Monday, November 26, 2007

Charles Schulz

It's the birthday of cartoonist Charles Schulz, (books by this author) born in St. Paul (1922), who created "Peanuts" and Charlie Brown, who never gets to kick the football, always gets his kite stuck in the tree, and never wins the love of The Little Red-Haired Girl. Schulz loved comics from an early age. His father bought six different newspapers every weekend and they would sit and read all the comics together. Schultz started drawing his own cartoons, but he got a C-plus in a correspondence art course, and his sketches were rejected by the staff of his high school yearbook. He couldn't sell any cartoons to the major magazines, and he was turned down as an animator for Disney because he had no experience. And then, he got drafted to fight in World War II when his mother was dying of cervical cancer. One of the last things she said to him was that if the family ever bought another dog, they should name it Snoopy.

When Schulz got back from the war, he began drawing a comic strip about children called "Li'l Folks," and when he sold it to a national syndicate they changed the name to "Peanuts." The first Peanuts strip appeared on October 2, 1950, and it showed a boy and a girl sitting on a curb, with Charlie Brown approaching from a distance. The boy says, "Here comes ol' Charlie Brown! Good ol' Charlie Brown. ... Yes, Sir." And then once Charlie Brown has passed by, the boy says, "How I hate him!"

In addition to Charlie Brown, "Peanuts" introduced the world to Linus, Schroeder, Lucy, Violet, and Snoopy, the dog. It became the most popular comic strip of all time, appearing in 2,600 newspapers and 75 countries, read by more than 335 million people everyday. Charles Schulz did all the drawing, inking, and lettering of his cartoons by himself, with no staff assistants. And he took almost no breaks in 50 years, even when his hand began to shake after he had heart surgery. He only decided to retire after he developed Parkinson's disease and was diagnosed with cancer. He died on February 12, 2000, the day before his last strip was set to run.

Charles Schulz said, "Most of us are much more acquainted with losing than we are with winning. Winning is great, but it isn't funny."

-The Writer's Almanac, 11-26-07

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