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Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 08/26/2009

Should 'Peanuts' Get Shelled? Time to Defend That 'Toon

By Michael Cavna

'PEANUTS' (UFS)Enlarge Image

Time once again, Riffsters, to defend that 'toon...

In terms of feeling torn, perhaps no strip tugs at my allegiances quite like "Peanuts."

Most comics fans can reach consensus that Charles "Sparky" Schulz's creation was one of the past century's great strips, as well as among its most influential. And the above strip reminds that even when it wasn't funny, it was something perhaps more rare: terribly poignant.

Some critics point out that the strip may have peaked by the mid-'70s, but then, so did the Rolling Stones and they still get more airplay than you can shake a sticky finger at. (Yes, technically, Keith Richards is still alive and Schulz is not, but the operative word is "technically.")

But the strip does firmly belong in the past century. This Riffster also has an allegiance to seeing new talent flourish, and comic-strip slots -- even in newspaper's online editions -- are at a premium. Good grief -- shouldn't fresh material from a living cartoonist get a fair shot at becoming the next "Peanuts"?

If you're not a fan, feel free to Impugn That 'Toon. Otherwise, it's time to Defend...That...'Toon.

By Michael Cavna  | August 26, 2009; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Defend That 'Toon  
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I am still enjoying the Peanut's reruns. I have to admit, I didn't think that I would. Occasionally, one feels "out of place", but overall, I find it a strip that still belongs here in the WaPo.

Posted by: iamweaver | August 26, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

No question of the importance of "Peanuts" to sequential art. But should it still be rerun in a paper where space is at a premium? The entire run has been reprinted countless times and is readily available in bound format.

And if "Peanuts" remains because of its greatness, then why aren't other strips rerun as well? Why not "Krazy Kat" or "Terry and the Pirates" or "Nemo in Slumberland?"

Clearing space for the new won't kill off "Peanuts" -- you'll just have to go to Barnes and Noble to pick it up rather than the comics page (where, come to think of it, you can also purchase bound volumes of "Krazy Kat," "Terry and the Pirates," and "Nemo in Slumberland.")

Posted by: rgraves1 | August 26, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

It is a common suggestion in this Blog that "Peanuts" belongs on the Kid's Post page, since the target audience for that page is the only one not to have seen these strips already. Then put "Frazz" back on the daily pages for the grown-ups, an audience that is better capable of appreciating it. As I say, that's a common suggestion around here, but it's still a good one.

Posted by: seismic-2 | August 26, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Seismic on most days has already posted my opinion.

Seismic FTW!

Posted by: JkR- | August 26, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I agree with seismic too. I think the WaPo should put Peanuts on the Kid's page. I don't subscribe to the Post (out of area) so it doesn't affect me, but I think (much as I adore Peanuts) that new comics deserve a chance. That being said I'm glad that a can read a "new" Peanuts everyday online. I agree with with Michael that they are often poignant and even though they may be of their times they still speak volumes to me.

Posted by: elyrest | August 26, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Peanuts is a strip about kids, not for kids. Its themes are mature.

Personally, I wish the syndicate would circulate older Peanuts strips, when the strip was really sharp. For some reason, it insists on circulating strips from the 90s, when Peanuts was at its blandest and most tired.

Posted by: tomtildrum | August 26, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I never liked Peanuts. Not as a child, not now. I never watched the various tv specials (much to the horror of my jazz loving fiance) because I didn't care for Charlie Brown or the gang. They were depressing. They were repetitive. I don't care to read about futility.

I also found Catcher in the Rye extremely annoying (despite loving other Salinger). Do you think there's a connection? If you like Holden Caulfield you like Peanuts?

Posted by: em15 | August 26, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Just can Peanuts. It should have happened long ago. Schulz was great for about 20 years, after that he lost any inspiration at all and Peanuts was just pretty terrible.

Posted by: steveh46 | August 26, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

@em15 -- Could not stand Holden Caulfield; loved and still love Peanuts. :)

(I also acknowledge that I may be an exception that proves the rule.)

Posted by: | August 26, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I started reading Peanuts in the mid-1950's and just loved it. However, it is time for Charlie and the gang to be retired. He is blocking the way for new artists who desperately need the exposure.

Posted by: kcghost | August 26, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Peanuts is the first strip I read. It's probably the first non-Seuss thing I read. I'm glad my kids are enjoying it too. How about moving Frazz back, and putting Peanuts on the OpEd page? Then the kids'll be drawn to the REAL newspaper. :)

As for Peanuts being "not for kids" ~ sometimes. I still remember being unsure about one of the first strips I read. Something like:

Violet: there goes Charlie Brown
Patty: good ol' Charlie Brown
Violet: yes good ol' Charlie Brown
CB: I heard those girls! Maybe they do like me [or something similar]
Girls: good ol' wishy-washy Charlie Brown.

