Going through some files recently, I came across something that I wrote, showed a few people for feedback, and then filed away.
Several years back, BOOM! Studios, a comic book publisher, began publishing original Peanuts comic book stories. While Charles Schulz’s comic strip has been left alone (except for coloring the dailies), there have been some original work (like some Hallmark books) since his death in February 2000. As a Peanuts fan, I wondered what I might do, so over a few days I gave the matter some thought and, in late November 2012, wrote what’s essentially a proposal for a story format: Snoopy as The World Famous Time Traveler, ie. Doctor Who. Once introduced in a “secret origin of the World Famous Time Traveler,” then it could be picked up for more stories down the road.
As I mentioned, this work sat in my files. BOOM!, I was given to understand, wasn’t looking for material, so I filed it away. I didn’t even take a stab at a script. I’ve said to people over the years that, despite working in the comics industry, writing for comics isn’t an ambition of mine. I’m not sure that’s part of my skill set. (Though I would write Doctor Who/DuckTales in a heartbeat.)
Nonetheless, the proposal might be of some interest. It’s fannish, but a good sort of fannish. Without further ado…
The World Famous Time Traveler
A Peanuts Comic Book Story Proposal
Snoopy has a rich imaginative life, and it has manifested in a number of fantasy personae. The most famous, of course, is the World War I Flying Ace, but there are others — the French Legionnaire, the World Famous Attorney, the Great Detective, the Revolutionary War Soldier, to name but a few. "The World Famous Time Traveler" introduces us to another of Snoopy’s imaginary selves, a time traveling character who battles evil throughout time and space in imitation of a certain British television series. And like Snoopy’s other fantasy selves, the World Famous Time Traveler will involve some Peanuts characters as his traveling companions within the fantasy, while the other characters will carry on with their normal activities when his adventures intersect with theirs.
The World Famous Time Traveler. Snoopy approaches his adventures as the World Famous Time Traveler with the same energy and imagination he uses in his other fantasies. He narrates his adventures in the third person — "Here’s the World Famous Time Traveler…" — and describes the setting he imagines. His doghouse becomes his time machine. His location, perfectly mundane to other characters, becomes something fantastic. Charlie Brown’s sandlot becomes the Polo Grounds, circa 1908. Ace Elementary school becomes a reeducation facility for political dissidents in the 51st century. The Brick Wall becomes an alien quarry.
A note on costuming: The outfit worn by the World Famous Time Traveler should be inspired by that certain British television series, but it should not be based directly on any specific actor from that series. In other words, the floppy hat and scarf ensemble is right out, as is the fez and bowtie. Ideally, the costume would suggest Snoopy’s inspiration — an Edwardian jacket, a matching hat, a walking stick or umbrella, and brainy specs. The costume should hint that Snoopy imagines himself as that televised time traveler but it’s vague enough that he could just as easily be the Time Traveler from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.
Rerun Van Pelt. One of the World Famous Time Traveler’s traveling companions. Rerun, naturally, wants to play with Snoopy (since he wants a dog so badly), and he almost gets the idea of what Snoopy is imagining as the World Famous Time Traveler, but he’s often slightly off in hilarious fashion — if Snoopy imagines that they’re visiting 19th-century Paris for some simple tourism, Rerun imagines that there’s a 40-foot tall wooden robot rampaging along the Seine — causing Snoopy to be exasperated with him.
The Little Pigtailed Girl. The other traveling companion of the World Famous Time Traveler, the Little Pigtailed Girl wants to play with Rerun, even though she thinks he’s a little weird, but she doesn’t understand why Rerun is just as interested in following Snoopy around. (And she certainly doesn’t want to go inside Snoopy’s time machine… err, doghouse.) Whatever Snoopy and Rerun imagine, the Little Pigtailed Girl doesn’t imagine it at all; when they see the Seine and a giant wooden robot, she sees a creek in the woods beyond the school. In short, the Little Pigtailed Girl punctures the fantasy and wryly comments upon it. However, she is not without an imagination of her own.
Marcie. While Marcie does not travel with the World Famous Time Traveler, she and the World Famous Time Traveler have a close relationship. Uniquely among the Peanuts gang, Marcie participates in Snoopy’s World Famous Time Traveler fantasy when her path crosses with Snoopy’s, much as she participates in the World War I Flying Ace fantasy as the French Lass, and her perception of the fantasy is closer to Snoopy’s than it is to Rerun’s. As someone within the fantasy, perhaps she was a star pupil on the time traveler’s homeworld and traveled with him in the past. Perhaps she is an ally the World Famous Time Traveler and his friends can call upon in the present. Perhaps she will be a romantic interest for the World Famous Time Traveler in the future. Whatever her relationship with the World Famous Time Traveler, Marcie both a trusted and enigmatic figure in the fantasy.
