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When We First Met – When Did Lucy First Pull the Football Away From Charlie Brown?

Every week we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore. Not major stuff like “the first appearance of Superman,” but rather, “the first time someone said, ‘Avengers Assemble!'” or “the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny” or “the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth” or “the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter.” Stuff like that. Here is an archive of all the When We First Met features so far! Check ‘em out!

Today, we do our first spotlight on a comic book STRIP. We start with one of the most acclaimed strips of all-time, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts!

Here is the first strip from October 2, 1950…

The two other characters were major characters in the beginning, but not later on (Shermy and Patty).

In the third strip, we first meet Snoopy…

It was not until March 3, 1952 that we met Lucy…

and on September 19th of that year, her brother Linus…

And on November 16th, we get the first example (of what turned out to be MANY) of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown…

Thanks to John Harris of Roasted Peanuts for making it a lot easier to find each of these strips. You rock, John!


So all these years, Lucy was really preventing CB from falling headfirst (after his one disasterous attempt in the last two panels). Maybe there was a hidden subtext to “Peanuts” where all of Lucy’s actions were secret attempt to save Charlie Brown.
Next you’ll tell me that Marcie and Pepperment Patty had crushes on CB instead of each other…What?! They did?!

There is something just so timeless and classic about those early Peanut strips. Reading them right now in this article, I’m still chuckling at Brown’s depression, kids hatred for him and the early style of drawing of Charlie Brown as an actual child.

Stich Tuesday

July 23, 2012 at 5:56 am

After taking up basic Philosophy back in school, The football strip turned out to be teaching me about Existentialism and the Absurd all these years.

@Palomides, Actually, I read somewhere that Patty did have a crush on Charlie Brown. As for Patty/ Marcie, fandom has handled that well enough in making them thoroughly lesbian lol

Actually it was indicated in the strip (and TV specials) that both Patty and Marcie had a crush on him.
But I agree that public opinion largely erased that fact in favor of the lesbian theme.

You’re chuckling at the kids’ hatred of him? That always bothered me as a kid, that everyone was so mean to him. It’s why I always liked Linus.

To clarify: the Patty pictured above is not the same as Peppermint Patty, who was introduced many years after this Patty had disappeared, and had a very different personality and look.

Patty definitely had a crush for him, but Marcie actually says it out (lesbian subtext is on the eye of the beholder).

Recently read also the later strip where Lucy does not pull the football, but of course that doesn’t work out so well either (Charlie kicks her hand and she ends up with a cast, so she was right all along).

seems now from that last trip that Lucy really was not trying to pull the football away just for the fun to her of making charlie brown fall flat on his face but charlie brown was doing that naturaly . plus interesting how the characters looked when the strip started

Thanks! These strips actually seem a lot more interesting than the bland Peanuts I grew up with in the 70s.

BTW, why does almost everyone dislike/hate CB? I also found this to be a very disquieting and inexplicable part of the strip,but it’s evident that it was (literally) there from the beginning.

Cole Moore Odell

July 23, 2012 at 9:03 am

Charlie Brown is disliked because he projects weakness and a staggering lack of self-confidence. People treat him like a loser because he’s hopelessly fixated on being a loser, and caring too much what others think. He’s his own worst enemy. (Well, the kite-eating tree doesn’t seem to like him much either. But again, that’s him setting himself up to lose.) I think CB represents, at least in part, our human tendency toward self-defeating self-pity.

Much of Lucy’s insensitive taunting of CB could be read as her trying to get him to grow a spine. Sure, she always pulls the ball away, but he always sets himself up for constant failure by trying to kick it anyway, on her terms rather than setting his own.

Cole Moore Odell

July 23, 2012 at 9:27 am

I should point out that the sad sack portrayal of Charlie Brown only developed over time. In the early 50s, CB was more of a slightly annoying prankster figure (and portrayed as a younger kid)–if the kids in the neighborhood disliked him, it was more likely because of that, and because of basic, freefloating childhood cruelty.

Really, it’s worth checking out (at least reading, and I’d say owning) all of Fantagraphics’ Complete Peanuts collections, of which 17 out of 25 have now been published, each collecting 2 years of the strip in its entirely. One man, writing and drawing a strip for 50 straight years is an amazing achievement, let alone a strip that was of all-time-great-comic quality for much of its run. You’ll see how each of these characters (and the tone of the strip itself) slowly but significantly evolves over the years.

That kid in the first panel strongly resembles Stewie from Family Guy.

I always thought that Charlie Brown was supposed to be an Everyman figure, i.e. most of us, during at one point or another in our lives, have felt exactly like Charlie Brown, some more often than others. I can certainly identify with Charlie Brown.

