December 15, 1999
Charles Schulz, Creator of `Peanuts' Retires
By RICK LYMAN
HOLLYWOOD -- You're on your own, Charlie Brown.
After drawing more than 18,000 comic strips over a half-century about
a pie-faced little loser who never got any smarter or any older, a
boy whose best friends were grief and unease, who was regularly
outsmarted by his own dog, Charles Schulz has decided to put down his
pen and cut Charlie Brown some slack.
"I have always wanted to be a cartoonist and I feel very blessed to
have been able to do what I love for almost 50 years," Schulz said in
an open letter that was released Tuesday from his home in Santa Rosa,
Calif. "That all of you have embraced Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy and
Linus and all the other 'Peanuts' characters has been a constant
motivation for me."
Schulz, 77, said that he would stop drawing the strip immediately and
that it would retire when the last one runs on Jan. 4. The cartoonist
was recently found to have colon cancer and said he needed to devote
himself to fighting his illness.
"Peanuts" has appeared, without interruption, since it was introduced
on Oct. 2, 1950. Schulz has drawn every one of the strips, taking
time off only for his 70th birthday, though he worked ahead so that
the strip would continue to appear while he was off, said Diane
Iselin, a spokeswoman for United Media, which syndicated the strip.
"Peanuts" appears in 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries and 21
languages, making it the most popular comic strip in the world, Ms.
A social and marketing phenomenon that grew beyond the funny pages to
become one of the cornerstones of postwar popular culture, "Peanuts"
followed the angst-ridden exploits of a group of children in a
nameless American suburb -- hapless Charlie Brown, his conniving dog
Snoopy, the sharp-tongued Lucy, her blanket-cuddling brother Linus,
the Beethoven-adoring Schroeder, forever-sandalled Peppermint Patty
and Woodstock and all the others. Adults never appeared in the strip.
Schulz, the son of a barber in St. Paul, Minn., went by the nickname
of Sparky (for a character in the "Barney Google" comic strip),
though he has described himself as shy and removed. As a youth, he
took a correspondence course in cartooning and earned a C-plus in
"Drawing of Children," according to the official biography on the
comic strip's official Web page.
"It seems beyond comprehension of people that someone can be born to
draw comic strips," Schulz says in his official biography. "But I
think I was. My ambition from earliest memory was to produce a daily
After serving in the military in World War II, Schulz began to draw a
comic strip for a local Roman Catholic newspaper and later joined the
faculty of the same correspondence school that he had once studied
with. One of his earliest characters was Charlie Brown. After selling
several single-panel comics to The Saturday Evening Post, he began a
weekly single-panel comic in The St. Paul Pioneer Press called "L'il
Folks," which starred Charlie Brown.
When an editor at the Universal Feature Syndicate suggested to Schulz
that he expand to a strip format, the cartoonist signed a five-year
contract. But legal tangles forced Schulz to change the name of his
strip from "L'il Folks" (too close to "L'il Abner") to "Peanuts," a
name he hated.
"Peanuts" took several years to catch on in the crowded comic strip
market. But by 1952, it was popular enough that Rinehart and Co.
decided to take the unusual step of issuing a selection of the strips
in a mass-market paperback.
In 1961, a San Francisco housewife asked Schulz if she could create a
"Peanuts" calendar, the beginning of more than three decades of
"Peanuts" marketing that has expanded to plush toys, games, books,
stickers, videocasettes and hundreds of other items -- and will
continue even as the strip ends.
There was a "Peanuts" musical on Broadway, several television
specials (including the Emmy-winning "Charlie Brown Christmas" in
1965) and a hit 1966 recording ("Snoopy vs. the Red Baron" by the
Royal Guardsmen) that turned Charlie Brown's dog, deluded into
thinking he was a World War I flying ace, into the strip's most
popular and ubiquitous character.
"It's a sad, sad time for us," Lorrie Myers, Schulz' secretary, told
The Associated Press. "It has been such a part of our lives for 50
years. We've kind of grown up on Snoopy and Charlie Brown and to see
it come to a close is a sad time."