Official Newspaper of Eddy County since 1883

Good grief! Charlie Brown has come to life

As I write this, summer has officially begun. It's the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. The weather is fine, and it's time to take in a live show (or nine).

This year a pop culture icon will come alive at the little theatre on Central Avenue in New Rockford. "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" debuts July 12 at Old Church Theatre, featuring the art of cartoonist Charles M. Schulz.

"Peanuts" debuted in newspapers on Oct. 2, 1950, years before my parents were even born. The short strips featuring the "little round-headed kid" named Charlie Brown and his friends went global.

For nearly 50 years, Schulz brought the Peanuts characters to life in more than 2,600 newspapers. At its peak, the comic reached millions of readers in 75 countries.

When I was a kid in the 1980s, Charlie Brown was a huge part of pop culture.

My siblings and I gathered in the living room of our farmhouse to watch "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and all their other holiday specials during their designated time slots on network TV.

I remember having drinking glasses featuring the characters, which my grandfather got us from McDonalds when we were kids. I did a little online research and apparently the Camp Snoopy glasses debuted in 1983, when I was a toddler!

According to, the Camp Snoopy glasses are now among the top eight most valuable McDonald's Happy Meal prizes of all time. Complete sets of those glasses are available for sale online. If I wanted, I could nab a set from a seller on Poshmark for a cool $60, or about $12 per glass.

There was even "Peanuts"-themed peanut butter. I found the TV commercial from 1993 on YouTube. There were four varieties from smooth to crunchy.

Schulz was diagnosed with colon cancer in the late 1990s. In December 1999 he announced that he would stop drawing new cartoons and that the last strips would run in the new year. He died in February 2000, the night before his final comic strip ran in the Sunday paper.

My kids know the comic too, although they were all born after Schulz died. I have all the "Peanuts" holiday TV specials on VHS tape in my basement. My mother collected them and passed them along to me when my kids were little.

Although it was his family's wish that the newspaper comic not continue after his death, the popular characters have continued to make appearances in new media.

Snoopy vs. the Red Baron was a flight combat game released for Playstation 2, PSP and PC in 2006.

The 3-D computer-animated "The Peanuts Movie," which was of course based on his comic strips, was released in 2015.

There's even a Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, Calif, where you can view the largest collection of "Peanuts " artwork in the world.

Apparently Apple TV owns the rights to all the "Peanuts" TV specials, so we probably shouldn't expect them to air on network TV ever again.

Schulz was an amazing artist. He had an uncanny ability to present complex themes to his audiences in a most entertaining way. He was the first cartoonist to talk about emotions in his strips.

He even had a "no adults policy" in Peanuts. I guess that's why the TV specials barely mention adults, and they certainly didn't make any appearances or even have speaking roles beyond "wah, wah, wah."

He elaborated on his decision on several occasions. In 1997, as I was awash in my teenage years, he weighed in specifically regarding Snoopy and Woodstock.

"Now, we can go [in] any direction with Snoopy. Woodstock, too. It's absurd to think of this dog and this bird wandering through the woods going on hikes and camping out. So as soon as an adult is in the strip, bang, the whole thing collapses. Because the adults bring everything back to reality. And it just spoils it."

I'm with Schulz. The cartoons we have available to us now are often political rants disguised as art. They are about as political as the opinion columns in our syndicated feed each week.

I would have loved to have been a newspaper editor during Schulz's time. Now the best I could do is print reruns.

There are 17,897 "Peanuts" comic strips. Schulz drew them all himself, never relying on other illustrators or software, and definitely not artificial intelligence ...

I find it hard enough to come up with one topic worthy of 1,000 words of rambling on my part each week. He had to produce something every day!

If you want more insight into his life, read "Charles M. Schulz: The Untold Truth of the Peanuts Creator." on Author Boshika Guptawas says he was "known to be transparent about using his work to ask important questions without hesitation."

"You can grind out daily gags, but I'm not interested in simply doing gags," Schulz once said. "I'm interested in doing a strip that says something and makes some comment on the important things in life."

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