Artist Highlight: Charles M. Schulz, Part 2

Read Part 1

Personal Experiences

Schulz
Charles M. Schulz, a.k.a. Sparky.

Readers and viewers could identify many vital experiences, whether related to his childhood or inspired from his children or his life as an adult, that were highly influential in the life of Schulz and his work. However, the one experience that I think is highly significant is when he drafted into the US army in 1943 at the age of 20 to serve in World War II. As he recalled “the three years I spent in the army taught me all I need to know about loneliness and a sympathy of loneliness that all of us experience was dropped heavily upon poor Charlie Brown”. As he also mentioned “I place the source of my problems on those three years in the army… I worry about all there is in life to worry about and because I worry, Charlie Brown has to worry…I suppose our anxiety increases as we become responsible for more people”. His experiences in life while being a soldier traumatized him forever and produced some of the strips in Peanuts. Nevertheless, those were covered up by little cartoon characters using dialogues that were capable of condensing and exaggerating those experiences.

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His experience in Army during World War II led him to express and depict the confusion of American society regarding the war in Vietnam (1955-1975).  Snoopy as the World War I Flying Ace chasing the Red Baron became the instrument for expressing not only the ambiguity of the Vietnam War, but also the confusion, the politics, the strategies, the social stratification, racism and mainly the sympathy towards what appeared to be expendanble soldiers. The big impact that the comic strip of Peanuts had on the soldiers at that time could be mirrored into the words of a Vietnam veteran, Pleas Davis, who wrote “Those [strips] were [some of] the things, believe it or not, we cared most about” because “you could lock yourself into what was [going on in Vietnam] and it could be pretty black.” Snoopy was, as a matter of fact, their connection to their homeland, the feeling of safety and life itself.

The Art of Peanuts

An essential element of a cartoonist, according to Schulz, was to be able to observe and map what it is about the environment, its people, places, weather, or things, that can be caricaturized. He wanted to make sure that his characters would not be done over the top, since they had to be recognisable and distinguishable from the readers, but still relatable to them.

Peanuts_Gang

In terms of the story line, Schulz created Peanuts to be episodic. He wanted to avoid continuing stories so that anybody could pick up a copy of his strips and still enjoy them without needing to read all the previous ones. In addition, he made sure that the lettering in the final  panels was smaller because he wanted to avoid attracting the attention of the reader to the end of the story instead of the beginning.

Schulz encountered some artistic difficulties caused by the fact that his artwork was reproduced through newspapers. The first challenge was that pen and ink lost its quality when reproduced mechanically. The second challenge was the fact that he was given a small section of the page where he was forced to develop his strip. Because his treatement of this tiny strip was so successful, it became a trend. Unfortuantely, Schulz considered that this trend was dangerous and negative because the stories lost quality and legibility. Not only that, but their brevity did not give enough time for his characters to gradually develop their stories, which is the reason why the main action took place in the middle of the panel and evolved rapidly.blog_image_3688_3865_Peanuts_by_Charles_Schulz_Oct_1__1978_201701271216

Schulz also paid a lot of attention to character developement. He was very determined to keep a balance between his male and female characters. Although he was more familiar with the suffering and growing up of boys, he also tried to understand girls and their tribulations by doing research. For instance, for the ear piercing he consulted doctors to find out about the infections or any relating themes around it, and yet in some instances he depicted the girls in a very stereotypical way. However, Peppermint Patty was a character who many times overcame the female stereotype either with her dressing code or her behaviour and the fact that she had her own baseball team.

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The life of the characters in Peanuts was meant to be sad in a way. As mentioned before, Schulz was trying to charicaturazed many things, including happiness, and happiness is the charicature of sandess. That is why we find comfort in laughing at an unfortuante event. With this in mind, Schulz had to catch himself from falling into temptation as in many cases he thought about allowing Charlie Brown to hit the ball, Schroeder to be Lucy’s boyfriend or give a happy ending to the strip.

Criticism

Schulz has been criticised for using psychological bulling into Peanuts although he detested bulling and he was very cautious with this phenomenon. He was also criticised for using religious references. His respond was that he treated them with respect and love since there were too many “howevers to be discussed” and it was better if such themes took place in face to face discussions. Moreover, at the time in 1968, he was criticised for introducing the first African-American character, Franklin, into his comic strip. The particular character started to appear at a time when the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. took place and it was also the deadliest year of the Vietnam War during which the African-American soldiers although counting 11% of the total combat forces, they accounted for 16% of the casualties.

