Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Linus vs. the Red Baron?

REVISITING the same Peanuts comic book mentioned in a previous posting, here's another page from that issue. See anything familiar here?

(Click on image for better look.)
Since the comic is missing four pages, this is clearly the second page to a story where Linus, after having seen a magazine with a picture of a man on a flying carpet right out of One Thousand and One Nights (a.k.a. Arabian Nights), tries to ride his security blanket like one.

Figure it out yet?

Yes, Linus Van Pelt is wearing an aviator's helmet with goggles, and it looks a lot like the one Snoopy wore commencing with the first "Red Baron" episode of the Peanuts comic strip dated Sunday, October 10, 1965. The comic book was published about seven years prior! (Remember, that's back in 1958.)

Looking again at the biography Schulz and Peanuts by David Michaelis, it relates the origin of Charles Schulz's inspiration for the "RB" strips as coming from his son, Monty. Sometime during the summer of '65, the 13 year-old boy came into his father's drawing studio with a model of a Fokker triplane; as they talked about it, Schulz thought back to old WWI war movies (like Hell's Angels), and he decided to parody them. For years, Monte claimed it was his suggestion Snoopy would be the pilot of the "Sopwith Camel" (a.k.a. the doghouse); Schulz would consistently dismiss this notion until near the end of his life when he finally acknowledged his son's contribution.

Snoopy's debut as the World War I Flying Ace.
Schulz's assistant during '58, Jim Sasseville, worked on the comic books, and there's a chance he drew Linus with this headgear. If Sasseville spent enough time with Schulz on any given week, they were bound to have talked about many things; could some of their topics have included WWI movies and/or the Red Baron?

Or was Sasseville (or whoever) thinking of aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh? It was only a year prior the movie biography The Spirit of St. Louis came out, starring Jimmy Stewart and directed by Billy Wilder. This makes more sense.

Scene from The Spirit of St. Louis (1957).

When I first got this comic back in the late '80s, I thought the possibility of a connection between this story to the later "RB" material highly bizarre to be believed; this was before I actually could find more to read about the history of the Peanuts comic book, my only reference for it at the time being the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. Luckily, when I randomly got a biography of Jimmy Stewart at the library years later, and I read what year TSoSL was released, I remembered my comic. With another look at it, I then realized where the reference point in the comic book likely came from.

Charles Schulz did not swipe an idea from his former employee in 1965; it's merely the most oddest of coincidences.

Speaking of odd, on the next page of the story, Linus notices the man in the picture is wearing a turban; maybe one of these will help him to fly, so....

Please don't show this image to a
Republican up for re-election!
Of course, he unwittingly uses his blanket, so when he wonders where his "magic carpet" escaped to, Lucy points at the top of his head! Another attempt at lift-off with a fan running at full speed doesn't work, either. Happily, the problem gets solved, thanks to the "American ingenuity" of Charlie Brown:

Keeping it trivial....

Fang Shih-yu, Shaolin Temple.


  1. It seems pretty crappy that Schulz denied his own son credit for his idea. Meh! It's just not right.

  2. As the sole creator of Peanuts, Charles Schulz had this thing going on in his head about getting ideas from somebody other than himself. A lot of this was the stuff of ego and pride, and it must have given him some anxiety.

    However, this was not limited to suggestions for gags. In the case of Charlie Francis Brown (A co-worker from Art Instruction, Inc.), Schulz borrowed his first and last name for his round-headed character, and when the strip became a hit, Brown began to embellish on his contribution to pop culture. He would go on to claim he himself was the inspiration for Charlie Brown, giving Schulz many a headache!

    David Michaelis details Schulz's motivations in the biography. It's a great read, achillesgirl! Check it out sometime, my dear friend! :o)