When I gave my talk at Beaglefest last month, I spoke mainly of the upcoming Complete Peanuts volume 26, showing off the things that would be included in that volume, as well as some of the things that wouldn’t be. And I did display off one of my favorite spot illustrations that I had found during the process of gathering materials, the image of Lucy all dolled up, as seen here. It was used as part of the Ford Falcon print ad campaigns of the early 1960s.
After the talk, the one and only Kathleen Shea (well, actually, I imagine there are other Kathleen Sheas in this world, but the other ones didn’t make all those lovely quilts displayed in her book Peanuts Quilted Celebrations!) came up and asked me if that animal she’s wearing might be a ferret. I reckoned that it might – while such full-body stoles were more commonly made with foxes and minks, some were made from ferrets, and I could see how one could see that particular head as ferret-y. But I did not voice the odd suspicion that I’d previously formed around that image.
But last night, I happened to show that image to a few other comicsers, and a couple of them had the same reaction that I did: it’s a jeep.
No, not the military vehicle… the Popeye character. Back in 1936, E.C. Segar introduced into his strip “Thimble Theater” a magical, four-dimensional animal known as Eugene the jeep. Now, Schulz was a “Thimble Theater” reader; he used to draw Popeye on the other kids notebooks at school. And he certainly knew about Eugene. A Washington Post piece cites him talking about how the introduction of Eugene was destructive to the dynamic of the strip.
So perhaps Schulz had drawn Eugene for his school friends, and that practice influenced how he draw certain types of critters. Or maybe, just maybe, this was Schulz getting revenge on Eugene for lowering the quality of “Thimble Theater” by killing him off and using his dead carcass as a decoration.