Tuesday, June 6, 2006

art: greatest comic strip ever

Yes sir, Mr. Principal.. I'm going to give up school.. Everybody says I'm stupid anyway... I've decided to devote the rest of my life to making my dog happy.. No, it isn't such a bad idea, is it, sir?  Well,  maybe you should talk it over with your cat, and see what he thinks..
Peanuts: © United Feature Syndicate, Inc.

The basic setup is easy, the cloying sentiment of devoting yourself to a pet could appear in Garfield or Ziggy or any of the lame animal-centric current daily strips. But Charles Schultz goes further: the unseen principal endorses the idea (Schultz employs his usual beautiful trick of eliding the adult conversation), and it's wise Charlie Brown who counsels the adult against a rash decision. So now the strip is about dreams deferred, the pull of responsibility, what it means to do the right thing with your life. Plus the Zen zaniness of discussing it with an animal.

But this is the greatest cartoonist of the last 50 years (cartoonists esteem only George Herriman of Krazy Kat higher). His pen is always a knife and he's compelled to use it, inserting "Everybody says I'm stupid anyway..." just as the first panel ends. As I've remarked, Peanuts is bleak! Charlie Brown isn't fulfilling his dream here, he's desperate. Then you notice the hard set of Charlie Brown's mouth in the second panel where you'd expect him to be smiling, and how he's only, slightly, happy when the principal gets interested, and the triple negatives of "No, it's not such a bad idea". Note the beautifully ambiguous expressive hand position in the third panel, he's clutching his heart, kneading his fingers, at peace, holding onto an idea, all at once.

"I've decided to devote the rest of my life to making my dog happy"

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  • A search for "devote the rest of my life to making my dog happy" finds Beno's 2001 journal mentioning either the same strip mis-remembered or another Peanuts strip in the same vein; his punchline is "I talked it over with my dog, and he seemed to think it's a great idea."

    By skierpage, at June 06, 2006 8:11 PM  

  • well, it's been several years since i read that strip, but i think i must have typed my journal entry while reading the strip in front of me. actually, i can't view the graphic of the version you have, so i don't understand how they differ.

    i've gotta say, i once clipped out another peanuts strip that has a similar theme. i clipped it out and put it into a photo album that i left in my mom's garage, so i can't quote this one word for word, but it features sally talking to charlie brown. she can't fall asleep, so she comes over to talk to him. i forget what she says... but she comes in saying that she can't sleep because she's worried that her big brother will grow up unloved and with a meaningless life. then she says walks away saying something about how she feels better after talking about it, but poor charlie lies in bed with that worried look.

    By beno hwang, at June 06, 2006 11:30 PM  

  • I fixed the image (it displays fine in Windows Paint,Windows Fax and Image Viewer, and Firefox, but Internet Explorer showed black?!).

    It sounds like quitting school was a Peanuts theme over several days, so I'll have to to buy the Fantagraphics Peanuts complete for 1989-1990 when it appears in 2015 or so!

    I remember that Sally and Charlie Brown cartoon too! What an amazing comic strip, it's easy to forget the bleakness and remember only the comedy and sweetness.

    By skierpage, at June 08, 2006 6:49 PM  

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