It was just over 22 years ago in late 1999 when the great master told creative director Paige Braddock that, “Something doesn’t feel right”.
There he stood, with comic strips in hand, when he made that statement.
A few days later, the master’s wife, Jean, called Braddock to tell her that her husband had made the decision to retire. He had suffered a stroke.
A few weeks later, Peanuts had come to a glorious end.
Charles M. Schulz’s last Peanuts strip ran in newspapers Feb. 13, 2000. The next day, he died in his sleep at his home.
It is hard to believe the greatest cartoonist of all time left us more than 22 years ago. Even today, virtually every child knows about Snoopy and Charlie Brown. His comic strips are timeless.
My first memories of Peanuts were watching the Christmas special on TV and reading the comics in the Edmonton Journal. My father was also a big Peanuts fan. My bedroom was next to my parents. I remember countless times dad was reading Peanuts and started to laugh.
“Kathy, look at this,” he said laughing, and proceeded to read her the comic strip.
The family acquired quite a collection of Fawcett paperback Peanuts books. Over time, they disappeared. Later in life, I began my own crusade and purchased well over 100 Peanuts books on eBay. I still read them often. In the city, I stop at book stores to buy any other book I may not have in my collection. I just may go on another eBay shopping spree some day!
Today, my sister posts Peanuts strips on the family Facebook page. Apparently, there is more than one Peanuts fan in the family. Thank goodness!
I read Schultz’s statement, “Something doesn’t feel right” in a recent Peanuts book. The story is beside his last strip. In that last strip, Schulz chose to remember his favourite scenes. Snoopy on top of the doghouse writing. Snoopy as a World War I flying ace. Lucy getting hit on the head with a fly ball [it always made him laugh!] or Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown as he tried to kick it. Snoopy trying to steal Linus’s blanket. And more.
“Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy. . .how can I ever forget them. . .” Schulz wrote.
And with those words Peanuts came to an end.
While Schulz’s choices for his final strip were appropriate, and who am I to question the master, I was disappointed and still am to this day. I would have preferred to have Charlie Brown go out in a blaze of glory.
Why not let Charlie Brown kick the football? Win a game of checkers with Lucy? Win a baseball game for that matter, or hit a home run? Fly a kite, perhaps!
Or perhaps, what would be his greatest triumph of all, getting a kiss from the Little Red-Haired Girl?
I remember seeing the only drawing Schulz made of the Little Red-Haired Girl. When asked why he never included her in any strips, he was concise: “I could never draw her to readers’ expectations.”
Schulz chose to not let anyone continue the strip. The Peanuts franchise continues to rake in big bucks from continued specials and merchandizing, however. Let’s just say the estate keeps the family well looked after.
Speaking of merchandizing, who else do you know who owns an authentic Pig-Pen button! I wear it very rarely for fear of losing it.
Letting Charlie Brown go out in a blaze of glory would have gone against everything the comic strip had meant for over 50 years; however, letting Charlie Brown get a kiss from a pretty girl could have symbolized a “goodbye” kiss in some sort of way, perhaps as a final goodbye to the strip.
For me, “Something doesn’t feel right” and never did about that last strip.
Schulz may be gone but his characters will live forever!