A Century of Schulz: Celebrating Sparky

Many of the things that were important to Schulz — faith, sports, gender equity and more — are on display in “Celebrating Sparky: Charles M. Schulz and Peanuts,” curated by Caswell and on view now at the Billy [Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State] (timed to coincide with the centennial of Schulz’s 1922 birth). The exhibition, which is mounted in partnership with the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, California, features high-resolution reproductions of original “Peanuts” comic strips, plus tons of photographs and other archival material that offer deep insights into the making of “Peanuts” and the life of Schulz.

Joel Oliphint, for Columbus Alive, covers the latest Charles M. Schulz exhibit at The Billy Ireland.


From the Associated Press:

In one episode that week, a frustrated Charlie Brown declines an offer from nemesis Lucy for her to yell at the tree.

The simplicity of that interaction illustrates how different “Peanuts” was from comics drawn before its 1950 debut, said Lucy Shelton Caswell, founding curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University in Columbus, the world’s largest such museum.

“The idea that you could take a week to talk about this, and it didn’t have to be a gag in the sense of somebody hitting somebody else over the head with a bottle or whatever,” Caswell said. “This was really revolutionary.”

The exhibit in Columbus displays strips featuring 12 “devices” that Schulz thought set Peanuts apart, including episodes involving the kite-eating tree, Snoopy’s doghouse, Lucy in her psychiatry booth, Linus’ obsession with the Great Pumpkin, the Beethoven-playing Schroeder, and more.

“Celebrating Sparky” also focuses on Schulz’s promotion of women’s rights through strips about Title IX, the groundbreaking law requiring parity in women’s sports; and his introduction of a character of color, Franklin, spurred by a reader’s urging following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

In addition, the display includes memorabilia, from branded paper towels to Pez dispensers, part of the massive “Peanuts” licensing world. Some fellow cartoonists disliked the way Schulz commercialized the strip.

He dismissed the criticism, arguing that comic strips had always been commercial, starting with their invention as a way to sell newspapers, Caswell said.

The Associated Press story about the Celebrating Sparky Exhibit, by Andrew Welsh-Huggins and Patrick Orsagos, is getting very wide play.
(Even my small town daily newspaper ran an edited version of the AP item.)

And, of course, any story with the dear Lucy Shelton Caswell is worthy.



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