing the brimstone. Watch her get more and more worked up, till the sweat and spit practically moistens the newspaper. I would have loved to have seen Lucy later on try and come to terms with the uncertainty of what if anything comes after death. Boy howdy.

32. 2/5/86

"You're weird, sir!"

"You're inordinately weird, Marcie."

P. Pat and Marcie were pretty odd. They both crushed mega on Charlie Brown, if that's any indication right there. And their friendship was also a ponder, sort of a Niles and Bloomguard for the kiddy set (albeit with much less post-traumatic stress disorder). Marcie clearly idolized her intellectual inferior, while Patty seemed to enjoy having a hanger-on who would never threaten her status as the local "girl who intimidates the boys."

I picked this strip because it's just a funny mini-story. I can see them right now, can hear Peppermint Patty's laughter in the face of Marcie's minor misfortune. Schulz was sparing with illustrating open-mouthed laughs full-on, but it worked great here.

31. 1/3/57

One of the most amazingly "bitch" things Lucy ever said. How did Charlie Brown last, in his fifty years as a pre-teen, without stealing some of his dad's shears and ending it all in the water pail? Umberto Eco wrote that the Peanuts kids were "monstrous infantile reductions," and he was correct. Charles Schulz himself stated that "Children are cruel," and if you don't think otherwise, I guess you just forgot what it was like to be a child.

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