I'm still reading THAT book, Peanuts and Charles M. Schulz by David Michaelis, the one that had everyone in such a tizzy a few weeks back. I got side-tracked with another read, but if you want a decent idea of what that book is like, you should watch the PBS special, American Masters: Good Ol' Charles Schulz, which premiered last night.
If ever there was an apt subject for a series titled "American Masters," Schulz is it. Arguably--hell, there is no argument--the most famous cartoonist ever, AM shows us the same Schulz that is the center of family controversy in Michaelis' book: Aloof, cold, melancholy, and married to his strip. The man died the day before his last strip appeared, not allowing himself to see his final work put out with yesterday's garbage. Coincidence? Fate? Either works, but I think he just gave up.
Schulz's kids argue he's not the man in the book, and I would suppose they'd take issue with some of his portrayal in the AM episode, too. But for someone so cold and emotionless, he poured it all out on those flimsy pieces of bristol board that were translated into newspapers around the world. He created his own world, populated, at first, by people he knew. There were namesakes for Charlie Brown, Linus, and Shermy. A number of people mention that Lucy was his first wife, Joyce: bossy, domineering and at odds with the cartoonist. (Just as many mention she did all the heavy lifting so he could do what he did best, too.) But eventually, the more you know about Charles Schulz, the more you realize all the Peanuts characters were mainly him. And for someone that might have had a problem expressing joy or love or emotion in real life, he had no problem putting it on the page every day.
Near the end of the program, when Schulz dies, they show superimposed images of some of the Peanuts characters fading out of real outdoor scenes, like they were disappearing from existence. Nothing could be further from the truth. If Schulz did one thing, he created a set of memorable characters which will never fade from memory. We're arguably in the middle of a mini-renaissance for Schulz and Peanuts, not they need it. I like to think Fantagraphics "The Complete Peanuts" series jump-started this "golden age," and Michaelis' book and the AM episode continue it. But Sparky doesn't need our help to remember him. He's so ingrained in the pop culture of this country that Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, and good ol' Charlie Brown will live forever. And so will good ol' Charles Schulz.