More on the Schulz Book More on the Schulz Book

More on the Schulz Book

Schulz and Peanuts

There’s a lot more reaction appearing online to David Michaelis’ new book Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography. In the Wall Street Journal, Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson gives the book a positive review, saying that Michaelis has written a “a perceptive and compelling account of Schulz’s life” that “finally introduces Charles Schulz to us all.”

Editor & Publisher has an excellent piece highlighting many of the revelations in the book and the family’s objections to them.

Charles Schulz’s son, Monte, who we’ve already pointed out isn’t pleased with the book, posted a comment on our previous Cartoon Brew post further detailing his objections. Here’s his comment in full:

“The point of objection to this biography of my father is how much is simply untruthful, and deliberately so. There are many factual errors throughout the book; there are people who are give authority to speak about our family who have no insight to do so; and there are so many elements of my father’s life that David deliberately left out of the book, that it really is impossible for anyone outside of our family, or Dad’s circle of friends, to come to any genuine conclusions. I can tell you absolutely that he was not a depressed, melancholy person, nor was he unaffectionate and absent as a parent. Honestly, the quote I’ve really wanted to give the press, after reading both the early of the manuscript and the final book, is this: “The book is stupid, and David Michaelis is an idiot.â€? That said, I had a six year on-going conversation with him about this book, and like David quite a lot. But I was shocked to see the book that emerged, because it veered so drastically away from what he told us he intended to write. Which is why we’ve been so militant in our response. Incidentally, the material David edited out of the book is even more outrageous. The fact is, after reading the book, I decided I’d learned more about David Michaelis than I did about my dad. I found that interesting.”

UPDATE: A new in-depth comment from Charles Schulz’s son, Monte Schulz, as well as his sisters Amy and Jill, can be found in the comments below.

  • well that’s enough for me. based on these remarks from Monte Schulz, i won’t be looking into this book. thanks for the head’s up.

    this isn’t the first book about cartooning that tells us more about the author than the subject, and i’m sure it won’t be the last.


  • Rats! I was looking forward to reading it, but highly doubt I will bother now, Watterson notwithstanding.

  • Dock Miles

    Well, I was going to let Monte Schultz have the last word, but since this has been revived …

    >there are so many elements of my father’s life that David deliberately left out of the book, that it really is impossible for anyone outside of our family, or Dad’s circle of friends, to come to any genuine conclusions.

    This is the classic argument for authorized biographies. Hire the best writer you can, make sure you have final approval of every line in the bio, then let the books slug it out in history.

    And, I must say, I’ve read numerous family objections to biographies over the decades. Can’t remember one that went: “Cripes, my [father/mother/sister/brother/favorite niece or nephew] was a narrow-minded, disagreeable creep. How the heck did that not get in there?”

    And since siblings often disagree about the nature of their parents and their upbringing, their outlooks have no more intrinsic weight than that of an outsider.

    Schulz and Peanuts was given a strongly positive review in the daily New York Times as well as in the Sunday Book Review.

  • Rich

    I had the great opportunity to spend time with Mr. Schulz on a few occasions. While he was definitely reserved, he was anything but melancholy. He was funny, engaging and delightful. My first-hand experience leads me to agree with his children in this controversy over the biography.

  • Chris Webb

    This comment is somewhat off-topic:
    There is a PBS “American Masters” TV documentary about Charles Schulz. It will be broadcast October 29.

  • Andrew

    Bill Watterson is still around! Wonder what he’s up to now.

  • I have to take with a grain of salt the family’s complaints that their patriarch is not portrayed as a saint. Unlike most authorized bios, this comes across as a real biography, rather than the hagiography the family apparently was expecting.

  • Well here’s the way I see it. This went one of two ways. Either after all these conversations the picture that emerged for David Michaelis is one of a melancholy artist or the guy got all the access and decided to do a creep thing by turning it into sensationalism. It could be either. Is Michaelis saying in the book that Charles Shulz was a child molester or something? Because “melancholy” seems awful mild. I mean, lots of people are sad.

    Two other related points. One, for those who met the guy for a few minutes, remember that what Charles Schulz may have shown to you was maybe not his true self. After all, who met Elvis in the 70’s and immediately knew the guy was doing enough drugs to kill a small elephant?

    Finally, to quote Bill Moyers (hopefully I get this right), “News is what people want to keep hidden. Everything else is a press release”.

  • Fred Sparrman

    I don’t believe Schulz was melancholy. I saw a picture of him once, and he was smiling.

  • Robiscus

    I adore Bill Watterson’s work, but time and time again in interviews with him i’ve been left with the overwhelming impression that he’s a depressing crank. So it wasn’t that much of a surprise that he penned an adoring review of a book that portrayed Shulz as one as well. I also can’t take a review seriously when it cashes in a 10 cent word like “avuncular” in portraying Charlie Brown. But thats just me…

  • My question is what elements of the book does Mr. Schulz feel is untrue – besides the accusation of his father being a “depressed, melancholy person.” Obviously there’s a lot more elements here for him to object to the book in this way.

    Another question I’m wondering is if the Schulz family is planning to take any legal action against the author and publisher? I haven’t heard the word “slander” yet from the Schulz family, but . . .

  • Dock Miles
  • “And since siblings often disagree about the nature of their parents and their upbringing, their outlooks have no more intrinsic weight than that of an outsider.”

    Well, the two siblings that I know of who have commented on this book say they don’t approve of it so it sounds like they ARE in agreement.

    “I have to take with a grain of salt the family’s complaints that their patriarch is not portrayed as a saint.”

    I never read where Amy or Monte Schulz said they wished their father had been portrayed as a saint.

    “I haven’t heard the word ‘slander’ yet from the Schulz family, but . . .”

    So if they haven’t used the word “slander” then they must be subtly acknowledging the book’s worth.

  • Robiscus

    i think its clear that Dock Miles will not stop defending the books portrayal of the man as completely valid.
    from the other thread:
    “I really don’t see how anything the book says about the great Charles Schulz “tarnishesâ€? or diminishes him … as a person,”

    I haven’t read the book yet, but according to the Salon and the NYTimes reviews, Michaleis’ book portrays Schultz as a depressive, anxious, detached, resentful, self-defeating and self-deceiving person who made his family members feel overburdened and underappreciated.

    It ABSOLUTELY tarnishes and diminishes him as a person. I wouldn’t like to be cast as a miserable soul if i was not and neither would you. I can only imagine how angered the Schultz family must feel about this. I remember seeing the retrospective of Alex Toth with his children and they freely discussed his ornery personality.
    Why would all Charles Schultz’ family members agree that the book is wrong in its depiction of him?
    They should be afforded the benefit of the doubt.

  • Bill Field

    The families of greats like Schulz, Disney, Clampett and the like often get flame broiled no matter what they do, if they loosen restrictions on use of a character, for merchandising and licensing purposes– they are seen as wringing a dry washcloth for that every last cent they can wrench from Daddy’s cash cow. Schulz had his share of ups and downs like the rest of us, yet since Charlie Brown is held as a national treasure, Charles’ life is- well- bigger than life.

    Monte, I’ll address you directly, your Dad was awesome- you already knew that… I saw your Dad in San Antonio not too long before his death, I think the Reuben Awards were held here that year, and he and about 50 other cartoonists signed autographs. You could tell he wasn’t in great health, but he was in great spirits “I’m just so glad that I was able to make it” he smiled. Your Dad and mine were very much alike in their quiet determination and personal spirituality. I lost my Dad to Cancer two years ago, and am driven more to be the animator/cartoonist/writer he always knew I would be, but I didn’t. My Dad saw me in my element at two different week long animation festivals/ conventions in the Hollywood area, as I brought him with me for some quality father/son time when I was done with the days events. I’m sorry your family is having to deal with this book of inaccuracy, why not write one with all your family? THAT’S the book I’d buy. Thanks for caring so much about your Dad’s legacy, it can’t be easy to have to deal with the nay sayers and folks with their own personal agendas. I have tremendous respect for you, Monte, which I also have for your Dad and his work.

  • Larry

    It’s slander if it’s spoken. If it’s the written word, it’s libel.

  • “I’m sorry your family is having to deal with this book of inaccuracy, why not write one with all your family? THAT’S the book I’d buy.”

    I second that.

    And if Monte feels like responding here again I wonder if he’d tell us if any of his dad’s kids ever felt like carrying on the Peanuts legacy. I realize that he didn’t want anybody to but I’m still wondering if any of his sons (or daughters) at least felt some sort of hankering to.

  • Does anyone else notice the similarity here with the circumstances surrounding the two recent Disney bios? On both counts, a book apparently rife with inaccuracies is corrected and criticized by a separate, more reliable source who obviously knows the subject better.

  • Andy Rose

    I don’t know if Bill Watterson is a “crank” or not (he does come off that way sometimes), but he’s certainly a hypocrite. For a guy so über-concerned with his own privacy to be completely credulous of all of the analysis Michaelis puts forth about the most private aspects of Schulz’s life is pretty disheartening. I started losing respect for Watterson after The Complete Works of Calvin and Hobbes because of some aspects of that publication. I had been hoping I was wrong about him… I guess not.

  • DanO

    if you read the Barrier interview with Charles Schulz above, they actually mention Bill Watterson and his haughty attitude towards the public.

  • I”m just interested in seeing a part of Charles Schulz that I never knew existed. This sounds like stuff that he would have never put into his strips.

    Better yet, I’m interested in what made Bill Watterson write something. He’s the most reclusive person in animation/cartooning let alone any form of entertainment. I’d be more interested in a book about him!

  • Mike

    A good bio (and authorized) on Charles Schulz is ‘Good Grief’ by Rheta Grimsley Johnson. The book was published in ’89 so it doesn’t cover the last chapter of Schulz’ life, but paints a great picture of where he came from, including a frank discussion of how he coped with depression. It includes commentary about Schulz and Peanuts by most of the major comic strip artists at that time. (Ironically, Bill Watterson endorsed this one as well.)

    I agree with the earlier remarks that the family should write his story. I would love to hear a more personal account of his life; it sounds like this book is trying to sell itself by trying to be a tell-all. Instead of buying this book, I think I’ll continue to collect the complete Peanuts Fantagraphics books by Seth.

  • Well, it may be neither libel or slander. While I heard the Schulz family disagrees with the book, I haven’t seen or read anything from the family mentioning those two above referenced words.

    BTW, the Schulz family is already attacking the PBS special “Good Ol’ Charles Schulz”.

    Good grief! Who knew the guy who created Snoopy would become tabloi fodder!!!

  • Dock Miles

    No matter what you think, it’s hard to disagree that the image of Charles Schulz as Mr. Upbeat Genial has become involved with the shaping (and, um, marketing) of his legacy.

    I was amused at the passage in the Barrier interview where Schulz complained about the way an article about him had been written. Maybe it’s in the genes.

    About all I have left to say is that “Peanuts,” the timeless newspaper comic strip, is more important than its all-too-mortal creator. What matters at the end of the day about a biography of an artist is how well it seems to jibe with the work and deepen your understanding of it. Albert Goldman’s demolition jobs on Elvis Presley and John Lennon are forgotten bags of bile because anyone who knows their music cannot feel that the hateful human wreckage he presents could have created such artworks. That’s what will be on my mind when I pick up Schultz and Peanuts — how correct does it seem that this person could have drawn this art and what does that tell me about it? What it tells me about him is very secondary.

    >I wouldn’t like to be cast as a miserable soul if I was not and neither would you.

    If I was dead I wouldn’t care and neither would you.

  • Monte Schulz

    I forgot to look for responses to my last message on here, but seeing the comments, I believe I need to clarify a few things. First of all, we did not expect, nor did we desire, a fan-bio on Dad. I spoke with David Michaelis on a regular basis for the six years he worked on the book and discussed many issues with him. We knew he’d write about the affair and had no dispute with him at all over that. Nor did we anticipate the book being merely a glowing tribute. After all, we didn’t hire him to write the book; we simply agreed (myself and stepmother) than he seemed to be a good choice. He brought the project to us; we did not seek anyone to write Dad’s biography. Remember, he sold the bio to Harper Collins, not to us. So why the complaints?

    How could we have been so surprised by what he wrote? And why does he and Harper Collins maintain that I, in particular, had the chance to correct any errors in the book, yet chose not to? Well, this is not a good venue to explain all this in full, but I’ll summarize as best I can. First of all, there are three levels of problems in the book for me (and not only the family objects to this book, by the way, but also everyone in Dad’s inner circle — close friends, his lawyers, business associates, etc.), and they are as follows: an array of factual errors, both large and small, which highlight David’s intentions in the book; a number of people who were interviewed but whose comments were essentially excluded because they either contradicted or failed to support David’s thesis; and lastly, the greater part of Dad’s story, which David’s deliberately left out of the book because it did not interest him.

    Now, we were sent a manuscript at Christmas time last year to read through and comment on. I spoke with David just a couple of days before receiving my copys and reiterated my support of his book, and his right as a writer to voice his opinion (which is another reason why we’d never sue him, even if we had grounds: we believe in his First Amendment rights and his legitimacy as an author). But once I read the manuscript and several of the things in it, well, basically, the top of my head blew off. Factual errors, by example: he argued that my dad was able to work so effectively because my mom ran the place where we lived, doing all the cooking, cleaning, etc. But he left out a wonderful black woman who worked for us almost seven years, Eva Gray, one of the dearest people I ever knew (she just died last year, and we made sure that she and her husband Jim were able to attend Dad’s memorial service), and very integral to our lives back then. David leaves her out of the book entirely, boosting Mom’s roll in our lives and diminishing Dad’s. Then, when he does mention her as fixing snacks for us in 1969 while my mom worked at our ice arena, it’s absurd because she hadn’t been with us for three years by then, having left in 1966 to help with her husband’s business.

    He also talks about how my mom had built a pond in 1960 and stocked it with bass so my grandfather could fish when he visited (more proof of everything my mom did, which Dad did not), but, in fact, that pond didn’t even exist until seven years or so later, well after my grandfather was already dead. Just two of many, many factual errors, minor except in their intent, and unnecessary because David could easily have asked me about them during his writing. He didn’t because he’s arrogant. Also, he wrote about how we were inundated by strangers visiting for autographs and Kodak pics of Dad. Not true. I have no memory of strangers driving onto our property (which was not the vast estate David makes it out to be), nor does my sister Jill, nor does my mother. It wasn’t true. Lots of errors like that, careless, silly mistakes. There was no bid of $170,000 in ’69 for the ice arena, and therefore the costs did not, as David wrote, balloon up 780% to 1.25 million. That latter number was the actual bid. I know this because my stepfather was the contractor and that was his bid. He was astounded that David would write that first number. Lots of mistakes like that.

    But what about voices who weren’t heard? Well, for example, he only spoke to my sister Jill once over a lunch and that was that. He did interview Cathy Guisewite, but then called back to ask her, if you can believe it, whether or not my dad “came on to her.” Is he joking? Cathy knew Dad for more than twenty years, and except for one or two lines, David left her out of the book in favor of Lynn Johnston who provided much more provocative information, much of which (particularly in the first draft) is silly and self-serving.

    He cherry-picked quotes, put ones together that did not belong together (getting my sister Amy in a section about how Dad was unaffectionate to his children to say that she had to learn to hug from the Mormon church. Actually, she told me that she explained to David how when she was younger, she hated people invading her personal space, but when she joined the Mormons, people were always coming up and hugging her, so she had to learn to do so, as well. But she said that story had nothing to do with Dad at all). Yet David conflated the ideas together.

    For my part, Dad was a wonderful parent, reading to me, teaching me to throw baseballs, watching movies with me, driving me to school for years, taking me down to SF for doubleheaders, hitting fly balls to me for hours, teaching me how to shoot marbles, sharing his books with me as I grew older and began to write, flying out to Minnesota with me to help buy sheets and pillows for my dorm room, picking me up at the airport each time I flew home, and even in the last six months of his life, staying up late at the ice arena, well past his bedtime, to watch his 49 year old son play hockey games. None of that is in the book. nor are Dad’s passions for golf (which he played all his life, including at the Bing Crosby Pro-Am and the Dinah Shore Invitational for years, baseball (he coached our Bronco League baseball team one summer when I was twelve), tennis where he and my stepmother joined club and met many new friends and played tournaments (he and I won a father-son tournament when I was in my late 20s) and met Billie Jean King, went to Wimbledon twice and became very involved with the Woman’s Sports Foundation, a huge part of his life. And, of course, he loved books, movies, cars, music. What does David mentions of that? Nothing?

    Does he name Dad’s, say, five favorite books? Nope. Artists? Nope. He writes a lot about “Citizen Kane” but not about “Beau Geste” or any of Dad’s other favorite films, because the Welles movie influences David’s theme and the others don’t. Why only ten lines or so about the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, which Dad and I attended for more than twenty five years? That was huge interest of Dad’s. He loved books and writing and talking about both. In David’s first draft, his only mention of the conference was regarding Dad’s “writer’s conference girl-friend, Suzanne Del Rossi,” a completely preposterous page and a half about a woman Dad knew there, someone all of us knew, anyone attended the conference knew, who was married and flirted endlessly, not only with Dad but with many other men there. And nothing ever happened because it was only for fun. Reading that section is what put me over the edge, because I knew then that David had no desire to tell Dad’s life, but rather was more interesting in moralizing and psychoanalyzing Dad because David himself loves analysis. That’s his story, but not ours.

    So, why didn’t I correct him when I read that first version? Because to change the central erroneous nature of what he’d written would have required a massive re-write and re-thinking of the entire book, something he would never have had time to do, even had he the will and the desire, which he obviously did not. I did not want to clean up the minor errors, only to see the bigger ones remain. Again, I’m only touching on a few issues. If any of you want me to answer anything with greater specificity, I’d be happy to do so. I apologize for rambling like this, but the story is very convoluted. I will tell you that NY Times piece happened because a long interview I did for Time magazine was apparently killed somewhere high above the magazine, up at corporate (I’m not allowed to say more than that), and therefore I was directed to the NY Times reporter who, sadly, hadn’t even read the book when we spoke.

    Let me tell you, though, that David never met my father, and basically hid from us what he intended to write. This is very apparent when you read some of the email exchanges we had over the years, and what we spoke about on the phone. I used to ask him not to babble about how Dad was depressed all the time because it wasn’t true, and “don’t write some kind of tabloid novel about Dad’s life.” To which he’d always respond, “I wouldn’t spend six years writing that kind of book.” But he did. Oh, someone asked about any of us carrying on Dad’s legacy. Well, none of us can draw, nor do we have the same sensibility he had toward his characters. The strip was his, but we were the ones who made the decision (by renewal copyright law in the ’70s) have the strip die when he did. We have our own lives and interests, though Dad did tell a friend that he thought my fiction was “raising the level of art in the family.” Thanks for that, Dad! Nor true, of course, but I do my best. Yes, all of this, even responding on here is frustrating, but that biography is so absurdly false in so many ways, I could not just be quiet. I’m mostly disappointed that so many reviewers apparently believe what’s in it. Such is life.

    • Lisa McCarthy

      I read that book and had heard that the family did not like the book. Thank you for taking the time to explain why! The book was a gift because I am a huge Snoopy fan. I will look for the other biography mentioned.

    • Cheryl

      Nice to hear what the family has to say. I picked up this book expecting to learn a lot about Charles Schulz, but (I’m now in the middle of it) instead am getting fed up with the psycho-analyzing and portraying in a negative light comments or events in Mr. Schulz’s life. Many of the quotstions use by Mr. Michaelis can be interpreted any number of ways, and were probably not latent with the dark undertones the author portrays. Glad I’m nobody famous; I would not like to have my every small move blown out of proportion by this author!

  • Thanks for the response. I’ve long theorized that when you’re at the top of any field of endeavor then anybody can accuse you of anything and it will be believed (like Walt Disney being accused as racist). David Michaelis may have freedom of speech and freedom of the press but he doesn’t have the go-ahead to libel or slander somebody else. Of course, it could also be wisest to just let the whole thing die quietly.

  • Thanks Monte. I do really love your father work. It’s brilliant. It’s classic. It’s up there with the best literature, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain…
    I was thinking about buying that bio, but thanks to you I’ll save my money and keep collecting those glorious fantagraphics books with the cronological run of Peanuts.
    I guess it’s hard to write biographies, specially when all you really want to do is write about yourself, but, who wants to know what that Michaelis guy thinks? So he writes about someone who’s really interesting.
    As I’m an art collector what I really would like to know is if the family owns the original strips minus the ones that Sparky gave as presents. The prices skyrocketed (as it should be) and I don’t know if the family plans to sell the remaining ones or gave them to a fundation or museum.
    In any case the warmth, wit and wisdom of Peanuts with live on.

  • tom

    Well, a few of Mr.Schulz comments- especially regarding the phone call to Cathy Guisewite, the author’s use of the out-of-context “hug” quote, and his own comment that the Schulz family would not sue since they believe in the author’s first amendment rights- lead me to the decision not to read this book. I was very much looking forward to it, but I’m not interested in a book by an Albert Goldman/Kitty Kelley kind of sensationalist.

    Mr. Schulz, my best to you and your family. I can’t tell you how much your father’s work means to me. Thanks for posting here to CB.

  • Way to stand up for your dad’s memory and note errors in a very precise way. I think all of us have had to do that in one way or another, and when a parent is not there to defend the misinformation, it’s a scary task to undertake.

    My dad was nowhere near as famous as yours but I have still had to step up and say what facts were right and wrong about his life.

    You show a lot of love for your dad in saying what you did, and he’d be proud of you.

    Good job.

  • Rich

    Only Mr. Schulz’s family can speak to the factual errors in the book. However, Mr. Schulz, himself, used to say that all of his PEANUTS characters were different aspects of his own personality. That suggests that he was certainly not one dimensional. He did have his Charlie Brown insecurities but apparently he had a Lucy side (bossy crabby?), a Snoopy side (whimsical, imaginative and fun), a Linus side (thoughtful, religious and deep), a Schroeder side (artistic) and on and on.

    The strip alone proves that Charles M. Schulz was a complex man with many attributes. He was human, with frailties and with strengths. It is unfair to depict him in a simplistic way.

  • Nathan Strum

    I’ll skip the book. I’d rather read Schulz’s comic strips. That will tell you more about the man than a hack-job biography ever could.

    Which reminds me… I need to pick up the fourth box set of Fantagraphics’ Complete Peanuts. I’d been hoping for decades that someone would finally put together a proper, chronological collection, and I’ve been absolutely delighted with them so far. (I need to get their Segar Popeye collections, too.)

  • Wow

    It sounds like those details Michaelis messed up on are only the tip of the iceberg. Too bad no one could set up, maybe a web site listing all of the points . . . it just sounds like there are many MANY of them.

    But why did Michaelis just march forward like this without taking what the family said into consideration?

    A few years after Bob Woodward’s bio on John Belushi (Wired) came out came out, Belushi’s widow Judith Belushi Pisano compiled a wonderful oral history type of biography (Belushi: A Biography).

    Maybe the Schulz family should consider creating a book like that?

    As for me, I don’t think I’m going to read Michaelis’ book.

  • Bill Field

    There are some scathing books on famous people that ARE deserved, think, “wire hangers”. Schulz’ memory evokes smiles and laughter, not shock and screams.

    I was offered a chance to review this book and declined after reading through it-it’s about 90% total bullshit- I DID meet Charles, he’s not the SOB Michaelis portrays, the only son of a bitch here, in my opinion, is David Michaelis. Kitty Kelly, known for her flammable biographies, would have written a loving tribute, compared to the assasination Michaelis tries to pull off. Monte–I’d support most anything that gets the word out not to read this pack of lies.

  • Thomas Horne

    What you say sounds completely valid.
    You do have the option of writing a book yourself. I would read it. You’ve elucidated one major aspect of the scandal that is the modern media and it was the realness of Peanuts that was a big part of its’ greatness.
    History takes more than one book. The truth will win out. Your father balanced doubt and insecurity with a commitment to life and following his path.
    Hell, announce right away that you are going to write your own book. You could do an oral biography where everything is quotation from the people that did know him.
    God bless!

  • Chris

    “As I’m an art collector what I really would like to know is if the family owns the original strips minus the ones that Sparky gave as presents. The prices skyrocketed (as it should be) and I don’t know if the family plans to sell the remaining ones or gave them to a fundation or museum.
    In any case the warmth, wit and wisdom of Peanuts with live on.”

    Apparently you’re not aware of the Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, which opened in 2002. It’s an incredible place, well worth a visit. They have lots of changing exhibits of Schulz’s origiinals, as well as other comics.

  • Wow. I just heard about this book on CNN, and now I come here and hear about all the inaccuracies?
    Buyers beware!

  • Thanks for filling us all in on the real deal, Monte. Your father’s work was a source of life-long inspiration to me, and now that I know the truth about this book, I can skip it entirely.

  • Mr. Semaj

    Thanks for the insight, Monte.

    It always happens to the big celebrities out there, even the best ones. There’s always someone out there who takes the reality behind the celeb’s image just to smear it. As Christian was saying, I instantly thought of Walt Disney’s alleged anti-Antisemitism when I first heard about this upcoming biography. It’s like pulling a loose brick out of the bottom of a building; if there’s enough of them, the whole building comes down.

    Somewhere down the line, we hope to get a more sincere biography about your dad and his legacy.

  • Monte, thank you for your very calm, rational explanation of your family’s concerns.
    I am now not going to buy the book. For all your dad’s personal demons which he channeled into his wonderful characters, I do not see what purpose smearing the man’s reputation as a family man can possibly do.

    Peanuts will always speak for everyone, but only you and your family are in any position to judge him as a father and husband.

    I echo others that you could very well write a truly accurate biography.

  • I won’t be reading this book.

  • JeffM

    Thanks Monte for your insight. I was debating reading the book, but now I won’t.

    I don’t know what Michaelis’ political beliefs are but I am going to assume he is of the clan that is trying desparetely to rewrite history and in the process, destroy all that is wholesome. Unfortunately, they are winning. I am deeply saddened that he chose your Dad to pick on.

    I am 43 and I cannot imagine a world without “Peanuts”. I cannot imagine a world without the “Christmas Special”, where Linus gives us the true meaning of Christmas.

    Maybe it’s time that a real biography, written by those who knew him best was put on the shelfs.

    God Bless

  • Chris

    Here’s a long interview with Michaelis, by Peanuts expert Derrick Bang:

    It was conducted before the recent controversy, but after Michaelis learned about the family’s objections, so this does a good job representing Michaelis’ side of the story.

    As a lifelong admirer of Schulz, and yearly contributor to the Schulz Museum, I have to admit that I find both Monte Schulz’s and David Michaelis’ comments persuasive. From having read the N.C. Wyeth bio, I knew that Michaelis would approach the Schulz bio with a novelistic style full of little details and attempts to explain his psyche. If he failed on all of those counts, then it definitely diminishes the value of the book. Still, you can’t just dismiss 7 years of research out of hand. Although I respect the family’s objections, I still plan on buying the book, because by all accounts it adds a wealth of new information to our knowledge of Charles Schulz (although a lot of the “new revelations” being touted in reviews and news stories were either already revealed in Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s book or by Schulz himself in various interviews over the years). However, reading Monte’s comments, I think it’s probably wise to stock up on grains of salt before you start reading.

  • Paul N

    The saddest part of this whole mess is that, years from now, people will believe as completely true some of the assertions in this book that Monte Schulz says are untrue. They’ll believe it simply because it’s been published, and will be boiled down, posted to a website, misquoted, misinterpreted, etc. – until some version of it is perceived as “fact”.

    Previous examples include Walt Disney as anti-semitic and Elvis as a CIA operative.

    It’s a damn shame, because Sparky deserves better. Me, I’ll stick with the previous biography, thanks.

  • It doesn’t surprise me that Lynn Johnston would abet Michaelis in his hatchet job. She’s always made a huge show of being his disciple while breezily ignoring the principles that made Peanuts great. First off, aging the characters in real time was a mistake. If they had to grow older, they could have done so at a slower rate, like the comics strip Baby Blues. Second, the strip has far too many needless characters. The primary example of that, of course, is April. She simply stuck a third child in without really considering how the kid would fit into the family. This brings us to the third mistake she made: the death of he family dog. Not only was the death unnecessary due to her error in aging the characters, Schulz objected to the needlessly melodramatic means of his exit as well as the grotesque collective negligence that forced it. Fourth, the characters do not behave in a consistent manner. You always know what to expect of the Round-Headed Kid but you never know what Elly will do half the time.

  • Nic Kramer

    Personally, I rather read the great “Complete Peanuts” series or the new “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 40th Anniversary” book than this exaggerated biography. Thanks for your comments, Monte and I never thought of your great father as a grouch either.

