Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Greatest Peanuts Sundays--20 to 11

20. 2/17/74

The only thing Peanuts characters do more than pine or AUGH is sigh. What makes this strip special is not the Scripture quote, because Schulz dropped Biblical wisdom so frequently that a pastor named Robert Short wrote a best-selling book called The Gospel According To Peanuts. It's the novelty of this quote (which further proves the expansive intelligence of Charles Schulz). There's a couple handfuls of lines from the Old and New Testaments used by and/or known to most people, from devout believers to rampaging atheists. This ain't one of them.

19. 10/20/63

In 1962, in the case of Engel vs. Vitale, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for state officials to compose official school prayer and require it to be recited by students in United States public schools. A year later, Charles Schulz composed a nearly text-free masterpiece tackling the issue of school prayer that appeared in papers on Sunday. Naturally.

The reaction to this Sunday was enormous, with the pro- and anti-school prayer factions confident that Schulz had drawn the perfect encapsulation of their feelings on the issue. Mind you, anyone claiming they saw their point of view validated in Sally's mega-paranoid behavior just revealed themselves to be not quite bright. The neutrality of the strip was another flare of Schulzian genius, meaning impressionable, emotional readers would twist it to fit their beliefs, but when dared to pinpoint the moment in the strip that they could see the cartoonists solidarity with them...they couldn't do it.

"I don't believe in school prayer. I think it's total nonsense." - Charles Schulz, interviewed in The Comics Journal in 1998.

In case you were wondering.

18. 2/8/82

Silly rebellion is the best of all. Anarchy isn't funny, and that's why it'll never work. Snoopy dancing is always funny. Snoopy singing? Funnier than Redd Foxx doing an impression of Slappy White proposing marriage to a bottle of Thunderbird while an alley dog knocks over a small child getting out of its mothers car mere feet away.

17. 9/18/94

Gotta love origin stories. Spike in the desert was one of the more average Peanuts runs, and to my eyes this was far and away the best strip featuring Snoopy's emaciated brother and his cactus buddies. We all need someone to unburden ourselves upon, even if they have shallow roots.

Snoopy's whole clan is down with the bunnies; if Spike ever told his brother this same tale, Snoop would probably weep and quaff a root beer in memory of the departed.

16. 1/30/83

Creepy nightmare fuel. Wonder if Schulz ever had a similar dream. Wonder what this dream meant?

It meant he was asleep!

15. 10/21/73

A clinic in intriguing penmanship, right from the title panel featuring the mean faces of Snoopy and Peppermint Patty snarling at each other from each end of the world's largest football. It's goin' down.

I love the strips where Schulz threw curveballs at the reader; here, he not only draws a tackle between Patty and Snoopy, he surrounds it with words. Most hilarious: SOUND OF GLASS-BREAKING. He coulda just put SHATTER! but he didn't, 'cause it's not as funny as SOUND OF GLASS-BREAKING.

Charles Schulz spoke to me in the oddest ways sometimes.

14. 2/16/58

Hoary punchline...but not really so hoary at the time. Reminiscent of a sequence in A Charlie Brown Christmas, which is another reason I rate it so highly. It's art that evokes pungent, positive memories. So is Peanuts art? Yessir.

(Note: where is Snoopy's collar?)

13. 5/21/72

Peppermint Patty's simple question (although it isn't, really) inspires a fabulous Charlie Brown story on the folly of memory. The text bubbles are packed sick, the twist is ruefully humorous, and Snoopy not only gets in a super cool ending line, he also has his eyes closed throughout the strip. Snoopy plus shut lids equals COOLER THAN US. If it were possible for humans to function as well as Snoopy seems to with closed peepers, you'd never catch sight of my baby blues again.

12. 10/11/70

Another example of weaving scripture effortlessly within art. The joke is hilarious, but chilling. Lucy's remark about being "unable to accept the finality of the Lord's judgment" makes me think of the disappointment, sadness and anger Charles Schulz would feel almost thirty years later, when his body began to break down on him, robbing him of thinking and inking up any more strips.

11. 9/22/57

Not the first of the football gags, but the best. Lucy's sheer glee swiping away the ball, sure, but there's also the out-of-control comedy in Charlie Brown's incredulous "SHE DID IT AGAIN!" whilst flying up in the air.

Poor Chuck, always a sucker for a woman's reassuring words. I don't imagine he was really sold at all by Lucy's attempt at a sincere face, however; she looked like a pelican imitating an alligator.

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