Yes, it took me a while as it had actually been years since I had been a steady reader of Peanuts. Having gotten all the Complete Peanuts books plus some of the other periphery items, however, I felt it was time to finally read this collection of the last year (and few extra Sundays) of Peanuts.
So here are my impressions of the final year:
- Lots of cartoons placed in an attempt to bring about endings.
- Peggy Jean shows up in a summer camping strip, talks about her boyfriend before running off. Charlie Brown ends up asking for Snoopy to bark for him (though not in so many words). Peggy Jean has gone on with her life, Charlie Brown seems stuck in the past.
- Pig-Pen appears in a comic (after years of absence) that seems to show him being shamed and intentionally dirty. This in contradiction of years of a character who seemed to be unable to shake dirt off him no matter what he (or his parents) did. This also in contradiction in the occasional (but consistent) pride he took in his steadfast dirtiness.
- Lucy sets up Charlie Brown for disappointment yet again, only this time she has to go inside (called by her mother) so she orders Rerun to hold the ball. Next thing we know, she’s asking Rerun whether he took the ball away from Charlie Brown, to which he says “I’m Not Telling.” Leaving that strip incomplete.
- The final two daily cartoons seem to point towards the end of the strip in and off themselves. We get Snoopy made impotent (something that only Lucy in her prime could have done, and that wasn’t always assured) during a snowball fight, and Charlie Brown buried in the Beanbag Chair as Sally makes herself into his “secretary.” His last phrase: “…but I am out of this world.”
It’s almost as if Charles Schulz knew he was reaching the end of his life and wanted to set some things to rest. The ever broken-hearted Charlie Brown never gets to kiss the Red Haired Girl (though it wouldn’t surprise me if Linus has seduced her by now), Pig-Pen is now a dirty slob (instead of the lovable kid who can’t help it), the ball remains unkicked.
- One comic that might have fitted in the above category was Rerun figuring out he would never become Andrew Wyeth. However, instead of giving up on drawing, Rerun remakes his art into different formats. Some can use a cynical view (if you can’t do mainstream, go elsewhere); however I can see the story of an artist trying to follow his muse and getting constantly scolded by those in authority (the teacher here, other folks elsewhere) for it.
- Snoopy seems to be evolving in different directions. Some comics show him almost the equal of Rerun (indeed, Rerun almost wants to use him as a role model); others show him doing doglike things he would never have done since he first stood up. Indeed, not even in the earliest strips do we hear “woof” without some comment or reaction from Snoopy; but here “woof” makes sense. And that last daily cartoon doesn’t so Snoopy so much as a dog as more an incomplete human being.
- The artwork changes on the last three months of Sunday Cartoons. Suddenly we git shifting colors for sky, two-tone shrubbery and an depiction of the Washington Crossing the Delaware painting. Makes me wonder if there was some computerized behind-the-scene artwork already being done, and if someone was being trained to take over for Schulz and his health went for the worse sooner than everyone thought would happen.
It would have been interesting to see what would have happened with Rerun and his artist intentions. It would appear that Schulz had finally found a character with an enduring quirk for the first time since Peppermint Patty’s tomboy tendencies (some would say Marcie’s unspoken-of lesbianism, but I digress). Also, since much of Rerun’s appearances in 1999 were in connection with an unnamed girl, it would have been interesting to see if Schulz would have brought about a whole new generation of Peanuts based around Rerun.
But we know what happened: Schulz suffered from a number of mini-strokes, leaving him less able to continue the strip. A final downturn stared in early December, stilling Schulz’s pen. Before the last Peanuts strip runs, Schulz dies.
All good things come to an end.