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Tuesday, February 15, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 95

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Good grief, a cartoon genius is dead at 77

Brandon Moeller

Snoopy was always my hero. Man, that dog could jam. 

Charles M. Schulz, who created the "Peanuts" comic strip, died over the weekend. He was 77. His work was the most popular and most widely read modern comic strip.

But there wasn't anything extremely modern about it. The strip revolved around Charlie Brown and his gang of assorted pals. Their life, as displayed in cartoon panels, was permanently set in the pre-adolescence of the 1950's. The biggest troubles facing these characters were kite-eating trees, losing baseball games and taking down an imaginary Red Baron.

Brown's friends didn't face the kind of issues children do today. Perhaps that's why "Peanuts" remained so popular; reading it allowed readers to escape from the rustle-bustle that American life has become.

Yet Schulz didn't inaccurately portray life. Life is filled with losers and Brown was one of the biggest of all time. He couldn't kick the football and he constantly struck out with that "little red-haired girl."

Why did we laugh at all of Charlie Brown's mishaps? Because there's nothing funny about kicking a football.

Schulz's work was autobiographical at times. The "little red-haired girl" was actually a girl who worked in the accounting department of an art correspondence school where Schulz instructed. She never thought Schulz would amount to much.

Schulz has been called a "sellout" by some. So what, if the general public actually wanted to buy images of his characters on coffee mugs, boxer shorts and baseball caps? Artists who realize the potential for profit from merchandise should capitalize on it.

Or someone else will. For instance, Bill Watterson, who drew "Calvin and Hobbes," believed his work should stay in newspapers, and nowhere else. When the strip got so popular that merchandise companies began to try to buy his images, Watterson refused.

He quit the strip, partly because his work was being pirated. Does anybody have a Calvin sticker on the back of their vehicle? Watterson didn't get a penny.

Schulz, on the other hand, authorized a wide range of merchandise. So what? America loves that crazy kid and his beagle.

Schulz never liked the name "Peanuts," because he didn't think it described the kind of kids he was depicting in his strip. Well, Schulz, if it ever meant anything, when I was a kid and my father read the funnies to me, I always thought the strip was titled "Snoopy."

And I'm sure if you took a panel of kindergartners, they'd be more familiar with the names Snoopy or Charlie Brown than the title of the actual strip.

Why does this matter? It's always interesting to me to analyze what people remember and what people don't about their childhood.

"Peanuts" was a daily reminder to many Americans of the earlier years in life. I remember being hyper like Snoopy, bossy like Lucy and a mess like Pig Pen. And I'm not alone.

Schulz was a mainstream cartoon genius. He lost his battle with cancer and died in his sleep Saturday, one day prior to his final Sunday cartoon strip.

Moeller, a sophomore communication major 
who doesn't own a kite, 
can be reached at brandonmoeller@hotmail.com.

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