Jean Schulz's Blog

A Turning Point in the Peanuts Strip

Apr 29, 2013
This Peanuts strip was originally published on February 1, 1954.

This Peanuts strip was originally published on February 1, 1954.

Several years ago cartoonist Stephan Pastis, creator of Pearls before Swine and author of the bestselling Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, came to me with a discovery he had made while studying the Fantagraphics books. He believed that this particular 1954 strip marked a turning point in the Peanuts strip.

So here I give you Stephan Pastis’ rationale:

“When Charlie Brown starts out (from 1950 through 1953), he is a bit of a smart-aleck. More like Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. He often provokes (particularly Schroeder), and likes to get the better of others.

This particular strip changes that.

For the first time, you see how sad and rather lonely Charlie Brown is, and moreover, how resigned he is to it.

It’s certainly not the same kid who a couple days prior (1/29/54) gets the better of the two girls who are making fun of him and is smiling in the last panel.

This Peanuts strip was originally published on January 29, 1954.

This Peanuts strip was originally published on January 29, 1954.

So for the first time in Peanuts, you see real pathos, something which would give the strip its depth.

In terms of tone, it is also groundbreaking. In an era when every strip had to be either an adventure strip or a slapstick humor strip, here is a humor strip that is not funny. Boldly not funny. It’s just sad. And moreover, it’s a child being sad. That’s a real departure for both Peanuts and probably most other strips on the comics page.”

Here are some earlier strips which show this mischievous, smart-aleck Charlie Brown.

This Peanuts strip was originally published on November 25, 1953.

This Peanuts strip was originally published on November 25, 1953.

This Peanuts strip was originally published on January 19, 1954.

This Peanuts strip was originally published on January 19, 1954.

This Peanuts strip was originally published on March 21, 1953.

This Peanuts strip was originally published on March 21, 1953.

The whereabouts of the February 1, 1954 strip was unknown to us until just recently. Back in 1954, Sparky had given this strip to fellow cartoonist, Herb Green. Notice the dedication written on the strip, “For good ol’ Herb Green — Charles Schulz.” Unfortunately Herb passed away in 2012, but very happily for us, his wife wanted the strip to come to the Schulz Museum.

Sparky greatly appreciated his early friendship with Herb, and his widow related to me how one time many years ago, Herb had offered his sofa to Sparky when Sparky was making one of his rare trips to New York.

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Sparky must have laughed to himself as he added Herb’s name to Lucy’s tirade in this April 30, 1956 strip.

—Jean Schulz

 

 

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