Thursday, October 04, 2007

Peanuts Mystery Solved!!

One of the downsides of using the internets as an outlet is that when posting slows, it can seem as if it’s because the author is not doing anything, rather than the opposite. I’ve been so busy my DVR hard drive is almost full of tee vee shows I’ve yet to watch (and I do love me some tee vee). As I rush to get this post online before heading out of town for a few days, I realize that there are a ton of things begging for ranting, but they’ll have to wait. I will say I’ve spent the past week and a half doing the premiere episode of a new comic strip, PRINCE STREET NEWS, which will make its debut in the next issue of COMIC BOOK ARTIST Magazine…. More on that later.

I’ve been promising to reveal a 40 year old mystery for over a month now, and it’s time I give. I would wager that I cradle A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS as close to my geeky breast as anyone on the planet (I could stage a one-man show of the darn thing… just ask my friends). But there was always something that slightly nagged at me. There are three kids in the show who were unidentified. Who were the twin girls and the spiky haired kid who does that shoulder-head-bob dance at the school play? Were they just unnamed extra characters used to fill up space? Or did they have identities?

Well, Volume 7 of Fantagraphics’ indispensable COMPLETE PEANUTS (1963-64, covering, ahem, the year I was born) has solved the riddle. On Monday, Sept. 30, 1963, Linus and Charlie Brown meet the spiky haired kid… whose name is… 5. Actually, it’s 555 95472, but everyone calls him 5 for short.

And the twins? They’re 5’s sisters, whom we meet some weeks later on October 17th. Their names? 3 and 4. (Predating SEINFELD’s gag about George naming his kid 7 by decades).

The numerically-named siblings were Charles Schulz’s commentary on the ever-increasing use of numbers to identify individuals, from Social Security to zip codes to expanded phone numbers. There are a few funny strips surrounding the kids (such as the one in which Snoopy, who has problems with names, isn’t sure if it’s 5 or V), but it seems as if Schulz came to feel that they were one-note jokes. They didn’t disappear from the strip altogether (5 makes appearances through the end of the book), but, as in the Christmas cartoon, they quickly become relegated to tertiary status in the Peanuts universe.

It’s also interesting to note that their last name, 95472 is their zip code… which would place them in Sebastopol, California. So, did the kids just move from the west coast to Charlie Brown’s unnamed, but very seasonal neighborhood? Or does it snow in Sebastapol California? Hmm…

Only future volumes will tell how long 3, 4 and 5 stayed in the ‘hood, but it’s nice to now be able to fully identify every single character in A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS. Although in all honesty, I can’t tell 3 and 4 apart at all.