At the same time, Charlie Brown is a fictionalized version of Charles Schulz. Charlie Brown has the same first name as his creator, they both had an uncannily smart beagle for a pet, Schulz’s father was a barber like Charlie Brown’s, Schulz had a crush on a red-headed girl that was not reciprocated. If Schulz wrote Charlie Brown as a perennial loser lacking in self-esteem & confidence, it does make you wonder how much of his own insecurities he was projecting onto his comic strip counterpart.

Cole Moore Odell

July 23, 2012 at 10:42 am

Every character in Peanuts embodied a part of Schulz’s personality to some degree–Lucy his ability to be cruel, Linus his faith and patience, etc. Charlie Brown is where most of his self-doubt seemed to be reflected. Schulz evinced some serious doubts about his own success and worth as a person in any number of interviews throughout his career. He once wrote “”When I was small I believed that my face was so bland that people would not recognize me if they saw me some place other than where they normally would.” Sounds pretty Charlie Brownish to me.

I missed Bloom County for awhile after it ended, I missed The Far Side for a few years after Gary Larson took an early retirement, I missed Calvin and Hobbes for a long time after Bill Watterson decided to end the series, but dammit I STILL miss Good Ol’ Charlie Schulz and Peanuts!

Cole is so right, those Complete Peanuts collections are simply wonderful, and really good value for the level of entertainment they provide, and the achievement they represent.

I always wondered why Shermy never worked out, and why the Patty name was recycled.

What the heck are all those kids doing playing outside without parents? They should be inside playing video games or being driven two blocks down the street to the park for their soccer camp!

mdk – You can read reprints of all those strips daily at GoComics.com

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was go down to the local library and check out the collections of newspaper comic strips (I think it’s one of the biggest reasons why I ended up being a cartoonist), but I remember picking up one of the early Peanuts collections and just being blown away by how different they all looked. Snoopy especially surprised me. In the early stuff he actually looked like a dog, or even a puppy, before he developed his trademark big, round snout.

To be honest, he never really looked like a beagle though.

Charlie Brown was emo decades before emo even existed.

It’s great to see those old Peanuts strips. It makes me want to pull my old Peanuts books (most bought dirt cheap at a garage sale) and read through them. I’m surprised the football thing happened so early on. Heck, I didn’t even think football became all that popular until the 1958 championship game between the Colts and Giants. At least, that’s what the sportswriters waxing poetic have led me to believe.

Professional football didn’t become popular until then. College football was already extremely popular.

Cole, you’re being much too hard on Charlie Brown.

Cole Moore Odell

July 24, 2012 at 7:15 am

Really? I’ve always thought that my reaction to the Charlie Brown presented in the bulk of the strip (vs. the cartoons, ads, etc.) was pretty typical–sympathy mixed with a bit of exasperation. Come on, kid! Get out of your own way! Stop obsessing over feeling sorry for yourself! Forget the red-haired girl! Marcie is right there telling you she loves you!

Good point, Brian. Somehow I’d forgotten about college football! Notre Dame and the Four Horsemen and all that. It’s hard to believe there was a time when college football was so much more popular than pro football. Then again, it’s kinda hard to believe that boxing and horse racing were once immensely popular.

“That kid in the first panel strongly resembles Stewie from Family Guy.”

Now I can’t reread that first strip without hearing Stewie’s voice saying the lines. Sounds like something he’d say.

One of the really interesting things about the Peanuts strip is how many characters initially appeared as toddlers and babies before growing into peers of Charlie Brown. Lucy was a wide-eyed toddler when she first appeared, often costumed in onesies. Linus, Schroeder, Sally and of course Rerun all started out as nonspeaking infants in diapers. It seems like Charles Schulz would come up with a bunch of baby gags, but once he ran out of infant jokes he’d age them up.

What db said. I’ve noticed that reading the early strips too. Schroeder I think shaped up into the character I knew (started reading them in the late sixties) fastest, getting his toy piano very quickly.
regarding football, I notice in the first Fantagraphics book (and I recommend them too) or two they play a lot of golf, so maybe Schultz thought that was funnier. There’s a definite sense of him trying this, then that in the early strips, before they firmed up into the version I knew as a kid.

Lucy’s football-handling here seems genuinely innocent (she is, as noted, a baby more or less) compared to her mindgames of later years.

I’m still partial to the reworking of it that Azzarello and Chiang did in Architecture and Mortality —

Lucy pulls the ball away — but Charlie is apparently so engrossed in his kick — his foot swings up and clocks her right in the teeth. It wasn’t done in Schulz style — but it’s very obvious who the boy and girl were.

As a note, a version of the football gag was done earlier, on November 14, 1951, with the character of Violet in place of Lucy.

[…] Schultz_first seen on November 16, 1952: http://peanuts.wikia.com/wiki/Football_gag and http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2012/07/22/when-we-first-met-when-did-lucy-first-pull-the-f…; Definition of Sequester: Graphic by dan4kent. (1) Congressional Salaries and Allowances by Ida A. […]

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