Charlie Brown is the main character as well as the butt of most of the jokes throughout the run of Charles Schultz' comic strip Peanuts. If you have never heard of Charlie Brown.... well... then... "Good Grief!"
Charlie Brown was in many ways a reflection of Charles Schultz himself. Schultz grew up in midwestern Minnesota. Specifically, Schultz grew up in the Minneapolis / St. Paul area. From a young age, Schultz had a desire to enter into cartooning and nothing else. As a matter of fact, Schultz as a young boy successfully submitted a cartoon to Robert Ripley of Ripley's Believe It Or Not fame that was published by Ripley. The cartoon, of a dog naturally, turned out to be Schultz' first published work.
Any one who referred to Charles Schultz as Charles did not know him at all. From practically birth, everyone who knew Charles Schultz referred to him as 'Sparky.' It is a matter of some debate as to how rough a school experience Schultz had growing up. Schultz remembered and mentally documented every real and perceived slight growing up. However, (and this may be a revision after he got famous) no one can actually seem to remember Schultz being unpopular or anyone having a negative opinion of him. Generally, no one can remember having much of any opinion of Schultz growing up. schultz did consider it an insult that his sketch for the yearbook was not accepted. As symblic vengeance, Schultz kept stacks of yearbooks that featured drawings of his Peanuts characters throughout the decades. His high school teacher in charge of the selection could not remember Schultz ever complaining or mentioning the event. Schultz was also deeply trouble by his grades and the fact that his parents did not seem disappointef about the grades.
There was actually a 'little red headed girl.' Schultz did date a girl who publically refused his hand in marriage. Schultz' first wife already had a girl (and was unmarried) which was a scandal in the midwest at the time. Schultz real start in cartooning was when he started taking correspondance course in cartooning. Schultz was a proponent of correspondance courses throughout his life. When the coursework was over, Schultz visited the headquarters of the correspondance school. Schultz was given a job reviewing artwork. While reviewing, Schultz was able to get his real career off of the ground. According to Schultz, the kids sold so he stayed with the kids. Schultz would continue to deny specific reference points for Charlie Brown other than he made Charlie Brown up. However, Schultz would admit on occassion that there was more of him in Charlie Brown than he would like to have admitted.
The first appearance of Charlie Brown in the first Peanuts comic. October 2nd, 1950.
After fifteen years and a steadily exploding fan base, the idea came about for a Peanuts special on television. However, when studio executives heard Sparky's ideas for the special, it nearly went out the window in the first meeting. Schultz wanted his characters to be voiced by actual children. In the 1960s as in today, it was a common practice for adults to voice chiildren's characters. The next thing that Schultz was adamant about was the reading of the Biblical Christmas story As in, reading straight out of the King James Bible. You may believe that something like that would never fly now, but the 1960s were a different time with different views. This sentiment is not as true as you might think. Network executives nearly had a heart attack. Finally, Schultz said "If we don't do it, who will?"
In the end, Sparky won out and the special went off just as he planned. This is included Linus Van Pelt explaining the true meaning of Christmas.
Linus was quoting the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke verse 8-14.
"'8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'"
"And thats what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown."
CBS executives were prepared for a deluge of reponse to the airing. They were not really prepared for the type of response that they would receive from the airing. The response was over whelming positive. One reviewer stated that Linus Van Pelt had delivered 'nothing less than the dramatic reading of the year.' In one CBS executive's blunt assessment 'the next day, all Heaven broke loose..."
CBS would re-air the special every year from 1966 - 2000. After that, the special would air yearly on ABC. Every year up until the modern age, the beloved special has Linus Van Pelt giving the 'dramatic reading of the year.'
Score one for Sparky.
Schultz's marriage to Joyce Halverson showed serious signs of trouble in the early 1970's and the divorce was finalized in 1972. As his marital and family woes mounted, Schultz continued to achieve professional success. As a matter of fact, many longtime Peanuts observers (including Calvin and Hobbes scribe Bill Watterson) considered the 1970's to be the high water mark of Schultz' talents. Schultz would marry a second time. Schultz would marry Jean Clyde in 1973. Clyde had children from a previous marriage.
In 1981, Schultz would suffer a heart attack. This would set up one of the great moments for my personal heroes. Charles Schultz received a personal call wishing him well from none other than President Ronald Wilson Reagan.
But while things may fall apart, Schultz' passion for Peanuts and his life long work would not wane. There was more television specials. There was also a Broadway musical Your A Good Man, Charlie Brown.
Of course, occassionally high school productions of this play can lead to people way too hansome to play Charlie Brown portraying him. Like this devil...
After the 1990's were finished, schultz had fallen upon ill health and could finally no longer continue Peanuts. It was time for a final strip. Speculation circulated as to what shape the final strip would take. Would Charlie Brown finally get to kick the ball from Lucy Van Pelt? What plot point would expand? Any one who thought such things never really understood Peanuts to begin with. These are the same people that would have called Schultz either Mr. Schultz or Charles. Sparky wanted to aknowledge those who had read the strip over the decades. The final strip was published January 3rd, 2000. The world would be saddened by the passing of Charles 'Sparky' Schultz on February 12, 2000.
Charlie Brown (like Charles Schultz) is the son of a barber.
Charlie has a younger sister named Sally. They are a midwestern family (probably Minnesota) and it will almost certainly snow every year.
Charlie would often try his hand at sports with varying levels of success from little going all the way down to none.
Charlie Brown has very particular feelings about holidays. Many of his specials focused on them. Charlie seems to legitimately love the spirit of most holidays... but would appreciate Valentine's Day appreciating him at bit better or .. you know... at least once.
In addition to never kicking the ball, Charlie Brown has many indignities that he seems to suffer on a yearly basis. There is an evil tree that will often eat kites....
There are the frequent trips to child psycologist Lucy Van Pelt....
There is the needy dog that always seems to want to be fed....