Marcie or Clara? The great debate
by Derrick Bang
In the summer of 1968, Peppermint Patty
becomes tent monitor for a trio of little girls, during a
summer camp session. The girls are introduced on
June 18, 1968: Sophie, Clara and Shirley. (The cartoon, one panel of which is reproduced here, is reprinted in "You're You, Charlie Brown.") Clara bears
a strong resemblance to the character we would later
know as Marcie, with two key distinctions: she's
shorter (and therefore younger), and her eyes show
through the lenses of her glasses.
Peppermint Patty returns to summer camp in 1971,
and in the strip dated September 20, 1971, she meets
a still smaller -- and therefore younger -- girl who now
looks even more like Marcie, because her eyes no longer
show through her glasses. She also displays the quite
Marcie-like trait of addressing Peppermint Patty as
"Sir." She remains unnamed in this sequence,
however, and does not reveal her name until an
adventure later that year, when she visits Peppermint
Patty at home for a spirited round of Ha-Ha Herman.
Peppermint Patty refers to her as "that weird little
kid from camp" -- once again suggesting a difference
in ages -- and Marcie finally gives her name a few strips
later, when she identifies herself to Sally in the strip
dated October 11, 1971. (All these strips are in "Ha Ha Herman, Charlie Brown.")
Okay, now the speculation: we all know that Marcie
and Peppermint Patty have "become" the same age,
since they're in the same class in school. This is not
unusual in Schulz's world; characters "rapidly age"
all the time, so as to better fit in with the other kids.
So, on the subject of age, it's certainly possible that
"Clara" could have become "Marcie."
More to the point, if Marcie is "that weird little kid
from camp," there's a strong suggestion that she
may, indeed, be a slightly different Clara. We cannot
escape the fact that Clara and Marcie look so much
alike, and this has never really happened before...except
with Linus and Rerun, who as brothers should look
similar. Schulz could have changed his mind about
Clara/Marcie's name, and why not? It wouldn't be
the most unusual thing he'd ever done.
But there is evidence to suggest that Clara and Marcie are two
different characters: the fact that they appear at the
same time -- although never together in the same
panel -- in a much later storyline. Peppermint Patty
and Marcie both become summer camp swimming
instructors in 1987, and in the strip dated July 16, 1987,
Peppermint Patty shows the camp lake to her students...
one of whom is identified as Clara a few strips later.
(She's at the far left in the panel above, and all these strips can be found in "If Beagles Could Fly.")
But I remain unconvinced. This newer Clara looks
nothing like the original Clara; she no longer has
glasses at all, and now she has a bow on her head.
Yes, the hairstyle is similar to Marcie's, but still...
So, in effect, we have a choice: either Marcie's name
was changed, or Clara's entire appearance was changed.