The 4-panel strip that changed my mind is from 1 February 1954, and comes early on in Somerset House’s new exhibition – Good Grief, Charlie Brown! – running until 3 March 2019.
(i) In the first frame, Charlie Brown is standing, arms by his sides, looking on as a friend plays with a train set. Charlie’s mouth is a straight line, and the set spans the entire living room. It looks like it would take Charlie many strides to walk the track’s diameter.
(ii) The next panel shows Charlie putting on his coat ready to go home, his face unchanged.
(iii) Charlie is walking home. There’s a scratchy flourish of energy in the pen-strokes of long grass behind him. Alas, no zing for Charlie. His hands are in his pockets. He’s looking straight ahead.
(iv) We see Charlie in his living room. Here, the perspective and the use of blank space make the sofa feel both huge and far away. Charlie is sitting on the floor, hands on his knees, looking at his tiny loop of a train set, like a drifter huddled next to the dwindling flames of a burn barrel. His mouth is still a tiny straight line. He has eyebrows in this frame. They are a fraction drooped. Not sad, but blue.
In another strip, Snoopy wishes he were a snake so he could scare Linus. He makes himself very flat and hisses. Linus continues reading his book. Sigh. Time and again, this is the way the story goes: ‘I wish this aspect of my life was different.’ Beat. ‘It’s not.’