Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Graphic Grandeur (Childhood Innocence Edition)


Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, best known for the comic strip Peanuts, was born on this day in 1922 (he died in 2000. Boy, did this century get off on the wrong foot!) Schulz explains his artistic philosophy in this 1961 interview:


Here's a collection of Peanuts strips. I've tried to make them as large as I can, but, if you really want to avoid eye strain, it's best to click to enlarge.

 Schulz mentioned losing as being integral to his comedy. No where was this more evident than when he turned his pen toward the...


...American Pastime:












Of course, baseball's not the only game out there, so let's see if these natural born athletes fare any better at football:


 Um...With all due respect to my international audience, I meant...




 ...American football:








OK, these are competitive sports, but what about a sport...



...where your only competition...


...is a tree?

There are other types of games a person can win or lose at, such as...



...the game of love:









Before we leave this subject entirely, how about...



...a May-December romance?


 Let's look at some of the characters. We'll start with Lucy:





Not exactly Miss Congeniality, is she?


Lucy's brother, Linus, has issues of his own:





 


 I know what you're thinking. That kid needs a 12-step program. Well, before you get too judgemental, remember what they say about people who live in...



...glass houses



That baby girl in the previous strip is Charlie Brown's kid sister, Sally.  Like Schroeder and Linus, who also started out as infants, she quickly grows into an elementary school-age child, and then, like Schroeder and Linus, stays that same age forever after.  She also becomes the strip's show-and-tell diva:  



That girl has a career in TED talks ahead of her.




Curiously, in the video clip Schulz doesn't mention Charlie Brown's pet beagle Snoopy, who often seemed to vie with his owner for control of the strip. But that interview is from 1961, and Snoopy's best years were still ahead of him. First he had to go to...



 ...war.



Maybe not Snoopy, but someone eventually shot him down.

Once the war was over, Snoopy found various ways to keep himself...










...occupied.


Now, why am I showing you a rock concert? As a way of presenting another one of Snoopy's pastimes...









...birdwatching.




Schulz didn't mention galpals Peppermint Patty and Marcie either in that 1961 interview, but that's because their respective debuts were still years away. But here they are now:














Peppermint Patty seems to be the dominant one in that relationship, though there's something to be said for Marcie's passive-aggressiveness.




Then there's the star of Peanuts, good ol' Charlie Brown. He's been in so many strips I've shown you already that you should have a pretty good take on him by now. If you still don't, well...




...maybe this one will help.

Now, Schulz said in that interview humor should have a message. So, what was Peanuts message? Was it...


...political?

Or maybe it was...



...religious?

Perhaps it was...


...psychological?

Maybe it's just that we should all learn to...


...get along.



One thing's for certain, this is a strip about prepubescent children, so that means good, clean fun, and no...





...explicit sex.







Explicit violence is another matter.

Then there are those who deny that Peanuts ever had a message, that it was nothing more than a...





















...marketing tool.



Charles M. Schulz went to his grave without ever having secured the ownership of his strip's copyright. Among other things that meant he had to step back and watch as others turned his creation into a Fortune 500 company. Now, that doesn't necessarily make him a good poster child for the exploitation of labor. Schulz was well-compensated and became very rich doing all that stepping back and watching. What he didn't do, though, was take the money and run. Not a dime of the fortune was spent on a team of assistants who could have penciled the strip for him, inked the strip for him, write the strip for him, even add his signature to bottom of the final panel for him, while he played golf on some course on Oahu. Factories may have spit out plush Snoopy dolls by the shopping cart, but the strip itself remained handcrafted (as old age set in, shakily handcrafted) until almost the very end. Only a stroke necessitated computerized lettering in the last few daily strips. But what about the strip's content? Was that compromised at all? Impossible to say as we don't have a fifty-year run of a noncommodified Peanuts to use as a comparison. Schulz himself was cagey when the subject came up in interviews, insisting that a comic strip shouldn't be considered "Great Art" to begin with. Except his strip was considered by many to be just that, for a long time the only one to be considered just that, which is why nobody also cared about the integrity of stuffed Garfield dolls or also worried about whether a Marmaduke movie was faithful to the original source material. In our frequently dumbed-down commercial culture, Peanuts at least remained stubbornly cerebral enough to confound any MBA who wanted to exploit its possibilities to the fullest. Indeed, seen in that light, it even may have been underexploited. Don't believe me? Go back and reread that one Great Pumpkin strip. What exactly is the marketing strategy behind "point of doctrine"?

