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Comic strips | Reflecting on Charles M. Schulz’s long-running Peanuts, Kevin Wong lays much of the blame for the comic strip’s slow decline at the feet of the increasingly popular Snoopy: “[N]ear the end of the 60s and well into the 70s, the cracks started to show. Snoopy began walking on his hind legs and using his hands, and that was the beginning of the end for the strip. Perhaps he was technically still a dog, but in a very substantial way, Snoopy had overcome the principal struggle of his existence. His opposable thumbs and upward positioning meant that for all intents and purposes, he was now a human in a dog costume. One of his new roleplays was to be different Joes — Joe Cool, Joe Skateboard, etc.” [Kotaku]
To celebrate Snoopy’s birthday (and promote the upcoming animated feature), the producers of The Peanuts Movie have released a video in which director Steve Martino shows us out to draw everyone’s favorite beagle.
Why Aug. 10, when the character’s first appearance was on Oct. 4, 1950? It dates back to a 1968 Peanuts storyline by Charles M. Schulz, in which Snoopy is awakened by Linus in the middle of the night for a “secret mission” that turns out to be a surprise party. Peanuts.com re-ran that series just last week.
If you spot the famed World War I Flying Ace soaring over the San Diego Convention Center this week, you probably aren’t imagining things.
Inspired by the trailer for The Peanuts Movie, Otto Dieffenbach of Flyguy Promotions created a custom remote-controlled quadcopter to send Snoopy — atop his doghouse — flying through the air. Dieffenbach said he first flew Snoopy in February, but has kept the drone relatively under wraps for months, in preparation for its big debut at Comic-Con International.
With time running out, the campaign to put Snoopy on a California license plate is still about 2,500 orders short.
Begun in 2010 by the California Associations of Museums, the effort is now down to the wire: Saturday is the deadline for the 7,500 preorders required for the Department of Motor Vehicles to begin production on the plate, which features Snoopy as drawn by creator Charles M. Schulz and the slogan “Museums Are For Everyone.” So far, about 5,000 orders have been placed.
Sixty-four years ago today, the beloved and influential Peanuts debuted in nine newspapers with a four-panel strip that set the tone for the future of “good ol’ Charlie Brown,” introduced through the words of Shermy, who admits his hatred for him.
Things didn’t get any better for the round-headed boy in the second installment, in which Patty (no, not Peppermint Patty) punches him in the eye. Snoopy doesn’t arrive until the third, but Schulz ensured the faithful companion wouldn’t make life much cheerier for Charlie Brown over the course of the 17,894 strips that followed.
The story that broke Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times rocked social media, and had a lot of people questioning whether everything they know is wrong: Hello Kitty isn’t a cat.
Anthropologist Christine Yano received the news when she was writing the annotations for a Hello Kitty show at the Japanese American National Museum:
That’s one correction Sanrio [the owners of Hello Kitty] made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it’s called Charmmy Kitty.
However, it turns out Hello Kitty isn’t human, either. RocketNews 24 contacted Sanrio and got the straight dope, which comes down to a difference in terminology: Hello Kitty is a 擬人化 (gijinka), which they translate as “a personification or anthropomorphization” — like Mickey Mouse or, in a parallel some have drawn, like the pipe in René Magritte’s The Treachery of Images. They further added that Hello Kitty does indeed have a mouth, it’s just not drawn (most of the time, anyway).
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about, as it says above, “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out. So without further ado, let’s get to it …
Efforts that started back in 2010 to put Snoopy on license plates in California have hit a milestone — the special plates, featuring artwork by Charles Schulz, are now available for order. And once 7,500 have been ordered, the Department of Motor Vehicles will begin production.
The proceeds from the official Snoopy license plate will go toward a grant program administered by the California Cultural and Historical Endowment to support California’s museums. The plates cost $50 for for a sequential plate or $98 for a personalized plate, with a portion of the higher fee also supporting programs to protect California’s environment. If 7,500 plates aren’t ordered in the first year (Rats!), you’ll have the option to try again next year or have your money refunded.
If you live in California and want to help Snoopy hit the road, you can order your plate here.
No one needs to hear me speak of the virtues of Charles Schulz’ s Peanuts, one of the greatest comic strips and one of the greatest long-form narrative works of art of any medium. Plenty of much smarter people who can communicate much more clearly and cleverly than I have already done that in plenty of different places.
And the fact that so many newspapers continue to re-run old strips of Schulz’s so long after his death instead of filling that valuable (to cartoonists) space with something—anything—else is about as eloquent expression of the regard Schulz is held in as anything I could pound out in a few sentences here.
Do note that, when Schulz passed away, no descendant of his or hand-picked assistant/apprentice took over the strip for him—Peanuts not produced by Schulz was apparently judged so wrong it wouldn’t even be attempted, better to just have folks re-read older strips than attempt new ones by someone else.
That was a big part of the reason I was so shocked when Boom Studios announced a new ongoing Peanuts comic book series on their Kaboom kids imprint. They had previously produced an original graphic novel based on a new animated special which itself was pieced together from Schulz strips—last spring’s Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown—but this seemed like something pretty different. It wasn’t a media tie-in or a one-off lark project, it was going to be something rather sustained.
We sometimes get so immersed in our little world of words and pictures that it can be difficult at times to remember that comics are part and parcel of the larger pop culture and, as such, could often be referenced in other medium, like films and pop songs.
With that in mind, and since I’m always fascinated by this sort of cross-pollination, I thought I’d make a quick (and by no means definitive) list of some songs based on or about some beloved comic book characters. As a self-imposed caveat, I tried to stay away from theme songs or film contributions, so as much as I love The Ramones’ version of “Spider-Man,” I’m keeping it off the list for that reason.
Oh, and don’t forget to offer you’re own picks in the comments section …
1. Evangeline by Matthew Sweet
Sure, anyone can make up a song about Superman or Wonder Woman, but if you really want to establish your nerd cred, you need to write a song about a comic book character so long-forgotten even serious fans would need ten minutes or so to scratch their heads before saying, “Oh yeah, her.” So it was with Gen X songsmith Matthew Sweet, who penned a rather plaintive paen (“as sung by Johnny Six” the liner notes helpfully tell us) to the “sexy, killer vigilante nun” created by Chuck Dixon and Judith Hunt back in the heady days of the 1980s for Comico Comics. It’s a rather irresistible song — arguably one of Sweet’s best — as the singer looks at the figure he has placed on a pedestal and begs her to forget about all that “marriage to God” nonsense and give him the time of day, at least for a little bit. The fact that it features a really killer hook doesn’t hurt matters much.
Threadless has a fetching new T-shirt aimed at spreading the word about the growing epidemic of dog owners who won’t pick up after their pets. The shirt features various cartoon and comic strip dogs and their owners, um, doing their thing, including Snoopy and Charlie Brown, Scooby Doo and Shaggy, and Homer Simpson and Santa’s Little Helper. If I ever had the urge to wear a shirt featuring dogs dropping a deuce, which I haven’t, this would be the shirt for me.
The California Association of Museums has launched a campaign to have a Snoopy drawing by Charles Schulz appear on a special California license plate. Proceeds from sales of the plates would establish a sustainable grant program to support state museums.
But for that to happen, at least 7,500 California drivers have to register interest in a Snoopy plate. Once there are enough interested Peanuts fans, the state will begin collecting a $50 fee from those who want the plate (more if you want it personalized). Curiously, The Snoopy Plate website doesn’t seem to list a deadline for registration.
The Snoopy plate is being made possible by Jean Schulz, the Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates and United Media Licensing, who are granting royalty-free rights to the California Association of Museums.