You’re A Good Man, Charles M. Schulz
Charles M. Schulz was an American cartoonist best known for the comic strip PEANUTS. He was born on November 26, 1922 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Carl, a barber, and Dena, a housewife. From an early age, Schulz and his dad shared a Sunday morning ritual reading the funnies. Schulz loved drawing, and at times, drew his family dog, Spike, who did unusual things. Schulz was fascinated with comic strips and he always knew he wanted to be a cartoonist. Seeing the publication of his drawing of Spike, in the nationally syndicated Ripley’s Believe It Or Not newspaper feature was a proud moment in the teen’s life. When Schulz was a senior in high school he completed a correspondence cartoon course with the Federal School of Applied Cartooning (now Art Instruction Schools).
After Schulz’s mother’s death in 1943 he was drafted into the United States Army, serving as a staff sergeant with the 20th Armored Division in Europe during World War II. After he returned from war Schulz found employment at his alma mater, Art Instruction, sold one-panel cartoons to the Saturday Evening Post, and enjoyed a three year run of his weekly panel comic, LI’L Folks in the local St. Paul Pioneer Press. LI’L FOLKS was published from June1947 to January 1950. These early published cartoons focused on concise drawings of precocious children with large heads who interacted with words and actions well beyond their years. The series featured a dog that looked much like Snoopy. Schulz tried to have LI’L FOLKS syndicated through the Newspaper Enterprise Association; Schulz would have been an independent contractor for the syndicate, which in the 1940s was unheard of, but the deal fell through. LI’L FOLKS was dropped from Pioneer press in January 1950.
In 1950, Schulz signed with United Feature Syndicate and his comic LI’L FOLKS was eventually changed to PEANUTS. PEANUTS made its first appearance on October 2, 1950, in seven newspapers. The weekly Sunday page debuted on January 6, 1952. After a slow start, PEANUTS eventually became one of the most popular comic strips of all time. Schulz is widely regarded as one of the most influential cartoonists of all time. Over the 50 years PEANUTS was published, Schulz drew nearly 18,000 strips. Schulz wrote or co-wrote the TV specials and carefully oversaw their production. When casting the voices for the kids in his specials, Schulz chose to cast real kids instead of adult actors, which to me, shows how authentic and real he wanted his work to be. Schulz also based some of his characters on real people who have influenced him throughout his life.
Charles M. Schulz died on February 12, 2000, just one day before his final strip was published. His family continues to carry on his legacy as well as the millions of his devoted fans, who still tune in every year to watch the TV specials. Most recently, the feature film THE PEANUTS MOVIE (2015) was released. This film commemorated the 65th Anniversary of the original comic strip and the 50th Anniversary of the TV special A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS. Schulz’s son Craig and his son Bryan, are credited as screenwriters and producers. As a PEANUTS fan, I really loved this film. As it was important to Craig Schulz, I felt it stayed true to Charles Schulz’s vision and kept with the history of each of the characters. It was also a wonderful testament to Charlie Brown- our everyman. our underdog, our hero. The PEANUTS comic strip wasn’t just limited to books, toys, TV and film. There was also the popular stage production YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN. The production ran on and off Broadway for many years. The 1999 revival starred Broadway vets Anthony Rapp as Charlie Brown and Kristin Chenoweth as Sally. Chenoweth would go on to win a Tony for her performance. Cedar Fair, located in Sandusky, Ohio, is a theme park that showcases the iconic PEANUTS characters.
The following is a list of characters that have appeared in the PEANUTS comic strip.
Charlie Brown: First Appearance- October 2, 1950. Charlie Brown, like Schulz, is the son of a barber. He is a meek, shy, gentle, innocent, kind-hearted character with many anxieties. Schulz has said of the character that he must be the one who suffers because he is a caricature of the average person. No matter how many times he’s kicked while he’s down, Charlie Brown possesses the determination to succeed but often fails due to his insecurities. Producer Lee Mendelson said of Charlie Brown that he was, and is, the ultimate survivor of bulliness-Lucy or otherwise.
Lucy van Pelt: First Appearance- March 3, 1952. Lucy is he older sister of Linus and Rerun. She is characterized as a fussbudget, crabby, bossy and opinionated. She bullies most other characters in the strip, particularly, Charlie Brown and her brother Linus. Lucy does her friends a service by offering advice at her psychiatrist’s booth, for a fee of 5 cents, although the only one she seems to give “advice” to is Charlie Brown, and most of the time she makes him feel worse. Lucy also has a crush on piano playing, Schroeder. She was named after a former neighbor of Schulz.
Linus van Pelt- First Appearance- September 19, 1952. Linus is the best friend of Charlie Brown and brother to Lucy and Rerun. Linus is very intelligent and wise and acts as the strip’s philosopher. Linus is almost never seen without his blue security blanket- for which he is often mocked for by his older sister Lucy.