Spike. Like Marcie, Spike will participate in Snoopy’s World Famous Time Traveler fantasy. The World Famous Time Traveler’s older brother, Spike has been exiled to a desert world (which we recognize as Needles) for reasons unknown. The World Famous Time Traveler may travel to Spike’s desert home on his own (since the journey is too dangerous to risk the lives of his traveling companions), or Spike may find a way to temporarily escape his exile and visit the World Famous Time Traveler.
The Kite-Eating Tree. An evil from before the dawn of time. When Charlie Brown loses another kite to the Kite-Eating Tree, the World Famous Time Traveler and his traveling companions attempt to defeat it once and for all. But the Kite-Eating Tree is not easily defeated.
The Cat Next Door/World War II. While never seen, the Cat Next Door is one of the World Famous Time Traveler’s oldest foes and the one that poses the greatest physical threat. The Cat Next Door terrorizes Woodstock and his friends throughout time and space, and the World Famous Time Traveler often risks his life to save them.
Faron. Frieda’s cat. Unlike The Cat Next Door, Faron can be seen. Also unlike The Cat Next Door (who poses an actual physical threat to the World Famous Time Traveler), Faron presents no threat at all, and yet the World Famous Time Traveler is deathly afraid of Faron. (The reasons are complicated, but Faron’s owner Frieda once reported Snoopy to the Head Beagle for being un-beagle-like, and he was convicted of the crime. Shortly thereafter, Frieda acquired Faron.) While the cat appears harmless, the suspicion persists as the World Famous Time Traveler believes that Faron is actually a spy employed by his own people to keep him in line.
Belle’s Son. The nephew of the World Famous Time Traveler, he is an officious, unctuous sort. The World Famous Time Traveler suspects that his nephew sends the Head Beagle disapproving reports of his activities in battling evil across time and space. The World Famous Time Traveler treats his nephew with barely disguised contempt, and the feeling is clearly mutual. A bureaucratic threat, basically.
The Great Pumpkin. The World Famous Time Traveler and Rerun had an adventure that involved the Great Pumpkin, but the details are sketchy, and when quizzed about it the World Famous Time Traveler has uncomfortable thoughts and Rerun doesn’t want to speak of it. Indeed, it’s entirely possible that the adventure may have been nothing more than one of Linus’ fruitless waits in the pumpkin patch. Thus, the exact nature of the Great Pumpkin remains a mystery.
Mailboxes. To the World Famous Time Traveler, the domed USPS mailboxes are robotic alien invaders from the planet Orca. Personal mailboxes, like Charlie Brown’s, are native to Earth but in service to the invaders from planet Orca.
The Time Machine. The interior of Snoopy’s doghouse is infinitely vast. Per Wikipedia, the doghouse contains "a carpeted foyer, a den, a library, a guest room, a stairway, a basement, a television, a bed (although he sleeps on the roof), a pool table, and an original Van Gogh" along with "a table tennis table, a mural (painted by Linus), a shower, a cedar closet, a grandfather clock, and a whirlpool bath." There is also the control room for the World Famous Time Traveler’s time machine, a futuristic room where the grandfather clock, which doubles as the command console of the time machine, is kept. Rerun is amazed by the time machine, but the Little Pigtailed Girl is not impressed.
Much like the World War I Flying Ace strips or 1994’s D-Day comic strips, the World Famous Time Traveler stories have a mixture of fantasy imagery (usually when the viewpoint character is the World Famous Time Traveler, Rerun, or Marcie) and real-world imagery (usually when the viewpoint character is almost anyone else, including the Little Pigtailed Girl).
Obviously, the World Famous Time Traveler needs to start traveling in time with his traveling companions. But how do they come together?
Charlie Brown grapples with the Kite-Eating Tree. Rerun and the Little Pigtailed Girl rush to his aid, but Charlie Brown, tied up from the Kite-Eating Tree’s branches with his own kite string, tells them to stay away. Then the World Famous Time Traveler arrives on the scene, and with the help of Rerun and the Little Pigtailed Girl he is able to free Charlie Brown from the tree. Then Rerun asks Charlie Brown if he and the Little Pigtailed Girl can play with Snoopy, and the World Famous Time Traveler thinks that perhaps he can use assistants in his travels.
Once they begin "traveling," the World Famous Time Traveler and his traveling companions visit familiar locations around town, and they imagine them in fantastical ways.
A visit to Charlie Brown’s sandlot becomes a pitcher’s duel between Three-Finger Brown and Christy Mathewson at the Polo Grounds.
Tracking the Cat Next Door leads them to a puzzling encounter with Marcie.
Later, during school hours, the World Famous Time Traveler tries to liberate his traveling companions from the 51st-century re-education facility with hilarious results.
Finally, with the help of his traveling companions and Marcie, the World Famous Time Traveler must free Woodstock from the clutches of the robotic aliens of the planet Orca.
If "The World Famous Time Traveler" is an eight-page story, the introduction of the concept (the Kite-Eating Tree incident) would be two or three pages, and each subsequent adventure would be a single page.