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Comic Strip of the Day: The Origins of the Great Pumpkin

There were a lot of cartoons today about the grownups eating the candy and other stalwarts of the season, which kind of made me think maybe after five or six years cartoonists should stop drawing Halloween cartoons and simply rotate the ones in their archives.

Halloween cartoons are like obituary cartoons: They’re expected, but they’re not expected to be good, and so here we are and there you go.

And, boy, am I burned out on politics, plus those cartoonists need a little catch-up time to process the latest developments.

Besides, I’d like to keep the horror show in focus until the Elections, but if you hammer too hard too often, it just becomes numbing.


And then I got to Pearls Before Swine.

Pastis isn’t the only cartoonist who riffed on the scary nature of the news of the day, but he’s the only one who riffed on the news consumers of the day and boiled it down to three panels and made it both funny and scary.

So that pretty much covered it all.


And then I came to Bliss, and, while Harry Bliss is not the first cartoonist to riff on the Great Pumpkin — Francesco Marciuliano has nearly made a franchise of it — it struck me that the Great Pumpkin is pretty firmly embedded in our culture.

But the caption brought home that, for anyone a whole lot younger than me, the Great Pumpkin is part of the TV specials that I was too old for.

My Great Pumpkin is a print creation, which then made me wonder when I first heard the word.

And so, O Best Beloved, here are the strips from October 24, 1959 through November 3.

Granted, this has nothing to do with the Great Pumpkin, but when I went back to find a starting point, I found this on the Saturday before, and it is certainly irresistible despite its irrelevance to the quest.


So here, on Monday, Oct 26, is the first mention of the Great Pumpkin.


By Wednesday, Linus is full of the Halloween spirit, but note that he doesn’t even mention the Great Pumpkin. This is Peanuts, not Seinfeld, and so there’s an overall concept being built that doesn’t involve sledgehammering the same clever notion over and over.

Schulz was a watchmaker.


Now, here it comes again, and now the notion of “sincerity” is injected, a factor that will become more important in future years but is a bit of a toss-away at the moment.


Something else interesting is that Linus started as a baby but quickly leapt to the point of taking Shermy’s place as Charlie Brown’s buddy, a role he shared with another former baby, Schroeder.

But he still remained Lucy’s naive, innocent little brother, and there’s a bit of a flip here because her advice and teaching usually proceed from her own odd imagination, while today (Oct 30), for once, she’s telling him something that happens to be correct.


And now she’s completely grossed the little fellow out. And, by the way, there are a lot of cartoons about how disgusting the insides of a pumpkin are, but this takes on additional significance given the build-up of how Linus sees the potential for pumpkins.

On some level, she might as well be field-dressing a reindeer.


And so the denouement, but note that, while Linus has been disappointed, he didn’t sit out in a pumpkin patch the first year. He simply believed, and was let down, and that process from baby to buddy took a giant step.


And so Linus learned a very valuable lesson: When even Charlie Brown is being a dick, you can still rely on Snoopy for a little sympathy.


He also makes a pretty good set of bookends for the sequence.


But wait! There’s more!

Rhymes With Orange makes a witch gag that could have run anytime but is apropos for October 31, and it reminded me of a different misguided-stork story that, for some reason, always ran on the Halloween edition of Walt Disney despite having no connection to the holiday.

I think the connection was that, together with Donald Duck’s Halloween encounter with Witch Hazel, it happened to be the right length to fill out the program length.


So here’s the Donald Duck part.


And here’s the part with the misguided stork. As a tiny person, I laughed at the Donald Duck cartoon, but I absolutely adored this one.


Some decades later, I had a ridgeback I swore was related to Lambert, a gentle, slow-moving kindly fellow. I even sang the song to him as we walked along in the woods, though in affection more than mockery.

However, after several years of being dismissed as a lovable doofus, he had his Lambert moment: A German shepherd attacked our puppy and my boy showed that he could transmute into the lion-hunter when necessary, and it was instantaneous and it was inspiring and it was also kind of scary.

But then he just as quickly returned to normal, as all loving, protective giants should.

He never so much as growled again.

(There’s an apt political metaphor in there some place.)


Meanwhile, we’ll have to wait about six months for this guy to finally find a gig that works for him.


(Note: If you enjoyed today’s history lesson, head over to
DD Degg’s piece about cartoonist autobiographies.)

Community Comments

#1 Kip Williams
@ 9:20 am

Quiet, kids! Bil’s trying to come up with an idea for a strip! I said QUIET! Oh, come on, how’s he supposed to have a good idea with you kids making noise all the…

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