Still, was there a message? In that 1961 clip, Schulz did say Peanuts had something to do with the cruel ways children (just children?) treat each other, and that Charlie Brown often takes the brunt of that cruelty. Here's but one example: 


The human condition in a nutshell.

20 comments:

  1. While I smiled a few times, I never really got Charlie Brown. Is that a photo of the Red Baron? Hot and mean.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You like the Teutonic types, eh, Andrew? That is indeed Manfred von Richthofen, better know as the Red Baron.

      Delete
  2. Hi, Kirk!

    It might be small comfort for you to realize that the death of Charles Schulz did not get this century off on the wrong foot. That's because, technically speaking, the famous Peanuts cartoonist died in the previous century. The 21st century began January 1, 2001, and will end December 31, 2100. (I will stop in and remind you again when that date arrives.) It could therefore be said that the 9-11 Terror Attacks are mainly to blame for getting this century off to a rotten start. (The year 2017 also got off to a deplorable start.)

    I enjoyed learning from Schulz in that interview clip the meaning and message behind Peanuts and the individual characters. Humor arises from pathos, and many of us see ourselves, our weaknesses, flaws, foibles and failures in Charlie Brown. The strip explores childhood cruelty and bullying and Lucy reminds us that girls mature at an earlier age than boys. I enjoyed the sample strips. Seems to me baseball was a much bigger deal in the mid 20th century than it is today. I played informally every day at a park near my house, and, as illustrated in one of those cartoons, our games went on and on and were only halted by darkness. I played on organized little league teams from age 8 to 12 and played in a league for teenagers wearing the uniform of the F.O.E. - Fraternal Order of Eagles. I haven't heard much of anything about youth baseball in recent years and the World Series of major league baseball isn't the must see event it used to be.

    Schulz was spot on in that strip about crabby Lucy. In my experience women don't want men to offer solutions to their emotional upsets. They want someone to listen and empathize. It's interesting that Snoopy didn't emerge as a star character until after that 1961 interview.

    I admire Schulz for remaining hands on when he could have taken the money and ran (to the nearest golf course) and let others produce his strips. When you love what you're doing, it isn't work. It's play.

    I firmly believe that Trump is the Great Pumpkin. Thanks for the wealth of info about Charles M. Schulz, good buddy Kirk. Have a great week and a happy Thanksgiving!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shady, as Mulder once told Scully when she brought up the very same point as to when the century began, nobody likes a math whiz:)

      (That particular episode of The X-Files dealt with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, one of whom I think now sits in the Oval Office, but I'm not sure which one. Pestilence, maybe?)

      Until I read your comment, I hadn't ever really noticed any decline in the popularity of baseball, but now that I think of it, seems like I hear a lot about "soccer moms" but never "baseball moms". And the World Series is not nearly the big deal that the Super Bowl is. I wonder if it's because the latter is confined to one game. That way you can throw a Super Bowl party. But, depending on which side won what, you'd have to throw four, five, six, or seven World Series parties. That's a lot of pizzas, beers, chips, and dip. It could get pricey.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Shady.

      Delete
  3. I loved Peanuts. Schulz was incredibly prolific. Amazing the quality of the work he produced throughout the years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mitchell, that was the key to the strip's artistic success, and probably its commercial success as well. Schulz allowed that strip to evolve. When he started out it was common for a creator of a successful comic strip to work on it for about ten years, if that, and then turn it over to others all the while keeping their name (and their signature) on it until the day they died. Thus the strip got kind of frozen at that ten-year point. No new characters, and, yes, you had new punchlines, but based on the same old comedy setups (such as Dagwood running into the mailman.) Had Schulz left the strip at the ten-year point, there'd be no Peppermint Patty, no Marcie, no Woodstock, and Snoopy would still be walking around on all fours.

