Charles Schulz turned one hundred this past weekend. What would have been his centennial, that is, had he been alive. There is a certain Charlie Brown-ness to celebrating one hundred years from the grave, or wherever it is that the Great Pumpkin abides. From the grave, everybody sounds like the teachers in Peanuts. "Happy Birthday" sounds a lot like "mwah wah wa-wah."
But enough of this ugly chatter. It is worth noting that this was the man who made comics big business. There was a time when everyone you knew owned a sweatshirt, poster, stuffed animal or hairbrush that featured the image of one of Charles Schulz's characters. According to people who keep track fo such things, his estimated worth was more than one billion dollars. And that's not Peanuts.
Again, apologies for the low-hanging fruit. I have, over the course of many years, gathered up a certain amount cynicism when it comes to those icons of my youth. So much of what I learned about how to be a precocious kid came from the comic strips of Charles Schulz. "Sparky," to his friends. There was a lot of existential debate going on in those three or four panels. Sibling rivaly was discussed by Linus and his older sister Lucy. Unrequited love was always playing out in the background. It wasn't until many years later that I began to wonder for whom these cartoons were being drawn. There is something inherently depressing about a kid whose dog has a more active social life than his dog.
And to be sure, more toy and t-shirt sales. Not a lot of stuffed Charlie Browns sitting on Linus bedspreads. Snoopy was everything. Continues to be. And if you happen to be the round-headed kid who started out drawing a comic strip channeling your adult fears and woes only to end up featuring the adventures of your pet beagle, maybe the despair is a little more tangible. Good ol' Charlie Brown. Good ol' Charlie Schulz.
I missed your birthday. How Charlie Brown is that?