Bandit's Banter

As hard as it is for me to believe that we have made it to the year 2000, it is even harder for me to believe that Charles Schulz has finally retired.  For the one or two of you who still haven't heard yet, Mr. Schulz has been having health problems lately, and was recently diagnosed with colon cancer.  Thus, he has chosen now to retire, in order to concentrate on recovering, and spend more time with his family.  With the end of Peanuts, we will have one less reason to read the newspaper comics.  While I wish Peanuts could continue forever, I am glad that Mr. Schulz decided that it would end when he retired.  Unlike so many older strips on the funny pages, Peanuts will not be taken over by a committee of second-stringers hired by the syndicate.

Peanuts has had a huge influence on practically every cartoonist born after 1950 (and more than a few born before then), and I am certainly no exception.  Growing up as a child, this strip is the one that made me want to become a cartoonist.  My siblings and I had collected a whole stack of "Charlie Brown books" (small Fawcett Crest paperbacks, about 70-80 pages long), and I read each one a few dozen times.  They were somehow lost or thrown out as we got older, but recently, I've been scouring the used bookstores here in town for these books, and have recovered quite a few of them, so far.  And to you younger readers, I recommend you do the same.  You have simply got to see what Peanuts was like back in the '50's and '60's!

Anyway, back then, much of the humor went over my little head, but in some ways, that made these books more appealing to me.  They made me wonder what Schulz was talking about, and because of this, I learned new things that I might not have bothered to learn otherwise.  Hey, Charles Schulz never spoke down to his audience.  But I also loved the sheer sense of outright sillines that infused much of the strip: Snoopy tearing through the house with Linus' blanket, with Linus holding on for dear life; Lucy in a vicious mood; Charlie Brown getting knocked off the mound (and stripped of his clothes) after one of his pitches got smacked back up the middle; Snoopy as a World War I fighter pilot (where did Schulz ever come up with that idea???).  Best of all, Charlie Brown getting bowled over whenever someone shouted at him.  Seeing Charlie Brown frozen in that midair backflip always cracked me up, and still does today.  Quite simply, no cartoonist has ever been able to mix the sublime and the silly as successfully as Charles Schulz did.

Needless to say, dozens of cartoonists have been paying tribute to Mr. Schulz, and this week's story "When A God Retires", is my contribution, Bruno the Bandit-style.  It may be a little more sentimental than the average Bruno story, but I make no apology for that.  Charles Schulz will probably not see this story, but that doesn't matter.  This is a story I needed to do, since Peanuts has had such a huge influence on Bruno.  After all, Bruno, like Charlie Brown himself, is a perpetual loser, never able to get ahead.  And I admit there's more than a bit of Snoopy in Fiona.

But if Charles Schulz were to read the story, and this article, all I would add right now is, God bless you, sir, and thank you for sharing your talent with us for 50 fabulous years.  Without Peanuts, the comics page would've been pretty dull indeed.

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