The farewell note

The world responds

When the news landed that Charles Schulz would retire, response from the national and world press was, to put it kindly, rather voluminous. Many of the articles simply rehashed the same information again and again, but we're archiving some of the better ones, and providing links to others, in this section.

At first it seemed only that our hero, after a 49-year run, would enjoy a retirement that he certainly earned...but that was not to be.

But the articles in this section were written before the truly devastating news of February 12, 2000, and thus must be placed in that perspective.

Editorial cartoons by professional fans...a great site!


November 23, 1999

By Mary Ann Lickteig
The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Even though "Peanuts" creator Charles M. Schulz plans to undergo treatment for colon cancer, his fans may not see a break in his comic strip.

Schulz, who has taken extended time off just once in 49 years of drawing the strip, works several weeks in advance. His daily strips are completed through the end of the year. His Sunday strips are completed through Feb. 14.

If those run out before he is back on the job, the syndicate will substitute classic strips, starting with those from the last five years.

Doctors found his cancer last week, when he underwent emergency surgery to clear a blocked abdominal artery.

Schulz, who turns 77 on Friday, remained in Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital on Monday. The hospital refused to say how he was doing.

Doctors expect chemotherapy to be effective, according to Schulz's secretary, Edna Poehner. Schulz has been walking around, Poehner said. "His spirits are good, and that's what it takes."

The secretary says about 20 bouquets of flowers and more than 100 cards and letters have flowed into his studio in Santa Rosa, about 50 miles north of San Francisco.

Staffers at United Media, which syndicates the strip, signed a 4-foot tall, get-well card decorated with members of the "Peanuts" gang and remained optimistic, spokeswoman Diane Iselin said.

"They think he's going to approach this as he does everything else he does. He plays ice hockey. He golfs. He's an athletic man. We see him as a robust individual who works every day," she said.

"Peanuts" appears in more than 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries and in 21 languages. Schulz draws, colors and letters every panel himself. His contract forbids anyone else to draw it, so the strip will die when he dies.

He never talks about retiring, Iselin said. "He talks about drawing the strip every day. That's what he does."

His only extended break was a five-week hiatus two years ago to celebrate his 75th birthday.

"It's my life," Schulz once said of the comic strip. More than 355 million people share it, drawn to the long-suffering, round-headed boy who cannot pitch a no-hitter or win the love of the little red-haired girl.

"I think we all identify with Charlie Brown because life is always a struggle, we're always trying to do better, because he always tries again. He never gives up," said Lee Mendelson, producer of ``Peanuts" TV shows and movies.

A few weeks ago, Mendelson said, Schulz was drawing and "he looked at me and he said, 'You know, this is hard work.' And I said, 'Are you just realizing this fter all these years?' And he said, 'It's like having a term paper every day."'


November 29, 1999

The Associated Press

SANTA ROSA, California -- Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, who two weeks ago was diagnosed with colon cancer while undergoing emergency surgery to remove a blockage in his abdominal aorta, will be heading home from the hospital this week.

Schulz has been undergoing chemotherapy at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital since the cancer was discovered Nov. 16. He has lived in Santa Rosa, which is about 60 miles north of San Francisco, for 40 years and has been active in the community.

"It looks like Sparky will be going home midweek sometime," said Edna Poehner, his secretary and family friend.

Poehner said Schulz, who turned 77 Friday, has been "doing a fair amount of walking" at the hospital.

The cartoonist, whose artistry has brought him and the cast of "Peanuts" worldwide fame, has received a "mind-boggling amount" of cards and letters wishing him well, Poehner said.

Schulz's release from the hospital will come just a few days before the opening of the city's annual holiday ice show, which he normally personally oversees from rehearsals to performances.

Last year, the show drew a total of 41,000 people to 37 performances. Schulz's love for skating prompted him to build the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, where the show is held. Schulz also started an annual senior hockey tournament there.

The cartoonist got his nickname, "Sparky," when he was 2 years old, after the character Barney Google's horse Sparkplug.

Schulz has drawn enough new strips to last through the rest of the year. He has drawn "Peanuts" for nearly 50 years.


December 1, 1999

The Associated Press

SANTA ROSA, California -- Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, who two weeks ago was diagnosed with colon cancer, has returned home from the hospital.

The creator of Charlie Brown and the "Peanuts" gang was released from the hospital Tuesday morning, said his wife, Jean Schulz.

"He's tired, but he's fine," she said. "He's probably just typical of a patient going home."

Schulz, 77, had been undergoing chemotherapy at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital since the cancer was discovered Nov. 16. It was found while he was undergoing emergency surgery to remove a blockage in his abdominal aorta.

Schulz has drawn the cartoon strip "Peanuts" for nearly 50 years, bringing him and the characters he created worldwide fame.

He has lived in Santa Rosa, about 60 miles north of San Francisco, for 40 years.

Schulz has completed daily comic strips through the end of the year and Sunday strips through Feb. 14, according to United Feature Syndicate. If those run out before he is back on the job, the syndicate will distribute strips from the last five years.

