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Peanuts, reprinted 7/17/04

I want to start off by emphasizing that I don’t think Peanuts should be run in daily papers anymore. Yes, it’s beloved by all, but Charles Schultz is dead, and with so many artists trying to break into the scene, it’s a shame that part of the ever-shrinking comics section is forever occupied by repeats. (The death of Hank Ketcham apparently hasn’t stopped the production of daily installments of Dennis the Menace with his name on it, but that’s another, and much creepier, story.) People who want to read the old stuff should buy the books.

That having been said, I’m sort of glad that younger people are getting to see the older strips. In the last few years of Charles Schultz’s life, the strip was loopy and sentimental; but the stuff they’re repeating now reminds us that for most of its history Peanuts was about loss, failure, and longing for things you can’t have. Almost everyone in the strip had such doomed romantic feelings: Lucy for Schroeder, Sally for Linus, Peppermint Patty for Charlie Brown, Marcie for Peppermint Patty, and so on. Charlie Brown’s unrequited love for the little red-haired girl is legendary, of course, and the rest of his life isn’t much better. His baseball team won only one game in the strip’s history, and then had to forfeit because their outfielder, 5-year-old Rerun, bet on the game. His baseball hero is always on the verge of being sent to the minors. He is bullied by his psychologist and is largely ignored by his dog, who refers to him as “that round-headed kid.” They don’t mention any of this when they use him to sell insurance.

Snoopy is probably the only character in the strip who is generally happy, largely because of his ability to retreat into fantasy. Even he sometimes grapples with life’s failures, as in this week’s strips, though he bounces back pretty quickly.

Incidentally, thanks are in order to my close personal friends Matt and Laura, and to the total stranger who runs furtive explorations, all of whom linked to me.