  • Dock Miles

    >until some version of it is perceived as “fact�.

    >Previous examples include Walt Disney as anti-semitic and Elvis as a CIA operative.

    I donno about this. Certainly my perception is that Disney was charged with anti-Semitism recently, but that the evidence for it is scant and shaky at best.

    And I don’t think anybody believed Elvis was a C.I.A. operative who didn’t also endorse the notion that Jerry “Beaver” Mathers was killed in Viet Nam.

  • Andy Rose

    I tend to agree with the comments of “Chris” above. I don’t think what Michaelis has written is necessarily “wrong,” but it seems clear that he’s decided to steer away from the happier side of Schulz. Those choices of tone are always difficult for someone writing a biography of a man about whom so many words have already been written. Still, for a work that seeks to be a full biography, it’s a bad choice.

    As I noted before, I was amazed to see some reviewers like Bill Watterson automatically assuming that everything Michaelis wrote was the gospel truth. I’m also somewhat surprised to see here that others assume that everything he writes is garbage just because the Schulz family doesn’t like it. As with most things in life, I’m guessing there is a middle ground.

    If one of the best examples Monte Schulz can come up with in terms of “errors” is that a housekeeper he adored was not mentioned, then I’m not ready to relegate this book to the trash heap just yet. At worst, it seems that Michaelis just assumes too much about his own ability to psychoanalyze. One shouldn’t assume this to be the “definitive” word on Schulz… but then again, one shouldn’t assume such about any single book written on any subject.

  • There are two more errors Lynn could be counted on to make. The first is accepting unsolicited advice that led to questionable decisions. First off, the decision to add the superfluous third child was suggested by Cathy Guisewite. Her sister-in-law suggested that Farley die heroically instead of perhaps passing on peacefully in his sleep. Third, a dress designer suggested converting a well-meaning but fretful Mira (Michael’s mother-in-law) to a domineering nuisance. All three decisions led to a downturn in the quality of the strip. Her most glaring error is the characters’ unforgivable tendency to spout mock profundity. An example that comes most readily to mind is the youngest daughter’s belief that the words prayer and prairie have more in common than their sound. Schulz had Lucy spout rubbish like that to show us how ignorant a fuss-budget she was.

  • Bill Field

    Why confuse this discussion with all of Schulz’ half-wit wannabes? Lynn Johnston, CathyG. — the other thread had the worst wannabe of all Bill Watterson, I think the lasting image of Calvin will be him wizzing on a car brand name on vehicle back windows everywhere.

    He chose NOT to merchandise so all there is is low rent bogus leadpainted Chinese made toys, poorly made ragdoll Hobbes, and ALLLLLLL those Piss Stickers! Yeah, put out a great strip and let the world cheapen it for you because you wanted it to be all about the strip itself, no toys, no anything—which adds up to alot of crappy things in your cartoon’s image. Schulz and Determined Productions were a great fit for many years— Standard poster designs, calendars, toys always looked like the Peanuts gang! All I can say is… “GOOD GRIEF!”

  • Frank Lovece

    As a journalist myself — and in fact one who interviewed Charles Schulz years ago for the United Media syndicate — I’m appalled at the nuts-and-bolts lapses in fact-checking that Monte Schulz itemizes in damning detail. I, too, will not be buying this book,

  • Rick Farmiloe

    All I can do is echo my earlier comments in saying how much I revered Sparky, and all he stood for. I grew up in the same town he worked most of his life. My parents both knew him and in fact were his next door neighbors in the 1980’s. My uncle taught his kids in school. He was a wonderful man, great artist and apparently loving husband and father. This trashy book will hopefully go largely unsold, and along with its author go quietly and permanently FORGOTTEN. All most people REALLY need to know about Charles Schulz….is the way he would have wanted to known and remembered…by reading the brilliant four panel strips detailing the trials and tribulations of Charile Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, Sally, and Woodstock.

  • Larry

    When I was in second grade I wrote a letter to Charles Schultz complete with my second grade attempts at drawing Charlie Brown and Snoopy. I seem to remember getting a letter back although I don’t think it was directly from him, otherwise it would be framed and hanging on the wall in my office. I lived, breathed, ate, and slept Peanuts when I was younger. Charles Schulz was and still is a huge influence on who I am today. To this day and because of him, I still dream of drawing my own comic strip (only to remember, each time I pick up a pencil, how much blood, sweat, and tears goes into such an endeavor!). All of which brings me to ask a few questions of a few of the posts here:

    Why would anyone call Bill Watterson, Lynn Johnston, or Cathy Guisewite “half-wit” wannabees? How can anyone think that Bill Watterson didn’t raise the artform of comics in much the way that Milton Caniff or Winsor McCay did?

    Why should Lynn Johnston follow a formula for creating her comicstrip? I don’t read “For Better or For Worse” everyday but it’s a very well written and clever strip. And it continues to maintain a high bar despite the creative challenges that arise from having characters age and grow and change.

    How much can any of us know about Charles Schulz? Unless we are his family or friends we know next to nothing. As much as I wish I had met him, I didn’t. I only have his strips to tell me who he is. Here is what I know about Charles Schultz. I know that Peanuts was a respectful, thoughtful, and intelligent comicstrip. And aside from him being my childhood role-model that’s all I know about Charles Schulz.

    So, with no intended disrespect to Charles Schulz’s family, I plan on reading David Michaelis’s biography knowing full well that, much like anything else in this world, it is bound to include some truths, some speculations, some errors, and some falsehoods. If you don’t want to read it but are still curious about Charles Schulz, pick up “Charles M. Schulz: Conversations” part of the Conversations With Comic Artists series edited by M. Thomas Inge. It was an interesting read and lets you hear (or read in this case) Charles Schulz in his own words.

  • Eric Burke

    As there is obvious interest in your Dad’s personal life away from the drawing board, have you considered writing about his life yourself, or with your family?

    That would be your and your family’s chance to really set the record straight…

  • RR

    SIGH… can’t wait for the inevitable TV movie spun from the book in 20 years, when poor Sparky will be portrayed by Haley Joel Osment as a heavy drinking, heroin addicted womanizer who chases his children around with a hammer.

  • Chris L.

    I bought the book and, having skimmed through it, these are my first impressions:

    -when Michaelis is at his best, he’s a very evocative writer
    -he also does well presenting basic facts, even if he tends to overdo it sometimes
    -he handles the more dicey parts (the affair, the divorce) well, with tact and without oversensationalizing. This is not a hatchet job or a trashy book

    -Michaelis thinks he’s skilled at psychoanalyzing Schulz, but his insights are rarely much deeper than the psychiatric opinions of a certain little girl who owns a psychiatric booth.
    -A tendency to try to connect certain events with other events, even though it’s a real stretch. Monte’s comment about how Michaelis tries to tie in Amy’s experience with the Mormon fondness for hugging with Schulz’s supposed emotional distance from his children is right on target. Michaelis does that kind of thing a lot.
    -A tendency to take things Schulz says or writes seriously, even when they’re obviously meant as a tongue-in-cheek joke. For someone writing a biography of a humorist, Michaelis doesn’t seem like he has much of a sense of humor. Contrast this with Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s book, which manages to be witty and objective at the same time.

    From what I’ve read so far, I think this book is a good but flawed first attempt at a full-scale posthumous biography. Hopefully, in the future some other bios will come along that expand on this book’s virtues but eliminiate it faults.

  • Dock Miles

    Gee, I guess there won’t be anything that’s too defaming to say about Bill Watterson when his major bio comes out.

    I like that slamming certain cartoonists who worshiped Charles Schulz (and were even longterm friends) has become a little sub-theme of these comments.

  • one really bored girl

    I grew up on Peanuts, and loved it. But I am SO not interested in this little battle over who has the true story of Schulz. Anybody who knows any cartoonist knows they’re very often difficult, thorny, maladjusted, selfish people with the capacity to be utterly charming and delightful. (Otherwise nobody would tolerate them). This is the case for most artists. So why would I even care if Schulz is any less so than any other artist or cartoonist? I don’t care what his life was like, actually. Give me a Peanuts book instead. Much more interesting!

    And yeah, I’d say Monte should write his own bio, except Monte’s really boring and and I could barely dig through what he wrote above.

  • Bill Field

    Larry, that’s my opinion of them, THAT’S why I said it. What basis do I say it? There is soooo much out of context and factually wrong in this book with accusations that Charles was a mentor to them only to get in their pants—THAT IS DISRESPECTFUL, funny it only sees print after Schultz is dead and can’t defend it. He helped them both, and they had nothing but praise before this. I hate that Watterson cheapened and permanantly damaged his own franchise by not allowing merchandising, while that may SOUND noble, it is licensing that enforces standards so someone doesn’t make 8 million carstickers, with your character peeing on the FORD logo. Everything good about Calvin and Hobbes is pissed away everytime someone is exposed to that filthy Calvin Clone urinating sticker.
    You are disrespecting the schulz’ by defending these pale versions of Peanuts and saying you’ll read the book in spite of Monte asking us to give it a pass. But then, that’s your opinion.

  • James Walley

    Bill, you claim that Watterson refusing to license merchandising was what brought about the “Calvin pissing on (something or other)” bumper-stickers. Possibly, but I remember, back in the late ’60s (when Peanuts was at its height of fame and Schulz-approved merchandise was being sold everywhere), Spencer’s Gifts ran a series of posters of Lucy, Patty, and Violet, all very pregnant, shouting “Damn you, Charlie Brown!” It would appear that even the most active merchandising and licensing program is no protection against someone making a buck with tasteless rip-offs.

  • Monte Schulz

    Wow, I didn’t mean to be boring in that long piece on David’s book. I wrote that late at night and could barely see to correct typos, of which there were several. Sorry! Also, I saw that comment about the housekeeper thing as being trivial, and taken alone it certainly is, but, as I said, it was just one of many small factual errors and this is not an easy forum to get into detail. No one wants to read a ten page diatribe.

    And, by the way, I haven’t asked anyone not to buy or read David’s book. That’s not my place. I’m just trying to let you know that it is not bulletproof, and is, in fact, erroneous in many ways. And, actually, I liked David a lot. I used to call him “Pudge” because he had a little bit of a gut and didn’t like working out. We got along well. I just don’t like the book that came out of those years we talked. Nor did I want to talk about myself as being left out of the book. That seemed too self-serving and whiny, as though I’d have liked it better if he’d had more of me in it.

    Talking tonight with my stepmother, though, I did tell her that it occurs to me now that had he described more fully my relationship with my father, many of his assertions about Dad as a parent would’ve been contradicted. I believe he left me out deliberately for that reason. Incidentally, speaking of silly errors, in the Updike review, you’ll see he talks about how Dad used to play at the Bing Crosby Pro-Am until his agoraphobia finally prevented him from going. Actually, what ended his trips to that golf tournament was the new management from Japan who bought the tournament and decided that new celebs would be better than old ones, so they stopped inviting him!

    Another funny story that David did not write about (though I recounted it to him) was when a friend of mine, Buddy Winston, who used to write for Jay Leno at the Tonight Show, pitched the idea of Dad appearing there; he was told that the booking group passed on Dad because they didn’t think he had anything to talk about! Nice, huh? Maybe sometime tomorrow, if you like, I can post up some other problems with the book. Otherwise, I can only thank you for being so supportive of my dad’s work. Regarding whether or not I ought to write a memoir, well, I write fiction and have lots of work ahead, and don’t really know how to tell Dad’s story. I’m a novelist, not a biographer. But thanks for the suggestion. I appreciate it.

  • J.T Wilson

    OneReallyBoredGirl….I find your lack of tact absolutely appalling. Couldn’t read through a 15 paragraph post? Maybe you should go watch some Youtube videos instead…might be more your level.

    You say you’re not interested in Schulz’s life and you would rather read a Peanuts’ book? My, my. How does that foot taste? Anyone that knows anything about anything knows that Peanuts was largely a reflection of Schulz’s life and/or how he saw things.

    Dear Monte, I am among the millions who adore Peanuts and I can only applaud you standing up for what is right. Leave the crucifying of this Michaelis idiot to us ;).

  • Monte, The late Mark Cohen would always tell me what a wonderful person your Dad was.

  • Yeah, what J.T. said.

    Monte, you love your dad and I think with careful planning you certainly could write a book about him.

    Peanuts and Charles Schultz were a part of my youth as well, and I know when I read his final strip that it was as much a part of his life as his family was. You can’t separate them all the time, nor should you.

    Your dad gave a gift to the world. He was human…he made mistakes. But anyone who creates a strip that shows so much humanity every day…the good and the bad…is touched by grace. I know it sounds hokey but it’s totally true.

    I’m glad you stood up. And if you look around, you’ll see many standing up with you.

  • Bill Field

    Monte, Thanks, you aren’t boring at all, and there have been much longer postings than yours, that were not on, in my eyes nearly as important as “Sparky”‘s legacy. Please don’t let a lone immature statement keep you from sharing more with us- you really have a captive and hungry audience for the real story. I don’t know if you were aware of one of your Dad’s last public appearances was here in San Antonio, and although his health was waning and his signature was shakey, he was so upbeat and happy and had that glint in his eye
    of the genius humorist he was. My Dad died from cancer 2 years ago, and days before, he asked me to get a card and flowers for him to give my Mom, the cancer had spread to his brain, he and I found out together that day, that he could no longer write, trying hard not to cry or call attention to it once I caught on, I took his dictation, saying “Hey why don’t you let me write it, Dad, your’e not used to that pen.” I thought about your Dad that day and grabbing a huge hardback-A Boy Named Charlie Brown, I read it while my Dad slept, remembering he took me to see that movie and buying me a Snoopy Jews harp at the theater. That book still has water damage from a flood of tears thinking about my Dad, and yours, that day, and how lucky I was to have met your Dad, and most important, I was lucky I had a Dad that shared his fatherly love
    as well as his love of his alltime favorite comicstrip, Peanuts– I’m a cartoonist because of those two great guys. Please, as long as you will, continue to tell us more about your Dad.

  • Eric Burke

    I think that we’d all like to be made aware of any more problems in this book, Monte. I’ve read and own “Conversations”, and while I still intend to read this new book, I’d like to read more of your input about the book.

    I still think you and your family should look into writing a biography, or maybe even findning a biographer to more accurately document your Dad’s life and all the important facts that seem to have been left out of this book.

    In any case, thanks for your time here!

  • Scby-Snx

    The problem with biographies — especialy ones written about a deceased subject, is that they are at the mercy of the author. The subject is no longer around to claify/correct/edit the inaccuracies. It’s like making a really bad stew. No matter how fresh the ingredients are, (or in this case, how accurate the stories are) one bad ingredient can turn it into swill. That’s why I won’t read Biographies. I will, however read AUTO biographies. (Granted, they can be just as slanted.) It’s a shame that David Michaelis has turned into Kitty Kelley. Hmmm — maybe they are and the same??

    I’m going to skip the book. I’d rather pick up the compilation of strips currently being released.

  • Scby-Snx

    Oops — meant to say “clarify/correct/edit the INaccuracies.” Sorry. :-)

  • Bill

    Everybody do the right thing, and don’t give into curiousity and buy this book. Let the man’s work speak for itself. Is there anybody, through his strip or TV specials or books, that wasn’t touched/influenced by him?

  • Alex

    This all has the feel of a sad Charlie Brown stip…


  • Steven Withrow

    It seems to me that what Michaelis has done in this biography is not so different from what a screenwriter might routinely do with the script for a biographical film: Conduct research, and then sift through the details to develop an overarching theme (or “central conflict” is probably closer to the point) and structure a “story” and “character arc” around that primary conflict.

    The “biopic” is not a journalistic piece or an historical document, a mere catalogue of seemingly random occurrences; it is a constructed fiction supported by *some* selected facts. The biographical screenwriter’s art—and the movie’s dramatic significance—rests in how well the writer weaves together these occurrences to create “events”—moments of change in perception or behavior—revealed and ordered as the story dictates.

    This common approach to biography, in the end, has more to do with the character created than with the person who actually lived. The audience’s empathy and identification with the character are paramount, and unflagging accuracy is neither possible nor preferable. (I’m not saying this as a value judgment, but simply to point out something many of us accept readily in a different medium.)

    And the biographical prose writer must weigh carefully whether to play academic historian or popular storyteller. Michaelis clearly has chosen the latter.

    Rather than obliterate the book, might it not be better, as outside observers, to acknowledge that the “Charles M. Schulz” portrayed in Michaelis’s book is no different conceptually from the “Frida Kahlo” portrayed in the 2002 film that bears the artist’s name—and to evaluate the book on these grounds?

    After all, no biography in any medium can (or should) replicate the life lived; it can only be one story among many stories.

  • Dear Monte,
    I am very thankful that this website has given you the opportunity to express some of your specific grievances about the content of Mr. Michaelis’ book. Even if some think they seem trivial, I think that added up your views help to make a reference to the readers of this book, as to how or when errors and omissions shape the content. I do hope that you and the members of your family and inner circle will strongly consider creating a document that addresses ALL of the specific factual errors and contextual arguments that you feel leads to a misleading representation of your father’s life and work. I think it is an important thing to consider, as it is very, very likely that Mr. Michaelis’ book will eventually become the most significant biographical document on this subject. Perhaps a collective family memoir is in order with the full participation of your siblings, your Mother and Stepmother, where everyone is allowed to expand upon their thoughts and memories regarding Charles Schulz, in order to create a bigger, broader picture of him. I think it will be invaluable in the future, as I am most positive that Peanuts’ appeal will transcend generations, even if Mr. Schulz doubted that himself (as he implied in the excellent interview he gave on the Charlie Rose show). Information about Mr. Schulz should be out there from more than one particular source, and who better to engage this concern than the family and friends who knew him best? I hope you all will consider it.
    I do intend to read Mr. Michaelis book. I am very fond of his biography of N.C. Wyeth, and have been eager to read the finished Schulz book for several years now. It is disappointing to me that your family is so dissatisfied. This is a problem with biography in a general sense, coming from a singular viewpoint, and it is truly unfortunate that your father never chose to write his own memoir (I expect he was much too humble to do so).
    Best to you and your family, and I hope this is not the final piece of published biography on Charles M. Schulz that we, the fans, are allowed to partake.

  • Kim Uliram

    Please don’t allow the too long to elapse before we see a contrasting biography. Michaelis’ writing is engaging and his book will almost certainly stand as “official” unless it is shown to be only one perspective on Schulz.

  • Amy Schulz Johnson

    To begin with, I completely agree with every word written by my brother Monte. It is important to me for fans to know that David’s book is more fiction than fact. When David came to my home to spend time with me, learning about who my father was, he distinctly gave me the impression that he wanted to learn and write the truth. David committed the ultimate “sin of omission” by leaving out what would have been many, many chapters of what a wonderful father and friend my dad had been. From the time each one of us was little, to his dying day, my dad devoted large amounts of time to us. There is no way he could have been a more involved and loving father. As for being a friend, it would be extremely difficult to record all the good that he did and the time that he spent with each person that he had the chance to meet and spend time with. There are too many people, not enough time, and it would take volumes of books, not just one. Having said that, I believe David had the sacred obligation to compile this information as best he could and lend credence to it. Leaving out the generous man that was my father, David ends up publishing a book about someone else, not Charles Schulz.

  • Bill Field

    Amy, hopefully the vast majority of responses are clearly in your family’s corner I called into the show that Jerry Beck was the guest, tonight, and let him know that I have refused to review the book for Hearst, because after looking thru it, there were 8 outright inaccurate statements about major events in his life. That’s without looking hard at all. I know with the notes and reference materials in my own collection, I could write a much more honest and realistic portrayal of your Dad, in book form. His impact on comics is the gift that keeps on giving…

  • Bill Field

    James Walley said: Bill, you claim that Watterson refusing to license merchandising was what brought about the “Calvin pissing on (something or other)� bumper-stickers. Possibly, but I remember, back in the late ’60s (when Peanuts was at its height of fame and Schulz-approved merchandise was being sold everywhere), Spencer’s Gifts ran a series of posters of Lucy, Patty, and Violet, all very pregnant, shouting “Damn you, Charlie Brown!� It would appear that even the most active merchandising and licensing program is no protection against someone making a buck with tasteless rip-offs.

    Determined Productions made many raids on that merchandise- which said in the top panel “Good ‘Ol Charlie Brown–” with close ups of the girls faces, and in the bottom panel a wide shot w/ them very pregnant, saying “How we hate him!”- the phrase was used in the very 1st Peanuts daily strip-in a different context of course. These bootlegs came and went within weeks, were in very small supply, most Charlie Brown mavens have ever even heard about that due to the swift legal resoloution.

    In stark contrast, EVERYONE is aware of the Calvin Pissing sticker, they first surfaced 11 years ago, and they are still sold every year by the MILLIONS, unchallenged by Watterson, because he has no license management, or fraud investigators. I asked 10 folks of different ages and asked if they’ve seen the bogus sticker- they all had, then, asked the same about the pregnant Peanuts Posters that you equate to this. No one had heard of nor seen them, officials yanked them off the shelves so quickly, even you didn’t remember the right captions.

    Peanuts was totally protected because they had Determined Productions in the field, actively removing anything not on their master list of products and licensing, something Bill Watterson can only wish he’d done, as well.

  • As the youngest daughter of Charles Schulz I have not spoken out yet on this book however I would like it to be known that I am in total support of Monte and Amy, and the rest of our family in feeling deceived and angry over what is an extremely incorrect impression of our father and our life growing up with him. He was a very present Dad, and very involved in each and every one of our lives and interest up until the end. The portrayal in David’s book of Sparky as cold, distant and unloving is simply 100% incorrect. I know many of my quotes, well, the few in the book from the one an only hour David ever spoke with me in seven years, were all taken out of context. Also, whomever said that David did not have a sense of humor hit on something which would explain why David never qualifies any quotes from our father has having been said in joking or sarcasm which was a definite style with our Dad. A few years before he fell ill one day my father asked me out of the blue “if I would miss him when he was gone” He wasn’t a big hugging type of Dad (which is all I said to David and he twisted it into him being cold and unloving), but was always there for us emotionally to talk and share time with. Never was he mean. We each a our own special relationship with him and he respected how different we each grew up to be and supported our interested no matter what. Now, regarding all of the factual errors, Monte has mentioned many, and those are just some of them. One big one that seems to appear in all of David’s press articles is that Sparky said “Unhappiness is funny”
    That is NOT what he said. He said…..and he said it many.many times, when asked why Charlie Brown never gets to kick the football……”Losing is funny, because only a few people ever
    experience winning, but we all experience losing”

  • Monte Schulz

    I’m glad to see Amy post on here because she had one of the best lines about David’s book. While Michaelis (and many reviewers) seems to favor my brother Craig’s line, “We thought we were getting vanilla, but instead we got Rocky Road,” Amy said last year (after reading the first draft), “I thought I had a happy childhood until I read David’s book.”

    If I can find some free time tomorrow or the next day, I’ll go through the book a little more closely to point out some errors and problems that will more fully explain why we object to the biography. Tonight, I just want to explain that it’s very difficult for us to see the press and book reviewers making comments about Dad and our family life that are just simply untrue. I mean, how does anyone expect us to react when Laura Miller over at writes, “. . . his children complained incessantly of his detachment and obsession with work.” There is no truth in that statement whatsoever. Moreover, she can’t possibly know whether it’s truthful or not, because she doesn’t know any of us, was never at our house during those years, has no inside information at all about us or our relationship with Dad. Worse yet, all of the above applies to David, too. It’s stunning to read reviewer after reviewer parrot back information like that from the biography without the least bit of skepticism, particularly once we came forward to speak out against the book. Then we hear about how actually we’re just idolizing Dad, putting him on a fatherly pedestal, not facing the reality of his cold and distant demeanor. In other words, David Michaelis apparently knows more about us and our family lives than we do! Is that so? Yesterday I spoke for about an hour with a family friend who was quoted in several places about how Dad was not “the world’s best parent.” After he told me that it was true, Dad wasn’t that good a parent and he saw it first hand at our house, well, I then regaled him for five minutes with a brief history of my relationship with my father, meaning everything this friend had no knowledge of, all the places my dad took me, all the things he did for me, everything he taught me. When I finished, this guy was surprised and sheepish and apologized, and told me that he just didn’t know all that, had no appreciation for a side of my father he’d never seen. And, of course, I had to point to him that it was because Charles M. Schulz was my father, not his. So how could he have known? Therefore, how could David Michaelis possibly know? And how could the reviewers of David’s book know what’s true and what isn’t? They can’t and he can’t. So, here’s the sad truth: actually, David Michaelis absolutely, and without equivocation, knows that what he wrote about our family, and how we felt about Dad, and how he felt about us, is false. He knows it because he did interview us, and each of us told him about our lives with Dad, and no one in the family spent more time, devoted more hours, exchanged more emails and phone calls with David than I did. He doesn’t address me in the press because he knows that my life with Dad, just mine alone without needing to drag in my younger sisters, flatly contradicts a huge part of his portrait of Charles M. Schulz. That’s why he left me out of the book, in any meaningful way. And that’s one of the many reasons this book is deliberately dishonest and incomplete. And he knows it. What’s sad is how deaf I was to him all those years. Nearly everytime we spoke, at one point or another in our conversation, he would suggest that I write a memoir of my life with Dad. And I just laughed it off because, after all, wasn’t that, in part, what he was doing? Well, as it turned out, his suggestion was almost like a code to tell me that I’d better write down that father/son relationship because I was not going to to see it in his book.

    Anyhow, it’s just lame to have phony information out there and have so little opportunity to contradict it, set the record straight, have our say. Which is why I really do appreciate this site, and all of you for reading what I’ve written, and responding so thoughtfully.

    As I said at the top, I’ll try to suck it up and go through some of the book with you, being a little more expansive with some of the silly things in the book. I would like to let David know this much, however: My friend, out here in the California, we call them “towns” not “villages.”

  • Bill Field

    Amy, Jill and Monte,
    The great thing about all this, is that your heartfelt memories and real facts about your father ARE setting the record straight– There is more historical fact in this thread than in the entire Michaelis book. I applaud you all and and I’m really thankful that the internet allows the venue to contradict the falsehoods of David’s bio-crap-phy.

  • Paul N

    “I donno about this. Certainly my perception is that Disney was charged with anti-Semitism recently, but that the evidence for it is scant and shaky at best.

    And I don’t think anybody believed Elvis was a C.I.A. operative who didn’t also endorse the notion that Jerry “Beaverâ€? Mathers was killed in Viet Nam.”

    But that’s exactly my point. These kind of “facts” don’t need any evidence in order to grow and thrive. All it takes is for someone to assert an opinion in some form (biography, blog, etc). That opinion gets circulated in a “I heard that…” manner, and next thing you know, the opinion becomes “fact”. If it happened to Disney, it can happen to Schulz.

    Despite evidence to the contrary, and even in the face of conflicting evidence (like Mathers’ continued presence on the planet), there are plenty of people out there who believe this stuff, simply because someone told them it was true.

  • Both Elvis and Andy Kaufman faked their deaths to work for the CIA. DUH! Everyone knows THAT!

  • “Peanuts was totally protected because they had Determined Productions in the field, actively removing anything not on their master list of products and licensing, something Bill Watterson can only wish he’d done, as well.”

    Bill, I used to work for Determined Prod. and you are right on the money. They cared very much about protecting Peanuts and making sure that Schulz was happy with the products, etc.

    I have some interesting stories about how Watterson reacted when offered the same merchandising deals for C&H, but I can’t repeat them here. ;) Let’s just say he did not appreciate the attention from licensors.

  • Chris H

    2 cents, and probably worth less than that (as frustration breeds some illegibility): It seems like the main issue of contention in this discussion is whether Michaelis’ book counts as ‘good history’, and some of the comments have me concerned. In short:

    1) Various: “The facts Monte, et. al. mentions are trivial.”

    2) Chris: “Still, you can’t just dismiss 7 years of research out of hand. Although I respect the family’s objections, I still plan on buying the book, because by all accounts it adds a wealth of new information to our knowledge of Charles Schulz.”

    3) Andy Rose: “I don’t think what Michaelis has written is necessarily ‘wrong,’ but it seems clear that he’s decided to steer away from the happier side of Schulz.”

    4) Steven Withrow: “It seems to me that what Michaelis has done in this biography is not so different from what a screenwriter might routinely do with the script for a biographical film: Conduct research, and then sift through the details to develop an overarching theme (or “central conflictâ€? is probably closer to the point) and structure a “storyâ€? and “character arcâ€? around that primary conflict.”