Five YO me: huh?

Posted by: filfeit | August 26, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

What kills me is Schulz said he never wanted to go into reruns but to give another cartoonist a chance.

The unfortunate timing of his death left that decision to a greedy syndicate (redundant) and has stagnated the comics page since.

Wanna relive Peanuts? Get the books from Fantagraphics. They're amazing.

Posted by: greasypores | August 26, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

The thing is, these old Peanuts strips are new to a hell of a lot of people. The comic started in the 50s. How many people reading comic strips today were old enough to read them in the 50s, if they were born at all? There's enough Peanuts to loop forever without getting old.

Posted by: Roto13 | August 26, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

There are untold amounts of high quality material that could be re-run in the paper. Krazy Kat and Nemo are wonderful, but clearly belong to a completely different age, as does Walt Kelly's Pogo.

The reason that the syndicate is inflicting Peanuts reruns on the public is that (a) they hold the copyright, and (b) they can make a profit on the operation. It has nothing to do with the character of the stip itself. The same is true for Calvin and Hobbes.

All of these creations had a magical, ephemeral reality about them. Putting any of them onto the re-run treadmill merely wrings the life out of them: it does not resurrect them. These comics belong in books, and not in the newspaper. Let new artists exert their own wizardry for current readers.

Posted by: kilby | August 26, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

It appears that the syndicate sends out different "streams" of old Peanuts strips. Currently running in our local Annapolis Capital is the strip of Sally's anticipation of her first day at school (early '60s I believe) We've been treated to early Peanuts most of the time since they started to rerun them. I agree the later strips, really from the mid '70s on were not as sharp as the early ones. But the ones from the early '60s are still great. The Post should try and get that older stream of Peanuts strips.

You Post subscribers have been spared from the new/old "For Better or For Worse" - consider yourselves fortunate.....

Posted by: connieliloo | August 26, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

When I was in grade school in the 1970's I was a HUGE Peanuts fan! In fact, I still have over 75 Peanuts books in a box in my basement. That being said, it's time to go. If I need a Charlie Brown fix I can always pull out the box in the basement.

Posted by: dawndeprey_garcia | August 26, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

If you're going to rerun Peanuts until doomsday, rerun Peanuts from its heyday. The earlier strips had a lot of bite ("Good old Charlie Brown... how I hate him!") and a lot of intelligence, whereas the ones we're getting now seem to be from the 70s and 80s, where it's just one unfunny, unpoetic, uninteresting flat one-liner and/or equally uninspired Snoopy or Peppermint Patty "storyline" after another. Even the strip you posted above leaves me completely flat; it's not poignant, though it's trying hard to be. It's just meandering. Please send it into the sunset.

Posted by: MaxineofArc | August 26, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Speaking purely on the issue of whether reruns deserve space at the expense of new material, I guess the answer has to be 'no' (obviously it is unwise to get into the issue of whether some new comics deserve space at all). Ideally, each syndicate should have online vintage comic pages where they can display retired strips on a daily basis (starting from the oldest), and on those pages they could hawk their comic-related wares. And of course the WaPo page could have links to such pages. I would love to see Peanuts rerun daily starting with the earliest strips. Take a lesson from, where you can select the comics you want on your personal page, including Lil Abner strips from the 1930s.

Posted by: Paul729 | August 26, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Seismic. And I'm tired of going to the Seattle Post to read Fraz.

Posted by: 2old2readcomics | August 27, 2009 2:24 AM | Report abuse

The elephant in the room here is that the vast majority of the strips that the Post carries are just plain lame. Sorry to break it to you, but these thar Emperors is stark bare nekkid.

Peanuts has / had its good days and its bad days, but the whole issue of reruns vs. current strips pales in comparison to the question of whether the comics pages are here to provide occasional amusement, or whether their only point is to provide "jobs" for mediocre talent. Because that's what you've managed to reduce the comics pages to: A royalty check for people who haven't had a genuinely creative thought in their lives.

Obviously this doesn't apply to all of the current strips; certainly not to Frazz, Lio (though that's become kind of a one note wonder), Watch Your Head (a sublime strip), and a handful of others. But before you consign Peanuts to the dumpster, you might want to consider screening your new arrivals a LOT more carefully.

Posted by: andym108 | August 27, 2009 6:40 AM | Report abuse

Peanuts needs to go on a 5 year vacation. Then a paper can think of bringing it back for the new generation and see if they like it..if it stood that kind of time. Ditch Peanuts.

