Jeanne Schulz, widow of Charles, recently did an on-line chat over at the Washington Post site (link). Here was the first question asked...
No offense Mrs. Schulz, but is it possible that you can use your influence over the syndicate and/or newspapers and get them to stop
running "Classic Peanuts" strips? It is time that The Post, for one, removes Peanuts to make way for some of the new cartooning talent that's on the
rise, and I tend to think that continuing to run old Peanuts strips prevents this. Personally, I think your husband would feel that what the Post is
doing currently also does a disservice to the cartooning community.
First comment by me: Boy, does this person really, really, really not know how Charles Schulz felt. Second comment: It ain't
gonna happen. Third comment: Most people don't want it to happen.
There are some comic strips that cease voluntarily, usually when the creator loses interest in continuing them. Gary Larson ended
The Far Side, Berke Breathed folded Bloom County, Bill Watterson stopped drawing Calvin and Hobbes, and there are a few
Nothing wrong with that, of course...but it has long been the wish-dream of many up-and-coming cartoonists that older comic strips be
forcibly retired — certainly when the original creator dies, in most cases, before. The desire here (obviously) is for it to become
easier for a new feature to gain subscribers...and I suppose it would. If tomorrow, they passed a rule that said no one can play Major League
Baseball for more than a week, my chances of playing for the Dodgers would elevate from None to Slim.
Okay, make that "very slim." The point is that, if the recycled exploits of Charlie Brown were dropped, the odds against a
new strip would only go from one in a skillion down to around one in a jillion...and most readers would miss it more than they'd welcome whatever
took its place. If, by some chance, a new cartoonist comes up with a strip that is as good as what's already there, editors will find a space
for it. This they will do by dropping whatever they believe is their least-popular strip...which in most papers will not be the Peanuts
In other words: If you have the greatest new comic strip in the world, the competition keeping you from the Post readers (and
the kind of money the Post pays for a strip) is not Peanuts. It's something else — most likely a new strip that hasn't
quite caught on. That's the space you have a shot at getting.
It is, of course, a long shot — about the same as those odds of me suiting up for the Dodgers. One reason is that most new
strips that come around aren't particularly superior to that which is already there. In most cases, they are markedly worse. In Internet
forums that deal with newspaper strips, it's almost a running gag that an aspiring cartoonist will pop up and rant on about how the rotten features
he sees in his local paper are keeping his wonderful creation out. The guy, of course, posts a link to his webpage where you can sample his
work and — nine times outta ten — it's horrible. Much worse than the strips he thinks are blatantly inferior and unworthy.
Their makers seem not to see that, which is certainly understandable. But a lot of them want the system changed to make it
easier, which is sheer fantasy with no real precedent in any other creative field. It is a simple fact of such enterprises that established
successes rarely decide they've had enough success and it's time to rush to get out of the way of New Talent. Prolific, experienced novelists
— even if their work is faltering — don't usually say, "I'll stop writing books to make more room on the racks for new people." No
significant number of older painters quits just to make it easier for new artists to find gallery space. I mean, it doesn't work like that
anywhere. Why should anyone even suggest it should work that way in comic strips? If the TV networks could get the same revenues by
running old Leave It to Beaver reruns in prime-time, they wouldn't commission new programming.
The Peanuts reprints will be in newspapers until they cease to find an audience there. I'm guessing that will not happen
in my lifetime because, even with their creator gone, Charlie Brown and Snoopy and Lucy and Linus and all the rest are still part of Americana.
Adults still recall them as precious childhood friends and/or keepsakes and want their offspring to meet and experience the same fun. Yes, some
might argue, they could do so in reprint books and leave the newspaper page to the newbies...but why should they? Poll the readers and they'll
tell you: Seeing Snoopy right there on the comics page where he's always been just seems right and reassuring and proper.
I suspect that Mr. Schulz, if he's watching from wherever he now resides and plays hockey, beams with pride that even his old strips
are more popular than 99% of all currently-produced comics. When he retired, he arranged for it to live on in reprints. Part of that was
as a condition of no one else continuing the strip but from all reports, he also genuinely liked the idea of having it available to newspapers that
still wanted it in that form...and almost all of them did. If he were still alive, it would still be in reprints and he would not consider it a
"disservice to the cartooning community." If anything, he'd probably consider it a service. It reminds us all that, just as great novels
outlive their authors and great paintings outlast their painters, a great comic strip is forever a great comic strip.