Charles Schulz is more popularly known through his characters Charlie Brown and Snoopy, through the comic strip Peanuts, the “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” Halloween cartoon along with the “A Charlie Brown Christmas” cartoon film. What appeals to me about Schulz’s Charlie Brown character is that Schulz was able to use the character to speak to the nation (and beyond). That being said, his other characters were not merely props for Charlie Brown, but acted as other aspects of Schulz’s personality.
In interviews Schulz stated that Linus represented his spiritual side and this was clearly seen in A Charlie Brown Christmas when, at the end, Linus tells the viewers “the true meaning of Christmas”.
When I was younger, I can’t say the Peanuts strip or the Charlie Brown TV show really appealed to me very much. Rather, like most cases, it was the artist behind the cartoon. Why do people like Schulz dedicate their lives to drawing pictures? What type of person would do that and do they feel the same way I do about drawing pictures? These thoughts occur to you from time to time. In my teens and early twenties I began looking into the history of some of these iconic creators because the process was probably what appealed to me the most. I would like to read interviews and the opinions of those artists that were behind the creation of such iconic figures.
As an artist who enjoys getting my own ideas across from time to time, it’s inspiring to think that a simple cartoon could become a world wide recognisable icon. For a cartoonist I don’t think there could be anything more gratifying in life than being allowed the good fortune to be able to draw a personal cartoon daily; one that not only affords one a reasonable income but is enjoyed by thousands of people.
I think Schulz was the kind of man that “was” his art; he poured his soul into, not only the art, but the adventures his Peanuts gang got up to. From what I’ve read of Schulz, he was a man that often lived inside his head, which is not surprising since he had drawn Charlie Brown and co every day for 50 years. According to the Schulz Museum…
“Schulz drew a new Peanuts strip for each day of the year for almost 50 years, essentially creating over 18,000 original pieces each published and syndicated in newspapers throughout the world.”
Creating something from the ground up, as any business owner who has done so can attest, requires tremendous patience and dedication, and seeing something simple, or small, grow into something of a big deal is really inspiring for those of us on that journey. Perhaps what is most impressive though is Schulz’s ability to preserve the spirit of his characters after such huge success. All too often when someone makes it big, they lose the spirit and originality that made them, or their creation, popular in the first place. Often we see this with music, where a band might have a few good records at the beginning and fade out when either they’ve said all they “needed to say” or reached the level of fame they had originally sought. I am not certain if it is officially known if Schulz based Charlie Brown on himself or not but I expect so, and I think he grew along with his characters which was why he was able to preserve the spirit of the Peanuts gang.
Have a great Christmas or holiday season!