I love the way Murray draws those animals. I love the relationships among all the characters and am especially fond of the absolutely original approach to humor. The dog is one of my favourite cartoon characters of all time. Charles Schulz on Footrot Flats

The timeless humour of Peanuts

By Roger Childs

Most readers will be familiar with the Peanuts characters – Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy and Linus Van Pelt, Schroeder, Peppermint Patty, the little red haired girl, Sally Brown, Pig-Pen and others. There are so many situations people can identify with or just enjoy – 

  • The bossy Lucy offering psychiatric advice for 5c. 
  • The hapless baseball team with Charlie Brown as one of the worst pitchers of all time.
  • Linus with his security blanket waiting in the pumpkin patch at Halloween for the Great Pumpkin to arrive.
  • Schroeder, the Beethoven fan, sitting at his piano wishing Lucy would stop pestering him.
  • The classroom scenes in which the teacher is never shown.
  • Snoopy as the Red Baron and the friend of local birds like Woodstock.

The relevance of Peanuts is one for the ages and ranks Schulz with the greatest cartoonists of all time.

No great shakes at school

Charles Schultz failed every subject in the eighth grade and flunked Physics, Latin, Algebra and English in high school. He was pretty hopeless at sport but did make the golf team. However he lost most of the games he played. Sparky as he was known, was socially awkward and had few friends. He tended to be ignored and was regarded as a loser.

He did like drawing and was proud of his art work, but the cartoons he submitted for the year-book in his senior high school year were rejected by the editors. Later Disney didn’t want his cartoon stories and saw no value in his tales of Charlie Brown and the others. However Schulz had great determination and kept sketching anyway.

Sparky observed that we all face difficulties and discouragement from time to time, but we also have a choice in how we handle it. If we’re persistent, if we hold fast to our faith, if we discover the unique talents each one of us has, then there is no limit to our potential.

Some winners take longer to develop and Charles M. Schultz is a classic case study. 

A late developer

He was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on 26 November 1922. His father Carl was of German descent, and worked in St Paul as a barber. An uncle named him “Sparky” after a horse in a comic strip. From an early age he liked drawing and dreamed of becoming a professional cartoonist. At the age of 15 he had his drawings of Spike the family dog in the Ripley’s Believe it or not syndicated newspaper feature. Then in his senior year at high school, encouraged by his mother, he completed a correspondence cartoon course. His mother sadly died of cervical cancer in 1943.

After World War 2, Sparky moved into the loft above his father’s barber’s shop and he worked hard at perfecting his craft. He sold some one panel cartoons to the Saturday Evening Post and then had a three year run of his strip “Lil Folks” in the St Paul Pioneer Press. However, the big breakthrough came in October 1950 when the first Peanuts strip featured in 7 newspapers nation-wide.

His dream of being a professional carton had come true at the age of 28. He eventually retired in 1999 and at this time: 

  • “Peanuts” was syndicated in over 2600 papers worldwide.
  • Books of his cartoons had been translated into 25 languages.
  • Television series and films had been produced and songs had been composed.

Charles M Schultz passed away in 2000 aged 77. His legacy lives on and the Peanuts strip continues to grace papers and magazines around the world. The Charles M Schultz Museum is a popular attraction today in Santa Rosa, California.

Multi-faceted humour

Much of the appeal of the Peanuts characters is that they accurately represent the foibles, challenges and up and down experiences of little kids growing up in the United States, and they will always be relevant. His humor was at times observational, wry, sarcastic, nostalgic, bittersweet, silly and melancholy, with occasional flights of fancy and suspension of reality thrown in from time to time.  Charles M Schultz Museum website.

Sparky the late developer is one of the greatest cartoonists ever, and always will be.