Posted by: ZeldaJane | August 27, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

As has already been pointed out, Peanuts was never really a strip FOR kids, only about some. In some of the strips and situations, the level of melancholy and heartbreak could only be appreciated by a grown-up with the battle scars to prove it.

Stephen King, in a preface to a Far Side collection, got it right: people could learn to DRAW like Schulz but nobody else could THINK like Schulz ... or Larson or Herriman or Watterson. There's a lot of flashy art out there but it just doesn't resonate the way the really great strips do. And Peanuts, despite its familiarity, remains a really great strip. Keep it.

Posted by: drazen1 | August 27, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I generally agree that new strips should be given a chance to appear in the print edition. But if reruns are NOT excluded as a matter of principle, why must "Peanuts" be the one that appears? I'd much rather re-read "Calvin and Hobbes" or "Pogo".

Posted by: crystal4 | August 27, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I enjoy Peanuts now more than ever. Keep Peanuts "Classic" coming. Let me put it this way: KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OF THE PEANUTS STRIP, AND NO-ONE WILL GET HURT! AL.

Posted by: alandsuzie1 | August 27, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Is that one of the too many strips The Post squeezes onto her comic pages? Who knew? The Post's practice of cramming too many features into too little space is an affront to the artists and those who attempt to enjoy their work.

Posted by: MrAardvark | August 27, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I think all of the zombie or zombie like strips need to go. Peanuts, Spider Man, Mark Trail, etc etc etc.

I want the Post editors to know that if god forbid the Times ever expanded their comics to what the Post USED to have I would subscribe to that paper in a heat beat. I have a feeling that there a few like me. I get the paper for the comics first and then the news.

Posted by: buckeye96 | August 27, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Keep Peanuts! So what if it's set in the last century? So is The Grapes of Wrath, The Bell Jar, and lots of other good stuff. The Fusco Brothers should go if you want more room for talent.

Posted by: jlowrey | August 27, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I read Peanuts in my newspaper copy, and I read it on the Post on-line - different. They make my day. Like Blondie, Peanuts sets the standard, and should continue forever. The comics should be funny, not the Judge Parkers, Mark Trails, and the political statements in so many "contemporary" comics.

Posted by: JCollins1 | August 27, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

As for Peanuts being for kids, I remember seeing it when I was very young and reading cartoons such as "Blondie". When I read Peanuts, in a very early version, I never understood the point of the gag. So far as it being in reruns, many of the themes seem familiar but I remember none of the actual strips. Don't people read classic novels or watch favorite films over and over? Indeed, Lynn Johnston decided to end the story line on her strip,"For Better Or For Worse",and combine new strips with older ones to start the family story over again. And she's still alive!

Posted by: 20steveltd | August 27, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

From someone who very much identified with "good ol' Charlie Brown" from a VERY early age (ironically enough, I had my own crush on "a little red-haired girl" in high school!), and even though probably every strip Charles Schulz ever inked and wrote is probably in print somehow...I find it very comforting to see the strip in the daily paper. I have forgotten the number of times I've seen a Peanuts rerun (both old and new) and thought "I remember that -- that was a good one."

Peanuts is a keeper -- for now and for always. Its themes transcend the end, Charlie Brown was a winner even through losing.

Posted by: SportzNut21 | August 27, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

If you're going to keep Peanuts, then you should at least put "Advertisment" at the top... or maybe make Metlife pay for my paper.

Posted by: phelps1 | August 27, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I'm happy to have mourned and paid tribute to Charles Shultz for his contribution to comic strips ... but to be honest ... whew! it's getting a little long in the tooth. When I look at the strip now, I feel we're still in the long tribute period, not in reading a comic strip for comic strip's sake ... but in saying that, I certainly don't mind if others like it and want to keep it. In fact, there are a lot of comics I don't read. It's a reader's preference and please see my comment as personal feedback and not one that speaks for the masses.

Posted by: zenmonkman | August 27, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Please keep Peanuts. It is still wonderful after all this time!

Posted by: cammywcca | August 27, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Up above I listed the principal reason(s) that the syndicates keep retreaded legacy comics in circulation (i.e., money). However, in reading dozens of the above responses, it becomes clear why newspapers continue to subscribe and print those legacy retreads: there are simply many readers who enjoy reading recycled material, rather than getting used to something new.

Let's just hope that this recycling trend does not take hold of the crossword or sudoku puzzles.

Posted by: kilby | August 27, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

@kilby: Let me state that, while I stand by my comment that I find the Peanuts reruns comforting, I very much also look forward to reading the contemporary strips, like Get Fuzzy, Frazz, Lio, Candorville, La Cucaracha, Pearls Before Swine, 9 Chickweed Lane, Jump Start, et al. They're all strips I enjoy on a daily basis. (Of course, I also like Garfield and Frank and Ernest, so take that for what it's worth. :) )

Posted by: SportzNut21 | August 27, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

most of the new talent I've seen lately really sucks. Keep ol' Charlie. Isn't his life bad enough?
Can you bring "Far Side" back?