"Peanuts" appears in more than 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries in 21 languages. Schulz draws, colors and letters every panel himself. His contract prohibits anyone else from drawing it. The strip is expected to end when he dies or becomes permanently unable to work.


December 3, 1999

The Associated Press

SANTA ROSA, California -- Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz is back at one of his favorite places, the ice skating rink, after being released from the hospital following his diagnosis with colon cancer.

Schulz, creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip, watched a practice Thursday night at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena for the opening number of a show benefitting an AIDS support group and wished the cast good luck.

Schulz, 77, was released from Memorial Hospital on Tuesday after undergoing abdominal surgery. The cancer was found at that time.

The "Peanuts" artist and his wife Jean left the rink he created after watching just the first number. They watched from the booth Schulz has sat in nearly every day for more than a decade.

"We had some friends who were coming and we thought it would be interesting to see a little of it," Mrs. Schulz said. "But it was just too tiring."

In the show, which opens Friday night, Snoopy goes the Netherlands and skaters go to England to experience "Beaglemania." And, of course, there's a "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" sequence.

"It's like now the show can go on because he is here," said Richard Dwyer, manager of the ice arena and a performer in the rink's holiday ice shows.


December 14, 1999

Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Good grief! Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy and the rest of the "Peanuts" gang are being retired after nearly 50 years by the comic strip's creator, Charles Schulz.

Schulz, 77, who has written, drawn, colored and lettered every "Peanuts" strip, announced Tuesday that his last new daily installment will appear Jan. 3 and his last new Sunday strip will be published Feb. 3. Schulz was diagnosed with colon cancer last month.

"Although I feel better following my recent surgery, I want to focus on my health and my family without the worry of a daily deadline," he said in a statement.

Schulz, who works six weeks in advance, drew his latest strips before he was diagnosed with cancer. When the new material runs out, United FeatureSyndicate will offer old strips, starting with those from 1974.

"I think we have to say that he's sad about it," said his wife, Jean.

Cartoonists across the country reacted with disbelief. "Do we absolutely, absolutely know this is true?" asked Cathy Guisewite, creator of "Cathy." "Nobody's ready for this."

Mort Walker, the creator of "Beetle Bailey" and "Hi and Lois," said he and his friend Schulz cried when they spoke on the phone Tuesday morning.

"He did something entirely different from what all the rest of us did. I write and draw funny pictures and slapstick, it's a joke a day," Walker said. "He delved into the psyche of children and the fears and the rejections that we all felt as children."

"Peanuts" made its debut Oct. 2, 1950. The travails of the "little round-headed kid" Charlie Brown and his pals eventually ran in more than 2,600 newspapers, reaching millions of readers in 75 countries.

Over the years, the "Peanuts" gang became a part of American popular culture, delivering gentle humor spiked with a child's-eye view of human foibles.

The 1965 CBS special "A Charlie Brown Christmas" won an Emmy and rerun immortality, and many other specials followed. There was a hit musical, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." The characters also appeared on sheets, stationery and countless other products.

One of the strip's most endearing qualities was its constancy.

The long-suffering Charlie Brown faced misfortune with a mild "Good grief!" Tart-tongued Lucy handed out advice for a nickel at what looked like a lemonade stand with a sign that read, "The Doctor is In." And Snoopy, Charlie Brown's beagle, took the occasional flight of fancy to the skies of World War I, where he fought imaginary dogfights against the Red Baron.

There were other recurring elements, such as Charlie Brown's zig-zag stripe shirt, his ever-losing baseball team, his habit of getting kites stuck in trees, and his yearning for the little red-haired girl.

Lucy could always be counted on to pull the football away from Charlie Brown just before he kicked it, sending him sprawling on his back with an exclamation of "AAAAAARGH!" Lucy's brother, Linus, always had to have his blanket. Schroeder had to have his piano and his bust of Beethoven. Marcie always called Peppermint Patty "sir." Pig Pen moved in a cloud of dust.

"Peanuts" was an intensely personal effort for Schulz, who had a clause in his contract dictating the strip had to end with his death.

Though he guarded his privacy, "Peanuts" brought Schulz international fame. He won the Reuben Award, comic art's highest honor, in 1955 and 1964. In 1978, he was named International Cartoonist of the Year, an award voted by 700 comic artists around the world.

In 1990, when the "Peanuts" gang turned 40, the government of France named Schulz Commander of Arts and Letters, one of that country's highest awards for excellence in the arts.

Schulz was born in St. Paul, Minn., and studied art after he saw a "Do you like to draw?" ad. After serving in the Army during World War II, he did lettering for a church comic book, taught art and sold cartoons to The Saturday Evening Post.

His first feature, "Li'l Folks," was developed for the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 1947. In 1950, it was sold to a syndicate and renamed though he admitted later he didn't like the title "Peanuts."

The popularity of the strip soared in 1965 when Snoopy turned his doghouse into a Sopwith Camel for the first of many engagements with the Baron. The following year, a musical group called the Royal Guardsmen had a No. 2 single, "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron."

