Charles M. Schulz was born on this day November 26 in the year 1922. I am not sure that many people would list the comic strip PEANUTS as great literature, but I do. Here is a definition of great literature. Great literature not only has a great story and great characters but helps teach us something about life that sticks with us. Those lessons can last a life time. Charles Schulz achieved all of this with Peanuts.
Schulz was once asked “If he was Charlie Brown? His answer quite simple, He wasn’t Charlie Brown, he was all of his characters. I think that was the magic of Peanuts. It was an expression of the complete human experience. Sometimes we are Charlie Brown frustrated neglected and rejected and on other days we are Snoopy care free and ready for the next adventure. Some days we are as obnoxious as Lucy and on others we are as thoughtful as Linus.
I think all of us that grew up in the 1960s owe a debt to Mr. Schulz as he reminded us of “What Christmas is all about”. What it would be like to have our first crush and that winning isn’t everything. We have taken those lessons and passed them onto our kids. Some of us have passed them on to our grandchildren.
We know that every year we are sitting down to spend Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter with The Peanuts Gang. One evening around Christmas in the 1960s, people were sitting in an off Broadway theater to see a live production of YOU’RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN, They were sitting in a movie theater to see A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN. And they were getting comfortable in front of their TV sets to see A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS. Schulz creation dominated stage screen and TV all in one night. Schulz has affected both the academic and theological arenas. His comic strips can be found in college text books as well as theological works. What follows is a short biography of a man that I believe has left a legacy for all time.
Charles Monroe Schulz (November 26, 1922 – February 12, 2000). He was nicknamed Sparky, which was actually the name of his first dog. He fought in The Second World War and then set out to be a cartoonist. All of his young life Schulz was fascinated by the funny papers, which were the part of the newspapers where comic strips were published. In his teens he did comics for his church youth group which reflected much of the humor he would later develop in the Peanuts strip. His father was a barber , his mother was a housewife who died as Schulz was entering the army. Later Charlie Browns father would be a barber.
Charles Schulz Peanuts was first published in 1950 but the title was not his own. The publishing company named the strip which was forever a disappointment to him. He gave us many things through his strip. He coined the phrase “security blanket.” He gave us the Great Pumpkin which gave a new addition to Halloween. He taught us what Happiness is… as well as giving Beethoven more publicity that he had for over 100 years.
Schulz is widely regarded as one of the most influential cartoonists of all time, cited as a major influence by many later cartoonists. Calvin and Hobbes-creator Bill Watterson wrote in 2007: “Peanuts pretty much defines the modern comic strip, so even now it’s hard to see it with fresh eyes. The clean, minimalist drawings, the sarcastic humor, the unflinching emotional honesty, the inner thoughts of a household pet, the serious treatment of children, the wild fantasies, the merchandising on an enormous scale — in countless ways, Schulz blazed the wide trail that most every cartoonist since has tried to follow.”
Schulz wrote and drew The Peanuts comic strip for 50 years. He did not have a staff. He had a drawing table pens and ink. Many cartoonists use others to draw and write their strips. Schulz never did this. His body of work was his own. If he went on vacation he did two or three weeks of strips ahead of time. In total, his work consisting of 50 years is approximately 18,600 strips. And that is also the amount of times he made us laugh. His complete collection of work comes to 24 volumes of books. His last strip amazingly was published on the day he died.
With the release of The Peanuts Movie people have decide to look at Schulz life and tell the world what was wrong with him. This is wrong in many ways. Charles Schulz was a private man that gave the world a huge gift. A private man deserves his privacy even after his death. Every one of us, to quote a very wise person “has chapters in their lives that we would not wish to be published. “Good grief!” So today we honor the man Charles Schulz and celebrate his work. We raise a mug of root beer, along with Snoopy, and remember a man who both entertained us and taught us about ourselves.