Jean Schulz's Blog

Charlie Brown’s Ordeal with the EPA

Aug 24, 2010

Image of the Charlie Brown and EPA exhibit at the Charles M. Schulz There is an expression Sparky loved, it is Esprit d’escalier. The idea is that you remember, as you are going up the stairs, the pithy, clever remark that you were not quick enough to say in the moment. That always happens to me when I see the installation of our exhibitions. It is the most exciting time in our Museum—seeing what we have planned and talked about for months finally materialize in our galleries.

However…I always look at the finished product and discover something new that is instantly apparent to me, and though I want to share it with our visitors, it is by that point too late (and sometimes too wordy) to get in the exhibition text.

This happened to me when I saw the first part of the installation for our newest exhibition, Peanuts…Naturally.

This exhibit has selected strips from a 1977 storyline in which Charlie Brown is complaining to the Kite-Eating Tree about its habits; he winds up getting so angry that he bites the tree in revenge!

Peanuts February 25, 1977
February 25, 1977

The first few days the strips of Charlie Brown talking to the tree are interspersed with Snoopy strips, but on March 1st, the story of Charlie Brown getting a letter of complaint from the newly authorized EPA continues for 10 days with Charlie Brown eventually running away from home.

Peanuts March 1, 1977
March 1, 1977

The story continues for another 17 days as Charlie Brown meets some children from another neighborhood who are playing baseball. They are looking for an older person to coach their team.

Peanuts March 16, 1977
March 16, 1977

So the question has always been: did Sparky plan out the whole story before he began? The answer is, no—it evolved.  Sparky often remarked that he got an idea and followed it as long as he continued thinking of funny daily extensions.For this storyline I remember him telling me that at the “running away” point he wondered about where Charlie Brown might end up. And the idea of him wandering to another part of town and meeting little kids from another neighborhood seemed like fruitful territory to mine. So he got another two weeks of strips out of the storyline and introduced Austin, Leland, Milo, and Ruby, some of the kids from the other part of town.

—Jean Schulz

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