    These all point to, and in some cases try to endorse, bad historical methodology. (Now if you really want to resolve that particular issue in full then we need a trained historian–or better yet, a professional historiographer. So, discount this post appropriately: I’m just trying to add the little bit I know of it to add a relevant angle to the conversation, and stamp out some poor argument along the way, but I’ll be butchering a lot of good work by my poor summaries.)

    There is a pretty strong argument in Herbert Butterfield’s “The Whig Interpretation of History” that seems to apply here. A ‘Whig Interpretation’, in Butterfield’s book rather than in contemporary use, gives a progressive account of history by taking present political divisions and mapping them on to history. Butterfield was concerned about historians who cleave history into the heroes and opponents of progress, drawing a clear causal line from Martin Luther to modern freedom and the secular state as if these results were where Luther was secretly heading all along, the idea of complete freedom of religion a deep, dark, secret aim of original Lutheranism. The problem is that the present is the product of a complete history, not of some strand of discrete events that either occur in a vacuum or would have occurred more quickly has the rest of history not gotten in the way. The ‘Whiggish’ sort of interpretation gives us a means to summarize history and to create a narrative, but the summary is poor because the justification for the narrative is circular–if we start from the narrative, and validate which facts are significant and which are not on the basis of the narrative, and then by that set of validated facts come to the conclusion of the truth of the narrative, then all we have done is used the narrative to justify itself.

    So, back to the present topic. If we construe the Michaelis book as a unconnected pile of facts about a historical figure (Monte, Amy, Jill: sorry for calling your dad a “historical figure.”), then there is no harm in even the systematic omission of other facts. Of course, if the book contains more than just facts–if it is a narrative and a historical analysis–then even unsystematic omissions are a clear sign that the narrative and analysis are misleading. It is easy to come to history with a story in mind and then cherry-pick facts to make the story work, but the result still isn’t good history–it is a Whig Interpretation. The real job of a historian is to give a summary which accommodates ALL the facts. (Note: this, too, is another point where I hew closely to Butterfield’s manner of argument rather than some contemporary interpretations of it.) If all the facts cannot be folded seamlessly into the story, then it is a bad story, a bad history, and a bad psychological analysis of Schultz.

    Everything I’ve said so far presumes everyone is entering this discussion in good faith–even David, who on the Butterfield account is merely trapped in a delusion he created for himself, skewing the sorts of facts he validates as “interesting” and so masking from him his own original errors. Assuming everyone is on the up and up, there are a few arguments we can easily eliminate:

    1) If many of the facts that are omitted are trivial, this actually helps Monte’s argument. It is evidence that instead of carefully compiling all the facts and then learning from the whole story that they present, David either began with or stumbled upon a narrative that he liked and then just listened in for things that would corroborate his story. Why else would a supposedly careful student of history make such silly errors? If David knew when someone worked for the Schultzes and when they did not, then there is no methodologically sound excuse for getting those facts so wrong in the biography. But, of course, I don’t think David is a liar. So, he must not of known when that person worked or did not work for the Schultzes. Of course, there is no methodologically sound excuse for David to not know when someone was and was not working in the Schultzes home, with the Schultz family, when the object of the historical investigation is a biography that makes any significant reference to a Schultz.

    By the same token, specific omissions do not (as I think Monte wishes they would) demonstrate that David’s story is wrong all on their own. They do demonstrate that David was more unconcerned with historical accuracy, and that IS sufficient to call the whole biography into question. Moreover, use of the “Rocky Road” quote and others out of context is not only historically suspect, it is also a fictitious depiction of the way Schultz’s children feel RIGHT NOW. That depiction is integral to the narrative of “Schultz as a bad father.” We are committed, once we have learned that the children do not feel this way, to the falsehood of this essential component of David’s work and thus to the inadequacy of the biography. The only way to argue, from this point forward, that the biography is an accurate one would be to argue that Schultz’s children are lying now but were not lying when David originally interviewed them. Care to explain to me how you might walk that fine line?

    2) We can easily 7 years of research out of hand because of poor historical methodology, and we’ve sufficient argument for that much at least. We don’t need to say David is just lying if we instead say that he did not spend 7 years researching history but rather doing research in the service of a fictional narrative (just as an author of fiction might look for ways to embed their story into a psuedo-historical context. Example: Neil Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon”). If you are deciding to buy a book on the basis of what it adds to your knowledge, then the evidence on the table suggests that David’s book adds nothing on a non-critical read-through, and may perhaps detract by generating false beliefs buffered by an appealing but historically wrong narrative. Just because it is a book with good reviews (by non-historians) does not mean you necessarily learn anything from it.

    3&4) “Steering” history IS WRONG–the resulting narrative might be right, maybe, but it should in no way be taken as evidence for itself and this is exactly what steering does. Don’t even get me started on biographical films that try to force a narrative–this post is long and agitated enough.

    In short: David’s methodology as a historian is poor no matter how you want to slice it. We could call him a liar, but Butterfield gives us a way to call him merely deluded. The Schultzes in any event should not be made to feel as if they must compile a counter-fiction in order to successfully demonstrate that David’s biography is shoddy work–David has accomplished that himself.

  • Robiscus

    Dock Miles misses the mark YET again:

    “Gee, I guess there won’t be anything that’s too defaming to say about Bill Watterson when his major bio comes out.”

    -no one said that and perhaps Mr. Watterson will have the benefit of still being around before a book misrepresents him no?

    “I like that slamming certain cartoonists who worshiped Charles Schulz (and were even longterm friends) has become a little sub-theme of these comments.”

    Was Bill Watterson friends with Charles Schultz? no.
    the fact is that they never met.

  • Alex

    Anti-Semite or not, Disney did give information to McCarthy, and that is just as bad, if not worse, than anything he could’ve possibly believed.

    McCarthy aside, this does remind me of that ‘Dark Prince of Hollywood’ book that came out a while ago. Disney did have feet of clay, but he still did more than that. Dark Prince felt like a fun loving half truth, as if Adolf Hitler ran the studio. Everyone has feet of clay, but this and the Shulz books feel as if they’re slanted to make a Deep Point About Our Heroes ™. I mean, what sounds jucier, that the creator of Peanuts was a cold hateful man or that the creator of Peanuts was exactly like everyone imagined him to be?

  • Dock Miles

    >But that’s exactly my point. These kind of “facts� don’t need any evidence in order to grow and thrive.

    Of course, the most infamous Disney hooey is the cryogenically-frozen head routine. Seems to me the discussion about the Schulz biography does not concern such “facts.” This is a discussion about assertions that might confuse or mislead an intelligent, skeptical person with a standard grip on reality.

  • Monte, Amy and Jill-

    I am so glad that you guys are speaking out. I was looking forward to reading this book, but I’ve been checking reviews, etc. just to make sure. Like some others have expressed here, your father was a major influence on my life. I’ve written much about Peanuts over on our site, I’ve read about your dad in many books (my favorites have been Good Grief and Conversations with…) and read many, many strips. Just in reading some of the initial reviews a red flag popped up. Even some of Sparky’s own comments in interviews seemed to contradict what I was reading about in these reviews. Then when I read your comments here, I realized what was wrong.

    Like many biographers today, there seems to be an effort to fit the research within a theme. Many of the bios try to psychoanalyz their subjects and that is a selling point with many publishing houses. Also, as Monte probably knows the little dirty secret with reviewers is that it is rare when a review actually reads the entire book- and they rely heavily on pr matertial they receive with the book from the publishing house. Being involved in the history side of it, I personally know of reviewers who get 10 – 15 books to peer review for a quarterly journal and know that they aren’t even able to read the books from cover to cover. No one really could and teach, etc. Several history books have been reviewed that way, and because they fit an idealogically templete- reviewers read what they could and gave glowing reviews. Then when other reviewers or interested parties actually read the book and find the errors, the backtracking begins.

    I can only echo others when I say that I would love to read a memoir by the family. And would love to thank, through you, your father for all the joy he brought into my life. I was a Charlie Brown growing up, and related to so much in the strip. I actually felt “not so alone” knowing Charlie Brown and the gang were around. My grandfather and I used to read the funnies together, and Peanuts was always his favorite too.

    One other thing- Amy I can really understand your comment regarding the church and hugging. I am a member of the LDS church and wasn’t much of a hugger growing up myself. It is a part of the culture, because the church is family oriented and each Ward is almost like an extended family. It can take some getting used to for someone who isn’t used to all of that. I’ve seen some recent converts who have been surprised by it when they’ve never been that way. Which is not to say you are assulted by hugs – it’s just that Wards can tend to be close and friendly. I wasn’t much of a “hugger” but my family is- that’s just the way it goes.

    As a side note- Amy I had read at one time that after you joined the Lds church, that your dad often discussed religion with you. I know that was a component of his life- is that true?

  • Schulz wrote an introduction for one of the Calvin & Hobbes treasuries, so they must have at least spoken to each other…

  • Robertryan

    Maybe I’m in the minority of cartoonist but accuracy isn’t how history is written. There has never been an interesting biography written that isn’t flavored by the author’s opinion. Biographies are about building myths. What is more interesting Napoleon was an average height strategist who had good days and bad, or a short ruthless dictator who had to take over the world in order to prove something. No human is black & white; we are all shades of gray. I’m sure Schulz was as complicated as any man and similar to many other cartoonists. I haven’t read the Schulz book (although I really liked Michaelis’ N.C. Wyeth) but I plan on doing so when I have more time. I would just like to state if you want accuracy, read books on math and science but not history or biographies. Monte, history is written by the victors so you’ll just have to write the definitive book on your father at some point.

  • In the age of ‘tell all’ books where family members cash in tarnishing their famous parents, the fact Monte, Jill & Amy are so devoted & respecting of Schulz’s memory and fighting for the truth to be known is the clearest statement on what a good father he was!

    I never had the honor of meeting Mr. Schulz but once when telling a mutual friend how much I enjoyed a Peanuts strip published on that day, my friend called back an hour later to tell he mentioned it to Schulz & that ‘Sparky’ set the original aside for me.

    The best book to read is “Charles M. Schulz Conversations”, it’s a wonderful book & in the great man’s own words!

  • To Monte, Jill & Amy. You guys are awesome to speak up about this book. I wanted to pick this book up (Being a Schulz fan) but after reading all of this, I’m sorry but David is a horrible person for publishing this. Even if this was all true, he should have your guys consent on it. Nobody’s perfect in this world, and I’m sure your dad wasent but in my lifetime that man has done sooo much good that I have seen. I got to hang out with Bill Melendez a year ago for a day and he had some great things to say about Charles. Bill told me that Sparky still payes residuals for doing the voice of Snoopy (even to this day) He had a good laugh about that but that’s what kind of a person Charles was. Here’s a good question: Will this book be sold at the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa or the Cartoon art museum in SF CA? I hope not. Take care guys….

  • Jayster

    “Bill Watterson is still around! Wonder what he’s up to now.”

    Not to start rumors, but I read somewhere that Bill paints every weekend and then burns every painting so the world may never see them. I don’t know how true this is, has anyone else heard of this?

    I can’t believe that anyone still has doubts that this book is ridiculous. We have the family members actually writting in to state their case! After 6 years of writting a book, you’d think there wouldn’t be so many errors. If Monte listed off a laundry list of errors and still has many others to claim, I think it’s really clear that the book is more fiction than truth. How can anyone believe that this perception on Schultz from David is true if he presents so many errors?

    I believe that there probably was a darker side to him and that it should be written about, but the fact that it’s presented as a full biography is ridiculous. Just as well, his children all agree that their father was more good than anything else as well as the people who knew him closest and including the man himself. In all that is written about Charles including his own personal reflections and interviews, he is not presented as a bad person or father. How can you read Peanuts or Lil’ Folks and think that he wasn’t a kind fella’?

    The proof is in his humor and comics, this is his artform to express his very being. I didn’t know him at all, but I have to trust his children and close friends. They would absolutely know who and how he was. Why argue the idea? The sheer fact that so many little details are completely wrong is a good indicator that the biography is not well researched and written. I know every biography is going to have some errors and a different view on the person it’s written about; but to be so off base with the people who knew him the best is completely unreasonable.

  • Bill Field

    Jason Geyer said: Bill, I used to work for Determined Prod. and you are right on the money. They cared very much about protecting Peanuts and making sure that Schulz was happy with the products, etc.

    Jason, I’m ecstatic that you replied to this, because, as you know it’s far more complicated to explain how it’s not just about somebody making money off another person’s creation, it’s also about protecting the character property from being altered, misportrayed, and, for lack of a better word- perverted. I am going to try to go into details better on my blog I really would like to discuss it with you in the loop, so I get it right and to illustrate why licensors,the likes of Determined Productions are good, neccessary and really always have the creator’s best interest at heart. Thanks, Jason, for taking the time to reply to my earlier remarks. Thanks to The Brew for letting us discuss it here in the first place!

  • Just a funny aside on the power of Peanuts:

    Several years ago a friend and I were getting sketches from comic artists at a show and thought it would be neat to ask them to draw Peanuts characters. Every one of the tired and hounded artists lit right up, and some who seemed sick of drawing their own characters all day had fun doing riffs on them Sparky-style. (Charlie Brown as the Hulk, Snoopy as ninja turtle, Spider Linus, etc.) Since then we make the same request when meeting artists and it always solicits the same cheery results.

  • Dock Miles

    >Schulz wrote an introduction for one of the Calvin & Hobbes treasuries, so they must have at least spoken to each other…

    The “longterm friend” I was referring to was Lynn Johnston, not Bill Watterson.

  • Bill Field said: “I was offered a chance to review this book and declined after reading through it-it’s about 90% total bullshit- I DID meet Charles, he’s not the SOB Michaelis portrays, the only son of a bitch here, in my opinion, is David Michaelis.”

    wouldn’t that have been something to bring up in a review?

  • Simone Tse Tse

    “Still, you can’t just dismiss 7 years of research out of hand.”

    If one is bound, by contract, to publish a marketable book and then wakes up one day to face that 7 years of research will not deliver that, then one resorts to what we have before us.

    May God Bless the Schulz’s

  • Steve H

    Growing up in the 70s I bought and devoured every Peanuts book that came out. I still posess and treasure those old paperbacks.
    Now I get to share that love of reading quality comics with my son and enjoy “brand new to me” Peanuts thanks to Fantagraphics’ series. Mr. Schultz’s art will be his long standing legacy.

  • Lawrence Tate

    Well, I’ve read all but 50 pages of the book now. And I’ve known David Michaelis for over a decade. My view, in brief:
    Where the biographical nuts-and-bolts are concerned – gathering the facts by interviewing the people who knew Schulz, setting these facts in a general historical context – my view is that David’s done a pretty good job. I don’t see his approach as being Albert Goldman/Kitty Kelley stuff. He managed to talk to a number of people, like Sparky’s big-brother figure in the Army – forget his name – who had not been interviewed before to my knowledge, or if so, not as extensively, and who are now deceased. And this material is valuable. The stuff about Frieda Rich being the physical model for the Peanuts characters is also important. It explains, finally, why try as they might, with the exception of Jim Sasseville (who knew Frieda and had drawn her, as David shows), no other artist – be it young Matt Groening in Oregon, or the guy United planned to replace Schulz with, or anyone else – could really copy the characters to a tee.

    The big flaw of the book – and it is so big that it makes it impossible to call this the “definitive” book about Schulz – is that David, in the course of seven years’ work, doesn’t seem to have set aside enough time to study the history of comics, especially comic strips. And that was a mistake. Any interview with Schulz establishes that, above all else, he thought of himself primarily as a cartoonist, specifically a comic-strip cartoonist, doing his job and doing all he could to excel in his chosen line of work.

    With that knowledge, a biographer needs to examine everything Schulz wrote and spoke about his work on the strip and what the influences were that went into it, and, when writing about such, to indicate, at least, where his or her own interpretations of fact differ from what Schulz actually said.

    The example that jumps out in a big way is this: in the book, David interrupts an account of Schulz’s adolescence to spend two pages discussing “Krazy Kat,” in such a way as to imply that it was a strip the future cartoonist followed avidly at that age. Later, when discussing Schulz in 1944, he refers to his “hero” George Herriman dying that year. And still later he lists “Krazy Kat” as being among strips Schulz read as a youngster, alongside “Barney Google” and “Wash Tubbs.”

    The facts are these: in every interview I know of in which Schulz was asked about Herriman’s impact on his work – and in “Peanuts: A Golden Celebration” – he goes out of his way to explain that, until the book-length “Krazy Kat” collection was published in 1946 when he was 24, he’d never seen the strip, simply because he had no access to any newspaper that carried it when he was growing up. He was always ready to acknowledge that when he finally saw Herriman’s strip, it had a big and lasting impact on him. But the fact is that the basic elements of his drawing style were already in place by then – Herriman’s influence, I guess, would have been more in the way of encouraging the kind of absurdist sensibility Schulz had picked up from E.C. Segar’s “Popeye” when he was a kid.

    I told David when he started that he should keep away from doing the kind of things a Simpsons-store-owner type would do in his place. You know, like discussing why the quotation marks were dropped from the “Peanuts” logo in ’53 or whatever. But I didn’t say he should limit his study of the comics medium to just talking to Chip Kidd and Art Spiegelman and Jules Feiffer, and I have the feeling his research didn’t go much beyond that.

    And I could go on to ask why “BC” is only mentioned once, in passing. That was the first major strip to really pick up on what Schulz had made possible. And the fact that Johnny Hart could only go so far in working in the kind of area in which Schulz excelled would be a far more useful thing to discuss than the differences between “Peanuts” and “Beetle Bailey.” And there’s also the suggestion, later in the book, that “Doonesbury” and “Bloom County” were successors to the tradition of “Peanuts.” Schulz in his lifetime, when that suggestion was posed to him, made it pretty clear what he thought of those strips as opposed to, say, “Calvin and Hobbes.” Would write more but it’s time for me to vamoose.

  • So, here we have three of Sparky’s kids writing in and saying the same thing and none of them have disagreed with each other. None of them say to not buy the book (unless there’s something my fine-toothed comb hasn’t picked up) and none of them say that Michaelis doesn’t have freedom of speech or the press or whatever but they all agree that the book is filled with inaccuracies. What we don’t have is Michaelis defending his yellow journalism. How crass was it for him to ask one of the female comic strip artists if Charles Schulz ever came on to her? I wonder if DM thought the book wouldn’t sell if it didn’t have sensationalized content. Can he look Monte, Amy, and Jill (I think there’s also a Craig Schulz) in the face now and say he did an honest job? It’s annoying when “journalists” treat people as simply scoop sources then do whatever they want with the information they are given.

  • Bill Field

    Robert said:

    Bill Field said: “I was offered a chance to review this book and declined after reading through it-it’s about 90% total bullshit- I DID meet Charles, he’s not the SOB Michaelis portrays, the only son of a bitch here, in my opinion, is David Michaelis.�

    wouldn’t that have been something to bring up in a review?

    Maybe, Roberto, but as I re-read my words, it sounds more like Lloyd Bentsen telling Dan Quayle- “JFK was a friend of mine, and you sir are no JFK.” I actually try not to use BS and SOB when I write reviews for the Weekly Reader.

  • Michael Barrier wrote a lengthy article on why he won’t be buying the book:

  • This is ridiculous.

    While some of the factual errors are troubling (though minor), what really bothers me about this issue is that everyone is so keen on listening to family members — the people who would have the clearest bias and/or agenda — when it comes to information that could possibly make Schulz look bad. The other objections I’m seeing seem to be plain hero worship, or people who spent a very tiny sliver of their life interacting with the man in public, therefore not seeing Schulz’s entire personality. Is there anyone who spent years and years with Schulz (BESIDES members of his family) who can comment on how accurate this book is?

  • Lorena

    Bob, your comment is ridiculous. What bias or agenda would the family have? Why would they care if he was portrayed as a depressive, agoraphobic, melancholy, distant Dad, if he were in fact one? Indeed, the author would have heard this from them! He obviously didn’t. And, this is not a minor factual error either – this goes to the core of the individual.

  • “Is there anyone who spent years and years with Schulz (BESIDES members of his family) who can comment on how accurate this book is?”

    Why don’t we wait and see if *anybody* who knew Charles Schulz can come forward and say, “Yes, he really was the way David Michaelis has portrayed him.”

  • Lorena, it’s in the family’s best interest that Sparky be protrayed as a kindly old grandfather figure; after all, this persona was iconic. I can understand why they wouldn’t want their father’s dirty laundry to be aired to the public, but Michaelis wrote a biography, not a hagiography. Michaelis could be completely wrong about Schulz’s personality, but we need to look at his sources in comparison to the biased sources we are hearing from now. The burden of proof in this argument rests with both sides, and I’m hoping we hear from the author about this.

  • Lorena

    Why don’t we wait and see if *anybody* who knew Charles Schulz can come forward and say, “Yes, he really was the way David Michaelis has portrayed him.�

    This made me laugh – right on Christian! It would have been a nice touch if *Michaelis* had actually met Schulz as well!

  • Lorena

    Bob, the kids are not saying that he didn’t get depressed from time to time and that he didn’t have any dirty laundry, and Schulz himself was quoted as saying he had experienced “feelings of dread” and depression. They are saying that this was NOT how he interacted with *them*, and that they were quite vocal with Michaelis about this. Schulz actually overcame these tendencies to participate in their lives fully, and actually get to the studio everyday to work DESPITE these challenges. He led an incredibly full and complete life, when distance and withdrawal, and perhaps having read some of the family history, alcohol would have been an easier option – especially after his meteroric success in the 60’s when earning a living was no longer an issue.

    Michaelis spends a chapter discussing the affair, and like a page and a half regarding the happy marriage he had for the following 25 years! What does that tell you about what kind of book Michaelis was looking to write?

    Instead, the real story is that Schulz channeled those melancholic tendencies through the strip (which gave joy) to achieve his own balance so he could derive his own joy with his family and friends and the people he met. It’s a lesson for other depressives everywhere, but I’m not sure in this day of tabloid journalism, it would make for a bestseller.

  • Steven Withrow

    To characterize Michaelis’s book as “tabloid journalism”—as some have done here—seems very wrong to me, and I find it hard to accept that most of the people who will actually read this book are coming to it from a “let’s tear Sparky down from the pedestal” perspective.

    And, as one of those readers who enjoyed the book (flaws and all), I don’t feel Michaelis means to leave us, at book’s end, in a negative, mean-spirited frame of mind. Quite the opposite, at least in my case. I’m more eager than ever to find out more about Schulz the cartoonist, Schulz the boy, Schulz the man.

    Michaelis writes with genuine empathy for the character of Charles Schulz that he develops throughout the book. He’s certainly pushing a darker dramatic premise here than casual readers of Peanuts might expect (or perhaps not, given the overriding tone of the strip), but I can’t say he’s entirely wrongheaded to do so.

    To generate in prose the drama and cutting humor necessary to follow through on his premise—that, despite his successes, Schulz never got to prove to his mother (and therefore to himself) that he had real worth as a human being—means a laser-tight focus on conflict and struggle, loss and loneliness, reversal and revelation, costly triumph and lingering defeat. The stuff of great literature, in other words…not that I’m praising this biography quite so highly.

    As for happiness (also a warm puppy), the condition is static, immobile in a literary context. It drives a story to a standstill—and it’s probably the most difficult thing for a writer to convey authentically for more than a few moments (even for a master like Schulz). Melodrama alone can support extended sequences of contentment, and that’s something Schulz avoided at all costs in Peanuts.

    There’s no way to know it, but reading the biography leaves me wondering what Schulz himself would have thought of it, how much of it he would have recognized as his own. It’s a mystery.

  • Chris H

    bobservo: Explain why–if the Schultz family is motivated by self-interest to preserve a fantasy where Charles Schultz is “a kindly old grandfather figure”–they did not hold that party line in every comment of their discussions with David? Why were there ANY off-message quotes for David to use/cherry-pick? Moreover, if the family did somehow change their mines en masse (seriously?), why wouldn’t they deny every tabloid-looking aspect of the portray–why would they admit that ANYTHING nasty-looking is true?

    The “preserve the family legacy” argument looks good on the surface, but it commits you to some pretty ridiculous conclusions when compared with the facts that both sides agree on.

  • “it’s in the family’s best interest that Sparky be protrayed as a kindly old grandfather figure; after all, this persona was iconic.”

    i disagree.

    we are talking about a man whose genius is already recognized and whose duties to his family were fulfilled a long time ago. from reading Charles Schultz’s children’s posts its clear that the issue they are upset about is the innacuracy of the book, not any honesty about their dad.
    they would have to be very insecure and secretive to want to doggedly hide the humanity of their dad and they truly do not have that demeanor in their posts. i said this before, but i saw Alex Toth’s children speak about him and they freely discussed their dad’s demons and darker side. i think any rational person would be inclined to be honest about a loved one when the adoration of them from the public is established and time tested.

  • Lorena

    “To characterize Michaelis’s book as “tabloid journalismâ€?—as some have done here..”

    My quote:

    “It’s a lesson for other depressives everywhere, but I’m not sure in this day of tabloid journalism, it would make for a bestseller.”

    I did *not* characterize the book as tabloid journalism. I used the term to describe the *current cultural climate*, because that is what sells, and it is the environment into which this book was released, with expectations of sales.

  • Barbara Gallagher

    I worked very closely with Charles Schulz on a daily/ weekly basis for many years after his business manager was no longer involved at his studio, including having lunch with him on a weekly basis. I have been a business and legal advisor to the Schulz family for over 25 years, being lucky enough to have worked with my partner Ed Anderson who was a friend of Charles Schulz (“Sparky�) for more than 40 years. Both Ed Anderson and I saw Sparky in many situations, both business and social, including accompanying him on several trips. Both of us feel that the more you got to know Sparky, the more you admired him as a person. I cannot say enough how much I liked Sparky as a person and how much I admired his many wonderful qualities.

    I do not feel that David Michaelis’ book captures Sparky’s warmth, wit, integrity, loyalty, generosity, intellectual curiosity, caring about others, basic goodness, decency etc (I could go on and on). While we all easily can acknowledge Sparky’s creative genius, which I think David does in the book, he twists most personal attributes in a negative way. Sparky, of course, was not perfect, but he handled his celebrity in an amazingly grounded way and stayed a normal guy who could and would talk to anybody, which I witnessed often. After reading early drafts of the book, I believed that many major areas of Sparky’s life were missing or shortchanged and the positive voices that I knew of were ignored. One of the former executives from United Feature Syndicate worked with Sparky for more than 18 years contacted me to express her dismay at the negative picture that has been painted about a man she admired as a mentor. She and I agree that the picture of a depressed man who cannot love and be loved is so overplayed that it is ridiculous. He was not a depressed or angry man around us and we had daily contact. Is it because she has nothing but good to say about Sparky that her voice is not present in the book at all even though David interviewed her?

    I pointed out to David that if very significant aspects of Sparky’s life were omitted or glossed over, I thought it would alter people’s perception of Sparky as a person if they did not know these things. An example would be that in early drafts of the book there was no mention of more than 15 years involvement in the Santa Barbara Writers Conference where Monte participated also. There was no mention of the rich intellectual relationship between Monte and his father and how much they enjoyed meeting other writers and participating in the various seminars and social events held there. Also, there was no mention that Sparky’s son, Craig, piloted the private Cessna jet that Sparky owned. These both got “fixed� with a sentence or two added to a later draft, but it still doesn’t capture the family connections, the intellectual partnerships, the social side of Sparky’s personality, the trips taken, and perhaps the fear of traveling was not as great as David makes it sound. There is still little mention of the ice skating shows that Sparky put on for more than 15 years with all of the interesting people involved, and I have many more examples, but do not want to make this any longer. I think David omitted or shortchanged certain aspects of or people in Sparky’s life because they showed Sparky to be very social, people-loving, generous individual and this did not fit David’s picture or illustrate his Citizen Kane theme. Honestly, my heart was very heavy at having to see the resulting portrait which I think ends up being unfair and inaccurate about a truly wonderful person.

  • Bill Field

    Barbara, I only met him once, briefly, and my impressions of him fit with your years of contact with him. He was a terrific humanitarian, he really gave a darn about his fellow man, and, in my opinion, anything less than praise for him is a mistake. The Schulz children aren’t protecting a franchise, they are sticking up for their Dad’s memory, as I would for my Dad(God rest his soul). I’m with Monte on people testifying to his being an absent Dad, that were not family, as one of his”so-called-close” friends told Michaelis. No one that talks like that sounds like a friend at all. You, however, sound like a real friend, and not somebody that has any motive other than that. I’m really shocked that anyone writing in this thread would accuse the kids of monetary reasons for applauding their Dad, and I suspect there could well be “plants” for Michaelis, writing here in an attempt to give him credence that is as false as the rest of his book. Thank you for telling us of your years of working closely with this true gentleman of the American Comic Strip.