Posted by: penguinzlvr | August 27, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

It's called a newspaper. Running old comics is like running news stories from the Nixon Administration.

If you love Peanuts, then go down to a bookstore and buy one of the books. Let us have fresh comics in the newspapers.

Posted by: stinsongal | August 27, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Like many others, I'm torn. Peanuts is still good -- better, most days, than many of the new strips, and less out-of-date than many other zombies (e.g. Dennis, Family Circus, Beetle Bailey). The lament about loss of community in the strip above strikes me as pretty contemporary (though perhaps a bit more ironic now that we have planned neo-traditional communities, with porches and swings, where people *still* feel isolated). I also tend to agree that, like Frazz, it's a strip about kids, but not necessarily one that will be appreciated by most kids (though it undoubtedly will be by some).

I'd say move a strip or two that the Post's extensive reader surveys have found poll well with kids to the Kids' Page, get rid of any of the zombies that don't fit that criterion, and think carefully about whether Peanuts might best be enjoyed online and in books, not because it's bad, but because doing so would make way for giving exposure to new talent.

Posted by: nvanative | August 27, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse

"...It's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again."

Posted by: Hawk58 | August 28, 2009 6:46 AM | Report abuse

Never liked Salinger's character, Holden Caulfield, but I always liked Peanuts. I was 4 when it debuted. I wish though, that the current reruns had the original date they ran embedded somewhere in the corner. It's always more interesting to have some context.

Posted by: rwyckoff | August 28, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

I do not pay to subscribe to the Washington Post in order to read reprinted reports of Senators baseball games from the 1960s or reviews of rock concerts that were held here in the 1970s, no matter what fond memories those old stories might invoke about how good rock or baseball was back then. (OK, the Senators were a bad example.) If someone **does** wish to pay to re-read Peanuts reprints, then the proper way to do so is by buying one of the paperback books devoted to them, not by buying a current copy of the Washington Post. Let Peanuts trade places with Frazz, or drop it altogether.

Posted by: seismic-2 | August 28, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Charles Sultz provided more than most people think about. Peanuts is full of lessons that we learned as kids, but have forgotten in our adult lives. I have many of the VHS tapes, several books and certian comic strips. I want my grandkids to know and understand that life isn't all roses, just like Charlie Brown finds out everytime he goes to kick that football. There is always someone out there ready to pull it away. Charles Shultz showed everyday life through Peanuts and I will miss his insight to the everyday mishaps that go on around us.

Posted by: mb4574 | August 28, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

I read the newspaper to have a daily ration of things worth reading -- new or old. The strips of the middle 20th Century are far better than most of the new ones. And I miss many that are gone, even from the electronic version (Steve Roper, Brenda Starr, Lil' Abner, Brick Bradford, etc.). With some exceptions (e.g. Baldo) the new ones are lame.

Keep Peanuts and bring back the old strips. Start them all over. The 20th Century was far more interesting than the 21st.

Posted by: PSaavedra | August 28, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

I grew up enjoying Peanuts. I would hate to see it completely go away.
Seeing it stuck in an eternal loop would also be tragic, and against the writer's wishes. Why couldn't the space they now occupy be used to rotate in other "retired" comics and comics by new artists also? That would give us our nostalgia fix, while keeping things fresh.
We need to encourage new artists to find their niche. We do not want to miss out on the next Schultz because we could not let go of the past.

Posted by: Vixhon | August 28, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

I always thought the Comics section should make us laugh or chuckle or at least see the humor in everyday life. Peanuts did all of that from day one. Such a classic is unlikely ever to go out of style. While some of the new strips are interesting, their "punch" is spotty. I don't agree that the comics page should be dedicated to supporting new talent to the point of excluding proven winners like Peanuts.

Posted by: Cecilia_Klein | August 28, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Get rid of Candorville. It's a cutesy wootsy love story one day, then a politically charged cartoon the next. Regardless of what it is, it's not funny.

Posted by: DCBound007 | August 28, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

i would rather look at women wearing ugly open toed shoes than read this comic that is past its time. Get rid of it and give other cartoonists a chance to show their creativity.

Posted by: Amanda97 | August 28, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Time for Good Ol' Charlie Brown to hang up his baseball glove..same goes for Calvin & Hobbes...time to move on. Why not use the system the English football leagues use: bottom three get demoted annually, and three new ones come in?

Posted by: arnaudo | August 30, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

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