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A personal conclusion

Although Schulz mentioned that he could not define from where his ideas for Peanuts’ stories came from, I believe that his comic strip was a way to keep a diary of his life and maybe to some extent of our life too. It documented the main elements of human existence such as cruelty, despair, pain of loss, happiness, sadness, self-consciousness and self-discovering and communicated them to us through the security and ambiguity that cartoon characters could provide. But I believe Schulz took us a step further. The hug impact that his comic strip had and still has to the readers might reveal that all the cartoon characters that he created are universal, they are parts of our own self, including myself. We all carry inside a Charlie Brown, a Lucy, a Peppermint Patty, a Linus, a Pig-Pen, a Snoopy, a Franklin, a Schroeder, and every single one of the other characters as well.

Aikaterini Iokasti Koutsouridou


References and Further Reading

Ball, Blake Scott. 2016. ‘“Snoopy Is the Hero in Vietnam:” Ambivalence, Empathy, and Peanuts’ Vietnam War’. The Sixties 9 (1): 54–78.

Lind, Stephen J. 2008. ‘Reading Peanuts: The Secular and the Sacred’. ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies 4, 2. Accessed 18/02/2018.

Schulz, Charles. 1975. Peanuts Jubilee: My Life and Art With Charlie Brown and Others. New York: Henry Holt & Co.

Caswell, Lucy Shelton. 2000. Peanuts: The Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library, September 18, 2000 – January 19, 2001. Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University Press.

Schulz, Jean. 2001. Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz. Edited by Chip Kidd. 1st edition. New York: Pantheon.

Peanuts in Youtube:

Online sites about Schulz and Peanuts:

http://www.acrwebsite.org/volumes/ap11/apacr_vol11_1018860.pdf

http://www.nytimes.com/2000/02/14/arts/charles-m-schulz-peanuts-creator-dies-at-77.html

https://www.peanuts.com/characters/

http://www.fivecentsplease.org/dpb/castlist.html

https://pactd-max.wikispaces.com/file/view/Charlie+Brown+Master+Score.pdf

http://www.english.ufl.edu/imagetext/archives/v4_2/lind/

https://tigerprints.clemson.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2609&context=all_dissertations

https://digscholarship.unco.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1066&context=theses

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/charlie-brown-racist-franklin/

http://www.openculture.com/2015/07/how-franklin-became-peanuts-first-black-character.html

https://kotaku.com/how-peanuts-used-peppermint-patty-to-talk-about-politic-1789460213

https://www.popmatters.com/160338-thats-progressive-charlie-brown-on-schulz-lgbt-issues-and-integrity-2495837716.html

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/11/the-exemplary-narcissism-of-snoopy/407827/

http://peanutsstudio.com/

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/dec/05/charlie-brown-charles-schultz-peanuts-cartoon-movie-steve-martino

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Artist Highlight: Charles M. Schulz, Part 1

It wouldn’t be fair, I suppose, to start my blog post with “Once upon a time a boy was born named Charles Monroe Schulz on the 26th of November 1922…etc… etc.”. Although as a starting sentence it might seem triggering, it doesn’t depict how I interpret Peanuts. For me, it is an ongoing caricaturized autobiography or a biography of what it is to be human rather than a very familiar and famous comic strip.  Therefore, allow me to start this text in the following way: Continue reading “Artist Highlight: Charles M. Schulz, Part 1”

THE KURIOUS KONTRADICTIONS OF A KRAZY KAT

“I ain’t a Kat… and I ain’t Krazy… it’s what’s behind me that I am… it’s the idea behind me, Ignatz, and that’s wot I am.”-Krazy Kat.

Krazy Kat was never a massive commercial success but it helped define the rules of an emerging art form and inspired multiple varying interpretations. Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle said it was “to comic books what Chuck Berry is to rock and roll.” Comiczine described it as “Tom & Jerry if it had been written by James Joyce and illustrated by Pablo Picasso.” Continue reading “THE KURIOUS KONTRADICTIONS OF A KRAZY KAT”

Jane’s Journal, The Diary of a Bright Young Thing (1932-1959)

Jane’s Journal, the Diary of a Bright Young Thing, was launched in the Daily Mirror in 1932.   Drawn by Norman Pett, it was his response to a challenge to create a comic strip that would be as popular with adults as the famous Pip, Squeak & Wilfred (started in the Mirror in 1919) was with children.

normanpett
Norman Pett.

