His creations endeared him to millions of children and adults alike, but still he felt unloved by the people around him as he lived 77 years of his life in misery.
Such was the tragedy in the life of Charles Schulz, the creator of the beloved Peanuts comic strip. Good grief, Charlie, how could you be so cruel to yourself?
A controversial new biography of the famous cartoonist depicted him as a shy, lonely man who used his child-like drawings to portray a life of deep melancholy.
The book is based on six years of research, unlimited access to family papers, more than 200 interviews and a close reading the 17,897 strips Schulz wrote and drew.
Biographer David Michaelis, author of “Schulz and Peanuts,” said Schulz was also a man who could neither forget nor forgive any slight or lonely moment.
Not for a minute did he believe that “Happiness was a warm puppy” — and he may not have believed in happiness at all.
“He thought it was impossible to draw a happy comic strip and actually he was fond of saying that ‘Happiness is a sad song,’” Michaelis said.
The cartoonist’s family says it is very unhappy with the 655-page portrait of Schulz, who died in 2000 at the age of 77, and say they do not recognize the man on display.
His son Monte Schulz told Newsweek magazine: “Why would all of us (children) gather at his bedside for three months if we hadn’t felt enormous affection for him?”
“Had we known this was the book David was going to write, we would not have talked to him.”
But they did talk to Michaelis and the writer stands by his findings. “Charles Schulz was a funny, warm and charming man with a great sense of calm and decency. But he also had a lifetime of being lonely, misunderstood and unhappy,” he said.
Michaelis says that to the day he died, Schulz could recall the terror of being separated as a boy from his mother on a crowded streetcar in his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota.
“Schulz never stopped believing that he had been forsaken and would be left behind, that nobody cared,” wrote Michaelis.
“In his work, indifference would be the dominant response to love. When his characters attempt to love, they are met not just by rejection but by ongoing, even brutal indifference — manifested either by insensitivity or as deeply fatalistic acceptance.”
All of Schulz’s beloved characters — Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy — seem to have been torn from his life.
Michaelis says a close reading of the comic strips showed the most intimate details of Schulz’s private life, including a romance that led to the breakup of his first marriage.
He says the bossy Lucy was inspired by Schulz’s first wife, Joyce, who had no patience with his worrying and used to tell him during his bouts of melancholy, “Snap out of it.”
Charlie Brown had a big head because Schulz’s father continually warned him about getting a swelled head. Charlie Brown’s dreams of grandeur had no place in Schulz’s working class world.
Well, even if Schulz was all cold and blue inside, he made people feel good and happy as they read his comic strips. Rest in peace, Charles.