Charles Schulz's pre-Peanuts comics were visually dense

Thomas Haller Buchanan says: "It's fun to see Charles Schulz delineate grown-ups and cars and such. It shows that the simplicity in Peanuts was a chosen exile."


  1. As a non-artist i aways thought doing the simpler line art like Schultz could actually be harder than a more detailed styled. I can see this style taking longer to draw, but in the simpler style deciding what to eliminate seems harder.  Same for Rich Steven’s 8-bit art. Making identifiable with such low information content seems a real art (HAH).

    1. It’s much harder to be simpler because you have to convey more information with less material. Films from really great directors often make sense even if you turn off the sound, because they know how to convey meaning in more subtle ways.

      1. That might not be a bad activity for honing the ol’ visual arts skills… Why is it that I never hear things like this until I’m in my mid-thirties?

  2. I always took away “Sparky” was a slow, pitiful draftsman, who decided not to work so hard on the inking (or even the penciling), when he reduced Peanuts to just his raw freehand motion.

    I suspect he would draw a Peanuts by penciling the lettering and character locations & attitude, then he’d make the classic shapes directly in raw ink.

    1.  I used to own an original Peanuts Schulz daily I(late 50’s) and it was penciled first.  He was an excellent draftsman and is revered in the cartooning world for the visual shorthand of his drawings.
      The above strip is much more complex but is entirely forgettable. Cartooning benefits from understanding, not hard labor.

  3. Ernie Bushmiller did the same thing in his transition from Fritzi Ritz to Nancy.  It was more gradual, though.

    The mark of a great cartoonist is to craft a few thousand strips with no more ink than is absolutely necessary to make the joke.

    1. Did Hank Ketchum do all his own work for Dennis The Menace?  I remember one panel that really grabbed my eye because he had drawn a pretty involved scene with one line and not lifted his pen.  He liked to draw.

  4. It’s also just funny to see old-timey comics. Where were the jokes? Were they supposed to be funny? I mean, I get there was humor, but were people expected to laugh out loud? I think not — I think it was supposed to be a quieter, gentle sort of humor. Tastes change.

    1. If you could travel back in time you could ask them what they think of a blocky cat with a toaster pastry for a body pooping rainbows as it flies through outer space to the tune of “meow meow meow” sung in Japanese by software imitating human vocals. 

  5. Also, the very early Peanuts were much funnier and interesting than the later ones. The characters acted more like real children.

    1. The early Peanuts comics were surprisingly dark, edgy, and full of existential anxiety. 

    2. A step-sister had a compilation book of the early Peanuts. Loved reading it in my tweens. Much funnier than the Peanuts I was reading in the 80s.

  6. It’s always something.  As a boy, I had a fairly decent “Peanuts” collection and an illustrated biography of Sparky Schulz.  A few “Li’l Folks” panels even make an appearance, but nowhere, nowhere, was there any mention whatsoever of “It’s Only A Game”.

  7. Finally, “Peanuts” was verbal, not visual. And a good thing, too; “art work” would have been distracting. Schulz was no draftsman like, say Walt Kelly (who once had Albert the alligator say to Pogo the possum, as they were boating  through a mangrove swamp, “Whoo, look at all the art work!”).

  8. I’ve read this book for “It’s Only a Game” I think it started around the same time as Peanuts, but it was before peanuts took off.  He published 3 strips a week and it was all about sports it was a fantastic read because it’s really clever and the art is amazing.  Sparky is someone I wish I could be more like every day.

  9. Schulz gave many interviews where he stated how he simplified his drawing style when he realized newspapers were giving less and less space to comic strips. Detailed drawings looked horrible when reproduced at smaller sizes.

    And this was back in the 50s/60s! The process accellerated to what we’ve got today — “funny pages” that consist of half a dozen tiny strips jammed onto a single tabloid-size page with the crossword, jumble, horoscopes, etc.

    1. Saw an interview with him back when I was a young kid in the 80s (late 70s?). He pulled out a book of sketches from before he was cartooning. It was nothing but tiny doodles, all simple, and all reminiscent of what you’d see in a Peanuts’ strip.

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