Tuesday, January 26, 2010

notes on The Complete Peanuts, 1973-1974

This book represents two peak years for Schulz creatively. There are many memorable storylines - Snoopy tries to break Hank Aaron's home run record, Sally befriends her school building and Peppermint Patty's has a revelation that Snoopy is not just a "funny looking kid with a big nose." I had to whittle down the oddities/strips of interest that I wanted to share, there's just so much great stuff...[click the strips to make them larger]

This stands out to me because by this point in the strip's life, Schroeder was normally only seen in his catcher's uniform or behind the piano. A week later we'd see the original Patty in a rare appearance (but no Shermy sightings). - 1/31/73

The first time we see Rerun, younger brother of Lucy and Linus. We only heard about him in 1972 when he was born and named, but as a baby he was "off camera." Probably for the best. I'm having trouble picturing what a Schulz infant would look like. In the next day's strip we learn Rerun is one year old. I think he was in pre-school or kindergarten by 2000, though the bigger he got the more easily he was confused with Linus. - 3/26/73

Charlie Brown is on the hotseat with the Little League president when it's discovered someone's been wagering on his team. Linus sage warning in the last panel illustrates the distrust of the adult world in the 'Peanuts' world, where the kids seem to govern themselves. - 4/17/73; Adults screw things up for the kids again in a later winter sequence in which the building of snowmen becomes regulated... - 11/30/73

Peppermint Patty stays with the Brown's for a few days. She sleeps in Snoopy's doghouse (which she thinks is a "guest cottage"). With this strip, 'Peanuts' once again proves its timelessness. - 10/4/73

In one of the strip's most celebrated storylines, Charlie Brown becomes so obsessed with baseball that he develops a strange rash on his head. The doctor recommends a rest at summer camp. Charlie Brown wears the sack on his head 24/7 and ironically becomes the most popular kid in camp. - 6/18/73

Charles Schulz with a rare direct spoof of himself in this strip. He was that year's grand marshal. - 1/1/74

The first (and maybe only) storyline where Lucy and Peppermint Patty team up. In this case, they make a pact to get their ears pierced. I'm not sure why Peppermint Patty refers to Lucy as "Lucille" in this story, when she uses the informal "Chuck" with Charlie Brown. I think "Lucille" would be more Marcie's style. - 5/31/74

Going to camp appears to be a dreaded, compulsory event in the 'Peanuts' world. Was this Schulz's comment on the Vietnam draft? If so, it comes a year or so after the draft had ended. - 6/28/74

Charlie Brown gets in a rare dig on Lucy. - 11/1/74

Even Snoopy learns the folly of underestimating Charlie Brown... - 2/25/73

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Dr. Josef Halfter passed away this month at age 88 in Berlin, Germany. He was my second cousin twice-removed, and a man I would not have known if not for his own efforts. My great-grandfather, Julius Halfter, came to America in 1909 with his family, but the other Halfters remained in Europe. The families eventually lost contact and even awareness of each other. "Dr. Josef", as our family came to refer to him, sought out the American Halfters, eventually locating my great-uncle Erich. This phone call led to an eventual visit by Dr. Josef and one of his daughters, Gisela, and a subsequent visit by the two with Gisela's husband, Matthias, at our family Thanksgiving.

Dr. Josef had researched the Halfter family tree, all the way back to the birth of my great-great-great-great grandfather, Ignatz Franz Xavier Halfter in 1776. It seemed fitting, then, that on my own genealogical pilgrimage to Germany that I would visit him in Berlin. I stayed with Dr. Josef and his wife, Ilse, in their home in Frohnau, a suburb of Berlin. We did touristy things, like a bus tour of Berlin and a philharmonic concert. We ate at a Chinese restaurant, and at a French restaurant where his meal seemed to be a deep dish of cooked asparagus covered in cheese. We also had dinner with Gisela's family, and I noticed that everyone was referring to him as "Tee-ger". I quickly learned they were calling him "Tigger". It was a term of affection from Gisela's childhood, where she and her sister were Pooh and Piglet (if I remember correctly) and Ilse was Owl. My favorite activity was the two evenings that Josef and I spent just talking at the dining room table, drinking sparkling wine and eating Crunchips, passing the German-English dictionary back and forth. It was then that he told me some of his life story...