Charlie Brown, named after a friend Schulz had at art school, was to some extent the cartoonist's alter ego, and Snoopy was inspired by a dog he had as a child. Schulz remembered the animal as "the smartest and most uncontrollable dog that I have ever seen."


December 14, 1999

By Joseph P. Kahn
The Boston Globe

Fifty years after its debut -- after half a century of doghouse soliloquies, tattered security blankets, flubbed kickoffs ("You blockhead, Charlie Brown!"), and sweetly rendered musings on the foibles and frustrations of childhood -- "Peanuts" is calling it quits, ending a singular run in American popular culture.

Charles Schulz, the comic strip's 77-year old creator, announced his retirement Tuesday, effective Jan. 4. Schulz, who was diagnosed with colon cancer earlier this year, said in a statement released from his Northern California home that although he felt better since having had surgery recently, "I want to focus on my health and my family without the worry of a daily deadline."

" 'Peanuts' truly remade the cartooning landscape," said historian Richard West of Northampton, Mass., who has written several books on cartooning. "When Schulz came along, adventure strips like Flash Gordon were all the rage. Schulz brought back the gag strip, but he imbued it with a wisdom and heart it never had before. And behind it all, he's such a gentleman, so incredibly solicitous of his fans."

The strip, which made its debut Oct. 2, 1950, currently appears in more than 2,600 newspapers worldwide. It reaches 355 million readers in 75 countries and 21 languages, making "Peanuts" truly a global phenomenon, an American export akin to Coca-Cola and bluejeans.

And the strip conquered more than just the comics. Greeting cards, novelty records, home accessories, animated television specials, feature films, more than 1,400 books (300 million copies sold), and even a hit Broadway musical made up a billion-dollar-a-year industry that borrowed its charm from a simple four-panel comic strip, one that stayed fresh as it meandered its way, like a toddler in a pumpkin patch, from the postwar era to the hip-hop age.

Asked Tuesday about her husband's feelings on putting "Peanuts" out to pasture, his wife, Jean Schulz, said, "I think we have to say he's sad about it." Schulz had worked on the strip daily untill illness intervened, forcing him to draw upon a backlog of material he'd prepared. The final Sunday "Peanuts" strip is scheduled to run Feb. 13.

Schulz's retirement marks an abrupt, if not entirely unexpected, finish to the ongoing adventures of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder, Pig Pen, Snoopy, and others, a cast of characters impervious to the aging process.

Crabby Lucy never really mellowed or stopped dispensing "professional" advice, at a nickel an insight. Poor old Charlie Brown kept right on believing that just this once, he could kick that stupid football through the uprights or get that opposing batter out with his best pitch. Snoopy never lost his taste for fantasizing, Walter Mitty-like, on World War I aviation exploits and other adventures. Pig Pen never bathed much, and Schroeder seldom left his piano bench.

In a culture that seemed to turn itself upside down every five years or so, the "Peanuts" gang stayed remarkably true to their original nature, and, by extension, true to their fans. The world they inhabited was adult-free, but in their innocence they gave voice to the same fatalism that drives so much adult discourse. And that worldliness only made them all the more lovable.

Schulz, who insisted on drawing every panel himself and thus kept the franchise very much his own, became a beloved figure in his own right. Fellow cartoonists worship Schulz as a good guy -- he is universally known as "Sparky" -- who treats fans, business partners, and peers with the utmost respect.

"He's the most successful (comic strip) artist in the history of mankind, period, by every available measure," said Daryl Cagle, president of the National Cartoonists Society. "Artistic success, influence on the business, number of fans, monetary rewards - pick any great artist, and Sparky wins every time."

Noting that more people worldwide read "Peanuts" on a daily basis than anything else, Cagle added, "There's simply no more important cartoon out there."

The prolific Schulz also managed to outlast many of the Baby Boomer cartoonists who followed in his footsteps. Berke Breathed ("Bloom County"), Gary Larson ("The Far Side"), and Bill Watterson ("Calvin and Hobbes") all opted for early retirement. Gary Trudeau of "Doonesbury" fame has taken several sabbaticals to refresh his mind and pen. Not Schulz, who kept at his drawing table for half a century.

Along the way came numerous honors, including two Reuben Awards for cartooning excellence in 1955 and 1964 and a 1978 International Cartoonist of the Year citation. In 1990, Schulz was named a Commander of Arts and Letters, one of France's highest awards for excellence in the arts. "A Charlie Brown Christmas," originally broadcast on CBS in 1965 and often replayed, won an Emmy.

"It is really shocking. I just thought he would go on and on forever," said Mort Walker, creator of the venerable "Beetle Bailey" strip. "It's like losing a child or something. I looked forward to reading the strip every day."

Walker added that he was surprised by Schulz's decision, suggesting it will be hard for the cartoonist to walk away from the characters he has guided for 50 years. "Old cartoonists never retire. They just erase away," Walker said.

(Wire service material was used to prepare this report.)

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