  • Dan OS

    Just a quick thought on the Watterson / merchandising topic — sorry to detract from the bio-talk.

    Watterson decided not to merchandise the characters. So he didn’t.

    But if he had (as I’m understanding it), the company he’d be in business with, would, ideally, clamp down on unlicensed crap being put out with his characters on it.

    But when this company isn’t busy fighting the Calvin-peeing-on-stuff decals, they’re presumably still churning out well-crafted, made-with-loving-care Calvin and Hobbes bath mats or pencil sharpeners or what have you, right?

    And isn’t that what Watterson didn’t want to do?

    Again, maybe I’m misunderstanding, but there seems to be some leap in logic here. Why on earth should anyone blame him because there are jerks out there stealing his characters? Is it because you think he’s making it easy for them to do? Because he didn’t sign on with a big muscle company to fight the jerks — a company that would then require Calvin and Hobbes merchandise to hit the aisles?

    Maybe your argument is that Watterson could have okayed “good” merchandise and, while he was at it, gained muscle in the fight against “bad” merchandise.

    But the thing is, Watterson didn’t want “any” merchandise.

    So he is not authorizing any.

    How the people who make and buy “peeing Calvin” sleep at night is not the concern of Mr. Watterson. The idea that someone chastise him or blame him for the unauthorized junk that comes out seems kind of crazy.

    Please tell me where I’m not understanding.

  • I am sad for Monte, Craig, Amy, Jill (haven’t seen any comments from Meridith) to have to go through this. They ought to talk to Diane Disney, who seems to have spent the last 40 years defending the truth of who her father was, against people who had points they wanted to prove at the expense of truth of accuracy. My God, these people were human beings and they weren’t perfect. All anyone can hope for is an accurate, balanced biography that allows the reader to draw their own conclusions.

    All I know is that in 1965, at 13, I wrote Mr. Schulz and send him some of my work, which more than certainly wasn’t very good at that time. He sent me back a nice, short, encouraging letter with a little advice – and an original Peanuts strip to use as an example to learn from.

    In my judgement, a mean-spirited, selfish person would not have taken the time to respond. And receiving that letter and that original strip changed the course of my life. I wasn’t the most popular person in the world in high school – overweight at the time and not very confident. To have Charles M. Schulz give me words of encouragement changed the course of my life.

    I have waited for this book for years. I already ordered it months ago from I am sad that I am going to have to read it with a skeptical eye – and even sadder that I won’t be getting an accurate portrait of a man I have admired tremendously all my life.

  • bobservo wrote: Is there anyone who spent years and years with Schulz (BESIDES members of his family) who can comment on how accurate this book is?â€?

    The name is Dale Hale and I knew Sparky for a long time…about 44 years. (Google or Yahoo will tell you way more than you’d ever want to know about me.) I keep hearing that his kids can’t really see the real person because of their love for him. To them he was a saint. C’mon….who better to know him? I didn’t see him as a perfect man. I saw him as a human being who probably made fewer mistakes in his life than the rest of us. Wouldn’t most of us be happy with that? Is there a perfect person around? Don’t send me letters about that last question.

    I’ve not read David’s book. I’m still waiting for the copy he promised to send us during the long afternoon he spent talking to me and my wife Nona, about the years we were with Sparky.

    After I graduated from college in 1956, Nona and I moved to Minneapolis where I went to work at Art Instruction Inc. Sparky had guided me to the school (just downstairs from his studio) and a job. I spent most lunch breaks shooting billiards with Sparky and two other friends for the next couple of years.

    During that time Nona and I often socialized and had lots of dinners with him and Joyce, his first wife. We had a lot of fun and I feel we got to know them quite well. In 1958 we all moved to California where I worked on the Peanuts comic books. We had a great adventure but I realized that there was only one person in the world that could do Sparky’s strip and didn’t see that much future in being somebody’s assistant….especially somebody as talented as Charles Schulz.

    He understood, so in 1960 Nona and I moved to Santa Monica, California where I worked for the cartoon studios and did comic strips until I retired a few years ago. From the time I left Sparky until a few days before he died we stayed in touch through visits up there, down here or half-way between. We would talk on the phone and through the mail (real mail). Sparky never did seem to master e-mail. We talked about what was going on in our lives. While I wasn’t in his studio any more I was aware of most things going on in his life…Things that were confidential and nobody else’s business.

    When I hear some of the descriptions about Sparky…it just makes me cringe. You’ve read them all. So I’ll tell you what I do know about Sparky! It’s been said (a lot) that Sparky was all the characters in his strip. That’s (almost) true! He was also a very good and caring father. One day we were on a break, sitting next to his pool watching his kids play. He leaned over and said, “I don’t know what I would do if anything ever happened to one of those kids.� I was young, had no children of my own yet and didn’t really get the significance of what he had just said. I just thought,� Well…yeah! Isn’t that what a father should feel?� Later, when I had my own children, I knew just how powerful that simple comment really was.

    This was NOT a mean man! Never! He didn’t do mean things! He didn’t say mean things about people! He WASN’T depressive, detached, resentful, or self-deceiving…and certainly not a womanizer! Most know, from his strip, he was a kind human being. He loved to laugh and have fun! Then who doesn’t?!?

    I felt we were close. You can’t work and play together that long and not have a pretty good idea of what a person is like.

    What I do know is Charles Schulz was a worrier! He worried about his family all the time. He worried about his comic strip all the time. He worried his last strip was probably his last good idea he’d ever have. He worried about what most people thought about him. Then he’d worry about the world…the planet….heaven…hell…everything…far and near! Yes, a world-class worrier!

    I know I did…at least two out of the three!

  • amid

    Hi Dale – Thanks for adding your experienced and knowledgeable voice to the mix here. You’ve painted a vivid portrait of the Charles Schulz that you knew. Now I’d be very curious to see how Michaelis interpreted your experiences with him into the finished book. I haven’t read the book yet but perhaps somebody who has can shed some light on this topic.

  • From what I’ve heard David never mentioned us in his book. I guess we were just too boring. BOO HOO.

  • Jeff Goodlund

    I can’t say that I knew Sparky well but I spoke with him regularly from 1973-1975 when I was working at R.E.I.A.
    I would sit at the fireplace in the lounge on breaks and he would often be there to chat with. He was always easy going and interesting to speak with about any subject. Just a regular nice guy.
    None of the drama that appears to be focused on in this book.

    Since there are folks wanting to discuss the licensing, and the Schulz/Michaelis Discussion needs to stay the focus of this thread, Amid and I discussed, and agreed to moving the Licensing Discussion to my Blog: The Bill Field Trip-

    SO—- Go from DanOS’ comments, which I appreciate, but completely disagree with, to:
    We now return you to your regularly scheduled thread— Thanks, Amid! and thanks to all of you engaged in the licensing topic.

  • QUOTE:
    Another question I’m wondering is if the Schulz family is planning to take any legal action against the author and publisher? I haven’t heard the word “slander� yet from the Schulz family, but . . .

    It’s slander if it’s spoken. If it’s the written word, it’s libel. . .

    You can not slander or libel the dead. Those protections are only for the living. The best the family can do is go after them for tarnishment of trademark and that one is not going to fly in court.

    Artist, you need to know the law even if lawyers do not need to know how to draw. It is not fair but it is life.

    As to who the creator of Charlie Brown is, I already know. I read Peanuts every day for over 40 years. A book is not needed to show me who is was. Sad, yes. That is there. But there is humor and the heart too.

  • Based on Dale and the Schulzes’ comments, this book sounds more like it’s trying to be an exposé rather than a biography.

    I’ve been into Peanuts all my life and I find it hard to believe that anybody who creates something as influential and moving as “Good Ol’ Charlie Brown” could be anything less than honorable.

    A womanizer? Is this what sells books these days?

  • tarnishment of trademark: that’s pretty easy. The book dust jacket for starters, that and I’m pretty sure that the book uses some of his comic strips throughout the book.

    But my question is: If the Schulz family does not want to go to take legal action, then what is the point of this online conversation?

    I understand Mr. Schulz was a big proponent of the freedom of speech – he even enjoyed seeing his work being satired (he even DREW something for Mad for one issue: and )

    But the family feels very strongly against the book. So no, I really can’t figure this out.

  • Dock Miles

    Oh, Cripes.

    Here’s a link to some MAD and “Peanuts” intersections —

    which are interesting.

    Conclusions in the ear of the behearer.

  • Lorena

    “But my question is: If the Schulz family does not want to go to take legal action, then what is the point of this online conversation?”

    Ummmm, lemme think, I’ll take a wild guess …. perhaps that people know the TRUTH?

  • Dock Miles

    Okay, Lorena, what is “TRUTH”?

    There are lots of artists, popular and “fine.” who are, by overwhelming consensus, complete jerks and toads, or at least were to their friends and relatives. (Celine is a good example to bring up. I still can’t decide if he should have been choked in his crib or allowed to write his masterpieces.) But the art goes on and on. If it’s top-notch, long beyond living memory of any relatives. And time, more than marketing, decides.

    Too bad about “Barnaby,” though. It could have used a serious, corporate, commercial pitch.

  • Yes — “the truth is out there”

    BTW, how do we know for sure that the real Monte, Amy and Jill Schulz are posting here?

  • Monte Schulz

    Jumping in here again, let me answer quickly that we have no interest at all in legal action against David. Why would we? That has never been a topic of conversation with us. In our opinion, he has every right to say what he wants in his book, but just the same we want to be able to say what is flatly untrue. This is why the strange experience I had with Time magazine last month killing an interview I’d done was so unfortunate. But this forum has been amazing to me, and for that I thank all of you. Again, sometime this week I’ll try to go through the book for you to more fully explain some of the egregious errors and conscious deceptions. That’s my only purpose on this site with you — to simply let you know what’s not true in David’s biography.

  • Lorena

    Shaw wrote: “BTW, how do we know for sure that the real Monte, Amy and Jill Schulz are posting here?”

    Hahaha…I’d love to see the strip Sparky would be inspired to create from that line…hahaha!

    And Dock, as for truth, Monte says it best, he’s here to let you know what’s *not* true – certainly a step in the direction of big picture TRUTH.

    Also Dock, what you say about Celine – are you trying to make a point that the Schulzes are motivated to preserve their father’s reputation so that his art goes on and on, and that marketing enters into their thinking? If this is really what you meant, I want to hear it, because I’ll have an earful for you.

  • Heather Sayles Silveri

    I knew Sparky personally for over 30 years, having grown up with his younger children, Amy, Jill, Monte and Craig. I remain very close to the family to this day, so I can speak from actual experience about the man I knew. Sparky was witty, intelligent, caring and most of all a wonderful, involved father. To minimize this aspect of his life undermines the entire and true portrait of this man. While he was very proud of the strip, he was equally proud of his children. Sparky was around more than any other father of any of my friends. I have the best memories of the times I spent growing up with the Schulz’s. Our connection even carried over to the next generation, as Sparky played with my children and his grandchildren as well. Unfortunately, the close relationships he had with his younger sons and daughters are not addressed in any meaningful way in this book. Not enough drama I suppose, since they loved and admired him. I am very proud of Amy, Jill and Monte for standing up for their dad. This book should not go unchallenged. It is a truly sad betrayal of this family by this author, who obviously had an agenda to write a negative portrayal of a beloved American icon at the expense of those who loved and knew him best. To the world he was a great philosopher/cartoonist/social commentator but I will always remember him as a caring and supportive father and friend…I know, I was there!

  • Matthew

    I just wanted to take a short moment to defend Bill Watterson. Now, we’ve taken all this time to defend Charles Schulz, which I completely agree with, and, when all these people who have known the man for longer than I have lived take this much time to defend his reputation from this “biography,” I’m sorry, but I just have to side with the Schulz family.

    At the same time, though, I feel that it is unfair that Bill Watterson comes under so much fire for writing a positive review about the book. People, please keep in mind that Bill Watterson, as big a fan of Schulz as he was, never met the man. Bill Watterson probably knew as much about Charles Schulz’s life as I do, and with that in mind, when a biography comes out about his favorite cartoonist, who’s to say that it isn’t accurate? It’s not until the Schulz family and friends step up to say the book is inaccurate that we know that many of the “facts” in the book are actually works of fiction.

    I am currently a student at NYU studying film and television, and one of my professors is none other than Sam Pollard (Producer/Editor When the Leeves Broke, 4 Little Girls) and when he talks about documentaries, he tells us all the time that documentaries aren’t necessarily as true as we think they are, they exist to tell a story, which isn’t to say that there is false information in them, but certain, more minor details, are often stressed to create drama and an entertaining story.

    The most important thing to keep in mind when telling a story, whether it flickers on a screen, or is bound in paper, is that we must keep the audience engaged. Now, to do that, we must create drama, and many times that drama is generated and exaggerated.

    Now, I don’t agree with David Michaelis’ method of making up many events, but that is the quickest way of creating drama (for a good example of this kind of false tension, see reality TV). So, getting back to my original point, it is not bad that Bill Waterson enjoyed the book, for all we know, it can be a very well written and intriguing book, but, as we all have been discovering, this book is just extremely inaccurate. However, just because something is inaccurate does not mean it doesn’t tell a good story. I mean, how many people enjoyed Gangs of New York, Titanic or even The Da Vinci Code? These are all examples of stories that are incredibly inaccurate in their “facts,” but for some crazy reason, they have made millions upon millions despite their false information.

    Now, I’m not telling anyone to run out and but the book, but don’t condemn someone for enjoying it, just make sure they know that it isn’t true.

  • Lacey Burnette

    I was born in 1959 and learned how to read through newspaper comics. Peanuts has been an influence on my life, although I have some beliefs that would be totally alien to Mr. Schulz. I bought the book. I am reading it. That will not change.

    Clearly this book has flaws and I’m reading it with that in mind. But I will also keep in mind that the family could have remedied some of the mistakes and chose not to. From one post: “I did not want to clean up the minor errors, only to see the bigger ones remain.” So it was better to have them published? While I agree that HarperCollins would likely have stood by Michaelis’ interpretations, I seriously doubt it would have been so kind about factual errors. And who knows, perhaps making those changes might have led to even greater changes. We will never know, because the family apparently decided not to pursue this avenue.
    Certainly events and acquaintences were omitted. That is the artist’s prerogative, and indeed such selections color the story. And that’s what it is, a story. Each of us will take from this what we will and add such drops of enlightenment to our mind’s muddled puddle.

    High on the family’s list of concerns seems to be the impression that Michaelis portrays Mr. Schulz as a cold, distant figure. I haven’t read enough of the book to know if this is an accurate portrayal by the family. But I am fully aware of the compassion permeating Peanuts and am quite certain that a cold, distant figure could not have created such a strip. No seriously thinking, intelligent person is going to think less of Mr. Schulz because of this book (and who else would read it?), in part, because Mr. Schulz was among those who helped make us serious thinkers. Thank you, Sir.

  • Lawrence Tate

    I don’t think David Michaelis intentionally fabricated things like Schulz’s reading Krazy Kat before he actually did. I would say it’s more a problem of failing to read all the material relevant to Schulz’s development. The book also has a way of introducing things, from time to time, that aren’t followed up properly. David notes that when “Peanuts” made its debut in a smaller-than-usual size, this had substantial consequences for the future of strips. But he doesn’t explain why – he doesn’t state that, because of the strip’s success, newspapers started to prefer that other strips be printed in a smaller size. This had the effect of driving a lot of the action/adventure strips that Schulz loved in the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s – “Wash Tubbs/Captain Easy,” “Terry And The Pirates,” “Joe Palooka,” etc, to extinction. It also made it hard for cartoonists doing other types of strips to show their full creativity. Think of what the daily “Calvin And Hobbes” could have been if Watterson had had a chance to work with the kind of panel size that existed as late as 1960, for example. In some interviews Schulz intimated that he had regrets about that aspect of his strip’s impact.

    Where the strictly biographical stuff goes, I’d say David’s primary problem is that he tends, when discussing Dena and Carl Schulz, to suggest that their son had views about them that are more based on David’s own speculation than on the data that can be gleaned from Schulz’s own statements and actions. There’s an autobiographical essay David published in The American Scholar a few years ago, “Provincetown,” and another he wrote in the same mag about the lyrics to “Sgt Pepper,” which give some idea of why he approached the sections about Schulz’s early life the way he did.

    And I have to admit that David says several stunningly gauche things that explain, in part, why the family is so irritated. When discussing Joyce Schulz’s third husband, for example, he suggests that his appeal to her was akin to that of her first husband. Well – her first husband was a guy at a dude ranch who could do nothing except rope cattle, and who ditched her the minute he learned she was pregnant. Her third husband is a very successful self-made businessman to whom she’s been married longer than she was to Schulz. I have to wonder why David’s editor didn’t catch that sentence and raise a red flag long before the book went to galleys.

  • Monte Schulz

    Addressing (again) why we didn’t work with David to correct some of his errors, well, actually, both my sister Meredith and my stepmother did, in fact, try to work him. And neither were all that pleased with the result. That is to say, his effort was feeble when adding material (the SB Writers Conference, for example), and nothing really changed regarding his view of our family life, or how Dad saw himself. Seeing what he edited out of Meredith’s story vindicated my choice not to work with him: I noticed only one thing he cut out, which was, believe it or not, David’s suggestion that on our cruise to Hawaii aboard the Lurline in ’66 (?) that my dad had his eye on Meredith’s fourteen year-old girlfriend. Why even write that? Her friend was appalled when I sent the passage to her by email. It left the book, all right, but he’d still written it. Why? The point is that David had such a firm point of view, and so many erroneous judgments, that his re-write would have required a postponing of the book’s pub date (something we suggested and was rejected out of hand by Harper Collins), that I couldn’t see any good purpose in correcting a dozen or so small but glaring and lazy factual errors (any of which could have been corrected by his calling or emailing me during the writing of the book when I was more than happy to help). My old editor at Viking was, in fact, the one who advised me to let it go out with the factual mistakes intact after I regaled him with all the big ones. His quote was that otherwise I’d be “polishing a turd.” Ten months later now, and hearing David tell the NY Times that he got it right, “positively,” only confirms that I made the right decision. But again, let me repeat, that was my choice to make, not the family’s. We decided right from the beginning that each of us would have the right to go our own way, say what we chose to press (if anything), and deal with David as individuals. That was only fair, I think.

  • Andy Rose

    From Matthew: > I feel that it is unfair that Bill Watterson comes under so much fire for writing a positive review about the book.

    I have no problem with Watterson’s take on the book by itself; I haven’t read the book, and don’t intend to do so. My problem was with his hypocrisy. Watterson puts such a tight clamp on all aspects of his personal life that there seems to be only one Last Known Photo of him. Not only did he seem to accept everything in the book without question, his review suggested that he positively revelled in the opportunity to feel as though he was getting inside another man’s head… something he would never suffer gladly having done to him.

    I think the rest of your post is spot-on, though. Most documentaries and “news magazine” shows are all about framing complicated issues in a white hat / black hat frame. I always cringe whenever I talk to someone who considers “60 Minutes” as the finest example of broadcast journalism… anyone who’s ever actually worked in the business quickly can spot the tricks used to skew interviews toward a predetermined conclusion. It seems to be the same for biographies… the only reason that a guy like David McCullough is praised for it is that most of his subjects are long since dead. Not only can they not defend themselves, neither can any of their contemporaries or nuclear family members.

  • rico lebrun

    I hope the best for the family and friends of Mr. Schuz. You want the truth, something that should be so simple. But rest assured in this. Your fathers work is what will stand. It doesnt seem like it now but this book will pass and all its words will dim. Your dads work will stand for many, many, many, many…….many years. As they should.

  • Mr. Schulz (and I’m going to have to assume this is the real Monte Schulz at this point), I can see and understand all of your points. However, it just feels like, maybe in a Charlie Brownish sort of way, that this controversy is doing more to sell the book than getting people to not read it. I’m not saying don’t speak out against it, I’m just saying maybe this could have been handled differently . . . um, somehow (?!)

    BTW, as of this writing, the book is #48 on Amazon’s best seller list (good grief!!)

    But I’m looking forward to hearing the “egregious errors and conscious deceptions” post – I just wish there was a way to resolve all of this.

    Other than that, after reading this thread, I think I’m going to visit Lucy’s psychiatric care booth that was posted on top of the site…

  • Amy Schulz Johnson

    Let me begin by saying that I am overwhelmed by the kind words of love for my dad and support of us, his children. I wish I could personally thank each one of you. It means the world to me, Monte, Craig and Jill. I will use the answer to a question that was asked of me, in one of the posts, to tell a special story of my father. Concerning my membership in the LDS church (Mormons) it was asked of me whether my dad and I had many discussions about religion. Ironically, we did not ever discuss religion. This is why: my dad spent a great deal of his life studying the Bible. I have images of him sitting in his big, yellow chair, reading the scriptures and marking them extensively. He taught Sunday school for 12 years out in Sebastopol, not to mention his involvement with the Church of God in Minnesota. When I told him that I was joining the Mormon church, I knew that it was a church he did not believe in at all. Because of the wonderful relationship we had with each other, it was instinctive of us to know that discussing religion would not do either one of us any good. I had WAY too much for respect for dad’s religious knowledge and he had WAY too much love for me, his daughter, to ever say anything. We never wanted to hurt one another. I now am a parent to 9 children, ranging in age from 9 to 24 years old. One of the most important parenting skills I have learned directly from my dad is that of unconditional love. As I look back in time, I constantly marvel at the love and support I got from dad when it came to all of my involvement in the Mormon church. There are many, many people, who when they join a religion contrary to their parents’ beliefs, are then disowned by the family. To begin with, my dad came to my baptism (I was 22 years old.) When I decided to serve a full time mission for the church, he was again there for me. When I got my mission call (a letter) from the church, my dad was one of the first people I wanted to tell. I walked into his studio, unannounced, and as was his fashion, he immediately put down his pen and got up from his desk when I announced, “Dad, I’m going to England!” His quick wit and sense of humor responded “Even Jesus didn’t get to go to England!” With that statement came outstretched arms and a big hug, making me feel as though he were proud of me. He then spoke at my mission farewell (not typical of non-members.) The only time in my life I ever saw my dad cry outloud was the morning I was leaving for my mission. He just stood on the sidewalk with tears streaming down his face. He couldn’t move. He was so overcome with sadness. I was about to leave him for the first time in my life, for over a year, and at the same time, my sister Jill was about to head off to Argentina to skate in ice shows. His “babies” were finally leaving him. And to make matters even MORE difficult for him, the following week or so after I left, he had quadruple bypass surgery. Let it be known that he HAND wrote me beautiful long, loving and funny letters EVERY week on my mission! I cherish those letters more than anything I own. When I returned from my mission, he continued to show his love unconditionally. I was married in the Oakland Temple and of course he had to miss the ceremony itself. But he sat in the temple waiting area and he then stood outside afterwards, in the cold and fog, to have his picture taken with me and my husband. Again, this was a show of his love and support for me. To reciprocate as best I could, I created a ring ceremony and a situation where I could have my dad “walk me down the aisle” to a song that was special to both of us. My point? Our relationship was so solid, so unconditional, that nothing was going to come between us…not even a religion that could have divided us. Now, I have 4 grown children, and 5 left in school, and I have a daily goal to show them the same unconditional love that my dad showed to me. It is hard sometimes, when your kids don’t do what you hoped they would. But, when I struggle with feeling bad, it only takes me a second to remember the example that was shown to me. This is MY story, but each one of my siblings could tell you the same thing concerning THEIR relationship with dad. Because David’s book has left out the experiences that show you who our dad REALLY was, we feel it necessary to share them with you ourselves. Thank you for listening.

  • John B. Johnson

    In Defense of Truth

    I very much appreciate many of the words in this forum. I personally knew Charles “Sparky� Schulz for about 18 years; I am his son-in-law (married to Amy). I strongly agree with what Monte, Amy, and Jill said, along with the many others who wrote the truth.

    I’m not sure who the person is that David was writing about, but here are some truths about Sparky that I experienced firsthand, most of which came from his taking time away from his busy schedule for me and my family.

    Sparky took me golfing many times (when he could have been working), he hit fly balls to me in the baseball field, we went out to dinner, we went to movies, we quoted lines from The Great Gatsby to each other, I watched him play in many golf tournaments, he often showed interest in my work and life by asking thorough questions, he knew of my genuine interest in genealogy and thus he shared with me many stories of his youth and growing up in Minnesota and stories about his time in Sebastopol with his young family, I saw him interact in a respectful and positive way with his friends (Dean J., Larry J., Father L., Chuck B., etc. etc. etc.), I saw him play ball with my children, I watched him draw funny pictures at his kitchen table with my children, we spent many Christmases staying at his house, we went on trips with him to Minnesota and other places, he came to our house many times, I saw the love and dedication he had for my wife, Amy and all her siblings, and the list goes on and on and on!

    And he did all this, along with all his other relationships in his life, while dealing with the daily pressure of drawing his comic strip. This is not “idolizing�; this is real life! In Sparky’s defense, this was the truth. I loved him as a father-in-law and I appreciated all the love and support he gave to me and my family during the 18 years I knew him.

  • Amy and John-
    I asked the question regarding you Dad and discussions about religion. I want to thank you for sharing your experiences and your love and (willingness to stand up for him and remind not just others, but your own children, of who he was) your passing on that example to your children and giving them that type of love is Charles Shulz’s real legacy. You got it first hand. Millions of us saw it in his strips.

    I also want to express how much I appreciate your story Amy, about joining the church, going on a mission, etc. It brought back memories of when I left for my (LDS also) mission. I had grandparents who were not members, but never shunned me. They loved me and supported me, although they may never have understood. Unfortunately my grandmother died while I was gone, but I cherish my memories and I too, try to pass on these things to my kids.

    Thanks again for you and your siblings giving us not only your defense of your father but sharing all of these stories. Sounds like the beginning of a collective memoir to me!

  • Rookie

    A Tale of Two Toonists.

    In October of 1982, as a young aspiring cartoonist, I briefly met my idol and role model Charles M. Schulz. It was at the National Cartoonists Society Reuben Awards, held for the first time since its inception outside of New York City. I cornered Mr. Schulz in a doorway for an autograph and explained that; thanks to him, I learned to read before I entered grade school by voraciously studying his strip. I could even quote the first Peanuts comic I remembered reading.

    Charlie Brown was getting ready to dig into a box of Snicker Snack breakfast cereal. It went something close to this.

    Charlie Brown: Somebody at the Snicker Snack company goofed.

    Charlie Brown: I got 10,999 marbles and one Snicker Snack.

    (It still cracks me up.)

    Mr. Schulz, (I dare not call him “Sparky”) signed my book and said “Wow! You really do go back aways.”

    I thanked him, he thanked me. In that moment, he lived up to every expectation I had; humble, congenial and to me, a genius.
    I then went to the bar and downed drinks with Johnny Hart, Mort Walker and Paul Williams. I was taller than Paul Williams. It was a great night.

    Flash forward several years to the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, Charles Schulz appearing with Julia Child, I believe. It was another chance to meet my hero and maybe snag a recipe from Julia as well. I grabbed a book off my shelf that I ‘ve had since childhood. “I Need All The Friends I Can Get” by Charles M. Schulz, hoping to get it autographed.

    I got dressed in sport coat and tie (and slacks) and brought along a reciprocal gift for Mr. Schulz. (I had too much respect to call him “Sparky”). It was a Gordie Howe Collector’s Plate. I was a hockey nut back then and knew he too, was a fan. (When I think about my behavior now, I get the willies. I never saw myself as a fan boy nerd, but this borderlined on David Chapman stalking Lennon.)

    I hopped in the car with no air conditioning and took the usual forty five minute drive to Santa Barbara only to get stuck in bumper to bumper freeway traffic just two exits away from my destination. I remember thinking someone better have died to tie up traffic this bad, unfortunately no one had and as I was soon to learn; “You can’t win ’em all.”

    I arrived at the luncheon an hour and a half late. That’s two and a half hours in a hot car. I looked like I stepped off the stage from “Flashdance” soaked by a bucket of perspiration. By the time I arrived inside, the author’s books had been signed, The questions had been asked and answered and lunch had been served. In fact, I believe Mr. Schulz (Not Sparky) was just finishing his lunch. I thought I saw an opportunity to approach. I did. It didn’t go too well.

    Me: Excuse me, Mr. Schulz?

    Schulz: I’m not signing anything.

    Me: I ‘m sorry to disturb you, but I just drove up from Los Angeles and I got stuck in traffic for two–.

    Schulz: I told you I’m done signing for the day.

