Monday, October 25, 2010

The Greatest Peanuts Strips--50 to 41

50. 6/20/52

We lose some of our childish ways as we age, but the proclivity to act exceedingly dumb in spite of acquired wisdom never really goes anywhere. Reading the first decade of Peanuts affected me in many ways, but the paramount feeling in my gut throughout was a desire to activate the Wayback Doohickey and relocate to the 1950s, just to get the context of a comic strip with depressed, self-loathing children.

Charles Schulz was to cartooning what the Beatles were to music. A revolutionary artistic force beloved by old and young, mainstream and underground, whose work instantly made all in his milieu seem hopelessly behind.

49. 6/26/95

Charles Schulz was extremely well-read, and peppered the panels of Peanuts with various literary references. The Great Gatsby was a particular favorite, with its biting critique of characters financially prosperous but emotionally bankrupt. If this panel showed Linus lamenting to Charlie Brown, it wouldn't have been as effective in my mind. When you think Snoopy and Woodstock, scenes of silliness come to mind; not the irreverent beagle sighing out a virtual abdication of all hope with a long face.

48. 12/22/78

Sally's malapropisms are usually harmless, but when a Christmas-themed speech to her class goes awry, even her long-suffering big bro is compelled to do more than just roll his eyes and breathe out a weary sigh. He didn't think much of her confusing "rain gear" and "reindeer," and just let her think what she wanted, but now he has to face that his baby sister is truly distraught and needs him to care. Charlie Brown's heart may be battered, but it's still sweet.

47. 5/21/66

Schulz never intended for the Van Pelt family's relocation to be permanent, so the gobs of fan mail imploring him to keep the neighborhood intact were of no consequence anyway. Still, it must have been nice to have confirmation that people cared.

Charlie Brown and Sally were predictably knocked loopy by the news of Linus and Lucy's impending departure; so, however, was Schroeder. Called out by Charlie Brown for the seeming illogic of his nostalgia, the tow-headed wunderkind had to admit to himself that the only thing more intolerable than being pined after by someone you don't desire is not being pined after at all.

Sure enough, the Van Pelts return, and Lucy can't get back to her familiar spot by Schroeder's piano fast enough. Each of the four panels is rendered exquisitely. Schroeder is as per usual: head down, fingers tickling toy ivory. Lucy has arrived, silently and gleefully. By the next square, she has assumed her familiar spot. Schroeder is still oblivious. Lucy's smile in the third panel says it all--she is home. She can no longer keep her joy to herself, and announces her return in the inimitable, flesh-lifting manner that the strips characters frequently verbalized.

46. 7/3/87

This one is all about the payoff. In the world of a child--and the world of a childish adult--everything that happens is of extreme import. Every incident changes the world, and sanity hinges on every word.

45. 4/4/52

If dogs could read, they'd relate to Peanuts just as deeply as any ol' humanoid. Snoopy's dreams are their dreams. Seeing him on two legs and not dancing is almost improper.

44. 3/20/74

For a long time, Peppermint Patty thought Snoopy was just another kid in the 'hood, albeit a freakin' odd-looking one. How could she think a beagle was a boy? Lotsa reasons, really. Stupidity. Unfamiliarity with the canine. I was going to say maybe she just couldn't fathom a dog being on a baseball team, but then I remembered that she was the first kid to resolutely share Linus' faith in the Great Pumpkin. So she can clearly think outside the rhombus.

Peppermint Patty just saw the world in a funny way that made perfect sense to her. But when she sought refuge in Snoopy's doghouse, and insisted it was instead the Brown family guest cottage, it sent her best pal Marcie over the edge. Trying to convince Patty with words was useless, so she spoke the tomboys language at last: physicality. It doesn't say much for the craftsmanship of the doghouse that two small bodies resisting another small bodies attempt to pry them off can send it collapsing to the ground, but it let Schulz show off with the pen and gave Snoopy the opportunity to bust off one of the great verbal punchlines in the strips history. (Also made me wonder if he ever ate with his feet.)

43. 7/26/79

For a brief time in the summer of 1979, Charlie Brown fell ill with a mysterious malady that landed him and his zig zags in the hospital. The thousands of fans who practically attacked United Media with "get well" cards must have been stunned when their beloved blockhead's most insistent rival was sent into paroxysms of violent rage over his situation. (That last panel is an amazing rendition of someone in the throes of utter frenzy.) But give it some extra thought, and Lucy's feelings make perfect sense. Just like Schroeder needs Lucy as a partner in the game of unrequited desire, so Lucy needs Charlie Brown. He is innocence and peace, and while she frequently exploits those qualities that she herself does not possess, she is also heartened by their presence. If someone so kind-hearted and decent can't get better, what chance does anyone have?

42. 5/8/96

Sally's Aspergian social skills for the flawless victory! "All your kids will be stupid" cracks me up so bad.

The second panel--scrunched between one and three, Sally's head peeking over her brother's blanket--is especially affecting in its sense of isolationism.

41. 12/19/63

Lucy has assigned Linus singing duties in their school's upcoming Christmas play. Most people who are not egomaniacs would dread such a responsibility, and so it goes that the ingenuous blanket-hoarder comes up with Plan B.

The middle panels are what shine brightest. The ridiculous visual of Linus and Snoopy's earnest gyrations followed by Lucy's deity-defying scream in the face of her petrified sibling, while Snoopy observes all in abject terror. Kids go through the darnedest trauma!


  1. some excellent choices, number 46 is such a great observation of such things in life that just screw with your mind

    and " i think all my arms are broken" is just a greatly worded phrase

  2. I quite enjoyed reading this. Not only for the great, historical perspective on the wonderful Peanuts strips - but as much for Jenn's creative writing style.

    I look forward to more.