      Delete
  4. Gawd, "Peanuts" was SO HUGE when I was a kid and a teenager! And I was a big fan too. My fave characters were always Linus and Snoopy. You've certainly put together a comprehensive and thoughtful tribute post. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Debra, that strip was so complex I barely scratched the surface in this post (I didn't even mention Rerun!)

      I'm also kind of partial to Linus, the intellectual who occasionally goes off the deep end (especially on Halloween.)

      Delete
  5. To be honest, his artwork was sub-par but he did create legendary work. Now that's cool!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, Adam, artwork is in the eyes of the beholder. If it's the minimalist, abstract look of the strip you're talking about, that was intentional on Schulz's part. The syndicate forced small panels on him at a time when comic strips were already shrinking in size, which prevented him from adding too much detail to Peanuts. Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey) and Johnny Hart (BC) also had to take a similar route (if you ever get hold of a daily newspaper from the 1920s, '30s, and '40s, turn to the comic page. The strips are about twice as big as they are now.) As the look of Peanuts became more abstract, so did the humor, to its benefit. It simply wouldn't have been as funny to have a realistically-drawn beagle on a realistically-drawn doghouse typing on a realistically-drawn typewriter. It would have just looked weird.

      Schulz had a triple-bypass operation in the early 1980s, and it left him with a slight tremor in his drawing hand. That tremor got worse in the 1990s, and you can see it in how shaky his line got in the last five years of the strip. Truthfully, I find that era a bit difficult to look at, but it was toward the end of the strip's fifty-year run.

      Delete
  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I see you've picked up our group troll. He gets around doesn't he?

    Anyway, American football? There are three types of football.
    American football
    Rugby football
    and
    Association football or asSOCiation or Soc or soccer. I guess they didn't want 'ass football' for a nickname.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Mike, that troll's visited me before. I don't stress out over it, or, as yet, feel the need to turn on comment moderation. I just delete it, that's all.

      I was under the impression that what we in the US, and I think Canada as well, refer to as "soccer" was called "football" everywhere else. Since, according to my stat counter, as well as the occasional comment, I know people from overseas check in on this blog (in fact, that's where the troll is from), I wanted to make sure there was no confusion.

      I once showed on this blog an interview Howard Cosell did with John Lennon during Monday Night Football halftime. Cosell asked the former Beatle his impression of the game. Lennon replied that he couldn't understand why half the team was on the field and the other half was sitting down.

      Delete
  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  9. According to my stat counter, the troll is from Nottingham. Maybe it's the Sheriff.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Kirk, when I watch soccer (not often), I like to watch the guys that are not around the ball. They do a LOT of standing around doing nothing.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Christmas for me has always been about the traditional things, a beautiful tree, coloured lights, tinsel, presents, food (in absurdly excessive amounts), booze (in ludicrously excessive amounts), the decorations, that wonderful warm magical Christmassy feeling that only occurs in the 6 weeks between late November and early January, family get-togethers, Christmas movies and music, the list goes on really. But i must admit that for a long time now the MOST magical thing that i experience and enjoy and look forward to at Christmas more than anything else is that every year on December the 25th at 9 in the morning my fairy godmother appears and allows me to travel back in time to 1985 so i can have my willy squashed and squeezed between the quite incredible 17 year-old Pauline Hickeys truly unbelievable tits for 5 hours non-stop and then unload literally half-a-pint of spunk all over those amazingly perfect knockers, i say 5 hours because my fairy godmother always stipulates that i have to return at 2 in the afternoon in time for Christmas dinner with my family otherwise i forfeit the yearly treat with the astonishing Miss Hickey. Christmas and tit-fucking the 17 year-old Pauline Hickey, its such an astoundingly perfect and irresistably joyous way to experience the Yuletide magic. Merry Christmas everyone, and think of me on Christmas morning/early afternoon having my knob squashed and squeezed between arguably THE most stunningly perfect tits of all-time, who knows it might make you feel magical as well (or murderously jealous of me of course, depending on you mood).

    ReplyDelete
  14. Wow! this is Amazing! Do you know your hidden name meaning ? Click here to find your hidden name meaning

    ReplyDelete