    Me: But I was late because there was an accident on the freeway. I bought this book along hoping you’d sign it.

    Schulz: I already told you I’m done. No.

    Me: How about if I mail it to you in a self adressed stamped envelope, would you sign it then?

    Schulz: (looking for help.) Will somebody come here?

    Me: I could mail it to you then you could sign it.

    Schulz: I’ll think about it.

    Me: (trying another tact) Here, I got you this. It’s a Gordie Howe collector’s plate.

    Schulz: Put it back there with the rest of the stuff. Will someone take care of this? (There was a pile of gifts behind him but I couldn’t imagine anyone else getting him a Gordie Howe Commemorative Plate.)

    Before people could intervene, I walked away incredibly dejected. Not because I didn’t get my stupid book signed or I wasted twenty five bucks on a Gordie Howe Collector Plate, but for a moment the illusion was gone. What happened to that humble, mild-mannered cartoonist I sought to patterned my life after? What happened to “Sparky?”

    I sat gut-kicked in the hallway running it over in my head. What (besides being a completely obnoxious fan boy) did I do wrong? If you can’t believe in your heroes and idols, what’s there left to believe in? I drove home vowing never to hold any one up on a pedestal again. (That worked for awhile but how can you not hold Sergio up on a pedestal?)

    Forward still– several more years: San Francisco, Rueben Awards. The NCS sent cartoonists into Oakland to draw for the underpriviledged kids. Through some clever timing and luck I ended up on the bus with Charles Schulz and Russell Myers and several cartoonists whose names, apologetically, escape me. We introduced ourselves to the kids, he needed no introduction and I had just started selling gags professionally then. We drew for the kids for about an hour. Their reactions were priceless.

    On the way back I sat down next to Mr. Schulz and he introduced himself and engaged me in a conversation about cartooning and we discussed the fact that he never uses gag writer’s and we talked at length about Swinnerton, McManus and even some contemporary cartoonists. Near the end of the conversation I reminded him that he and I had met, but he didn’t seem to remember. I mentioned the Gordie Howe Commemorative Plate and he said he thought he remembered it, but I couldn’t be sure.

    As we left the bus, he asked me my name once again and wished me good luck. As we shook hands I noticed he had a little quake in his. I said, “Thank you, Mr. Schulz.” and he replied. “Sparky.”

    And all at once, there he was again; the same gentle, humble and kind cartoonist of my imagination, returned to his full idyllic stature in my mind. And then I rethought it again.

    Maybe the truth of who my idol is lies somewhere inbetween. Maybe I caught “Schulz’ on a bad day in Santa Barbara, maybe he signed hundreds of autographs before I got there and his hand hurt, maybe he had to fight traffic or the Waldorf sald was wilted from the heat. Whatever.

    What I learned from that day is; the mistake comes in holding people to an impossible ideal. We’re all human, with good days and bad. In this case, this author of this new book seems to want to paint mostly the bad, I’m more interested in the complete palette. The good the bad and the human.

    Post Script:

    I met “Sparky” one last time in Pheonix where I asked him to finally sign my book “I Need All the Friends I Can Get” by Charles M. Schulz. He looked at me warmly and said, “Sure, I’d be happy to. Now, what’s your name?”


  • Lawrence Tate

    The story Rookie tells shows Schulz’s consistent willingness to be generous to younger, struggling cartoonists (unless he mistook ’em for fanboys). As the book’s account of his conversation with the “original” Charlie Brown indicates, he was very competitive in nature. But he never forgot what it was like to grow up wanting to be a cartoonist in a town where there were no immediate role models; he doesn’t seem to have had anyone who mentored him the way L.J. Ray, the cartoonist of the Kansas City Star, mentored Mort Walker. I never could understand what Schulz saw in Lynn Johnston or Cathy Guisewite – both, in my view, inferior artists and indifferent writers – but it was good to read in the book about his peptalk in his last days to Stephen Pastis, one of the few people in comic strips who really tries to do his damndest every day.

    My comments in the first two posts apart, I still think “Schulz and Peanuts” is worth reading. The stuff with Tracey what’s-her-name has to be told because, as the strips in the book demonstrate, the cartoonist’s treatment of his feelings in the strip marked a turning point for “Peanuts.”

    (And not for the better. I think the strip’s peak years were between 1954 and 1964, work that represents a pinnacle of strength, versatility, innovation akin to Picasso from 1907 to 1917 or Nicklaus in the 1960s. As much as I loved the Red Baron when I was a kid, I preferred Snoopy when he thought more like a dog. And it was an unfortunate day when Woodstock arrived.)

    And there are discussions of other events – Schulz’s WWII duty, the late ’40s, etc – that help to understand what went into his art. The problem is that in most of these areas some important things aren’t followed up. From 1984 on, for instance, Schulz spent a lot of time in efforts to memorialize what his fellow GIs had done – the work he did for the National D-Day Memorial is just part of it. But there’s no discussion of this in the book. So any recommendation I can give has these caveats.

  • In defense of the reviewers – there was reason to expect that the book was accurate. It was a serious attempt, by a respected biographer, known to be done with the cooperation of the Schulz family.

    In my case (and yes, I wrote one of the early positive reviews — just something on The AAUGH Blog, but the book’s website quotes it alongside quotes from Time,, and the like), I had reason to know that there had been family concerns regarding an earlier draft of the book, but had misunderstood that matters had been cleared up.

    Watterson, Updike, etcetera are not really in a position to know whether the book is accurate; their review is whether it is interesting, or perhaps convincing. And if they’re paying attention to the current situation, there is regret for having recommended the book (that’s certainly true in my case, even though my review did cast some aspersions on Michaelis’s analysis.)

    The book presents a rich collection of facts that are of genuine interest, but the problem of separating the wheat from the chaff is a daunting one. This is obviously not the definitive Schulz biography; we can only hope that it’s not the final one. But I am very glad that the Schulz family is speaking up, and finding ways to get the message across about Sparky as they knew him.

  • Matthew

    From Andy Rose > …his review suggested that he positively revelled in the opportunity to feel as though he was getting inside another man’s head… something he would never suffer gladly having done to him.

    I would agree with that, yet still defend him. I think anyone that gets a chance to “learn” that their hero is like them, in this case specifically in their reclusion, is going to be happy because it is rewarding to discover that you are like your idol. We also, when given the opportunity to, jump at the chance to learn more about our role models, because we want to be like them.

    I think this holds true for most people. We want to know everything about those we admire, because we want to know what makes them tick, we want to know how we too can achieve that greatness that seemingly exudes from every pore of their body. However, if someone were to constantly snoop into our lives, we may enjoy it at first, but after a while I’m sure we, or most normal people, would hate it. The thing is, when it comes down to it, we’re human and we’re flawed. We often don’t remember, or much less realize that our stalkers are in the exact same position as we were/are as we stalk our idols.

    I agree with you about the journalism thing though… but maybe that’s because I’m agreeing with you agreeing with me… but you know, that’s what makes it fun.

    Also, I’m a HUGE Bill Watterson fan, so, you know, the man can practically do nothing wrong in my eyes.

  • John Gentile

    Dear Monte, Amy, Jill:

    I know it is difficult to see your father portrayed in this fashion. But I hope you take some comfort in the fact that Michaelis’ book will be forgotten in a very short period of time, while your father’s work will last forever. The wonderful Fantagraphics books are a huge success, and I am so happy to add them to my collection.

    About 15 years ago, I wrote your father a fan letter, telling him how much I admired his work. He was nice enough to respond with a thank you letter, which I will always treasure. This is the Charles Schulz I know and admire. He will always be in my life.

  • bw

    What a wonderful thread – I loved the book – and how can any true Peanuts fan not love the book – we learn so much about our man – my favorite story was how steadfast he was regarding his vision for the Christmas specials.. amazing

    At the same time, I have no doubts that this book is flawed because the children are simply missing from the book – and now that we know they were all interviewed.. its a serious serious flaw

    Clearly, Michaelis had a narrative he wanted to stick to – and he didn’t want to deal with anything that might contradict that –

    I don’t envy the family – because this book is going to be very popular
    But, if it is any consolation – I came to this forum because I wanted to learn about what the family was actually upset about

  • R.J. Laaksonen

    Michael Barrier’s interview ( has some thoughts by Schulz about autographing. He says he despises autographing. “Every time you pick up the paper, it shows some athlete signing something. It’s always a picture of so-and-so autographing something. What’s so great about autographing?” This is my opinion, too. Besides, many authors ruin beautiful books by writing on the title page, of all available places.

  • Lee Mendelson

    My name is Lee Mendelson.

    I was the Executive Producer for all the “Peanuts” tv shows and Feature Films. I was a friend and associate of Charles Schulz for 38 years, from 1963 to 2000.

    We produced, together with Bill Melendez, 45 prime time “Peanuts” network specials, a Saturday morning “Peanuts” series, four “Peanuts” Feature Films, four live Snoopy/Ice Follies specials, and two documentaries, including one where Sparky revisited the towns that he and his fellow soliders liberated in WW II.

    So I spent probably over a thousand hours with this genius, on both a creative and social level, for nearly four decades. It was almost 100% fun times throughout, and he and Bill Melendez and I always thought we had been blessed to be able to create and to entertain with all these shows.

    In summary, I knew this man pretty well.

    Without commenting on the new book in general, I would like to focus on one specific point that is made in the book, because, I believe, it’s one of the most critical issues in the book and in the history of “Peanuts”.

    The author states that he could find no one who was with Schulz in his school days that recalls Schulz being “bullied”. The author also implies (at least i feel he does) that in fact Schulz “made up” (this having been bullied) as part of a “campaign” to “create” such an image of himself.

    First, it’s my personal opinion that NO ONE would remember what he or she might have done or seen in grammar school as far as someone else being bullied. Only the person being bullied might remember.

    Second, even if you dispute that thought, here is a much more personal account of what I believe to be the truth – about one of the absolutely core issues of this book and of Sparky’s life.

    When i was producing the original documentary on Charles Schulz back in 1963 (when we first met), he and I discovered that we had something in common: we had both been promoted in grammars school – jumped ahead a grade – and we had both suffered “the slings and arrows of misfortune” as the older kids had picked on us both a lot….as we were suddenly the youngest and skinniest and shyest in our respectivre classes.

    Until this came up in our discussion, I had forgotten how painful those days had been. But the trauma seemed deeply embedded in Sparky’s psyche as he talked about it.

    We hadn’t been filming as he discussed this. I asked him if this experience might not have been the basis for much of Charlie Brown (i.e. the intolerance and bulliness of some kids) – and he said very matter-of-factly that of course it was.

    I asked him if he would talk about it on camera and, at first, he said “yes”. But then he said that it might sound a little childish or whining, going back into those days.

    So I asked him “what if you drew out these experiences – draw Charlie Brown as yourself – and we’ll have the narrator describe it”.

    He liked that idea. So we filmed over his shoulder as he drew Charlie Brown as a baby….Charlie Brown being picked on in grammar school…etc.

    It might have been the ONLY time he ever drew Charlie Brown as himself. (These drawings appeared in the documentary as well as a book I wrote about Sparky in 1969)

    Years later, Sparky and I were driving to southern California. He was going to visit his two sons, who were attending a private school, something he hoped would end soon (and did).

    And apparently his mind was on school in general because he brought up the whole thing again about his grammar school days.

    “I could never understand why kids would treat other kids the way they did…or do. Taunting people…like they taunted me. Not just not picking me for a team…but also taunting me about it. I remember one time when for no reason at all they threw mud on me.” And so on.

    It was like he was re-living those moments all over again. And I realized that – whereas probably most of us who had been picked on like this had dealt with it years ago – he had not. It was still with him…more than half a century later!

    As a postscript to this, I was visiting him on the day of the night he would pass away. We were talking about the next tv show that we were thinking of producing about football.

    He asked me to take a walk with him, which we did, in total silence for a few minutes. Then we talked briefly about the new show idea.

    Then he said: “I think the only regret I ever had with all the tv we did…was that we never got CBS to do our ‘Marbles’ show.”

    This was a show he had written about a bully picking on the “Peanuts” kids at summer camp and taking all their marbles. The network had felt “marbles” were too passe.

    He went on to say “I really wanted people to see a show about a bully like that. because really that’s what this has been all about all these years.”

    (A few years later we changed the title to “He’s a Bully Charlie Brown” and it was broadcast on ABC and did very well).

    My point to all this is simple. Only he could remember what happened to HIM in grammar school, not others. Only he could know how important this was to the very foundation of “Peanuts”. Only he could know he “didn’t make it up”.

    That’s it.

  • Lawrence Tate

    Here is an article that ran in the Santa Rosa paper with some interesting quotes from Jeannie Schulz, David Michaelis and some of the cartoonist’s neighbors and friends. One thing David says that’s nigh-well indisputable is that his book can in no way be the last word about Charles M. Schulz. There’s room for a lot more to be said. I’d say it’d be a worthwhile thing for the Schulz Museum, in collaboration with a major publisher, to put together a coffee-table size book covering the art and life of Schulz – say, with lots of strips, daily and Sunday, in AT LEAST full-size. (It’s a damn shame Harper was too cheap to do the book at 7×10 instead of 6×9 so you wouldn’t need a magnifying glass for the balloons.) And with a really comprehensive selection of pre-Peanuts work (“Li’l Folks,” GI sketches, those interesting panels with adults that show a certain Thurber influence, etc), plus things like the “Dear President Johnson” illustrations, and “It’s Only A Game” and the church-magazine cartoons. And with essays by comics historians and scholars (illustrated with examples of strips and panels that had an impact or influence on Schulz’s work, and in turn things that show the “Peanuts” inspiration). And with reminiscences from various family members, colleagues, friends. And maybe concluding with excerpts from Schulz’s own essays, interviews, book introductions. Now that’d be something worth spending seventy-five or a hundred bucks for.

  • Lee Mendelson

    Not to sustain my time on this blog, but I must make a correction to what I wrote about the time I spent with Charles Schulz from 1963 to 2000 (above) in creating 70 “Peanuts” tv shows and movies.

    I wrote that I had spent over 1000 hours with him , when in fact I meant to write, correclty, that I spent over 1,000 DAYS with him. Upon further reflection, it was probably closer to 1,500 days. So, again, I knew him VERY well. And a lot more than 1000 hours!

  • I just have to say- where else but on the internet can fans, artists, family, co-workers of Schulz get together to discuss something like this. Thank you Jerry and Amid for providing a forum (however inadvertently) for this discussion and for your great website.

    I just want to also tell Lee Mendelson (and Bill Melendez if he’s reading), Thank you for your part in bringing Peanuts to life in animation. I will probably never get that chance in person…so Thanks!

  • Fred Sparrman

    I’m not passing judgment on the book until I’ve read it — and I will read it — but I have to wonder…why would Michaelis NOT have talked to Lee Mendelson??????

  • Lee, you’re awesome and it’s nice to see you on the cartoonbrew forum. That was a great story about Sparky, maybe you should put out a REAL bio on him (or someone from the family). Hope all is well with you and your family….

  • It sounds like Schulz got himself a biography equivalent to Albert Goldman’s John Lennon book. I agree with JC Loophole that the fortunate consequences are here in this blog, the wonderful reminisces from those who really knew Schulz. Is there any way to turn these blog comments into a book?

  • Thanks Lee Mendelson for writing in. Your book CHARLIE BROWN & CHARLES SCHULZ, based on a TV special back in the day, was one of the most delightful Christmas presents I ever got and I still treasure that original copy, which details Charles Schulz’s life and process as it was in the early 1970’s. Between that excellent documentary book, the GOOD GRIEF bio and the current Fantagraphics reprints, I know enough about Schulz from reliable sources to forego the new bio.

  • Lee, you confirmed all the wonderful things Bill Melendez has told me about knowing & working Charles Schulz. I am hoping you & Bill write a book similar to your Making of Charlie Brown Christmas & Great Pumpkin volumes covering the full history of the animated specials & features–for me that will be a book worth reading!

  • Philip Street

    Like millions of others I grew up with Peanuts. Seeing it in the paper every day was great, but spending time in that world, with the books, was better. Peanuts is why I wanted to be, and became, a strip cartoonist. The integrity of Mr Schulz and his work was obvious; he was the mentor I never met.

    He turned his hurt into art, into laughter, which is a great thing when you think about it.

    As for the current biography… I’ll pass. Facts aren’t useful if the context isn’t right.

  • Let me add another little Charles Schulz story…

    Between 1977 and 1984, I was between the ages of 7 and 14… and I considered Charles Schulz my hero. Beyond being the object of a mere interest in comics, Snoopy and the Peanuts gang were as dear to me as my own friends and family. I spent every allowance dollar on the Peanuts paperback books of the day, usually bought off the rack at Bradlee’s and K-Marts across New England. I researched Mr. Schulz at the local library, wrote reports on him and his work and was even inspired to start my own comic strip with which I would fashion crude-but-cute digest booklets to give to school friends. I eventually got my 5th grade class featured in the comic section of the Boston Globe, a move also largely inspired by Mr. Schulz.

    One day when I was about ten years old, I’d figured out how to send a letter to a publisher and wrote to Mr. Schulz… and he sweetly responded by sending me a pair of original drawings and a lovely note thanking me for being such a fan. They meant so very much to me. (Imagine, if you could, Schroeder being able to receive a personalized collection of sheet music from Beethoven — it was that meaningful.) I’m sure he sent many drawing like these to many, many children over the years… and though I no longer have the drawings due to a personal tragedy, they will always be in my heart and memory. Just as Charles and the Peanuts will always be for all of us.

    And he’s still my hero.

  • Jonathan

    Regarding Bill Watterson, I’ve always thought it was hilarious that the guy slams graphic novels in the 10th anniversary “Calvin & Hobbes” book, and yet mde his fortune with a comic strip.

  • Reading these comments here from Schulz’s friends and family, I feel I now know more about him than I had ever before. Thank you all so very much.

  • Greg Ehrbar

    Reading all these comments are a remarkable experience.

    Perhaps a key to the book’s apparent disconnect with the “real” Schulz really does lie in what Lee Mendelson said about bullying. First of all, bullies are usually cowards who pick on those who cannot defend themselves (this continues in adulthood). Often a coward like that does not commit their crimes in public view. That’s why people couldn’t recall if young Charles Schulz was bullied. There was no logical way to draw a conclusion from other people’s memories.

    Though we share our lives with others, no other human being lives our life with us all the time. You can grow up in the same house and your siblings or parents may never quite know you. You can work in an office for twenty years and never have a long conversation with someone who worked there for 25 years. But if you become famous, there’s a chance that those people may be interviewed as eyewitness experts.

    If the book portrays Charles Schulz as a loner most of the time, then how can we know for sure about what he was thinking or doing all the time? We can only surmise based on others’ memories — but most of all, from his work.

    I remember a The Miami Herald interview in which he was asked about the various messages in Peanuts, “It’s all there for them to interpret.” You can’t sum up a giant like Charles Schulz, or any great indvidual, in one book.

    But, for me, if there were at least one positive thing to say about all this, it’s that the result has been an outpouring of heartfelt expression rare in this day and age from a vast cross section of people. Clearly what Charles Schulz accomplished goes far beyond the temporal nature of the latest pop flavor, in a culture of disposable pop flavors.

    There is a great deal of hate and pain in this world — but what Charles Schulz tapped into was that, at our own personal level, it doesn’t come from wars and politics and other global issues. It comes from one another. Those are the injuries that we carry and use to color our judgements.

    I never met Charles Schulz. I did write to him and got a nice printed “pen pal” letter from his Coffee Lane address many years ago. But he write his daily strip and his books by hand and by heart. They were like personal autographs to all of us.

  • drazen

    I took out my nice old well worn copy of Charlie Brown and Charles Schulz by Lee Mendelson and re-read the very brief 5 pages covering Schulz’s life before the war and the three or so pages up to selling Peanuts and some random quotes from it being..(sorry no quotations and sloppy presentation but you get the idea):

    “Sparky shows an amazing aptitude for drawing he is either ignored or rebuffed by the older children when the children hold birthday parties Sparky is usually not invited consequently he becomes a loner working alone, playing alone and even eating lunch alone in the school yard..
    Still the smallest, youngest and shyest in his class sparky manages to flunk out of one subject each year. Only his great desire for Art seems to sustain him…but as a symbolic climax to twelve long years of frustration he discovers-that at the last minute- the sketches are not to be used. To discouraged to continue formal education after high school… But after 20 years of being ignored by practically everybody suddenly Charles Schulz is in great demand. (After the war) Sparky is now ready to take on the cartooning world.

    And a Schulz quote from the 60’s from the book:

    “and of course all the ideas of how poor charlie brown can lose give me great satisfaction….And I’m very proud that somehow all these ideas about Charlie Browns struggle might help in some very small way”

    Now with all due respect that a pretty bleak summary of the first 25 years of a guys life, and its reading stuff like this and loving the Peanuts strip my whole life and the intelligence and “soul” of it, that made me interested in reading more about Schulz, and his postive themes of triumphing over adversity or to keep trying.

    The truth is for me, the most intersting aspects to read about an artist I admire are about the bitter years of early struggle (if there was a struggle) and how the work was shaped by him at that time. The pictures of the happy family and him strolling across his estate are great too and its great to see successes heaped on him. but reading about book signings, tennis matches and juggling time with the demands of success generally doesn’t interest me very much. It’s the rewards of hard work. I don’t golf, I know he loved golf I think that’s great, but I wouldn’t buy a book of his golfing tips. If he was into cooking maybe I’d buy his cookbook. I realize he is a well rounded person with joys and dislikes like everybody else.

    Anyway all this to say I’ve read half of the Schulz and Peanuts bio and I like it. It gives an deeper study and “interpretation”of the early years quoted above that for me was fascinating. Would Schulz have liked it, I don’t know, it certainly doesn’t make me appreciate the work or the man less, only more and if the book ended at 1960 I’d be happy. Actually I want to complete my Fantagraphics collection now despite the rather downbeat cover designs on them:-)

    And yeah I could read another one with a slightly different perspective. I actually don’t believe everything I read and take it as absolute fact and shape my opinion of a person by it. I can mull things over and come to my own conclusions if I want to spend the time. I’ve read lots of Hitchcock biographies even if his daughter didn’t like them. I hate to say it but sorry. She didn’t make Vertigo.

  • Bruce

    Reading this fascinating thread immediately reminded me of something Oscar Wilde once said: “Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and it is always Judas who writes the biography.”

  • OM

    …Only two words can be used to describe this entire mess:

    “Good grief!”

    “Regarding Bill Watterson, I’ve always thought it was hilarious that the guy slams graphic novels in the 10th anniversary “Calvin & Hobbes� book, and yet mde his fortune with a comic strip.�

    …Personally, I’ve always felt that Watterson was a hack *and* an unoriginal one at that. C&H was really nothing more than taking core elements of both versions of Dennis the Menace – the American and Limey versions – throwing in some other core elements of Winnie The Pooh – specifically Tigger and Christopher Robin’s imagination – turning on a blender and mixing the whole mess with vitriol and sarcasm, and *maybe* adding a dash of Peter the Little Pest. And then, after making his fortune off of hacking everyone else’s creations, he retires his strip and himself, and is now content to make derogatory remarks about the industry, all the while being the same unoriginal hack – only this time he’s stealing John Byrne’s schtick.

    …But I digress. We should be talking about Sparky, who was in no way, shape or form a hack *or* a quasi-plagiarist.

  • OM

    “Not to sustain my time on this blog, but I must make a correction to what I wrote about the time I spent with Charles Schulz from 1963 to 2000 (above) in creating 70 “Peanutsâ€? tv shows and movies.

    I wrote that I had spent over 1000 hours with him , when in fact I meant to write, correclty, that I spent over 1,000 DAYS with him. Upon further reflection, it was probably closer to 1,500 days. So, again, I knew him VERY well. And a lot more than 1000 hours!”

    …Yeah, but I think it’s safe to say that, for the rest of us, we would have been happy to have spent 15 *minutes* with Sparky. You had a *very* unique honor in not only interacting with his genius for that amount of time, you also helped give motion to his creations, and in turn gave us perhaps the most important Chrisnukkah TV special ever televised. To be totally honest, while I haven’t read this guy’s “bio” hack job(*) yet, odds are that I won’t even bother borrowing a copy from some sucker who did buy it, now that I’ve seen those who knew Sparky best denounce it without contradicting one another.

    In any case, thanks for popping in here, Lee, and giving us your 12 quatloos’ worth of insight on this book. It *is* appreciated!

    (*) Lessee, what *does* BitTorrent have to say about…hmm. No BitTorrent for a pirated scan of this book. Guess if the pirates aren’t pirating it, it *must* be a pile of felgercarb after all…!

  • Allen Smith

    I will end up getting the book, eventually. Schulz is too important a figure to not try to get all the information you can about him. But, I will read everything with a grain of salt. I don’t think for a minute that the Schulz’ siblings want to protect their father’s reputation for the sake of marketing. The Peanuts characters will be viable for marketing for a long time to come, especially since the comic strip is being reprinted in daily newspapers as well as books. I think their opinion of the book is sincere and honest. But, I believe in being an independent thinker, so I’ll read the book, but keep in mind all that has been written here and other places, and come to my own conclusion. Best wishes to the Schulz family, you have every right to be proud of your dad, creating the very best of anything is difficult, and Peanuts was (and still is) the best comic strip there ever was.

  • Kip W

    It was great to see the comment from Dale Hale, not long after reading about his work on the Dell comic books. In the non-canonic Peanuts world, I’ve seen his work and Sasseville’s, but the legendary Plastino PEANUTS (which I first heard about from Chuck Rozanski, decades ago) still elude me. There was also a non-Schulz piece done (with the cartoonist’s approval, apparently) for a Des Moines paper by Bob Davenport (as seen here).

    Before I go, I should prove how sophisticated I am by listing comic strips and cartoonists who I absolutely hate. First of all [SIGNAL LOST]

  • Monte Schulz

    One quick comment here regarding us protecting our dad’s reputation for the sake of marketing. Not true. In fact, as anyone in the family can tell you, I’ve never been a fan of all our marketing and wouldn’t have felt badly at all if it had disappeared with Dad’s death. I did want to see the strip continue in the newspapers, so long as the papers still wanted to run it. I know there are cartoonists who feel that it’s inherently unfair to have their strips languishing in purgatory while Dad’s dead strip airs daily, but is that much different from novelists going unpublished while “The Great Gatsby” saturate bookshelves eighty years after its release? Aftter Dad died, we had a big meeting with a great number of people from United Media explaining to us what they do and how the licensees work, and basically what we got out of it was the understanding that there were many forward-going contracts that needed to be abided by and lots of people whose livelihoods were determined by decisions we would be making in the years to come. Dad was aware of this himself, how many people depended on the choices he made. Look, I won’t deny that being his heirs has enhanced our lives financially, but I tell you here and now that we were more than satisfied with our lives on the day he died and if we had to put an end to all of it tomorrow, we wouldn’t shed a tear. We’re not doing this for the money. I’m sure not. Indeed, again, the rest of the family will tell you quite simply that I was the leading voice in arguing that no one should continue writing the strip when Dad died, even though financially it would’ve been much to our benefit to have someone do so. Therefore, no, we don’t have any reason whatsoever to speak out against David’s biography except in defense of the truth about Dad’s life and our family.

  • Jayster

    This is wild, all this information about the man in a comments section!

    Charles Schulz must have been a very fourtunate person to have so many people who cared about him to defend his being. I doubt any one who reads what has been said here will take the book seriously. I hope the American Masters episode they’re showing on PBS isn’t like the book.

  • Amy S. Johnson

    Concerning any comments made about our family having an interest in financial gain, I once again refer you to Monte’s post and tell you that I agree with him 100%. And, he is telling you the truth: after dad died, Monte often spoke out against there being any Peanuts products at all. We all disagreed with him on this for various reasons. I for one, having 9 children, was seeing first hand the joy that the products were bringing to children in general. The other reason had to do with what Monte spoke of….that of our dad’s personal feelings of obligation towards the hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world whose lives depended financially upon him and his strip. One of the most “tender” things he ever shared with me was this: He was complaining about how everyone kept asking him why he didn’t retire. He went on to say something like, “If I don’t draw the strip every day, what will happen to the poor single mother of 4 who lives in some remote country, who counts on the income she earns from sewing Snoopys?” Now, I am totally paraphrasing this, but the point was well taken. My dad was fully aware, like Monte said, about those whose livelihood depended on producing Peanuts products. The other thing I want to say is that NEVER in our home, growing up, was there EVER any mention of money, or things, or fame, or wealth, or anything like that. None of us children care that much about “stuff” and I attribute that to both of our parents. I used to tell my dad that it would be funny if, when he died, he didn’t leave us anything. He, of course, just laughed at me, because he would never do that. But, I told him that because I wanted him to know that I was grateful for all he had already done for me up to that point and that I did not EXPECT anymore from him. Again, thanks for listening and letting me tell these stories. And thank you also, to all of you who continue to write such nice things about our dad. We appreciate that and it helps us get through this discouraging problem.

