See also “The Simpsons” for something brilliant going bland after a decade or so of brilliance. Although there I’m not sure there’s a single issue that the decline can be pinned on to.
That wasn’t Matt Groening’s only example of sliding into mediocrity. His Life in Hell strip was awesome in its earlier days, but it eventually degenerated into All Ackbar 'n Jeff, All the Time by the time it was mercifully put out of our misery. I agree with the article that Bill Watterson had the right idea, as much as I miss Calvin and Hobbes.
In general, I think it’s important to recognize when a serial has gone on long enough, and should be brought to a close. It’s a problem that spans many genres of narrative and all media.
This article led me to search out Snoopy’s first thought.
Turns out it was May 27th, 1952.
In all too brief flashes Snoopy was a trickster figure and could provoke the other kids–especially Lucy with a single lick. It always killed me that Snoopy was aware of how much he was annoying Lucy.
What’s also interesting to me are the Snoopy versus The Red Baron books. There was something very accessible about them–they appeared to be written on multi-colored construction paper which seemed like something a kid would make, but the stories–life and death in World War I–were so mature. The kids themselves were unwitting–even unwilling–players in Snoopy’s fantasies. In retrospect this was a fascinating insight: there is happiness in childhood, but it often requires being oblivious to reality.
Reading Peanuts in the '70’s, and being of a generation that remembers animated adaptations almost if not more vividly than the strips, I’m interested in how dark the animated versions could be. This was probably unintentional, but the spelling bee in A Boy Named Charlie Brown seemed pretty horrifying. I remember the heads floating in a dark field. A kid misspelled a word, there’d be a single adult “WAH!” and “pop!” the head would wink out of existence.
[quote=“SpunkyTWS, post:6, topic:63891, full:true”]
What’s also interesting to me are the Snoopy versus The Red Baron books.[/quote]
Achtung! Jetzt wir singen zusammen die Geschichte über den Schweinköpfigen Hund und den lieben Red Baron
That applies to adulthood as well.
Kind of interesting to watch Berke Breathed’s return to Bloom County as a self-published thingy. In many ways stepping back gave him the space to find what he himself enjoyed about those characters, and use them for current events.
The last couple years of Peanuts was pretty dark.
The existential crises of characters – be they the long-explored, never-resolved angst of Charlie Brown, or the and-I-can’t-even-communicate-yet terror of ReRun – was never gone long from the strip.
IMHO, the psychopathic character tendencies of the early years got sanded down, leaving the never-ending angst behind.
Peanuts was the anti-Seinfeld. It was about something, and all the characters knew it was about something; what tore them up was not knowing what that something was.
I disagree with the author’s analysis of Snoopy as “struggling to not be a dog,” in that it ignores Snoopy’s wild flights of imagination (oh look! A pun!). Snoopy taught me to play the “Here’s the fierce croco-gator” when swimming, or “Here’s the fierce vulture (or, later, gargoyle in my goth phase)” when hanging about atop a fence post. To me, as an only child, Schulz was exploring the importance of imaginative play with Snoopy and doing a damn fine job of it. Snoopy refuses to abandon the roaming of his imagination, whether as Joe cool, the world famous playboy, or the ace fighter pilot of a Sopwith Camel… that is an important victory.
While I appreciate the tone of the early strips, the article’s author seems to hit the hackneyed aging adult’s lament: things are different than they used to be, and my nostalgia-based preferences are challenged!
Judging the evolution of later Peanuts cartoons by the earliest works is a bit pointless: if Schulz stuck to the dark tone of the strip’s first 7 or 8 years, then today’s critic would be complaining that the strip never evolved, and Schulz should have been put out to pasture in the early 60s.
Did anyone else notice that the link to this thread from the post seems to be broken…?
I might suggest that the move away from unrelenting bleakness was welcome, because dang, there sure was a lot of bleakness thar. I’m going to link to http://3eanuts.com/ again like I usually do.
I wouldn’t really say Snoopy was to blame, because Snoopy had his share of weighty, ponderous storylines as well. Schulz and Peanuts, a “controversial” biography by David Michaelis, posits that a storyline in which Snoopy pursued a mysterious girl-beagle with “very soft paws”, was actually supposed to be an analogy for Schulz’s own marital struggles.
I admit I mostly haven’t read the last few years of Peanuts, but the middle-period from around the 70s is what I thought were the best. I don’t think many of the early strips were very good, to be honest.
Moreover, Peanuts was always bittersweet. Never too bitter, though; I think the mordant strips would typically be followed by something less bleak, or the bleakness would be offset by humor or by Charlie Brown’s rebound from depression to renewed determination. The strip had its ups and downs, and indeed its highly inappropriate and offputting strips, too, but for the most part it conveyed a fairly gentle worldview, albeit not a hugely optimistic one.
It may be true that Snoopy as a fan favorite started to dominate over time, but I think it’s a mistake to rate the early (and rather ugly and unstylized) strips over superior strips from the late 60s and the 70s. It wasn’t until Shulz polished his style and got past those early strips, IMO, that he started coming out with the stuff readers loved.
I think that problem was not Snoopy in Peanuts but with the writer not being around children. The Peanuts strips that I thought were funny were the ones that you could see a child saying or doing in real life. His children grew up and had no grandchildren around to give him a source of ideas.
I am a huge Peanuts fan but, damn, I just cannot stand Snoopy’s brothers…
Perhaps perversely, DNA recognizes that it has gone long enough when the telomeres no longer go on long enough. Or sometimes the series gets cancer.
Just seeing them has a bad effect on me, like 15% of the oxygen has left my system. 25% if there’s thoughtspeech balloons, because then I’ll have to read stupid words associated with these wretched characters.
None of this would matter, but years of superlative quality left me unable to not look at PEANUTS. Same with BC, which was uniquely hilarious in its first decade. If this was, say, CATHY, whose creator’s drawing ability never improved even a tiny bit, I’d be able to note the presence of the strip without reading it (facilitated by the strip itself, a collection of three poses and two attitudes, with lettering that’s easier to not read than it is to see at a glance).
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