This weekend, some of the most famous characters in history turn 67.
The first Peanuts cartoon strip was published Oct. 2, 1950 by Charles M. Schulz. Peanuts had an incredible run until Feb. 13, 2000 or just under 50 years. Schulz is regarded by many as a genius, the master of his craft.
Who did not grow up loving Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy and the gang? What child in school today can’t tell all about Snoopy? Peanuts is and always will be, a timeless classic.
As you would guess by now, Peanuts is my favourite cartoon so I am extremely biased. I have tens of millions of people how agree with me, however. Schulz weaved a craft and spun a tale as well as anyone.
The popularity of cheering for Charlie Brown to succeed is something we can all relate to. We all want to do well. As the losses mounted, and the failures increased, we loved Charlie Brown more and more. Somehow, Schulz never made us tired of the plot, always finding an anecdote to make us laugh despite bitter failure.
I always felt that Schulz wrote Peanuts too long. I have an extensive collection of Peanuts comic books I read over and over. I loved the first 30 years of the strip, but not so much the last 20 years. Schulz was clearly running out of material.
In the middle years of the strip, Schulz was desperate for new material. So he created Woodstock and later, Peppermint Patty. Schulz often remarked how surprised he was at the popularity of Peppermint Patty. Snoopy’s brother Spike came along later.
As the end of the strip neared, a debate raged on how it would all end. Would Charlie Brown be allowed to go out in a blaze of glory, or would it just be another strip with no fanfare? Schulz kept the ending a closely guarded secret.
I still remember running to get the paper to see the final strip. I was bitterly disappointed. It was so insignificant I cannot remember what it was about.
It was a stark contrast to Calvin and Hobbes. It is another one of my favourite strips. I have the entire collection. Author Bill Watterson announced he would be winding down the strip. Again, I waited with great anticipation. How would Watterson end it all?
It was perfect. Calvin and Hobbes are out going sledding after a snowfall. They are both excited.
“A new year…a fresh clean start,” says Calvin.
“It’s like having a big white sheet of paper to draw on,” says Hobbes.
“A day full of possibilities,” says Calvin.
“It’s magic a world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy. Let’s go exploring!”
What a perfect ending! Perfect irony! It was the end of the strip but a new beginning for two great friends. What could be more perfect? In Peanuts, I lament over the fact that I would have loved to see Charlie Brown go out in a blaze of glory.
Why not let him hit a home run to win a baseball game? Why not let him fly a kite. Or win a game of checkers against Lucy. Kick a football? Or kiss the Little Red-Haired Girl?
Was it too much to ask that Charlie Brown ride off into the sunset with his head held high, spirits soaring in a blaze of glory, with a smile from ear to ear?
I guess there is only one fitting way to answer that.