  • BJ Wanlund

    Monte, Amy, Jill, and Lee:

    Thank you very much for posting your discomfort here at Cartoon Brew. Your father/friend has been very prevalent in my life. I have a good number of the old Weekly Reader reprints as well as the smaller paperbacks, and the 1st volume of The Complete Peanuts coming my way soon from an eBay seller. Also like a good number of the Peanuts specials and films, specifically It’s Flashbeagle Charlie Brown and Race For Your Life Charlie Brown.

    I cannot imagine how hurt you must feel right now, because I feel kinda hurt that my idol Sparky has been portrayed in an ill light. Although I did find a halfway positive review, but the main thing I got from it was the fact that the beginning and ends were skimmed over with an emphasis on the middle portion, with the 1965-66 period being especially spotlighted, with a (very timely I might add) review of “The Complete Peanuts: 1965-66.” Kinda tasteless in my opinion, but then again, “book experts” don’t know jack about this junk.

  • Richard

    Sorry, it’s off topic, but I couldn’t let it pass. I apologize in advance.

    Bill Field said, “I hate that Watterson cheapened and permanantly damaged his own franchise by not allowing merchandising.”

    Note use of the word “franchise” to describe Calvin and Hobbes. Not “art”, not “body of work”, not even “comic strip”, but “franchise”.

    It speaks volumes as to the sensibility of Mr. Field, doesn’t it?

  • PL

    No matter what the book says about your dad, we still love your dad and the Peanuts. :)

  • DDixon

    Like the rest of the country, I grew up reading that comic. It was the one at the top of the front page of the section- a place it earned every day. I empathised with the Peanuts gang, I laughed with them as often as at them.

    Did Charles M. Schulz suffer from bouts of depression? The answer, of course, is yes. It comes with being Homo Sapiens Sapiens. What the author of this maligned book seems to have missed in his interviews, or even from reading the comic all those years, is that it isn’t what you go through in life that matters- it is how you react to it.

    Charlie Brown and crew lost, they suffered disappointment, they were oft confused. But the lesson was that you persevere, you smile, you get through it okay. Persevere and smile. A lesson everyone should learn. To his children, and friends… Thank you so much for your comments here. They were deeply touching and heartwarming, and show the person I expected from his strip. I doubt that I am the only person to have read this page and felt an overwhelming need to call my father and tell him I love him.

  • Brooke Clyde

    I would like to provide a few words in defense of David Michaelis and the book.

    Having known Sparky quite well for the last 25 years of his life, I wasn’t looking for the kind of bio that many critics seem to have wished for. I already knew he could be warm, funny, and generous. No news there. I was (am) more interested in what made him tick, what drove the creativity that amazes us today, but was truly revolutionary in 1950.

    IMO, the interest in a bio of Sparky relates to his genius and creative process. In that light, I think Michaelis gave us a good book. He did a huge amount of research and came up with a story to tell us on that subject. Yes, after 7 years he clearly had a POV on his subject. Did that influence the emphasis he gave certain evidence? Of course. He does us the favor, though, of laying it all out there, his premises as well as his conclusions. People can see his data and follow his analysis and decide for themselves. Are the insights and analyses valid? They generally struck me as quite perceptive, for what that’s worth.

    And if the absolutely objective bio is what you’re looking for, well, it doesn’t exist. And how boring it would be, just a chronology of events in a life, I suppose.

    Again given that I knew Sparky and that no book is going to change how I feel about him, I’m still a bit surprised at the feeling that he is somehow pilloried. I found the “bad” Sparky was simply human. The worst I took out of it was that in some ways Michaelis considered Sparky an arrested adolescent. First of all, big deal: that describes to some extent most of the men I know. Second, why wouldn’t he be? I want to cry when I think about this introspective and sensitive young man leaving home for the first time (to go to WW II, yet) just as his mother was dying.

    I’ll grant that this bio has its’ biases and is incomplete. Michaelis himself says it’s not the definitive Schulz bio. Still, there is much to learn and think about here. I find Sparky more interesting after having read it.

    The biggest disappointment I have with this book is that many will walk away from it thinking that they wouldn’t have enjoyed knowing Sparky. They would be so very wrong.

  • I found out about this thread from another site- there is quite the buzz about the book.

    Amazing comments from everyone…thank you, the more correct information…the better!

    All I can say is that when I was a freshman in high school (a budding cartoonist and three years before discovering animation), I wrote Charles Schulz about cartooning and he wrote me back with words of encouragement. I kept that letter for decades!

    He was my first artistic inspiration, in 8th grade I used his Peanuts characters to depict my friends in band class.

    Thirty some years later, I called him in 1996 to let him know I had taken a job with Disney.

    I was “guesting” in Fort Lauderdale when he passed, so I rented a car and drove to the Cartoon Museum in Boca- ironically, a huge PEANUTS exhibit of original drawings was on display… it was cathartic…better then church.

    Tonight in our area, PBS will run two docs about Charles Schulz – one on AMERICAN MASTERS and one about the Peanuts strip…I think they are repeated in early November.

  • Tom Horne

    I just finished watching the American Masters program and want to continue this wonderful discussion with some of my feelings.
    First of all – what a great artist!!! That is why we all care. I’m sure his children have deeper more complex feelings towards their father, the man but my response is to the gift that was given through the comic strip.
    Secondly – I wrote before mostly in response to Monte’s letters and from the sense that he gave me that Michaelis was not capable of truly understanding what I can only call Christian transcendence. Perhaps this is so. On the other hand upon showing A Charlie Brown Christmas to my son for the first time a few years ago, I was struck by how overwhelmingly deep the depression was that was behind Charlie Brown. It was challenging to reflect on how attached I have always been to this show and this character. I found myself needing to come to terms with this. Psychological analysis was never far from Peanuts.
    I found the program tonight very rich and beautifully done. I got to see both David Michaelis and Monte Schulz. Monte seems like a great guy but Michaelis also seemed like he cared. Perhaps I also sensed in him the need to understand for himself the depths of Peanuts.
    It’s now want to read his book. I will read it with everything I’ve read here in mind but also with an individuals lifetime experience of being a lover of Charles Schulz’s comic strip.
    I look forward to buying a DVD of the show when it comes out for the same reason that I bought No Direction Home about Dylan – they both enriched my experience of the artist. We will see whether or not the book does the same.
    I have a silly question for the Schulz family. What percentage of the book do you feel gets it right? 85%? 50%?
    Thank you all. The spirit of Charles Schulz lives.

  • Mike Thomas

    Just wanted to say that I was directed to this thread by an online buddy, and thoroughly delighted not only to read the posts by Lee Mendelson and Mr. Schulz’s family, but to note that Jerry Beck is still, as he has been for decades, so involved in the serious study and promotion of the form.

    Jerry has no reason to remember me, but I remember him well from our days at a mutual friend’s cartoon parties on the upper west side of Manhattan in the 1970s and 80s, as well as at the same friend’s all-cartoon programming at the original Thalia theater. (That would be a character known to some as “Uncle Wayne,” BTW.) Carry on, Jerry, and thanks.

  • Dr. Jeff McLaughlin

    All this makes for interesting reading, and I must thank the Schulz family for willingly and openingly participating. I just had my book (a series of interviews covering 4 decades) on Stan Lee published (minor plug of course) and so I find this talk of another creator’s work and life quite timely. I’d like to pass on two things to the family when Stan and I talked about Charlie Schulz as Stan called him (though I dont think they ever met). First, when I approached Stan about doing the book I told him it was part of a series of books put out by the University Press of Mississippi called “Conversations with Artists”. I gave him a copy of the book that was done on Mr. Schulz and Stan flipped through it and was thrilled by the thought that he (Lee) would have a nice book like the one done on “Charlie Schulz” done about him. Second, when I interviewed him later on, I mentioned the issue of franchises and the money being made off of t-shirts and bedsheets etc. In an interview with Mr. Schulz, Schulz got upset (mad) at the suggestion that he was in it for the money and that somehow, making money off of t shirts was improper for an artist. Stan agreed with Schulz, I am paraphrasing here but he said: That somehow an artist stops being an artist because people buy things that remind them of something he or she did is ridiculous. People like things that bring them joy and happiness, and if that means having a Spider-Man toy or something, then there’s nothing wrong with having them made. Should we complain when someone makes a lot of money off their work? Well, if we are buying the associated products, who is to blame? Heaven forbid that if a kid likes a comic book or cartoon that we say Sorry Johnny, you cant have a poster or pillow case of Superman or Snoopy.

    Happiness is a warm puppy indeed, so too is the pleasure that artists like Lee and Schulz brought to all of us. Now if I could only afford an original cartoon! :)

  • William Cozzi

    Well first off I would like to say that when I was growing up and was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up my answear was never a cowboy or an astronaut or even a policeman or fireman it was always Charles Schulz. Yep thats right I wanted to be the one to draw Peanuts. I can still remember my mom bying me the paperback collections and me sitting down and reading them and then takeing out my pencils and paper and trying to redraw them myself. Well I never became a cartoonist I have to say that I can still draw Snoopy and the rest without trying to hard. I just saw the American Masters episode last night and while it did provide some insight into Mr Schulz I still think it came down to heavy on the depressive side. That said I know I will not be purchaseing this Bio. I will instead take my hard earned money and get the last four Fantagraphics books published since I already have the first four and really enjoy them. To his family members I would say no matter what your Dad was a great man in my eye and I would have loved to have known him.

  • Lawrence Tate

    After about the fourth or fifth rendition of Lieber & Stoller’s “Charlie Brown” on the PBS show I resolved to do some Googling to try to find out if Schulz thought of the tune. This afternoon I came across an interview with a couple of the Royal Guardsmen ( They said that when they recorded their first album to follow up their “Snoopy vs the Red Baron” smash, they included a cover of “Charlie Brown.” Schulz had asked that he be allowed to hear the album in advance. When he did, his only request was that “Charlie Brown” be removed from the record. He didn’t explain why, but the Guardsmen thought it was because he didn’t care for the implication that CB called his English teacher Daddy-O or smoked. I wonder if anyone has asked Lieber & Stoller if they had the strip in mind when they wrote the song.

    Overall the show was all right, I thought. Bill Melendez looks damn good for a man about to turn 91; you’d hardly think he was old enough to have seen Fantasia the first time around, much less have worked on it. Seeing the people who knew Schulz speak gives a sense of atmosphere that fleshes out David Michaelis’ book, where some of the people mentioned and quoted come and go so quickly their identities tend to blur.

    The demeanor of Schulz in 40 years’ worth of interview clips is also interesting. At the beginning, when he’s speaking as a cartoonist just reaching the top, he looks amiable and quite a regular guy, speaking in an unguarded manner. As the years go by he assumes the somewhat impassive expression that was a hallmark of his later appearances.

    A case in point, not in the PBS show, is his Charlie Rose appearance from the ’90s that can be found on Youtube. Rose asks him a question about his mother. Schulz has a neutral expression on his face when he begins talking. Within about 30 seconds he is recounting his mother’s last years, when she made her “me and Sparky vs the world” remark that David refers to in his book. Then he speaks about her death and going off to camp immediately afterwards, saying “I’ve never gotten over it,” or something similar. But his expression remains unchanged; it’s a bit unnerving. Then, a fraction of a second before the camera cuts away – evidently at the point where the red light went off – Shulz changes expression. The corners of his mouth begin to rapidly go down. It looks like he’s going right into a classic Charlie Brown “I can’t stand it” grimace. For me, anyway, it’s almost like finding out Santa really exists. Then the camera cuts to Rose as he starts the next question. No reaction to Schulz’s expression at all – evidently, old Charlie is thinking, as usual, about what he’s going to ask the Malaysian Minister of Commerce or whoever the next night.

    The point behind that story is that, when living, Schulz tended, as the years went by, to assume a protective, benign, amiable persona in public. Even in that last interview with Al Roker as seen on the PBS show, it’s evident that he’s trying to hold onto it as he says his farewell to his readers – only the shake of his head at the end completely conveys his inmost feelings. In trying to come to grips with the man who was behind that persona, David, in his book, has done something really valuable. “Schulz and Peanuts” has its drawbacks, as I’ve noted, when dealing with the artist. (Last week I saw David and he told me that the original text of his book indeed had quite a bit about the strips that influenced Peanuts and were influence by it, and other material relevant to my previous posts, but that nearly all that stuff was cut for space reasons.) But I think the portrait of the man, despite some emphases I wouldn’t quite agree with, holds up.

  • Lawrence Tate

    And Jim Borgman of “Zits” fame discusses the PBS special and reminisces about his contacts with Schulz. Worth a look.

  • OM stole my line! It takes only 2 words to absolutely sum up my thoughts, “Good Grief!”

    After viewing the 2002 American Masters program on PBS last night, I started early this morning looking for more information on what I now recognize Peanuts as the single most important cultural feature influencing my youth and quest for maturity. Sounds impressive and self important, huh? In grade school and high school, I was Charlie Brown – always happy with 2nd place, the A- was good enough, the self deprecating style seemed to keep the bullies at bay, the Sunday night paralysis of facing another Monday without confidence in my self or an inkling of my worth. The only high school graduation card I remember was one of those giant jobs, sporting Good Ole Charlie Brown on the front and the punch line inside, “There’s no greater burden than a great potential.” I laughed and smiled the Mona Lisa smirk at the time, but in retrospect, it was an amazing epiphany.

    The current thread is an amazing testament to the tenuous nature of truth in the form of facts, but points out that real truth is the product of a very complex process of experience, opinion, emotion, and humor. 5 cents please…

  • Ann Shields

    I met Sparky at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference in 1983 where he was a fixture as the Saturday afternoon speaker on the 3rd week of June. He was sitting on a couch and started up a conversation that continued for the 18 years I attended the conference. We discovered some things in common. Both grew up without siblings, suffered occasional panic attacks and were not strangers to agoraphobia. I am amazed that so little was mentioned of the conference in Michaelis’ bio of Sparky. He seemed in his element at the old Miramar Hotel, with his wife Jeannie and other friends who were regulars. I was a fledgling writer then, a nobody, in awe of the somebodies who spoke at the conference. No one was more accessible and unassuming than Sparky. It became a habit, over the years of his to invite me to one of the family dinners at a local restaurant on one of the evenings during that weekly event. Jeannie and some of their assorted adult children would there as well as other friends. There was an easy, casual atmosphere. He seemed to be in his element. One time was on Father’s Day, and as he presided at the head of the table, the love of his family was obvious to me.

    With all of the remarks inspired by the bio, I have to take exception to comments suggesting Sparky was not introspective, that he didn’t discuss himself or his personal demons. In conversations I had with him, we shared the feelings of uneasiness of being away from home, about preferring the comfort of familiar surroundings. When his drawing were going to be shown at the Louvre, he commented about the trip, as if it were to the moon. I recalled my earlier agoraphobic days when the trip to the end of my driveway was also like going to the moon. Takes one to know one, I guess. But here he was basking in the admiration of all the fans at the conference, away from his home base. As was I, wandering among the writers as a wanna be published author.

    One more thing about Sparky’s generosity. I had an opportunity to do an article about him for a magazine and asked if he would be willing to let me interview him. He asked if it would help me. I said, oh yes. So he agreed. I did the article, it was accepted by Prime Times but it never was published because the magazine went under. Another time, I mentioned my dream to be a columnist someday, an essayist of sorts. He cautioned me about the pressures of regular work, but said if I were serious he would put in a word for me with his syndicate. I never pursued it, but was amazed at his willingness to help out a friend.

    I am saddened that any negative cloud may have hovered over this kind and respected man because of the words of a biographer who never really knew him, in spite of the lengthy research.

    David Michaelis did phone me to discuss Sparky at Jeannie’s suggestion because of our friendship. We had a conversation and I sent him the notes from the interview I did with Sparky. It was a pleasant conversation, and thankfully, he didn’t bother to ask me if “Sparky had ever hit on me” as he had asked some others. No, I might have said, but he did buy me an ice cream cone once. How’s that for a scandal? Not only that, the flavor was vanilla, not rocky road at that.

  • Mr Phoenix

    People who love Charles Schulz’s work already know who he is because it’s in every line he drew. There will be plenty of other books to come and let’s hope they’ll be more scrupulous. For now, I’m satisfied to remember him by reading the fantagraphics collections as they arrive.

    Meanwhile, however well intentioned Bill Field and others may think it is, taking shots at Bill Watterson doesn’t make any sense. In fact, it’s somewhat crazed.

    So he doesn’t want to license his characters. So he doesn’t like to give interviews. Who the heck are YOU to say what he should and shouldn’t do?! I’d buy Calvin toys if they were produced, but they aren’t. The world does not need more licensed products! It does need more good comics with characters that you can care about. If you love Calvin and Hobbes, that’s great – there are books you can read whenever you want. Why does anything successful have to be pounded into the ground with endless iterations and spinoffs and milked till it’s dry and then ground into hamburger?

    The work is the important thing. Watterson chooses not to make money from exploiting his characters because he doesn’t see that as a natural and inevitable next step. I guess money isn’t the most important thing to him. TURNING DOWN FREE MONEY! The man is obviously a nut! Someone should take those characters away from him and make Hobbes Underoos immediately!

    Bill Watterson owes you, me and everyone else who has ever liked his work precisely nothing else. We’ve got the strips. If your life is ruined because you can’t have Official Calvin Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs cereal and Hobbes Tuna Steaks then too bad. You have forgotten what the point of creating great characters is. If you ever knew.

  • Jean Schulz

    Monte, Jill and Amy have written about how Sparky was as a father. I am his widow and someone on another blog wondered why I hadn’t written in. I work long days, and don’t really know blogs and computers, but as Monte says, I owe something to the truth.

    David wrote notes as we were talking. When I saw the first draft of the book I questioned him as to statements he had had me making. I had no recording of what I said, but they weren’t things I would have said or not in that context. David removed them. Several of the other errors I have found can be attributed to exactly the same thing: notes which are not properly transcribed, so the information is simply not true. I have found many in the small part of the book I personally have knowledge of, and therefore I simply will not believe as true things that do not ring true in the years of which I do not have personal knowledge.

    But my essay here is on assumptions and omissions that make a HUGE difference in the truthfulness of the life story. The erronious assumption (I believe in the preface of the book) which states that Sparky “showed not the faintest interest in comprehending himself” . I am not sure what David means here – but in 26 years with Sparky I found him to be reflecting on his life continually and learning from his reflections. To me it WAS comprehending himself. (I think David faults him for not going to a psychiatrist – not the be all and end all to living, I’d say).

    Here is the beginning of the omission: David states “attacks of panic came more frequently now, nontheless he refused to consult with any kind of doctor and was increasingly afraid to go anywhere”. (For David’s information, Sparky did talk to his internist, and he did go to two psychologists before I had met him.) That was circa 1965 (the timeline in the book is very difficult to follow due to Davids style and structure.) The frequent panic attacks and fear of going anywhere “miraculously” subsided which David doesn’t tell the reader. Sparky continued to grow and explore all his life, which is why life with him was so interesting; and this growing is the way he both fed and expressed his creativity.

    A few years after we were married Sparky decided to attend his army reunion in St Louis. We stayed with Elmer Hagemeyer and his wife Margaret. They had both been a great support to Sparky during the 18 months or so in Camp Campbell, Kentucky. At the Reunion, Sparky was able to share the memories of his army years with the men and their wives. (He hadn’t had a chance to do that for 25 years. He had been told that no one was interested in going over “those times”). Because of the reunion and the conversations and memories, Sparky and I made plans to go to the village in France where his squad had spent 6 weeks in their first bivouac agter landing in Le Havre in Jan., 1945. We made the trip with Bill Melendez, the animator, and his wife Helen, as they had a son with a cottage in France and they loved it there. Following the detailed map given us by the squad historian, Sparky began to recognize features along the road and spotted the right turn down a small lane. He said, “we should cross the river soon”, (more a stream, actually). Just then we crossed a wooden plank bridge and there on the right was the walled house where Sparky had been billeted 27 years before. Now abandoned, the windows boarded up, the grass 2 feet tall, the house looked sad and derelict. Nevertheless, we were all so high with excitement. Sparky showed us where his squad had slept under the lean-to space meant for the livestock. Sparky was flooded with feelings I could only guess at, reaching back to remember how disoreinted he had felt then, a pawn for the war which they all felt was going to have hold of them forever. I know he said later that during the army years he was never able to think beyond the day, maybe the minute, he was in. (That is really living in the moment.) Later we drove up the the main road for a mile to the crossroads where there was a cafe a church and a school. We stepped into the cafe which is where Sparky had gone to write letters at night. It looked just as Sparky remembered it in 1945. Sparky spoke to the proprietor in pidgin French and gestures, “I was here in la guerre”. “I played that,” pointing to the fuss-ball game. The Frenchman indicated that he had been right there, too, in the war, and again, with gestures indicated that, “no, the game wasn’t there, but there,” pointing across the room. Sparky realized he was right. What are the chances of that? For 27 years a small corner of France held in suspension as if waiting for Sparky to feel again the feeling of that young lonely soldier so long ago. It was an experience that was both profound and magical. On the way home, Sparky and Bill decided they had to create a TV show which became “What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?” (CB and Linus look through grandpa’s photo album, and Bill recreated in the animated show scenes of the Normandy landing). They knew that they had to bring truth and real emotion to an event that Sparky felt deeply connected to.

    The following year we returned with documentary film producers, David and Karen Crommie to try to recreate the story of this epiphatic moment. It can never have the immediacy of the original, but Sparky felt strongly that it was a story he wanted to tell. Why have I retold this experience? It is a sample of what David left out that was material in Sparky’s life. It changed his feelings about himself as a character in his life story. If someone told David about “frequent panic attacks” and “fear of travelling”, so be it, David chose to report that, though not who said it. I told him this story and I wonder why he didn’t choose to include it. He says he couldn’t include everything, and of course he cannot, but the choice is his and he chose what suited his personality.

    Just for kicks check out his interview with Charlie Rose in 1999 after the Wyeth Bio was out. I have only heard the first few sentences but it made the lightbulb go on. I can relate other experiences and travels that we had which added to Sparky’s self knowledge. No, he didn’t change his personality just because we married, but he was not static his whole life. At the private family service we had, I said that Sparky “taught me lessons to last a lifetime”. I am still learning them. This must be a part of that.

  • Anyone looking for the Charlie Rose interview with Michaelis that Jeannie mentioned can find it here:

  • Yet one more 40-something who learned to read from reading Peanuts books

    So, then, we must ALL BOYCOTT THIS BOOK. Don’t let the author earn one penny for all of his years of hard labor constructing a ficticious piece on a man he didn’t know or ever get to know. He didn’t want his readers to know the truth, then we should avoid the lies. And Michaelis should not reap any profit from this rag. Is that the idea? If so, I’m for it. I watched the PBS Special and at the end I felt quite bad learning all the negative things I heard. Around ’69 or ’70, as a child, I wrote to him and he wrote me back, even circling his address on the stationery so I could write him again. So, I, for one, say SCREW MICHAELIS.

  • Lawrence Tate

    Over at
    is Monte’s longest discussion of “Schulz and Peanuts” yet.

  • Lorena
  • BJ Wanlund

    The Non Sequitur strips are funny, but they’re QUITE tasteless.

    Anyways, I just wanted to thank Jeanie Schulz for dropping in. You know, I went to the Schulz Museum in the summer of 2006 on my swing through most of Northern California. I will NEVER forget it.

    THERE was Sparky’s personality, his habits, and his TRADEMARK laid out there for anyone to see. I don’t need some weirdo telling me who Sparky was. I saw, EXACTLY who Sparky was, right there, as me and my mother were making our way through the Schulz museum, going to the Warm Puppy Cafe, walking the Snoopy Labyrinth, going into the Education room and trying to draw these characters I’ve adored since I was young, and then browsing Snoopy’s Gallery and Gift Shop. I just wish I had enough money to live out in California, near Santa Rosa, so I could go to the museum again on occasion.

    But the one thing that sticks in my mind is the very nice lady who was in the front of the museum near the gift shop, before you walked in to see the exhibits, and she gave me the magnet of the Santa Rosa First Night 2000, and she told me this was one of the last things Sparky had ever designed. Whoever that was, thank you very much. I will always remember that moment whenever I see that magnet I received that day while walking through Sparky’s museum.

  • Monte Schulz

    The Panels and Pixels interview is a good one, except for how impressively inarticulate I was on the phone. We’d done one the day before, but Chris Mautner’s tape recorder suffered a critical malfunction, so we did it over, and I think was a little talked-out the second time through. I appreciated him giving me the chance to rant, though. Why not? Reading the transcript today, I wish I’d been a little more thorough and clever. So I got a sense of what Dad had to go through over the years with all the interviews he did. Which leads me to address something Lawrence wrote a few posts ago: “The demeanor of Schulz in 40 years’ worth of interview clips is also interesting. At the beginning, when he’s speaking as a cartoonist just reaching the top, he looks amiable and quite a regular guy, speaking in an unguarded manner. As the years go by he assumes the somewhat impassive expression that was a hallmark of his later appearances.” There’s really a simple answer to this, because it’s something Dad used to tell me. He really got tired of answering the same questions over and over again for fifty years, and found it difficult to be clever and original in his responses. He knew he was being repetitive and perhaps dull, yet honestly just got tired of trying to sound fresh and spontaneous to questions he’d been asked thousands of times. So I agree that he looks and sounds more interesting and thoughtful in those early interviews, but then again, the experience was also fresh and new to him back then. Later on, it was so much of the same routine that he came across as tired, now and then, because that’s how he felt. Which is another way of my saying that you should’ve heard my answers to Chris Mautner the first time around. Wow, was I super clever and insightful! I guess that’s show business. Or maybe that’s why I’m a writer.

  • Lorena

    Monte – Wow, I’m very surprised you feel that way about the interview. My impression after reading it was quite the opposite. I thought you were incredibly articulate, insightful and clever, and actually thought while reading it – wow, this is the second take?!

  • David Wheeler

    Just a note from a Peanuts fan from almost the cradle. I’m about a third of the way through the Michaelis book — where Schulz has launched “Lil Folks” — so I haven’t yet gotten to some of the points that have raised the most objections.

    I will say, though, that so far I don’t think the book gives a negative impression of Mr. Schulz. While it certainly paints him as reserved, melancholy and insecure … I don’t think doing so is “tarring” someone. I myself am reserved, melancholy and insecure, as — I’ve found over 38 years of living — most people are. That, I think, is one of the reasons for the strip’s popularity: Who on Earth couldn’t relate to Charlie Brown? Anyway, I don’t think that I’ll come away from the book with any less respect, regard or affection for Mr. Schulz than I have now … I might even have more. (As when Charlie Brown discovers the teeth marks on the little red haired girl’s pencil: “She nibbles on her pencil — she’s human!”)

    I’m not excusing the factual errors that those close to Mr. Schulz relate, nor the omission/downplaying of facts/perspectives that don’t support Michaelis’ thesis. A biographer/journalist has to always be vigilant that his/her preconceived notions don’t color how he interprets and gives weight to input, and it sounds like Michaelis didn’t take that to heart. Further, factual errors are just plain lazy. But what’s important to remember: Every biography ever written — every nonfiction book ever written — must be taken with a grain of salt, and weighed against other accounts. (The problem is that this is so far the only major bio written after Mr. Schulz’s death … 500 years from now, hopefully that won’t be the case. Though, we know what Linus said about 500 years from now …)

    At any rate, to Mr. Schulz’s family (and those friends and colleagues like Lee Mendelson): Charles Schulz will always, to me, be the most incisive, and warmest, observers of humanity I’ve ever encountered. I loved the strip almost literally to pieces (check the condition of some of my old Fawcett paperbacks), and insist that the world is a better place for having had him in it. And as noted, while I am finding the bio interesting and, in places, informative — despite Michaelis’ logical leaps — that doesn’t in any way change how I feel about Mr. Schulz: “You’re a Good Man.”

  • Paul Charles

    I haven’t read the book, nor can I claim to be very familiar with the life of Charles Schulz’s outside of that which was personified in his brilliant and enduring cartoon strip. What I do know is that people of all walks in life are subject to the same frailties that is the human condition. Regardless of what has been reported, his family seems to love him, and despite any demons, he brought much joy and sunshine to the lives of untold millions of people who appreciated his work over a half-century of undying inspiration.

