Thursday, November 05, 2015

The last of the Peanuts

Here we go with episode five of "which characters appear most prominently in the Peanuts comic strip". The four previous episodes can be found here:


At the time it was published, nineties Peanuts tended to generate a reaction, if at all, of "is that still going on?" After it ended, it gets more of a sense of sadness as we see landmarks like the move away from four-panel strips to three or fewer in 1992 (Charles M Schulz was struggling with shaking hands by that point), the first-ever five-week break in new daily strips in 1997 and the inevitable final appearances of beloved characters as we get to the end. The end is actually on January 3rd 2000 (with a few more Sunday strips afterwards) - it's actually quite impressive that after all those decades drawing Peanuts, Schulz realised he wasn't going to live to see the fiftieth anniversary and brought it to an end a few months short. And of course the whole thing's still going on, the movie's coming out imminently, it never ends...

All the major characters have been long since established by the start of the nineties, with one notable exception - Rerun, after twenty-plus years in the background, is elevated to a starring role for the last five years of Peanuts. By the end of the series, he's seen more often than anyone but Charlie Brown and Snoopy (who, fittingly, end dead level in the appearances-in-the-last-year stakes). As I've said before, I've got a great fondness for the nineties stories, it's a shame they came too late for the 21st-century creators to homage them. Maybe in another few decades. Meanwhile, the likes of Frieda, 5 and Roy have permanently disappeared by the final decade, although Patty and Violet keep popping up every once in a blue moon. The new characters introduced in the 90s aren't particularly memorable, though.

We start with Fred, another Beagle Scout Woodstock-a-like, before the introduction of Peggy Jean, love interest for Charlie Brown who does actually like him back, more or less. Minor characters Larry (from Sunday School), Cormac (from summer camp), Royanne (baseball player) and Ethan (summer camp again) come and go without making much of an impact. Andy, the fuzzy one of Snoopy's brothers, is more funny, and sticks around until the end as a double-act with Olaf. Andy has the unique distinction of being introduced in the animated cartoons before he showed up in the comic strip, which is sort of symbolic in a way - when it started in 1950, there were a lot more people who read newspaper comics than watched television. Peanuts spanned a whole lot of changes over the years, didn't it?

Emily, another love interest for Charlie Brown who might possibly be a figment of his imagination, is another interesting one. "Joe Agate", whose name is always written in quotation marks, only shows up for one storyline. Rerun's classmate, the pigtailed girl, never gets a name, but she so consistently appears over the final five years of the strip, she deserves a mention here anyway. Even the most ardent Peanuts fan could be forgiven for not knowing who Justin is - he's a schoolmate of Peppermint Patty, who namechecks him in one strip. Roy, meanwhile, is another Beagle Scout who gets mentioned by name once. He's no relation to the human Roy, presumably. And the last ever new character introduced is Naomi, who briefly takes care of Spike in his last big storyline.

And so that's that - I like the charts, even if nobody else finds them quite so fascinating. So let's see what else I can play about with statistics for next...

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