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Monday, October 29, 2007

Besides losing, the running (and falling) gag is a pure example of another element that has worked so well for Schulz: repetition…Nothing else in Peanuts is so mechanically repetitious as the football joke….One newspaper editor canceled Peanuts, complaining that the author did the same things over and over. He was forced to reinstate the comic strip, with an apology, when his readers set up a postal howl.

—Rheta Grimsley Johnson, author of Good Grief: The Story of Charles M. Schulz
In my youth I always agreed with the newspaper editor on this, which is why I think it's so important to distinguish between the very good early Schulz and his long decline. Ironically I think it's the introduction of some of the so-called "twelve essential devices" that marks the moment of disaster:
1. The kite-eating tree.
2. Schroeder’s music
3. Linus’s blanket
4. Lucy’s psychiatry booth
5. Snoopy’s doghouse
6. Snoopy himself
7. The Red Baron
8. Woodstock
9. The baseball games
10. The football episodes
11. The Great Pumpkin
12. The little red-haired girl
These became the crutches that destroyed the strip. Examples and more commentary at Austin Kleon.