    Cheers, from Saint Paul, MN.

  • Lawrence Tate

    From today’s International Herald Tribune (

    Tapping the genius of Charles Schulz
    By Michael Johnson
    Wednesday, November 7, 2007

    When I was an editor for my college magazine back in the 1950s, I nabbed a rare interview with the elusive creator of “Peanuts,” Charles Schulz, at his home in Sebastopol, California. We suffered together during that memorable afternoon. I was shy, struggling to seem cool with this multimillionaire genius. He seemed unsure of himself, much like the Charlie Brown character he created.

    “My life is a story of almosts,” he told me, managing a wry smile. “I am almost a writer and almost an artist, so I do this for a living.”

    He seemed bemused by the wave of admiration he had unleashed with his words, pictures and stories. By accident, he seemed to have stumbled on a universal language that struck a chord with millions of readers around the world.

    By the mid-1990s, his Peanuts creations were appearing in newspapers in Arabic, Malay, Mandarin, Croatian, Japanese, German and more than a dozen other languages. In Norway, they call the dog “Snupi.” In France, the strip is known as “Snoopy et les Peanuts.” In Osaka, Japan, Universal Studios created a three-dimensional cartoon that allows children to talk to Snoopy. Worldwide, spinoffs earned more than $1 billion a year in the early 1990s and now, seven years after Schulz’s death, the Peanuts business is still booming.

    During our chat, he laughed off the merchandising as something his syndicate handled for him. “The money just sort of rolls in,” he said, rolling his eyes.

    And yet in a new book, “Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography” by David Michaelis, Schulz dismissed his entire career as a “waste of time.” He would have preferred to be recognized as a great artist. “I am not Andrew Wyeth and I will never be Andrew Wyeth,” he is quoted as saying.

    Sitting opposite him, I sensed that this was one unhappy man. I was interviewing him for Lyke, the feature magazine at San Jose State College (now University) and could not help noticing that he interspersed his comments with little bleats about his daily life. He pointed to a striking abstract oil painting, done by a friend, and complained that his neighbors made fun of it. “How odd they allow themselves to smirk at something on my living room wall. I take this kind of thing personally,” he said, sounding a lot like Charlie Brown himself.

    Where did his endless stream of tortured ideas come from?

    “I have feelings way in the back of my mind that come out in little pictures and funny little sayings,” he told another interviewer. Anyone into serious doodling knows that absent-minded scribbles tend to represent one’s state of mind. Schulz developed his into an art form.

    Over 50 years of cartooning, he produced 25 books and about 18,000 comic strips for thousands of newspapers. Dozens of marketers licensed his creations in everything from knitwear to toys to ashtrays. His cheeky children with their philosophical bent opened the way for “Calvin and Hobbes,” “Garfield,” “Dilbert” and others, drawn and captioned in derivatives of the Schulz style.

    Schulz’s survivors, including his ex-wife Joyce and his five children, all of whom cooperated in research for the Michaelis book, have complained that the new biography exaggerates his anxious side and misses his Midwestern kindness. Michaelis stands by his reporting and it certainly jibes with my impressions.

    But I was also a sly operator at 20 years of age. With journalistic cunning, I cornered Schulz into drawing an original sketch to illustrate the interview. I knew how possessive he was of his characters, so I casually dropped an impossible idea at the end of the interview. “Maybe we’ll draw a Charlie Brown cartoon for our cover,” I mumbled.

    Schulz fairly leapt from his sofa. “Oh no need to do that” he said. “Let me do it for you.”

    He led the way to his private studio, an outbuilding soaked with the smell of paint and solvent. California sunshine poured into the room. To me, it felt like a holy place.

    Schulz slid onto his stool and selected a pen, a fine-nibbed black marker. He confidently drew a perfect circle, and half a dozen strokes later Charlie Brown was staring at us from the drawing board. It took him about 15 seconds. (But drawing Charlie Brown is much more difficult than it looks. It took Schulz about 10 years to get it right, even fighting off his syndicate’s clumsy “improvements,” such as enlarging the characters’ eyes.)

    “What shall we do as the caption?” Schulz asked. I was ready for this. I had changed the schedule for the magazine and planned to produce it before the college’s Christmas break. On the cover, Charlie Brown ended up saying “Good grief! It’s the Lyke before Christmas.”

    The original drawing has long since vanished, but it is probably circulating somewhere on e-Bay.

    Michael Johnson is a journalist based in Bordeaux.

  • It’s amazing how quickly the press jumps on the bandwagon and starts parroting the newly “discovered” information when a prestigious piece of junk like Michaelis’s book pops out. This article goes further into insulting misrepresentation, however, in suggesting that Schulz was unhappy with his life’s work. Compare this actual quote from Schulz’s introduction to Around the World in 45 Years from the idiotic conclusions of the above article:

    “…I came across a marvelous quote by S. J. Perleman: ‘To me, the muralist is not more valid than the miniature painter. In this very large country where size is all and where Thomas Wolfe outranks Robert Benchley, I am content to stitch away at my embroidery hoop.’ This was a most reassuring statement from that great humorist, and has helped to make me content to draw my tiny little comic strip every day.”

  • Monte Schulz

    Dad never felt his career was a “waste of time.” If he said that, it was certainly his own brand of hyperbole, of which he was fond. What he really did was admire what he felt were higher art forms: literary writing, painting, classical music. He hated movies being referred to as “films” and did, in fact, consider cartooning a lesser art form. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t adore it, because he did, without question or reservation. He contented himself with trying to be the very best at what he was able to do well. Have many of you have seen his renderings of other comic strips? He was very competent in his drawing of Popeye and Krazy Kat, etc. He loved the comic strip art. Just because he might have wished to be another Brahms or Degas or Thomas Wolfe does not mean he considered himself a failure. He was all he could be, and that was very satisfying to him.

    I’d also like to respond to Michael Johnson’s essay where he says that Michaelis’s reporting jibes with his own impressions of my dad. After all, he told us that he only spent an afternoon with Dad. Honestly, how much can he really claim to be able to say with authority about someone he’s only spent a few hours with? Or, in David’s case, never have met at all? It’s absurd.

  • Paul West

    I would first like to thank all who have responded to this, especially to those who had the courage to stand up for a great person (Charles “Sparky” Schulz).

    I agree with the majority of all that have responded so far. A person like Sparky (or frankly anyone who did anything significantly great) doesn’t deserve to be “trashed” upon. It’s just flat-out wrong. He was a hard worker, and even though he’s deceased, he still deserves a lot more respect than that.

    It’s just the book who continues to disrespect Sparky and his work. If you go to YouTube, you’d see the majority of their videos of “redubbed” “PEANUTS” specials, which seems to show absolute hate.

    I encourage more people to respond to this whenever you can. Whether you didn’t know Sparky (like me) or you do, if you were on “PEANUTS” specials or you were close friends with him, speak your opinion about this. This is controversial.

    Thanks to all and God Bless Sparky.

  • John Abercrombie

    I agree with Paul. What that guy did to Sparky was just wrong.

    He’s also right about YouTube. I’ve checked it out, and there were a million redubbed “PEANUTS” specials. It’s just so sad to see that.

  • I think what it all comes down to is that you view someone like Schulz by the legacy he leaves behind. Charles M. Schulz left an incredible body of work that will continue to bring millions of people happiness for a very long time to come, and most importantly, children that clearly love & honor their father.

    A PEANUTS related note: Bill Melendez turns 91 on Nov. 15th–Happy Birthday, Bill!

  • Denise Q Baker

    I certainly don’t want to support the author by buying this book. However, the library where I work has purchased a copy, so I will read it—keeping firmly in mind what the family has said here. Then I will use the money I saved to buy a bunch of those wonderful little paperback Peanuts books and donate them to the library! That way, kids will get to know and love the real Charles Schulz. I hope that others will consider doing the same! (I am a volunteer at the Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa.)

  • kd

    Notes from Abe Twerski, noted psychiatrist, Founder & Medical Director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh, author of more than 50 books…

    Someone said that history is essentially playing tricks on dead people.

    There is a plethora of books on psycho-history, trying to analyze people by investigating their writings, art or music, and gathering information about them from various sources. I have always been doubtful of the value of these. Heaven knows that when I have a real, live person sitting in front of me several times a week, it is a major challenge to make a valid assessment of the person’s psychological makeup. The validity of these post-mortem analyses is highly questionable.

    I don’t want to commit the same error. However, since much has been said about Charles Schulz, I wish to share my impression.

    For many years, I was impressed with Sparky’s uncanny psychological insights. I have said that he may well be one of the most insightful people this country has ever produced, and is reminiscent of Sigmund Freud’s statement that Dostoevsky knew more about the working of the unconscious mind than the entire psychoanalytic association. I used to display his cartoon strips under the heading of “Postgraduate Education� for psychiatric trainees to read. Eventually, I put these strips into four books, When Do the Good Things Start?, Waking Up Just in Time, I Didn’t Ask to Be in This Family, That’s Not a Fault, That’s a Character Trait, and one book in Japanese, What’s the Big Deal?

    I met with Sparky a number of times in long sessions. Some people are rather uncomfortable in my presence, fearful that I am studying them psychiatrically. Sparky was not the least bit uncomfortable. He readily admitted that he had an anxiety-panic disorder. “I can get a panic attack just walking into a hotel lobby,� he said. “Rather than going for treatment, I just try to avoid the things that are likely to trigger anxiety.�

    Not all cartoonists are comfortable with their work being interpreted psychologically and possibly reflecting on their personality. I mentioned this to Sparky, who laughed and said, “Go right ahead. If you do find anything about me which you think I should know, tell me. Just don’t expect to get paid as my psychiatrist.� However, I never did find anything like that.

    We talked about whether his cartoon characters reflected himself or others he knew. The answer to this came out when I showed him a strip and said, �Sparky, do you realize what this strip says? Why, in these four frames you have encapsulated the whole ethos of our frenetic society!�

    In this strip, Sally wakes up Charlie Brown. “Wake up, big brother� she says. Charlie Brown sits up. “Wake up? What for?� he says. Sally says, “So you can get an early start.� Charlie says, “But I’m not going anywhere!� Sally says, “That’s a shame. You could’ve been the first one there.�

    Sparky smiled and said, “Abe, if I allowed myself to see everything that you see in my cartoons, it would paralyze me, and I wouldn’t be able to draw.� Note that he did not say that he could not see them, but rather that he did not allow himself to see them. It was necessary for him to block out all insights, and this holds true for whether the characters reflected himself or others.

    One time he said, “May I ask you a theological question?� I said, “Sure.� “Why do bad things happen to good people?� he asked.

    I said, “Sparky, no human being can really understand that. About all we can say in response to that question is something you’ve already said.�

    “I did?� Sparky asked.

    I then showed him a strip where Linus had built a very intricate castle out of sand on the beach. Suddenly, a torrent of rain washed the castle into the sea. Linus says, “There’s a message in this somewhere, but I don’t know what it is.� I’m a bit more than an amateur theologian, but I really don’t know if I can improve much on that.

    In my sessions with Sparky I saw him as a gentle, sensitive person. I watched him referee kids playing hockey. If, as someone claims, there was a “dark side� to Sparky, I certainly did not see it.

    Sparky was a proud person. I sat with him for about an hour just two days before his death. As a result of the stroke, he was unable to find certain words, and he would become tearful. He said, “Abe, I can’t take this.�

    Shortly thereafter he got up to leave, and said, “Abe, it’s been an honor having you as a friend.� It was only two days later that I realized he had said goodbye.

  • I typed this on another blog before I knew that others were chattin’ up Watterson… so… in that light:

    And to add very odd insult to injury… One of my favorite artists, Bill Watterson, has written a very odd review of the book, which seems to insult Mr. Schulz even more.

    I love Bill Watterson’s work. He’s an incredible artist, which is often overlooked because of his amazing sense of humor. He is definitely the bastard child of everything “Peanuts.� And I mean that in the most appreciative and positive way.

    However, whenever I’ve read his three interviews (he’s only done three, that I know of) and the introduction to his fantastic Box Set Collection of Calvin and Hobbes, I find a person of black and white literals. Watterson seems to have the same harsh, strict Ayn Randian outlook that Steve Ditko has. (I said “seems…�)

    He states his “observations� about this book about Charles Schulz with an “objectivist� viewpoint of quite certain Right and Wrongs, and then makes a few cruel remarks, playing psychologist to a man he never met.

    I would bet that Wattersson speaks of his own foibles rather than Sparkys.

    Of course, maybe I just did the same.

  • BB

    To Amy Schulz Johnson and her siblings: Ms. Johnson, I am about your age. When I was around 10 years old, I discovered Peanuts. I bought every book, every compilation, everything Peanuts I could read with my allowance and begged my parents to buy what I couldn’t afford. They reluctantly did so at first, but I would catch my dad reading all my books so he lightened up and bought some, too. I learned about some of life’s goodness through Charlie Brown and Linus and found that I didn’t like Lucy because I was too much like her. I think I started feeling sorry for the underdog when I first met Pigpen. Thanks to your dad for his wit, wisdom, and faith in God. I am LDS, too, and my dad was much the same as yours. He was not LDS, until the very end at least, but he paid for my mission and came to my temple marriage and waited in the waiting room. He always supported me in these things and others. Ain’t life grand?

  • Just a note to Amy Schulz Johnson and her siblings . . . I stumbled in here from the local Salt Lake newspaper website. I have been rewarded and uplifted by my visit. I am a “Boomer” whose Father was a WWII submariner in the Asian Fleet, and I miss my own Dad/Hero terribly. My tour of duty in South Vietnam as an Army pilot was made a little easier by your father’s talent. I still have original Peanuts comic strips that my folks clipped and sent me. My radio handle was “Peanuts”. I had Snoopy hand painted on the back of my flight helmet then, and on the back of the helmet and leather jacket I wear while on the Harley now. My lunch box in elementary school was Peanuts. I wish I still had it, peanut butter smell and all! I fell in love with the little redheaded girl across the playground. My redheaded wife and I watch the TV Holiday specials together every year as if it was for the first time. Her cell phone ring is the piano Peanuts theme. How I appreciated your fathers genius, and after this bit of joyful introspection, I see that Mr Charles Schulz has been a big part of this ol’ beekeepers life! I learned a lot about the literary “biz” here and think that everyone had great insights and comments. I am such an outsider that I am almost hesitant to post . . . . thanks to you all.

  • Onnie

    I found this page after reading a terrible slide-show “essay” on Slate, that took 11 Peanuts strips and tried to make them “representative” of all the dark side of the late Mr. Schulz, in agreement with the new book … and all I could think was how many Peanuts strips I’ve read and how little the writer (of the slide-show essay, at least) really got out of reading Peanuts.

    I could glance through my treasured copy of the “Peanuts Treasury” at home and find 11 strips that could equally support whatever thesis I wanted to make about anything — because Charles Schulz was such a thoughtful, sensitive, truly wise man whose works are among the best works of true art I’ve ever had the fortune to experience.

    Forget reading this hatchet job book. If you really want to know Charles Schulze, read “Peanuts” — and come away with so, so, so much more!

  • Brian Stovall

    Hi, everyone. I’ve followed this thread with interest, and have just finished reading the book (I insisted on doing so, despite the controversy). I have to say, while I loved the book at the beginning strictly on its own terms, I became more and more disappointed with it as I went on, until by the end I found Michaelis to be terribly pretentious.

    I’ve been a devoted, passionate fan of Peanuts since I was old enough to read, and I have always had the utmost respect and love for Sparky. I never met him or even wrote to him, but I feel that he was one of the primary influences on my personality and my outlook on life–that, while life is hard and full of disappointments, it is still beautiful and worth living.

    So, when the book was announced, I was thrilled and couldn’t wait. And then, when I heard about the family’s objections, I became apprehensive. This continued throughout my reading of the book. For me, the problem was that I so appreciated what it DID tell me about Sparky, and the insight that it gave into the life of somebody I respected so much–and yet practically everybody who was close to him had such strenuous objections to what was in the book that I simply couldn’t trust it, even in the areas that they DIDN’T complain about.

    This is a serious issue for me, as a reader and as a fan of Sparky’s. I very nearly confronted Michaelis about it–I live in Santa Rosa and he was making an appearance at Copperfield’s–but I chose not to go. Perhaps I should have. (Then again, I presume he got it from quite a few people there.)

    Monte, Amy, Jill, Jean–I’d like you to know that your comments here have been fascinating and moving. I really appreciate that you’ve been willing to speak out and set the record straight. Overall, the picture I have of Michaelis is one of profound arrogance. I would have had that impression from the book even without your input, but reading what you have had to say about it has only reinforced my disappointment. This is likely to be the only in-depth biography of Sparky that we will get, and frankly, he deserved better. It’s good that the book exists, simply for the depth of its research, but it could have been so much more.

  • I find it sad, if not surprising, that Schulz has so many fans who are incapable of tolerating the thought that Sparky was (gasp!) a human being.

    The descriptions of the book (many coming from people who never read it, and who in fact vow never to read it) as some kind of vile, demented hatchet-job are just ludicrous.

    I was a lifelong fan of Schulz as well as “Peanuts” long before I read this book, and I still am. Nothing whatsoever in the book struck me as shocking or sensational. Much of it, to longtime “Peanuts” readers, should be obvious — even if (unlike me) you never read anything about the cartoonist before.

    So why all the wailing and tumult? The book fills in a lot of details about Schulz that I previously knew in only a broad or sketchy way, and I found the book fascinating.

    I also found the book a welcome opportunity to hear someone else ruminate about a person I have spent lots of time admiring and contemplating. Is that OK with you all?

    Yeah, the author has a penchant for psychoanalyzing, but so do most biographers — and, most readers of biographies understand that you’re only getting only one person’s take on the subject. It’s the author’s book, not the subject’s (or the family’s) book. Monte graciously and accurately acknowledges this.

    I’m thrilled that Monte, personally and as family spokesman, has participated in this fascinating discussion. (Amy, too!) And his defense of his dad is touching, but I think that his outrage over trivial factual errors needs to be seen in context — when you try to include a million
    details in a long, complex story, that stuff happens.

    Nor am I persuaded by his complaints about omissions. I would concede that the omissions were selective — for example, I immediately grasp Monte’s complaint about the housekeeper’s role being misconstrued and mis-dated, because this housekeeper was key to Monte’s personal experience. But if the author’s point is that
    the mom heroically managed the household, why should the author confuse the issue with (what the author would consider) the housekeeper’s secondary role. To the author, who is trying to communicate a thesis in limited words, this would cause more confusion than clarity. It’s a 650-page book — who’s going to buy it
    at 1,000 pages?

    This is how stories are told — by including details which tell the story, rather than details which, in the author’s view, distract from it. I think that Monte has written enough to understand this, and that this insight, to Monte’s credit, tempers his criticism.

    In sympathy with Monte and his sisters, I can easily imagine that it’s a totally disorienting and dismaying experience to see the life of a loved one — and by extension, your own life and childhood — dissected by
    a stranger. Monte’s reactions, and those of his siblings, are totally valid, just by virtue of their first-hand knowledge, which of course is a thousand times more detailed and subtle (and more personal and more subjective) than any biographer’s could be. And I very much appreciate the chance to hear what he has to say. But it’s a mistake to conclude that fans should therefore reject this book, outright and unread.

    In my opinion this is by no means an anti-Sparky book, nor does it
    deliberately set out to debunk or destroy the legend of its subject, like Albert Goldman’s “Elvis” to which this book is unfairly compared. I am very much impressed, for example, by the way the author captures
    the excitement of wielding a freshly loaded nib full of India ink, or his description of Sparky’s first seeing original comic art panels, compared to newspaper printings. Michaelis, in my opinion, “gets it”, when it comes to cartooning, in much the way that Sparky did.

    I dare to recommend this book. It is (fortunately) not the only Charles Schulz book, and hopefully will not be the last, but it is a good book. I join in the hope that Monte will write his own book about Sparky, but meanwhile I encourage fans to read this Michaelis book. I would only caution that it contains so much detail, that an avid interest in Schulz is almost a prerequisite for getting though it.

  • Pepper W

    I couldn’t wait until this book came out but after reading the family’s comments regarding the outcome, I will not read it afterall. Why read a fictional version of someone’s life that we so highly regarded? I only wish I would have known all of this BEFORE I purchased the book so as not to contribute to the author’s and publisher’s success.

  • D.L. Anderson

    I’ve read the book now. The writer has much fascinating detail and some useful insights. I feel he spends far too much time asserting what Charles Schulz and other deceased members of his family must have felt. When there are as many living sources available for interview as there were in this case, a biographer really needs to stick to what the sources have to say. He’s also rather more tendentious in his treatment of certain sources than he needs to be.

    There were a couple of revelations in the book that truly shocked me. Charles Schulz was evidently not an abusive parent in the usual since, but there were occasions when he and his first wife faced a very serious parenting crisis involving their eldest daughter, Meredith–and handled it in a manner which surely did her grave emotional harm. I can’t help noticing that she has not joined some of her siblings here in defending her parents. He was evidently a far better father to some of his children than to others.

  • Amy S. Johnson

    kerumbo – Thank you for all of your comments concerning my dad, his art and the lousy book. I will use your blog to clear up many things. No one in our family has been bothered by our dad being shown as a “human being.” You will find neither spoken nor written word by any of us that insinuates that objection. Our objection is that we, as his children, his wife, his close friends, know all too well that the “human being” in David’s book is not the same one we all grew up with. You said that this was the “author’s book” and not anyone else’s, basically. Fair enough, I suppose, except that I believe it to be a sacred obligation, when writing about the life of someone you have never met, famous or not, to portray that life as accurately as possible. If you want to write fiction, write fiction, but please do not EVER take someone’s entire life and turn it into fiction! Next, you seemed to be bothered by Monte’s concern of what you state as “trivial factual errors.” When you claim to be a writer and/or a biographer, it is totally unprofessional to take seven years to write a book, especially someone’s life story, and not make sure that everything said is factual. In the case of a biography, when factual errors appear, they taint the story of the person and paint a picture of their life that is false. This is extremely unfair to the reader, and in dad’s case, the fans. A side note on this: my dad was adamant about all the facts that he put into just four panels each day. Right next to his drawing board were shelves of reference books. I dare say he had a perfect record in that regard. An interesting story: Even though he was a father of 5, after I myself had become a mother of 6 (I now have 9 children) my dad called me up to ask me how old babies were when they crawled. He was doing a strip where he needed this information and wanted to get it just right. Let’s continue. You said that David included a “million details.” That is false and is one of our main objections. I have said this many times lately, but my dad had hundreds of very close relatives, friends and business associates that were an integral part of his life and the majority of them do not even exist in David’s book. Our daily relationships with people are by far one of the biggest windows into our true personalities. This was a serious omission for David to commit. You say that it is a “mistake to say that fans should reject this book.” I thought long and hard about this as I was reading the manuscript. It is near to impossible for us, as his children, to imagine our dad as “famous.” He was just our dad. So, in my mind, I imagined a famous person that I have followed and admired throughout the passed 33 years of my life. I love Elton John. I often joke that I am his biggest fan! I always heard people say that about my dad and thought it was silly, but now I understand. As I read David’s manuscript, I imagined that I was reading a similar biography about Elton John. After much thought, I decided that as a huge fan of Elton John, I would not want to read a biography that was slanted towards telling me negative things about him and one that was constantly psychoanalyzing him. I think I would get very annoyed and maybe even stop reading the book half way through. I would want to know things about him like “whose idea was it for him to take piano lessons? who was his first piano teacher? did he get to play in any school functions? who were his friends?” I don’t want to belabor this point, but allow me to say that I know he isn’t perfect. I know that I don’t believe in or agree with everything he does with his life. But, I love Elton John because I admire him as a musician. I hope you get the point. Next: you say that dad’s biography is “by no means an anti-Sparky book.” Actually, because it doesn’t fairly, accurately or fully portray who he REALLY was, it is, in fact, an anti-Sparky book, just as a book about any one of us, famous or not, would be considered anti-us if it didn’t show who we really were. Finally, you say “it contains so much detail.” Again, the problem is, that it does NOT contain much detail at all. Just as I, Amy Johnson, could not profess to know what Elton John was really like throughout his life, none of dad’s fans have a clue what dad was really like. As his children, we sincerely want you to KNOW him. We appreciate all of his fans and the support and love they have shown him all of these years. I feel a personal obligation to each one of his fans to let them have a book that accurately tells the story of someone they love and care about. I feel awful that we still do not have that book. An equal concern is that we now have a book that is so inaccurate that it would be wrong for any fan, young or old, to use this book as a reference. If a child were to write a report on dad, I could not, in good conscience, allow them to refer to David’s book. It would be unfair to them and their report would come out as inaccurate as the book itself. Again, thank you for allowing me to share some of these thoughts with you and the others on this site.

  • Amy S. Johnson

    To D.L. Anderson: your concerns about my dad’s relationship with our oldest sibling, Meredith, is one of the reasons we are so upset with this book. As I have mentioned, I am the mother of 9 children, all of which I had with the same husband, in 14 years. I have 5 girls and 4 boys. I am not an expert…who is? But, at age 51, with 4 adult children, one grandchild and 5 more still at home, I think I have enough experience with having children with very different personalities. I am not ever going to express any specifics about my sister, out of respect for her. But she will be the first to tell you that she made it very hard on both of our parents to raise her. There is nothing that either one of my parents did to cause her emotional harm. On the contrary, she was extremely blessed to have 2 parents who loved and cared for her in every way throughout the many, many years that she “experimented” with just about everything in life. My dad also went out of his way to make sure that her only daughter was well cared for. That’s all I’m going to say, but I hope you get the point. Again, thanks for listening.

  • Ruby Stevens

    The first thought that comes to my mind is, “those without sin, cast the first stone”. We are all imperfect and if we are fortunate, try to learn and grow towards the better in this, rather short life.

    I say kudos to the children of Mr. Schulz for attempting to set the record straight, but by all accounts, just trying to demonstrate that their father was, just like us, only human.

    Wasn’t Mr. Schulz just trying to figure himself out in this life just like the rest of us? Don’t people sometimes have to get lost in order to be found? I’d like to think there is not only redemption for all of us, but understanding and forgiveness.

    My own father passed away in 1991 and it has taken years to try to understand where he was coming from. I may never know all the answers, if I really have any. But we can all hope that time teaches us and, as we become the age our parents once were, perhaps we will have similar experiences and again, bring us to a place of understanding of what they felt and went through.

    Certainly Mr. Schulz created a great deal of joy in this life by his work, and his connection to people in various capacities.

    Now as he is in the light of God, may God’s mercy continue to shine upon him and may the emmaculate Heart of Mary be his refuge until, he is reunited with all of his loved ones again.


  • Paul West

    On behalf of John & I, we would like to thank Larry for his insight for what I originally had to offer.

    It’s beyond nice to know that Sparky’s family still loves him, even if he’s been 7 years gone. And I’m sure we would want it to stay this way with all of us.

  • kerumbo

    Thanks, Amy, for your kind, thoughtful and fact-specific response to my post. I would be the last to deny the validity of your viewpoint, because of who you are and what you experienced personally. I just thought that the discussion could use some input from a sincere fan, who is a stranger to Schulz (except through his work) and who simply did not find the book to be a put-down of the man at all, much less the “hatchet job” that one would expect from some other readers’ comments. A lot of that, to me, is the spin put on it by the press, exaggerating the family’s reaction beyond what it is, presumably to sell newspapers (and books).

    I read the book as the story of a good and admirable man, even a great man, who had some human weaknesses and frailties like all of us. Somewhat predictably, the author at times seeks to use those human imperfections to explain the artist’s work. Of course the book is flawed, and of course those flaws would naturally tend to frustrate and infuriate those who knew the man best.

    I certainly would not expect any stranger, myself or Michaelis, to “get” the man the way his own family does, no matter how many years of interviews and research were involved. I just think it’s a mistake for those who haven’t read it, to think that the book is a non-stop smear on the man and his life. I thought it was fundamentally respectful throughout, and not at all, for example, like Kitty Kelley’s book on Sinatra. But I am just one reader.

    Thanks again.

  • You might enjoy this audio interview with “Schulz and Peanutsâ€? biographer David Michaelis (with transcription): .
    Bob Andelman
    Will Eisner: A Spirited Life

  • You know what this discussion reminds me of?

    “Citizen Kane.”

