Peanuts: The Biography Of Charles Schulz

Peanuts: the biography of Charles Schulz. A celebration of fifty years of Peanuts, this article gives a personal glimpse at the talented cartoonist/writer who breathed life into the round-faced gang.

On the twelfth of February, 2000, a mighty (and mighty funny) pen was stilled when Charles Schulz succumbed to colon cancer at the age of seventy-eight; it seems as though the entire world mourned together when his pen was laid down for the very last time.

Schulz, known to his millions of adoring fans the world over as Sparky, was born in Minneapolis in nineteen twenty-two. A shy, lonesome boy with a remarkable talent for drawing, he longed to participate in the art clubs his high school offered, but it was not to be; his incurable shyness prevented him from taking the required steps to join.

He did sign up for a correspondence course offered by a Minneapolis art school; almost unbelievably this was to be the only formal training he received in art instruction.

I think he would have done just fine without it.

After serving a brief time in the Army during World War II, where, he is quoted as saying, he suffered "profound loneliness", Schulz once again returned to his first love: drawing. In nineteen forty-eight the Saturday Evening Post published a small amount of his work, and just two years later, in nineteen fifty, United Feature Syndicate bought his originally named comic strip "Li'l Folks"; at his insistence the strip soon became known as "Peanuts"; the rest, as they say, is history.

"Peanuts" premiered to the world on October second, nineteen fifty. Immediately it became a successful, well-loved strip; only the shy, insecure boy from Minneapolis had doubts, lifelong, as to whether its success would continue. The rest of the world harbored no such doubts; the strip's millions of world wide fans proved their loyalty to Schulz and his gang of beloved round-faced characters from its inception. Their sincere interest in the life of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, and the rest of the gang, who though small in stature witnessed through adult-sized eyes the world and its ways, cleared the way in making Schulz the most widely syndicated cartoonist in history. His widely popular strip is today featured in over twenty- three hundred newspapers in over forty languages.

Not bad at all for a shy quiet boy from Minneapolis.

In his lifetime, all too short for those who love and admire him still, he was well-deservedly awarded many of his industry's top honors, including the Peabody and the prestigious Emmy. Those who knew him best are likely to be heard saying he worked so diligently not for these outstanding honors but because he simply loved the job. He still awoke early each morning and headed to his office, even when his illness advanced into its later stages. It was more than a job to be done; it was his life.

Millions of fans around the world have heard the question asked---why does "Peanuts" remain so wildly popular, so loved, after more than fifty years from its original debut? There are as many answers to that question as there are die-hard fans. Perhaps the answer can best be phrased in a question: What's not to love?

A short 'biography' on some of the most-loved characters from the wonderful imagination of Charles Schulz:

The Good Man himself, Charlie Brown:

The very first character to appear in Peanuts, Charlie Brown made his debut to the world in the fall of nineteen fifty. His trademark, the world famous sweater, yellow with a zig-zag of black, is seen on literally millions of collectible items all over the world. It's been said that Charlie Brown is the alter-ego of Mr. Schulz with his fear of failure and his extreme shyness, especially around pretty red-haired girls. The aforementioned comment regarding Schulz's painful loneliness while away in the Army is indeed very close to the impression we get when we watch Charlie Brown trying desperately to fit in among the crowd of the other characters, all much more outgoing and confident than Chuck could ever be.

Schulz is quoted as saying that to give Charlie Brown confidence, or to make a champion out of him by perhaps allowing him just once the joy of finally kicking the football, would be to take away the very core of his character. He was intended when created to show the flip side of the coin of success; try as he might to get a kite off the ground, or keep his fingers crossed in hopes of finally scoring a Valentine from the pretty red haired girl, it just wasn't meant to be. Charlie Brown is the ultimate good-guy, though, and with a heart that will never stop trying.

Linus: Everyone's favorite three-year old,

Linus Van Pelt, at his ripe old age, is the Solomon of the group. He made his debut on September 19, 1952, and has not aged a bit in the forty-eight years since we first saw him holding his 'security blanket', a phrase for which he is universally famous. It is Linus to whom Charlie Brown turns in time of questions about life. Although he is still young enough to insist on believing in a bright-orange pumpkin-man, akin to Santa Claus, his advice to Chuck is very mature and can be somewhat jaded; he's been around the block a time or two. The thorn in his sister Lucy's side, this character most definitely marches to his own tune and gives not a hoot when she crabbily accuses him of over-doing the blanket thing. He is his own man, albeit a very young one.

Snoopy: Everyone's favorite mutt

Appearing first on October 4th, 1950, Snoopy is arguably the most beloved of all the Peanuts characters. A genuine know-it-all, although one with a soft spot or two, this beagle-with-an-attitude has flown fighter planes, thought himself to be the next Hemingway, and can mimick every voice in the barnyard when it's time for the Christmas play. With an ego as large as his fabulous doghouse, filled with everything from central air to an electric typewriter, Snoopy believes, wholeheartedly, that there is nothing his two-legged buddies can do that he can't do better with four. He cooks popcorn for the main entree at Thanksgiving, has started a million and one Great American Novels, ("It was a dark and stormy night.....), wins every single year the Annual Neighborhood Christmas Lights and Display contest by going whole-hog with twinkling lights atop his doghouse, and cannot for the life of him understand why there's anything more to life than a bowl of dog food and five-foot piles of bones to snack. In his own words, he is "everybeagle."

The true-to-life antics of these little round-faced characters have been followed and loved by the young, and the young-at-heart, for more than fifty years; I have a feeling they will still be loved when they've celebrated their hundredth anniversary.

Innocent children, goofy, lovable dogs, and honest-to-goodness humor-----some things never go out of style.

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