Good Grief, comic strip `Peanuts' ends after 50 years

 

Millions of fans around the world will mourn the daily Pea- nuts comic strip, which has appeared for the last time after almost 50 years of continuous publication.

The last cartoon yesterday was in the form of a letter from its creator, Charles M. Schulz, announcing his retirement at the age of 77 because of ill health.

He was diagnosed last year as having colon cancer.

The letter appears beside Snoopy, typing as usual, on the roof of his kennel.

"Dear Friends," the letter begins. "I have been fortunate to draw Charlie Brown and his friends for almost 50 years. It has been the fulfilment of my childhood ambition. Unfortunately, I am no longer able to maintain the schedule demanded by a daily comic strip, therefore I am announcing my retirement.

"I have been grateful over the years for the loyalty of our editors and the wonderful support and love expressed to me by fans of the comic strip. "Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy . . . how can I ever forget them . . ."

Mr Schulz will not allow anyone else to draw and write the comic strip. The Peanuts comic strip runs daily in more than 2,600 newspapers around the world. It reaches 355 million readers in 75 countries and 21 languages.

Expressions such as "Good Grief, Charlie Brown," and "Curse you, Red Baron" have entered the English language.

The characters, including Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy and her brother Linus with his blanket, have made Mr Schulz a very wealthy man. The cartoon is estimated to earn $1 billion in annual revenue.

Other cartoonists such as Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, and Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury have paid tribute to the influence on them of Peanuts. "He's the most significant and the best cartoonist of our age, which means ever," Mr Adams said.

Mr Schulz, who lives and works in Santa Rosa, California, told a local newspaper on Saturday that "there are so many things I'm going to miss".

"I've been thinking about this and I think what I'm going to miss the most is Lucy holding the football and looking up and the big bonk when Charlie comes down."

Mr Schulz told another interviewer that he hated the title Pea- nuts, which his first publisher chose for the comic strip on its initial publication in October, 1950.

He had been holding a grudge ever since, he said. Ms Paige Braddock, a close Schulz aide, said the cartoonist was now resting. "I think he's just really focused on the treatments that he's getting for the cancer," Ms Braddock said.

But, in an aside that could boost the spirits of some broken-hearted fans, she said she noticed something new in her boss - a willingness to discuss potential ideas for a new video.

Could that mean that Peanuts might come back after all?

"I don't think he would come back to the daily strip, but I don't think he wouldn't have other outlets, like books or videos," Ms Braddock said.

"It's not like the characters just die. He's still thinking about them."