Sally Brown- First Appearance- August 23, 1959. Sally is the younger sister of Charlie Brown, to whom she refers to as “big brother”. Sally has a strong crush on Linus, calling him her “sweet baboo”. Her affection toward Linus is evident as she supports his belief in the existence of the Great Pumpkin.
Schroeder- First Appearance- May 30, 1951. Schroeder is well-known by his skill playing his toy piano and his love for classical music. He is also catcher for Charlie Brown’s baseball team and the unrequited infatuation of Lucy. After Linus and Snoopy, Schroeder is Charlie Brown’s closest friend.
Peppermint Patty- First Appearance- August 22, 1966. Peppermint Patty lives across town from Charlie Brown. She refers to Charlie Brown as “Chuck”. She is considered oblivious to obvious things. For a long time she seemed unaware that Snoopy was a dog, as she would call him “that funny looking kid with the big nose”. She is the best friend of Marcie and the two girls both have crushes on Charlie Brown. Peppermint Patty was modeled after a favorite cousin of Schulz.
Pig Pen- First Appearance- July 13, 1954. Pig Pen is known for his perpetually filthy overalls and the cloud of dirt and dust that follows him. Charlie Brown is the only character to unconditionally accept Pig-Pen for who he is. Pig-Pen plays third base for Charlie Brown’s baseball team.
Marcie- First Appearance- July 20, 1971. Marcie is a bright, studious girl, who can be naïve at times. She is friends with Peppermint Patty, whom she always calls “sir”.
Franklin- First Appearance- July 31, 1968. Franklin was the first African-American character in the strip. He and Charlie Brown met at the beach and they would exchange stories about their grandfathers. Schulz received a letter from a schoolteacher urging him to introduce a black character into his strip. A correspondence began between the two which led to his creation of Franklin.
Patty- First Appearance- October 2, 1950. Patty is the only female character to appear in the strip’s early days. Patty thinks very highly of herself and she often torments Charlie Brown, with her best friends and fellow “mean girls” Violet and Lucy.
Shermy- First Appearance- October 2, 1950. Shermy was one of the original characters during the strip’s early days. He was the boy who Charlie Brown wanted to be like, especially in sports. Shermy served as Charlie Brown’s closest friend until Linus grew old enough to fill that position.
Violet- First Appearance- February 7, 1951. Violet is smart, popular and a snob. Violet likes bragging and is often seen with her best friends Patty and Lucy.
Rerun- First Appearance- March 26, 1973. Rerun is the younger brother of Lucy and Linus. He made few appearances throughout the strip. He was often seen riding the “baby seat” in the back of his mother’s bicycle.
Frieda- First Appearance- March 6, 1961. Frieda was the only girl on Charlie Brown’s baseball team to not wear a cap because it would ruin her “naturally” curly hair, which she is very proud of and manages to work onto every conversation. Frieda was inspired by Schulz’s longtime friend and local artist he met while taking classes at Art Instruction.
Woodstock- First Appearance- March 4, 1966. Woodstock is a small and good-hearted yellow bird who is Snoopy’s best friend. He often takes Snoopy’s gentle verbal digs and practical jokes in stride. Woodstock is a very poor flyer, often fluttering around in erratic fashion.
And last but not least….Snoopy. First Appearance- October 4, 1950. Snoopy is Charlie Brown’s pet beagle. Snoopy is a loyal, innocent, imaginative and good-natured beagle that does unusual things that make him not the average dog. He’s an author, often seen writing stories atop his doghouse with the opening line “It was a dark and stormy night…” He also took on the personas as college student “Joe Cool” and as a British World War I Flying Ace, sporting an aviator’s helmet, goggles and a scarf. Snoopy occasionally mocks his owner, but he shows love, care and loyalty to Charlie Brown. Snoopy has become one of the most recognizable and iconic characters in the comic strip. The original drawings of Snoopy were inspired by Spike, Charles Schulz’s childhood dog.
PEANUTS was such a big part of my childhood. Over the years I’ve accumulated quite the collection of toys, books, games, puzzles, movies, clothes, and a variety of holiday decorations inspired by the comic strip. It’s something I never grew out of, and at 41 years old, I am still as big a fan. I feel I relate to Charlie Brown, as I possess a lot of the traits that he does.
I wish I had the opportunity to express to Charles Schulz my sincere admiration and appreciation of his comic strip and thank him for bringing so much joy to my life.
A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS (1965)
IT’S THE GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN (1966)
A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN (1969)
A CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING (1973)
IT’S THE EASTER BEAGLE, CHARLIIE BROWN (1974)
BE MY VALENTINE, CHARLIE BROWN (1975)
SNOOPY, COME HOME (1977)
YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN (1985)
THE PEANUTS MOVIE (2015)