(Checkiday.com) – “Good grief!” is a phrase often used by Charlie Brown, the main character from Charles Schulz’s comic strip, Peanuts. Schulz was born on this day in 1922, and today is dedicated to both him and his enduring comic strip. Peanuts ran almost fifty years—from October 2, 1950, until February 13, 2000, which was one day after Schulz’s death. Schulz created all aspects of the comic, from the script to the art and lettering. Today, reprints of Schulz’s comic appear in many U.S. newspapers.
From 1947 to 1950, Charles Schulz’s first comic strip, Li’l Folks, appeared in his hometown paper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He first used the name “Charlie Brown” in this comic, which also included a dog that looked like Snoopy—who would become one of the most famous characters from Peanuts. After Li’l Folks was dropped in 1950, Schulz took some of its best work to the United Feature Syndicate. They picked up his work, and decided to debut Peanuts, which was Schulz’s new creation; it was like Li’l Folks but differed in that it had a set cast of characters. The syndicate came up with its title, which was named after the peanut gallery from the Howdy Doody show. At its debut it began being printed in nine newspapers as a daily strip. By the time of its height in the 1960’s, it was being printed in over 2,600 newspapers.
Peanuts was known for its complex humor, and for its psychological, sociological, and philosophical overtones. During its early years, compared to other comic strips, Peanuts was ahead of its time in terms of its social commentary. Throughout the 1960’s, Schulz used the comic strip to address racial and gender issues. He usually did this by creating narratives where equality, or at least the acceptance of different races and gender norms, was being natural. For example, Franklin, an African American character, went to an integrated school, and his place there was not questioned. Similarly, Peppermint Patty’s athletic ability and self-confidence were also not called into question, and Charlie Brown had girls on his baseball team. Schulz also addressed other social issues such as the Vietnam War, and children’s issues such as school dress codes. Religious themes were also often touched on, most memorably in the television special, A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Charlie Brown quickly became the main character of Peanuts, and was known for his lack of self-confidence, but also his drive to not give up. Other early characters were Shermy and Patty (not Peppermint Patty, who arrived in 1966). Snoopy made his debut in the third strip on October 4, 1950. Over time other characters were added, such as Violet, Schroeder, Lucy, Linus, Pig-Pen, Sally, Frieda, Marcie, and Woodstock—a yellow bird.
Over the years Peanuts has been adapted to many formats, including books, feature films, television films, theatre, and video games, and it is seen as one of the most influential comic strips of all time. Schulz received numerous accolades for Peanuts, including being inducted into the William Randolph Hearst Cartoon Hall of Fame, and receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Peanuts has been called the second-best comic of all time by The Comics Journal, and fourth greatest cartoon of all time by TV Guide. Furthermore, film adaptations of the comic have received Peabody and Emmy awards. On January 3, 2000, the final daily comic strip was published, although Schulz had drawn five extra Sunday comic strips that were soon published. The final new comic strip, which was like the January 3 strip, ran a day after Schulz’s death.