Saturday, October 2, 2010

It's a Dog's Life

Magnet # 357:  Snoopy as Joe Cool Panels

Material:  Plastic

Purchased By:  Me

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the 1950 debut of Peanuts, perhaps the best-loved comic strip of all time.  Only eight newspapers ran that first strip, which introduced Charlie Brown, albeit not in his iconic zigzag collared shirt.  Two other children were included, Shermy and Patty, but they wouldn't stick around.  In the third strip, Snoopy put in his first appearance and even though he wouldn't be named for over a month and it would take him even longer to start sharing his thoughts, he'd go on to become one of the world's most recognizable comic characters.  Over the rest of the decade, creator Charles Schulz would add more supporting characters, like Lucy, Linus, Pig Pen, and Sally, and bring his daily strip closer to the version that is now known and adored worldwide.

As the years passed by, Peanuts only became more popular.  It ran in more than 2,600 newspapers at its peak, but that was hardly the extent of Schulz's creation's success.  Soon, the Peanuts characters were crossing over into other forms and media, appearing on greeting cards, being turned into stuffed animals, and popping up on the small screen.  At first, they were used to advertise for the Ford Motor Company and a television documentary film about the strip titled A Boy Named Charlie Brown was filmed, but it never aired.  Nonetheless, in 1965, the gang appeared in their first prime time animated television special, A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965.  It proved to be a hit with both audiences and critics, earning an Emmy and airing every year since.  And its success has brought about the creation of more Peanuts prime time specials, including It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, the Halloween one.  Given that the season is currently underway, it should be airing again soon.  And if you've never seen this classic tale of Linus' search for the Great Pumpkin, a figure he feels to be even more popular than Santa Claus, you might want to tune in.  When the show premiered in 1966, some viewers were so upset when Charlie Brown got a rock trick-or-treating while the other kids received candy that they mailed in boxes and bags of treats for him.  I'm not sure when it will appear this year, but given that ABC has recently secured the rights to air Peanuts specials until 2015, it should be on in the next few weeks.  And I think they'll be renewing those rights - these shows are just too beloved by the public to ever go away.

All in all, Schulz was able to produce 17,897 Peanuts strips over fifty years.  The final one debuted on February 13, 2000, a day after the beloved creator had passed away.  He alone was responsible for the writing and illustration of every Peanuts strip and in his will, he made it clear that he didn't want any new ones made by someone else.  And United Features Syndicate, which own the rights to the comic, has been true to his wishes, only rerunning the original Peanuts strips.  He certainly didn't have that much influence at the beginning of his career.  Schulz wanted to name his strip L'il Folks, but the name was rejected.  Instead, they developed the name from the peanut gallery, the cheapest part of theatres which would often throw peanuts on the stage to heckle performers.  Schulz never liked the name change, saying it was confusing and lacked dignity.  Personally, it never made much sense to me.  For years, he even titled the strip Peanuts, featuring Good Ol' Charlie Brown.  Luckily, it didn't stop his work from becoming an international sensation.  The Peanuts comic strip may have come to an end after its half-century run, but it continues to draw in readers to newspapers around the country and may very well appear in the comic sections as long as they're around.

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