When I originally decided to write about Peanuts back in 2010, the first thing I had to do was read them all. That’s no small task with Schulz’s magnum opus. In all, Schulz wrote and drew 17,897 strips (15,391 dailies and 2,506 Sunday strips)! Spanning right at fifty years, it is one of the longest consistent stories ever told by an individual in human history.
And over those thousands of strips, there were many surprises I never expected to find.
Take this strip from April 1963. Schulz prided himself on being one of the most wholesome creators in US pop culture. He wanted all of his content to be family friendly and accessible to all. Of course, such standards have evolved a lot since the early 1960s. This is why today we can look at things taken for granted in their time and be shocked and ashamed that it was ever acceptable. Take, for example, the controversy this week over the work and legacy of Dr. Seuss.
Here in this strip, Snoopy plays the guard dog that gives Charlie Brown a rare bit of peace of mind. The shocking thing is to get to the final panel and see Snoopy atop his doghouse with a mounted machine gun, calmly waiting to level any intruders.
This image goes far beyond much of the World War I flying ace sequences, which avoided showing guns directly (though you did see the bullet holes and explosions taking place in Snoopy’s imaginary war).
I’ve been working on a (overdue, sorry to the collection editor!!) chapter for a book on children’s authors who were veterans. The realism of Schulz’s final panel here is a bit more understandable when we remember that Schulz was drafted into World War II and eventually became leader of a machine gun unit.
Those three years of service, Schulz would later recall, were some of the defining years of his life. When Schulz passed away in 2000, his grave marker made no mention whatsoever about Peanuts. Like so many in his generation, he used the military marker to chronicle his service.
I did not expect to find a surprisingly realistic machine gun in a 1960s Peanuts strip when I first started reading. But there’s no doubt that when Schulz thought of peace and security, part of the equation required an armed defense.
Just another oddity in the Peanuts archive I wanted to put out there for you all! Let me know your thoughts on the strip.