First appearance

Modern appearance

Marcie or Clara? The great debate

by Derrick Bang

First appearance

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.

Second appearance

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.

New appearance

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.

Or both.

And there the matter stands: a mystery, pure and simple.

What do you think?

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