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Sunday, 13 February, 2000, 08:35 GMT
Charles Schulz: Peanuts' shy creator

Charles Schulz: creator of the most popular cartoon strip ever Charles Schulz: creator of the most popular cartoon strip ever

Charles Schulz's Peanuts cartoons exhibited a childlike innocence which often hid a darker reality. His bald-headed hero, Charlie Brown, was a lonely and often troubled outsider who has been described as "the patron saint of losers, the clumsy guys."

But Schulz's pearls of wisdom struck a chord throughout the world. Peanuts appeared in 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries and was adapted for 40 television shows, 1,000 books and countless items of merchandise including toys, T-shirts and mugs.

Charlie Brown: the 'patron saint of losers' Charlie Brown: the 'patron saint of losers'
Charles M Schulz was born in Minneapolis in 1922 and, after serving in the Army in the Second World War, learned cartooning by correspondence course.

His first feature, Li'l Folks, was eventually syndicated throughout the United States after being, to Schulz's dislike, renamed Peanuts.

Charles Schulz drew much inspiration from his own life. One of his art teachers was called Charlie Brown and Schulz himself pursued a girl without success, echoing Charlie Brown's failure with his own inammorata, the Little Girl with the Red Hair.

The raft of characters produced by Charles Schulz brought Peanuts to the very centre of American cultural life. Deceptively simple in execution, they nevertheless struck a chord with people throughout the world.

Apart from Charlie Brown there was his pet Beagle, Snoopy, who fancied himself as somewhat of an art collector and fighter ace; the feisty Lucy, dispensing psychological advice at five cents a go; eternally optimistic Peppermint Patty and Linus, the little boy with the security blanket, a term almost certainly coined by Charles Schulz himself.

Charles Schulz drawing Snoopy The master at work: drawing Snoopy
The phenomenal appeal of Peanuts rested on its readers' easy identification with the characters coupled with a continually high standard of drawing and narrative, one which did not diminish with the passage of time.

The popularity of the cartoon strip spilled over into one of the most successful merchandising campaigns ever: the Emmy-winning TV film, A Charlie Brown Christmas, is still shown around the globe during the festive period.

Indeed, so popular was the Peanuts strip that NASA named the Apollo 10 Command and Lunar Modules, which orbited the Moon in May 1969, after Charlie Brown and Snoopy respectively.

Charles Schulz himself remained a private man. Though he earned an estimated 30m a year, he still enjoyed nothing more than playing with his dogs and eating hotdogs and jelly.

Snoopy Snoopy: day-dreaming of greater things
A father of five, he retired for a short time following a heart bypass but returned when he found himself depressed at not working.

In 1999, Charles Schulz discovered that he had cancer of the colon and Peanuts ceased production early in 2000 when he retired for good.

Charles Schulz once said that his whole life had been one of rejection but he raised the humble newspaper cartoon to a whole new level and, in Charlie Brown, created an enduring character whose appeal was as great as any in the whole of literature.
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