William Norman Pett was born in 1891.   After being invalided out of the armed forces during the Great War, he took a correspondence course in drawing from Percy Bradshaw’s Press Art School, which also taught many other cartoonists.   Later, he taught art at the Mosley Road Junior Art School and at Birmingham Central School of Art.   In the 1920s Pett worked as a Punch cartoonist as well as producing cartoons for other publications.   Pett initially used his wife Mary as a life model for Jane.   When Mary developed other interests, Pett then used another artists’ model that he met at the Central School of Art, Christabel Leighton-Porter, as his new life model. Continue reading “Jane’s Journal, The Diary of a Bright Young Thing (1932-1959)”

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

Garretson Beekham Trudeau was born in New York City in 1948.  At school he specialised in painting, but later developed an interest in the graphic arts and spent much of his time at Yale University (1966-70) drawing cartoons for Yale’s humorous magazine, The Yale Record, and the student newspaper The Yale Daily NewsGarry_Trudeau_Net_Worth  He became a postgraduate student at the Yale School of Art, gaining a master’s degree in graphic design in 1973.   His cartoon strip Bull Tales, produced while he was still an undergraduate, developed into the Doonesbury strip in 1970.   Within 10 years of its first appearance, Doonesbury was syndicated in 900 American newspapers.   Trudeau was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartoons in 1975, the first to receive this accolade.   He sees himself as a typical baby boomer with a liberal East Coast outlook. Continue reading “Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau”

Remembering Pip, Squeak & Wilfred and the Wilfredian League of Gugnuncs

My first encounter with an adorable trio of anthropomorphic animals called Pip, Squeak and Wilfred was when I stepped through the threshold of the Cartoon Museum while doing a six-months intership with the HLF Comic Creators Project back in 2015. I happened to be present when the museum purchased a set of four original drawings, and I could not get over how charming they were. There was something magical about the way the characters were drawn that immediately appealed to my inner child. As I started to read full stories, I realized that I was captivated by the antics of these three characters and the narration of Uncle Dick. I’ll get back to him in a second! Continue reading “Remembering Pip, Squeak & Wilfred and the Wilfredian League of Gugnuncs”

Discovering Rupert Bear at the Cartoon Museum

Rupert Bear was first imagined and drawn by Mary Tourtel, although on his first appearance – in the Daily Express on 8 November 1920 – he was just called “the little lost bear”. She drew Rupert for 15 years, then handed him over to Alfred Edmeades Bestall, the best-known Rupert illustrator, in 1935.   Bestall in turn drew Rupert for 30 years, giving up the regular role in 1965 – though he did continue to produce some special drawings for another 20 years. Continue reading “Discovering Rupert Bear at the Cartoon Museum”

Another Brick Bradford in the Wall

He was a ‘soldier of fortune’ who explored lost civilisations, ‘unravelled the secrets of the past and probed the mysteries of the future’. His stories ran from 1933-1987 in Newspapers across the United States. He was also popular globally with distribution in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Italy as well as in France under the nom d’plume of Luc Bradefer or ‘Luke Ironarm’. Columbia Pictures produced a 15-chapter serial featuring him in 1947. So why is the most obvious question: who is Brick Bradford? Continue reading “Another Brick Bradford in the Wall”

The Cloggies by Bill Tidy

William Edward Tidy was born in Tranmere, near Birkenhead on Merseyside, on 9 October 1933.   His father, also called Bill, was a charming but feckless man, a merchant navy quartermaster who was away from home for long periods and was not involved in bringing up his son.   His mother Catherine worked as a barmaid to support herself and her son, and often got retired women who lived locally to look after him while she worked.   One of these women, Nellie, may have helped to point Tidy towards his ultimate career: she was an avid fan of the Beano and Dandy.   At one stage he moved to live with his Uncle Bert and Aunt Polly in Liverpool.   Bert was a great storyteller, adding another string to Tidy’s artistic bow.   He returned to live with Catherine, by then a pub manager, and attended Anfield Junior School where Miss Edwards encouraged him to develop his innate drawing talent.   American comics and war films were another influence on him.   He never had any formal art training.

Continue reading “The Cloggies by Bill Tidy”

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