How Snoopy Helped Make “Peanuts” The Definitive Sunday Comic — Quartz

One of the most thought-provoking cultural critiques of recent times, Kevin Wong’s “How Snoopy Killed Peanuts” on the classic American comic Peanuts went viral this weekend on gamer site Kokatu. Indeed, we are likely to see many more Peanuts-linked dialog leading to November release of 3D animation Peanuts movie information-or, as I like to call it, it’s the Uncanny Valley, Charlie Brown!

Wong accuses beloved beagle Snoopy of running Peanuts into the ground by hijacking storylines and otherwise stealing thunder from other main characters, beginning in the late 1960s. :

“As the strip progressed, the beagle increasingly took over the spotlight in increasingly negative ways. And the smarts and darkness of comics, which once made it so distinctive in the comic book landscape, have been replaced by more mainstream, cutesy humor.

It was Snoopy’s evolution from pet to anthropomorphized friend that heralded the cartoon’s decline, according to Wong.

I’m not here to bury Snoopy or praise him. But I must point out that the second act of Peanuts— say, the late 1960s to the early 1980s — was far superior to its debut (and the strip’s admittedly boring last 20 years). And Snoopy’s rise from mute dog to novelist/World War I flying ace/Stanley Cup ice hockey player was actually integral to that golden era.

Take, for example, that novel that Snoopy always typed on the Remington atop his doghouse, the one that began “It was a dark and stormy night.” someone passed by Peanuts archives and assembled the pieces of Snoopy’s manuscript from start to finish. With a few turns of phrase, Snoopy’s magnum opus brilliantly captures the tone of every bad novel an aspiring writer has sent me for review.

For example: “Could she be the sister of the boy from Kansas who loved the girl in the ragged shawl who was the daughter of the maid who escaped from the pirates?” Not since Cervantes’ Don Quixote has there been such a send-off of luscious romances.

In comparison, the kind of humor Peanuts displayed in its early days is not so great. Wong asserts that this, Peanuts very first strip, is what the ur-text of the strip should have been throughout its 50 year lifespan:

Of course, this kind of hostility was groundbreaking for a comic; but it is also disconcerting. And the ones that weren’t unnecessarily mean were too cute – with early Peanuts depicted as toddlers or babies, often in diapers or onesies. Take this comic strip from 1952 with a little Lucy Van Pelt kveting in her park:

Tell me this isn’t pure Family Circus drivel. And how does this ga-ga goo-goo thing compare to the later, bigger version of Lucy as a rogue, useless shrink?

If Snoopy was too happy for some, it was only to make up for the growing and brilliantly dark comic tenor.

Consider Charlie Brown’s mantras on the PeanutsThe last rules of: “*Sigh*” “I have a stomach ache” and “I’m depressed”. (In reality, Peanuts is literally where, as a child, I first learned the word “depressed”. I can’t believe my mom didn’t confiscate my Peanuts compilation books.) Or this howler from 1976, at the height of Snoopy’s alleged sales period:

Does that sound like a boring, euphoric character to you? (Fun fact: Schultz was a Methodist lay minister.)

Contrary to Wong’s claims, Peanuts did not become more populist in its second act. He went downright Sartrean, as seen below. This scene is “hell is other people” (hell is other people) in color, man. And note that this is the Sunday supplement, the one the kids actually read.

This may or may not also explain why French public broadcaster France 3 created a series of one- to two-minute Peanuts animated shorts, each covering Peanuts comics (not a rehash of old Peanuts TV specials). As the official blog of the French television channel wrote (link in French), “Americans must be mad with jealousy [​Americans must be crazy with jealousy​]​.” It’s the perfect setting and adaptation for all the gloomy Peanuts fans who have continued to smoke and quote Jacques Lacan and listen to the Smiths.

Speaking of the Smiths, the Tumblr’s “This Charming Charlie” gets to the heart of what’s so inimitable about the late Peanuts, replacing the original dialogue with the Smiths’ lyrics. Notice Linus’ cult-victim eyes. You couldn’t have done that with the first baby Peanuts: