PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite “World Famous Author” PEANUTS Strips

A BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE to the late Charles M. Schulz, born 101 years ago, on Nov. 26, 1922…

That time Snoopy spoke out loud in the December 23, 1989, Peanuts daily strip was so startling that I clipped it from the paper and have saved it to this day.

Snoopy was always all thought balloons and sound effects, but there he was, speaking out loud to Sally in a word balloon, calling her “sweetie,” and adding a little doggy onomatopoeia at the end.

What the heck–?!

Looking back at it now from the perspective of the strip’s 50 year run, I suppose I really shouldn’t have been surprised by this bizarre little one-time twist. Charles M. Schulz (November 26, 1922 – February 12, 2000) was always throwing little absurdities like this one at readers. If you think about it, boiled down to its basics, Peanuts was an exercise in absurdism, a strip about children with the emotional depth of wizened philosophers and a sentient beagle with a Walter Mitty imagination. And a pool table and hot tub in his doghouse.

Peanuts ran from October 2, 1950, to February 13, 2000, with reruns following. According to Wikipedia, “Peanuts was published daily in 2,600 papers in 75 countries, in 21 languages. Over nearly 50 years, Schulz drew 17,897 published Peanuts strips. The strips, plus merchandise and product endorsements, produced revenues of more than $1 billion per year, with Schulz earning an estimated $30 million to $40 million annually.”

17,897 strips.

October 2, 1950

It’s astonishing how few duds there are in those 17,897 published strips, but hardly surprising because Schulz put a part of himself into every one. During mid-1970s contract negotiations with him, the United Media syndicate hired cartoonist Al Plastino to create new Peanuts strips they could run if they failed to come to terms with Schulz in time. In the few samples I’ve seen, Plastino managed to capture Schulz’s artistic style without a problem, but completely missed the point of the strip. To quote baseball great Yogi Berra, “If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him,” and I don’t believe it’s possible that anyone could imitate or copy Charles Schulz.

February 13, 2000

A gag a day, every day, for 50 years. Correction: A character bit a day, every day, for 50 years. Schulz didn’t really do gags of the set-up and punchline variety. The humor in Peanuts came out of the characters’ reactions to situations, not the joke in the last panel. If you think that’s easy, try writing even a week’s worth of strips that don’t depend on punchlines, but instead gets laughs because they’re true. I tried when I was writing the Tom and Jerry syndicated strip (Editors Press Service, 1990 – 1991) and found myself falling back on punchlines 19 times out of 20. And at that, I didn’t last a year.

I might not have made it even that long if not for the running gag, a set-up or situation that the cartoonist can keep going back to again and again, each incident leading to a different outcome. Running gags build on themselves over time and with repetition as the audiences’ familiarity with the gag triggers an anticipation of the funny payoff. Schulz was a master of the running gag: Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown’s endless struggle with kites, Linus’ blanket, Pigpen, the Little Red-Haired Girl, Lucy’s psychiatry booth, and Snoopy as… take your pick. The World Famous French Foreign Legionnaire, the World War I Flying Ace, the World Famous Hockey Player, Joe Preppy.

July 30, 1981

Or the World Famous Author. It was a dark and stormy July 15, 1965, night that Snoopy began his literary career. We may have gotten our first typewriters around the same time, but Snoopy’s work was an overnight success, whereas I had to wait another decade before I made my first sale.

Don’t expect me to be able to pick a mere 13 favorites out of the 17,897 published Peanuts strips. The best I can do is go to one of my favorite Peanuts running gags, so here then, MY 13 FAVORITE “WORLD FAMOUS AUTHOR” PEANUTS STRIPS:

July 12, 1965

July 13, 1965

August 29, 1969

August 27, 1972

August 6, 1973

September 18, 1973

September 27, 1973

January 4, 1979

August 7, 1983

December 12, 1983

May 11, 1986

April 6, 1997

April 22, 1997


— GOOD GRIEF! What If DC COMICS’ Heroes and Villains Were PEANUTS Characters? Click here.

— 13 Great PEANUTS Storylines: A CHARLES M. SCHULZ Birthday Celebration. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. “Dear Mom, I remember when I was born.” Classic. Thanks, Paul for a comfortable morning read.

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  2. I nearly spit my coffee out with the waffle-iron line. Great collection.

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  3. Oh this is wonderful!! I read the strip regularly growing up and devoured the paperback reprint collections! Thank you for this!

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