Josef was born in Poland, but in an area that had been part of Germany when his father, Johann, was born, so the Halfters all retained German citizenship. The exemption for their German citizenship was to expire in 1936, when they would have to choose between becoming Polish citizens or emigrate to Germany. They chose the latter in 1935, which presented another problem. Johann Halfter ran five large greenhouses, which he had modernized with an automated sprinkler system. He couldn't get a good price for his business, because everyone knew he had to sell. Good fortune came when the ground cracked open and the business flooded. A nearby coal mine had dug under their land. The coal company agreed to buy the land for so good a price that Johann bought two houses in Berlin.

Josef was drafted into the German army in 1941 at age 20. He originally worked as ground personnel for the Luftwaffe. When it was discovered that he also knew Polish and English, he was sent to the French coast. Polish pilots who had escaped the German invasion were now flying for the R.A.F. in separate Polish squadrons, such as the celebrated No. 303. Josef's job was to intercept the Polish pilots speaking with the ground (sorry, R.A.F.!) He then went to Paris for 14 months duty with the health service. This was his best duty of the war, far from any fighting.

Six days before D-Day he was sent east to the infantry to serve in Vlasov's army. General Andrei Vlasov (pictured at left) was a Russian general who had been defeated and captured by the Germans. In prison he asserted his position as an anti-Stalinist and collaborated with the Nazis to create a Russian Liberation Army, which was comprised of Russian and German soldiers.

My details are sketchy as to when he left Vlasov. He told me he was in Dresden for the bombing, which was in February 1945. Then he was sent back to France where he was soon captured by the U.S. 11th Armored Division. He was discharged in June 1945. Discharged German soldiers were normally sent home, and Josef's I.D. listed his home as Berlin. He did not want to return at that point because Berlin was under Russian control and he heard rumors that Germans who had fought Russia were being sent to Siberia upon reaching Berlin. Josef convinced the authorities to let him go to his sister's in western Germany. He later moved to West Berlin after it had been divided into sectors by the Allies.

I'm kicking myself for not asking him about the Berlin Airlift, the Berlin Wall, etc. Now it's too late. I will miss this kind, generous man and fellow genealogist. Rest in peace, Tigger.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


What can I say about 'Mary Worth'? Parodied in popular culture for her inveterate meddling, the old gal has lasted 70 years on the comics page and is the mainstay of the 'soap opera strip' genre. I never really read the strip until the late 90s, and only then to commiserate with my pal Jeff about it's awful and agonizingly long storylines.

The strip was created by writer Allen Saunders and artist Ken Ernst, debuting in 1938.
This strip from May 1, 1966 is near the middle of their four decade collaboration. Note how the writer's name is mispelled "Ernest" above the strip. I wonder if that was just for this week or an ongoing error. It seems that this time Mary's meddling has gotten her stuck going to Atlanta to straighten out another mess. From the context, it would appear that she's going to be buying that ticket at the airport (never cheap) and she's only got her purse on her. Hope you like that green outfit, Mary!

Saunders' son, John, took over for him in the 1970s. The current strip is written by Karen Moy, who took over after John Saunders' death in 2004. It's drawn by Joe Giella, a legendary DC comics inker who took on the strip in 1991. In the current storyline, Mary's neighbor Wilbur Weston has learned he has an adult love child.

Mary Worth is no stranger to the blogosphere. For a daily offbeat look at the strip, check out the blog - Mary Worth and Me. There's also another blog, Mary Worth, Style Mavin where a young woman provided analysis of the fashion choices in Mary Worth. It went defunct in '08 (presumably because the author went mad). There are several bizarre YouTube videos in tribute to Ms. Worth. Here's my favorite -

Before we go, just a reminder that Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and nothing says "I love you, but in a grandma kind of way" like some Mary Worth merchandise.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Here is my list of 2009 deaths from the world of comics and illustration.. Special thanks to Mark Evanier and The Beat for the original and informative reporting on many of these...

Comics 2009 Final