I publish things. I also research things. And really, the two efforts are often one and the same: I research stuff and find that it’s worth publishing; I publish stuff and in the process I’m doing research.
That all just happened for me with a syndicated comics panel called “Spot” which was drawn by George Booth. Now, these days we know Booth for his more-than-four-century run as a cartoonist for The New Yorker, where he did a lot of cartoons about cats and especially dogs. But people don’t know about Spot, which launched in 1956 and lasted less than a year. It’s not surprising that folks don’t know about it; it was in very few newspapers for a very short time. What was the title character doing in the 1950s?
He was, by default, walking on two legs.
He dreamt about being a fighter pilot.
All of these are things that Snoopy would not do until the 1960s. (He experimented with standing up, but it was not his default mode for quite a while.)
Am I saying that Schulz took inspiration from this? No. This is more a slight “hmmm?” than “hey!”. The most interesting aspect is the up-on-two-legs thing, and while I cannot think of any earlier examples of this in comic strips (four-legged critters in a human milieu walking upright — obviously, it was different for the creature-centered world of a Mickey Mouse), it was already a thing in animation. And there’s a real question of whether Schulz even encountered “Spot”. I’ve so far only discovered two papers that ran the series, which probably explains its short life, neither of them particularly close to where Sparky lived. However, it was distributed by United Features Syndicate, the same folks who distributed Peanuts, and thus it isn’t too wild to think that the syndicate may have shown Schulz the series in some form.
If you’re curious about “Spot”, my new book – the first-ever collection of these panels – is available on Amazon… over 150 cartoons for a mere ten-spot!