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The International Writers Magazine

'Good Grief'
- A Tribute to Charles Schulz
Alex Hillman

Last month marked the fifth anniversary since the death of Charles Schulz, a person who until that point (and indeed for long after) had had a significant effect on my life and the way I chose to live it. Charles Schulz was the creator of Peanuts, a popular long-running cartoon strip, whose manifold virtues included the ability to appeal to all ages, as all good cartoons should. One of the reasons I loved the cartoon strip so much as a boy was to do with the experiences of the central character, Charlie Brown - a folicularly challenged 8 year-old, who constantly suffered emotionally and psychologically at the hands of his peers, through experiences not unrelated to many of my own when I was that age or indeed when I was older. Whether it was his self-confessed lack of respect in himself or the way in which everyone mocked him and blamed him when doing wrong, Charlie Brown was a character I could always relate to as a child, and was in many ways a semi-autobiographical character for Schulz himself.

And there was Linus Van Pelt, whose relationship with his sister, Lucy, mirrored my own relationship with my sister Rebecca to worrying degrees of accuracy. It is Schulz's sensitivity of his handling of childhood through these characters that my memory favours the most, and what I could always turn to in some of the more difficult moments of my childhood.

In many ways, the character Charlie Brown is like a younger Willy Loman - disillusioned with his lifestyle (disillusioned, in fact, with life in general). He lacks the respect of his family, is pretty much a failure at his job (or in this case, school) and finds the most menial and basic jobs impossible, like attempting to simply write a letter. He is one of the best character creations of all time, someone who anyone can relate to, at any difficult moment in their life, especially if they too suffer where others so easily succeed.
Aside from his great skill as an artist, Schulz was also adept at creating a world of consistent 1950's nostalgia. As this was the era in which he started working on Peanuts it is probably unsurprising that his entire catalogue retains a beautiful 50's feel about it; an era of positivity (at least in America) where children could play on the road without any risk of being knocked down by a car, or they could stay after school without fear of being shot to pieces by the Trench Coat Mafia. It was a different time - a time of innocence, and Schulz was a master at portraying it.

Whilst there are still some good cartoons these days, none can ever touch the work of Charles Schulz. I can't help but feel as if, since his death, he has been forgotten somewhat. We shouldn't forget that many things these days, especially cartoons, owe a lot to his work. Every modern cartoon you can think of, especially those running on TV owe something or other to Schulz. Be it The Simpsons, Calvin and Hobbes, even South Park - all were touched by his greatness in some way. He was a genius, a fantastic artist and deserves to be remembered.

© Alex Hillman- April 2005

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