For a while, I was reading "3eanuts", a website that prints only the first three panels of old Peanuts cartoons. "Charles Schulz's Peanuts comics," the site's text says, "often conceal the existential despair of their world with a closing joke at the characters' expense." This was not always the case.
In the very first Peanuts strip ever published, a boy and a girl sit on a step by the sidewalk. The boy says, "Well! Here comes ol' Charlie Brown." As Charlie Brown walks by (not yet wearing his famous jagged-stripe shirt), the boy says, "Good ol' Charlie Brown. ... yes, sir!" In the third panel, Charlie Brown has left the frame. "Good ol' Charlie Brown," the unnamed boy trails off. Then, with a look of fierce disgust: "How I hate him!" Already, young children hide their contempt behind a facade of collegiality.
In the second strip, a little girl reflects on the niceness of little girls for the first two panels, punches a baffled Charlie Brown in the face in the third, and skips along again in the fourth panel, untroubled by the gap between her actions and her assertions. The third strip depicts the same little girl dumping water on a flower-carrying Snoopy, ruining his flower and leaving him wetly sad. Even the simple act of watering flowers can become a vehicle for cruelty.
In early Peanuts, despair is the closing joke.