Charles M Schulz - Cartoonist Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Charles M Schulz - Cartoonist

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Charles Monroe Schulz was born a barber's son on 26 November, 1922, in St Paul, Minnesota, but within a week he had earned the nickname he would keep for the rest of his life, 'Sparky'. Ironically, he got this name from a cartoon strip horse of the time, called 'Sparkplug'. As a boy he used to copy his favourite cartoons, Mickey Mouse, Popeye and Krazy Kat. He took a correspondence course in art but only got a C+ for drawing children. He was drafted during the Second World War and rose to the rank of staff sergeant leading a machine gun squad.

In 1948 his sold his first drawing to the Saturday Evening News and two years later Li'l Folks was syndicated by United Features, where he was encouraged to expand from a single picture to a strip. Renamed Peanuts the first of thousands of Peanuts cartoons appeared in October 1950. Eventually the strip would be drawn daily only by Schulz1 for 50 years and was eventually syndicated to 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries.


Schulz said that if anyone read his strip for two months they would know all of his neuroses, for he based the main character Charlie Brown, a born loser, firmly on himself. In the 50 years of the strip, Lucy Van Pelt, a bad-mannered girl, never let Charlie kick the football. She also ran a highly profitable Psychiatric Booth at a nickel per session. Her kid brother Linus was a thumb-sucking philosopher, who would never let himself be parted from his security blanket2. The fantasy element was provided by Snoopy, a beagle of enormous talents, who even had his own book published. His dog kennel - always seen from side on - served as a desk for his typewriter, his World War I bi-plane, and a place to sleep on, though never in (unless of course it got very wet). Woodstock the yellow bird was the sidekick in the sickly looking tree above. Peppermint Patty was added in the 1970s along with an almost Private Secretary-like companion.

Sparky was diagnosed with colon cancer late in 1999 and decided he would retire from his daily job on 4 January, 2000. United Features promised no-one else would draw the strip for syndication and started to issue classics from 1974 instead. Charles M Schulz died in his sleep on 12 February; the following day, the final Sunday strip ran on the presses. The man who had announced his retirement from 50 years of entertaining the world never really retired and will probably never be forgotten.

1It is common practice for many cartoons to be designed by the author but inked and lettered by employees.2A phrase added to common usage by Schulz's use of it himself.

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