  • Amy S. Johnson

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!!!!!! Today, my dad would have been 85 years old and I’m not sure he would have liked that! He did not like getting old…who does? I thought it might be appropriate to tell some “cute” stories today. He had a certain table, in our ice arena, where he would sit to eat breakfast and sometimes lunch. Out the window, he could see the front of the arena, part of which was a small grove of redwood trees. One day, he noticed a mother quail and her babies. The mother quail was hopping up from the road, onto the curb and into the grove of trees. Well, the baby birds were not able to follow her. They were too small to hop that high up. After watching this dilemma for several minutes, my dad decided to go outside and do something to help the mother quail. He proceeded to take pieces of redwood bark out of the forest and make some “stairs” for the baby quail. It worked and soon all the baby quail followed their mother into the redwoods! I like this story. It shows dad’s attention to detail and his tender heart. One more story: my dad LOVED the Muppets and especially Bert and Ernie. He and I would actually sit and watch videos of them. The ice arena kitchen and coffee shop had the usual set-up of a traditional diner. You could see the cook working behind the window where they would then set the plates of food, ring the bell, and the waitress would take the food from the window and deliver it to the customer. Once in awhile, my dad would walk behind the counter, into the kitchen and stand behind the open food window. He would then proceed to imitate Ernie with that wide smile, nodding head, and laughing “hee, hee, hee.” He actually did a VERY good imitation of Ernie! I wish you could have seen it! That will always be one of my fondest memories of dad because it showed his love and appreciation for something funny that someone ELSE had created and of course it showed a “silly” side of my dad. How many daughters get to see their dad act silly when they are nearly 60 years old?! Again, thanks for listening and letting me share. Allow me to tell me dad how much I still love and appreciate him and strive to be the kind of parent he was to me. Happy Birthday, dad! Love, Amos (he always called me that!)

  • Amy S. Johnson

    I should have clarified that I do all my typing after midnight and that, “yes” dad’s birthday is November 26th!

  • Amy, thank you for sharing wonderful memories of your dad.

    Happy Birthday, Sparky!

  • Carol Shelley


    What great stories! These are the types of anecdotes that the book should have been full of. I’m sure there are a bazillion of them. I have one particularly favorite memory of your Dad, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were others that share it, especially children, because of the mischievous enjoyment he took from it. He was giving me a tour of the ice arena, and when we got to the vending machines, it was with such pride and joy that he could just open up one of the machines and reach for a candy bar, no coins necessary! Without asking which candy bar I might prefer, he went ahead and pulled out a butterfinger (which happened to be my favorite – still is) and presented it as if he had just snagged a 30 pound fish. A totally magical moment. It was the best butterfinger I ever had. And, to this day whenever I have one, I think of him, that moment, and smile.

    And, that wasn’t the only magical moment. I think this story and your story of the quails is definitively closer to who he was actually than what Michaelis was trying to get at. He took whatever momentary experience that might have been just ordinary, and injected that certain loving something to make it magical and memorable, and funny too. Far aside from the strip, he was an enormously successful human being. I really feel proud to have met him.

    Happy Birthday, Sparky!

  • Paige

    Dear Monte, Amy and Jill,

    Thank you for sharing so many personal and treasured memories of your dad on this site. It can be difficult in this environment to remain tasteful while on the defense, but you are all maintaining the classiness that I would have expected from your father’s children.

    I never had the opportunity to meet your dad, but my father has told us stories about how he played piano in the jazz band at the reception of one of your weddings. Your dad, far from ignoring the lowly hired musicians, came over to chat. To this day, my father loves to tell about how your dad’s intelligence, kindness and gentleness were conveyed clearly during that conversation.

    I wanted to share a memory of my own with you. I grew up in Petaluma, and later Ukiah, where a trip to the ice rink was the nearly pinnacle of special treats. I say nearly because nothing in the world could compare to the magic of the ice show. Every year, no matter how lean it might have been, my parents scraped up the money to take us to dinner and then to the show. As a wide-eyed little girl, it felt to me like stepping into another world. To this day, it isn’t Christmas without that visit, and I regret living too many states away to go each year.

    The reason that the show was so incredibly special to me went far beyond the performance itself. There was the undeniable sense that it was a labor of love by your dad, beauty and talent melded with the characters he had created, and shared with the community in which he lived. The show remains one of the fondest memories of my childhood, in large part because it was an experience gifted from your dad.

    There is no book that could be written about your dad that could erase the person he was, and the person he communicated himself to be through his art and his life. My condolences on the loss of such a wonderful man, and on the distress the book’s representation of him is causing you all.


  • nick caputo

    I’ve gone through many of these posts and find them fascinating. As someone who read the book first and has just now read these posts, my take is this: authors have a point of view and a story they intend to tell when they write about anyone. Some would call it an agenda. I suspect this was the case with the Schulz book. I did find it interesting, although quite depressing in places. I do have to think twice about it now that I have read comments from his children and close associates. I don’t think the objection from the family is showing Schulz’s “warts”, it is in fashioning the story to fit the author’s agenda and molding it in an uneven manner.

    In writing a biography it is important to try to dissect all the information you get and then put the peices of the puzzle together. One needs to weigh all the facts and try to be as fair and accurate as possible. If one deliberately obscures certain events to create a view that is inaccurate, that is wrong.

    I just watched the PBS American Masters on Schulz and I thought that it was thoroughly depressing. To discuss the work of Schulz in such a dark tone and not explore the vibrancy, the sarcasm and the pure fun that many of his strips exhibited was unfortunate. Yes, Schulz could touch on depressing issues, but his genius was in being able to fashion it in an entertaining way. It would have done the producers well to have learned some of Schulz’s tricks.

    Nick Caputo

  • Chris

    Some of the comments I read in depth, slowly and others passed by entirely because I was initially confused at who was who. I’ll read all soon. My point is, this may have already been covered completely although I know already it was brought up once.

    Like many, I think Peanuts was part of forming who we became as people. One of my earliest memories is of getting a Snoopy ring as a child. As I write this, my children are now watching “Race for your life” and debating whether Snoopy is really lost or just missing Woodstock.

    I recently read the Alan Alda biography “Never have your dog stuffed”, and I guess I liked that it wasn’t a weird tell-all book about his life.

    It was just a sometimes humorous, sometimes sad picture of moments that changed his life, and as I read the moments you shared with your dad I’d snatch up a chance to see just a collection of short stories like you have here in a book.

    Even a memoir seems less interesting than that. What you learned from him, stories you could tell. It’d be less labor intensive in some ways, and just as rewarding for those of us in the public who have such affection for him and now for you.

    If I could say please enough and cause it to happen I’d begin now “please please please”!

    Happy Birthday Sparky!

  • This thread is where most of the action has been, but Monte Schulz has also been posting comments over at my Web site. Check this category, starting with the October 30 post.

    I had linked to Bob (Mr. Media) Andelman’s audio interview with David Michaelis, and Monte’s comments on that can be read here.

    Mr. Media will soon be featuring an interview with Mort Walker. I’m intrigued by the contrast between ‘Peanuts’ and the other 1950 strips — ‘Beetle Bailey’ and ‘Dennis the Menace.’

  • Jim D.

    I started to read this biography of Mr. Schulz before I had heard of the familys objections to it. Also, I have to say that I still have about 160 pages to read. What I have gleaned from it so far, is that the creator of “Peanuts” was a sensitive man who loved what he was doing and was not looking for the fanfare we so often find in celebrities today. They were his characters and he wanted to keep them as “His” characters. And rightly so. Monte Schulz and his siblings have a right to object if there are inaccuracies but I guess what I really want to say is, Charles Schulz brought a lot of joy to a lot of people and that is more than most of us can say.

  • Suzan Schlorb

    Well, well, well … isn’t all this bickering interesting. It pure and simple and clear to me that his “family” is madder in hell for being called out of the closet, so-to-speak. If we are taking sides, I’m on Michaelis’ and congratulations on getting it right, we should never punish the truth. Hallelujah; you, David, have a God-given gift and your keen perception is awesome. ‘Haven’t read the book, but all this contentiousness engulfing it is certainly peaking my interest in it and in a very unorthodox way, it’s serving as a weird marketing/sales pitch. And I’m anti-Madison Avenue. Funny, but it really sounds like something one can sink their teeth in. I mean, these days everybody seems to be lying to us and for once it would be so refreshing to read the TRUTH.

    Christ, it’s not like Michaelis is evil and went into this project intending to harm the family. Some people just can’t handle the truth. Monte’s reaction of harsh criticism alone, speaks VOLUMES people. It’s painfully clear that he suffers from the same mental illness/dysfunction. All one has to do is look at the meaning of his words. The way I hear it is he too is mad (angry) that he’s been identified, called out of the shadows, outed. His words are not only unclear but full of emotion and anger at having the real truth told about his father. He’s hurting real bad because he feels his father has been knocked off his pedestal and made fallible. Boys need to believe that their father’s are gods. And this is why he apparently took it the worst. To ridicule, and that’s how he sees it, his father is to ridicule him.

    The first time I read the excerpt here on-line after the family exploded, I thought, oh my God, I know people just like this. It went something like, ‘life-long collector of pain and misery; unable to forget nor forgive any perceived slight or wrong …’ Oh my God!

    That’s mental illness, severe undiagnosed, which makes it so much worse when an entire family is in denial about this very real affliction.

    One of these other posts here said that he, Schulz, couldn’t have been melancholy because he once saw a picture of him smiling. Wow, that’s no proof at all. When you spend your entire life lying to yourself (in a state of denial), you also learn to adopt “normal” behaviors so that your secrets remain safe, as if under lock and key. I know this all too well, because I’m living with a crazy person. And the melancholy symptom is just a small fraction of a major life altering disease which is only magnified with living in denial.

    But his family loved him no matter what; this much is clear too. I can imagine how upsetting this book is for them. They also have the choice to just let it go. The more they thrash about with it, the more obvious it becomes that they are all one sick bunch. Forget about it.
    All this hooplah really points out how much work we all need to do with regard to mental illness. It’s real, very real, and we need to start looking at it seriously and remove the shame so that more people can get the help they need. Who among us wants to live an entire lifetime of pain and misery? Not I.

    I’d be willing to bet that there are very high numbers of the secretly mentally ill all over the world. It’s high time we started being honest with ourselves. I’ve been a longtime firm believer that the homeless and the alcoholics (those who have a drinking problem) of this world are all mentally dysfunctional and ill. Nobody seems to be talking about this. What’s up with that?

    It’s not fun being trapped living with your kindred crazy montw. If I could afford to leave, I’d have been long gone. I could deal with it if only he were accepting and getting the help he needs. And, he procreated, four times, and now one of the four, who actually knows he’s afflicted, has procreated. It’s insane, passing the crazy gene along in such an unconscious irresponsible way. It was literally making me sick until I identified it and only thru acknowledging it was I able to make my peace with it. But by no means, has it been easy. I’m on my seventh year of living with insanity and God sure has a sense of humor about it too … because he sent his equally crazy (probably more so) 19-year-old daughter to live with us. Oh what fun, not! I get it God, but then again there must be more for me to learn. Obviously, I could go on forever about this very personal subject but I’ve actually missed watching my favorite cooking show, Rachael Ray, with all this blabbering, so I’d better be shoving off.

    Sorry for the length … and thanks for listening to my truths. And remember, crazy is as crazy does; all we have to do is listen and all is revealed.

  • Suzan, I’m glad the controversy has piqued your interest, but you seem to be relating your own experiences and situation to that of the Schulz family, and although that’s perfectly understandable it’s a tricky thing to do.

    I have the Michaelis book, and I’ve read most of it, although not necessarily entirely in front-to-back order. When I first heard the complaints from Monte and his sister Amy (Jill has been less vocal, but she agrees with them), my immediate reaction was, “Of course they’re upset by having so much of the family’s dirty laundry aired.” Their criticisms didn’t stop me, however, from buying the book and seeing for myself what the fuss is all about.

    I already knew as much as any fan could know about Charles Schulz prior to the release of the Michaelis book. To my surprise, as I got into it I thought to myself, “Hmm…. Monte Schulz isn’t just defending his dad and attacking Michaelis. He’s right!” Because I saw there is indeed not only a cherry-picking of facts, but a lot of personal interpretation, analysis, and outright speculation by Michaelis. And much if not most of it is negative.

    Monte has maintained that the way David Michaelis characterized the book to him while writing it is not at all the way it turned out, and he has the e-mail messages to prove it. From that I have to conclude that Michaelis misled Monte and at least some of the other members of the Schulz family. So although Michaelis didn’t have “evil intent,” there is, in my opinion, a degree of deception involved.

    Craig has remained largely silent, as have Joyce and Meredith, although obviously the book couldn’t have been written without their considerable input. Yes, there’s an internal family disagreement involved here. But if I were Monte I’d be ticked off at seeing my father portrayed not as a complicated person, but instead a singular aspect of his personality presented as being the whole man. Keep in mind that it was Schulz himself who broached the unflattering subject of his prickly, insecure nature in the authorized biography “Good Grief,” by Rheta Grimsley Johnson. The story behind Schulz’s affair and divorce — the only truly new revelations in the new biography — were off-limits to Grimsley, but I think the rest of her book holds up pretty well.

    I’m not a mental health professional but I don’t see how Schulz could have had a severe and undiagnosed mental illness. Charles M. Schulz never missed a daily deadline in fifty years, and he created something that is acknowledged by experts and aficionados as one of the finest comic strips of the 20th century.

    Was Schulz “different”? Yes! He was the first one to offer that assessment. Was he difficult? Yes, he could be sharp and critical. Did he truly enjoy his life and his hobbies, such as golf, tennis, music and reading? Absolutely! From what I know, chronically clinically depressed people find little enjoyment in life’s pleasures.

    Thanks for you comments, Suzan. They provided me with the incentive to express my own views here.

  • David W.

    Jeez. Who let the troll in?

  • Thank you for pulling Suzan’s second message, which was badly off-topic, to be tactful about it. I wrote a follow-up, but decided that submitting it would have been an act of Jumping The Shark.

  • To my great regret I never met Sparky. To my great honor I now teach cartooning at the Schulz Museum. I want to thank David Michaelis for writing a lousy book. That’s a second hand opinion. I haven’t read it. Don’t think I will. Saved a few bucks there.

    I thank Jeannie for telling me about this blog last night. The real biography of Charles Schulz is unfolding for our benefit right here through the wonderful stories told by his kids. I will hold these anecdotes close to my heart.

    In the meantime, if I feel some need for psychological analysis of Sparky I will consult a true authority: Lucy.

  • David W.

    Sorry for the brevity of my earlier post (esp. since it was my first), but I couldn’t help being goaded by the tone and content of Suzan S’s posts. They seemed too confrontational, rambling, and downright irrational — perhaps intentionally so — to be anything but the work of a troll. I apologize to her if that’s not the case, but that’s my take; given the shortcomings of the online medium, sometimes you have to go with your gut.

    Anyway, in the interest of actually trying to add something, however anecdotal, to this discussion:

    In Nov. ’95 I was publishing a little free monthly arts and entertainment tabloid in South Carolina. Wishing to do a piece on the 30th anniv. of the Christmas special, I’d gotten a p.r. package marking the occasion from United Features. When asked about possible interviews, they’d referred me to Creative Associates.

    Rita Johnson’s book had indicated that generally Schulz didn’t care much for interviews, so I was only seeking contact info for Lee Mendelson and/or Bill Melendez (this was long ago enough that such stuff couldn’t yet reliably be found online). But upon calling CA I was asked if I’d “like to speak to Mr. Schulz? He’s coming up the walk, I’ll check with him.”

    I hate to gush like a fanboy, but as a near-lifelong follower of “Peanuts,” I was taken aback. How often does a cold call net an opportunity to make conversation with a cultural icon?

    Asked to call back in five minutes, I spent the time trying to come up with some intelligent questions for an article whose thrust I hadn’t yet settled on. But despite what was at times a somewhat…unfocused chat on my part (in addition to the genesis of the special, the conversation ranged from the annual ice show to his befuddlement at why the company who then had the home video rights to the Halloween special edited out the “I got a rock” scenes), Sparky was nothing but friendly and gracious. He made me feel like he sincerely didn’t mind taking time out of his day for someone with a circulation of 10,000.

    What struck me most was the warmth his voice exuded when I asked how he felt upon first hearing “Linus and Lucy.” He said he thought it was “wonderful,” and that all those years later, when he and Jeannie would dine in a local restaurant where the pianist would recognize them and start playing Guaraldi’s signature tune, a “good feeling happens in the room.”

    The experience did nothing but bolster my belief that Schulz was a great guy. After much internal debate, I’ve decided not to buy the Michaelis book, despite having anticipated it for the entire six or so years since its announcement. If curiosity ultimately prevails, maybe I’ll check it out from the library. But there’s no hurry.

  • Jean Schulz

    I wanted to get back to this blog when I could with a few more observations on Michaelis’ book.
    Part of David Michaelis working thesis in the book appears to rest on the theory that Sparky suffered from his mother’s coldness and lack of attention.

    Michaelis portrays Sparky’s mother, Dena, as a typically cold Norwegian and hypothesizes, from this and from an interview comment that as kids they were not invited into the Schulz’s house, that Dena was distant and unfriendly.

    Michaelis weaves a story of Sparky’s cold Norwegian-German parents and goes on to portray Sparky as a cold and indifferent parent to his children. I wonder if he thinks that 1930’s ethnic Norwegians didn’t love their children as much as the latter 20th century love theirs. I grant this is silly, and I am not sure Michaelis means this, but it appears as though his frame of reference is skewed. Michaelis says “the Mainspring of his character had been the belief that no one would … love him if he did not get out into the world and perform�. (408)

    I was married to Charles Schulz for 26 years, and in all that time together, plus in 45 years worth of interviews that I have read, and additional autobiographical material Sparky wrote for the 25th anniversary book, and subsequent books, I never heard Sparky express any doubt of the love both his parents had for him and he, in turn, spoke often of his love for his “little kids�, and his stories were full of games with them and normal parental memories. Unfortunately, David Michaelis took bits of information, and without double-checking it, printed opinion as fact and judgment. He quotes Meredith, the oldest daughter as saying her father was “afraid to love� (424), it is her opinion, she must account for it, but it is not the opinion of his other children, three of whom have written on “cartoonbrew�. Meredith neglects to say that her father’s love and concern for her well-being has allowed her to live the life she leads today.

    Michaelis has given the impression and may have said outright, that Sparky couldn’t love and couldn’t believe that he was loved.

    It is untrue that Sparky didn’t accept the fact that he was loved. I think I am a credible witness to that. He knew he was loved by me and by his children. (It was “just his wayâ€? when someone said “I Love Youâ€? and he said “Who, me?â€? It could almost be a game of sorts, some thought it was coy – but “so whatâ€? – it was a mannerism, I think he is allowed his unique expressions.) As a husband, he was the best. He loved me and accepted me as I was, and that made me a better person.

    Another erroneous judgment in the book has to do with Sparky not going to St. Paul for his father’s funeral/memorial service. This has raised the ire of one of Sparky’s friends and I think I know where Michaelis got the story: There was a barber in Carl’s shop named Lloyd Newmann. I met Lloyd on one of the trips to St. Paul, and enjoyed talking history with him. He subsequently came to the museum in Santa Rosa to visit. Lloyd told me on at least two occasions that he had been so surprised that Sparky didn’t come to Carl’s funeral. He said he had told everybody that “Sparky would be there�. Lloyd didn’t forget it and when he told me the story he still carried the sense that Sparky had let him down. I know he spoke to David Michaelis. Unfortunately, Lloyd has since died.

    The friend who is irate about the story is Bernetta Nelson, nee Barton, a friend from the Church of God. When Carl died while visiting the Schulz’s in California, Sparky called Bernetta to ask if she would sing at the service for Carl. Sparky explained to Bernetta that he regretted he couldn’t come to St. Paul, but that they had had prayers for Carl in Sebastopol and that Carl was in good hands. Bernetta sang “In the Garden� and “I Will Meet You in the Morning Over There� at the service.

    Bernetta understood Sparky’s feeling perfectly. But she and Lloyd didn’t know each other – so there was no way for him to know that Sparky’s decision was a thought out one. I wonder if it occurred to the critics of his decision that Sparky couldn’t bear to be back in St. Paul for another parent’s funeral. (I know, we learn to do these things as part of maturity – I still say it is harsh to judge someone without asking some questions first).

    There has been a blog posted or there will be, containing the errors and mis-judgments found by Art Lynch who supplied Michaelis with piles of documents of their army service. These aren’t the only errors.

    There are many notes I have yet to look up, but with just a few questions I confirmed the following errors: Pat Lytle was not one of the original employees who opened up the studio at Number One Snoopy Place; the redwood trees at the ice arena were not transplanted from Coffee Lane; Sparky did not “go to live� with his Mother-in-law in 1972. Sparky told me, and I have no reason to doubt him, that Joyce told him when the his new studio was finished he should move into it. He may have spent a weekend or a few nights at Dorothy Halverson’s, on the street behind the studio, but he definitely didn’t go to “live� with her. Admittedly, these are small errors, but they abound in the book and they are symptomatic.

    David Michaelis said in an interview that he couldn’t decide if Sparky had been happy his last 25 years. All he had to do was ask. The last two years of Sparky’s life were measurably different from the years leading up to them, as Sparky didn’t always feel well those last two years and the pressures on him from fans and business were a tremendous stress. But the 25 years I knew him he loved to laugh and tease, and did a lot of both.

    Michaelis wrote a lot about Sparky not hugging. When he was in the hospital for 2 weeks following his surgery in November 1999, I spent the nights in his room on a futon and we always went to sleep together in each other’s arms in his hospital bed. We weren’t going to let the small bed and some IV lines keep us from our cuddling.

    At our family service I said Sparky had taught me lessons to last a lifetime. I am still thinking about and processing his lessons.

    Sparky lived a good life and he knew it. He got to do the thing he’d dreamed about, drawing a comic strip – the dream came true for him and he was true to his dream. And he had a good death: at home in his own bed, without pain, having realized his dream. He wasn’t one for platitudes and gushy sentiments, but his good friends understood the depth of his feelings.

    Did I tell these things to David Michaelis? Of course. Did he choose to use them? Apparently not.

  • Mrs. Schulz, I never had the honor of meeting your husband but I did know Mark Cohen who would always tell me what a wonderful man & good friend Sparky was. I refuse to read the book and will continue to learn about Mr. Schulz from the shared memories of his family & friends, along with remembering my conversations with Mark.

    Wishing you a Very Merry Christmas!

  • I bought some original art through Mark Cohen in 1996. Such a nice gentleman, and a genuine pleasure to do business with. Just a few years later, he was gone. Very sad, especially because he was so young.

  • Mark Cohen was only 57 when he passed away. Mark was one of the founders of the Schulz Museum, a comic strip historian, owned the world’s largest collection of original Mad Magazine artwork and wrote gags for Gasoline Alley. He was a wonderful person & I will always take his glowing respect for Sparky over this book!

  • Gordie

    Although the topic of Peanuts merchandising has been dormant for quite a while, the personal stories of how Charles Schulz’s work has touched lives are rather immediate for me this early Christmas morning. I have been a Snoopy fan since I was very small, and although the merchandising of art has its pitfalls, I must honestly say that my life would be much poorer without all of my Snoopy “stuff.” Over the years, my Snoopy fandom has resulted in quite the collection of posters, knick knacks, and stuffed animals. Most of this collection has resided in my classroom. The imagination, creativity, occasional fits of anger, and warm puppy happiness embodied by Snoopy have given this beagle a metaphorical flexibility that has been indispensable in both my emotional and professional lives. I have kept two Snoopy dogs in my classroom for days when the emotional violence of a dysfunctional high school has taken its toll. A plush flying ace has comforted my students through bouts of AP test exhaustion and boyfriend misbehavior. Most recently, Snoopy has been the companion of a student who awoke to find her mother had passed away during the night. We all need something to hold onto, no matter how old we grow. Charles Schulz gave us the gift of wise children and whimsical puppies, and he graciously extended that gift to include tangible objects. I am leaving the teaching professional after eight years because the violence of my dysfunctional high school has increased and become physical as well as emotional. I am no longer safe, and I don’t believe that I have the power to keep my students safe. Friday night, my husband helped my take all my Snoopy posters off the walls of my classroom and pack my professional life into my car. Sobbing, I held my Flying Ace Snoopy as I watched the door to the building latch. I chose a career where, ultimately, I was defeated. The tree ate the kite; the football was pulled away. But I also learned more about love and grace than I would have otherwise. Peanuts has been a comfort and a Greek chorus since my childhood. I cannot think of any higher roles for art to play.

  • L. Van Pelt

    We only today learned of this blog site when our annual Christmas letter arrived from old friends Art and Corky Lynch. My two cents.:

    Approximately late November we received our complimentary copy of the newest Peanuts Calendar and along with it a note from Jeannie expressing some disappointment in the biography. I hadn’t yet received my also complimentry copy of the biography itselt, or at least hadn’t had a chance to read it. I’ll copy my letter to Jeannie at that time.

    Hello Jeannie: The calendar for this year is the best ever – would hate to start a year without one. Thanks.

    About the book and the special as well – The dear Sparky we knew called himself a “humble man” and would likely have expressed wonder with a giggle at all the psychobabble. All he knew of our wants, needs, frailties he expressed with keen sublety and splendidly simple strokes of his pen. The charm for the rest of us was just something we could identify with. It was our great good furtune to know him and his then small happy family in the 50s. Fritz and Lou

  • Hellen Di Stasio

    A sincere thank you to all the family of Charles Schultz who have shared their personal thoughts with us all. A biographer has the luxury to alter, imbelish, exaggerate and fictionalise to which the reader has to accept – just like the news we see on television and read in a newspaper – must be truth. I have read and enjoyed – and occasionally been mystefied by – Peanuts for over 35 years and this enjoyment is enough to be grateful to Charles Schultz. Mr Schultz’s true insights are known only by him and those he shared his life with. As the biographer had never met him, had never interviewed him and the interviews done with his immediate family have been completely distorted and/or omitted I do not believe this biography has any merit.

  • Cathy

    I have not read the book, but I have watched the documentary and have been reading many of these posts… and I have say thank you to Charles Schultz’ family for sharing your memories here. Your recollections are far more meaningful than anything a person could write who did not know Charles Schultz himself.

  • yolik

    I’ve read the book and as a lifelong Schulz fan, I’d like to state it isn’t the Kitty Kelley/Albert Goldman demolition job it’s been described here as being.

    People seem to be up in arms because it relates some of the negative aspects of Schulz’s character. This upsets people because Schulz has largely been seen in the manner he depicted himself – as Charlie Brown, a ‘nothing’ man from the Midwest who stumbled into creating a billion dollar empire simply by doggedly and dedicatedly doing the job he’d dreamed of doing since childhood.

    The self-deprecating image conflicts with some of the human failings displayed in the book. But I feel that for each negative aspect portrayed, there was a positive one as well – Schulz was cold at times, yet warm and loving at others; he was a successful parent in many respects but was wanting in others; he was melancholic and depressive at times, but could also be teasing and playful. I got all that from the book.

    In short, he was a human being. The book doesn’t portray him as a monster. He was full of contradictions as we all are. Unlike most of us, though, he had the gift of artistic genius and could transmute his suffering into works of art that entertain – and enrich – his fellow humans about what it means to be human.

    This was a guy whose subject was unrequited love, unrealized dreams, who admitted to creating an alter ego with a blank face because that’s how he always felt about himself, who worked psychiatric sessions into a daily comic strip. He was upfront about his panic, fear and depression – admitting to waking each morning feeling as though he was on his way to a funeral. All of this was known before the Michaelis book. Schulz had a lot of issues and a lot of pain. His greatness was in soldiering on and creating a legacy of comedy and thought.

    I wonder whether the disapproval voiced by the family here is in reaction to the inevitable emphasis placed on the more ‘negative’ aspects of Schulz’s life by reviewers of the book – inevitable because that side of Schulz’s life hasn’t been written about before, and also because the press always seizes on the appearance of controversy. Perhaps the trumpeting of these ‘revelations’ has caused them to panic about a book they apparently had the opportunity to read in manuscript. Whatever faults the book has, it is dishonest to portray it as a hatchet job. It offers a Schultz with failings and contradictions intact, allowing him the dignity of not being just the carboard cut-out we thought we knew, but a dedicated, impassioned artist whose accomplishment seems all the more penetrating and remarkable.

  • I get really tired of seeing Michaelis apologists resorting to the type of argument in the preceding post–“so what if it shows Sparky’s dark side–he had one, you know–the family’s overreacting–etc, etc, etc…” No one would take Michaelis to task for merely reporting on the facts as they were; the issue here is whether Michaelis deliberately and systematically supressed certain facts and “spun” others in order to build up his premeditated thesis–and all the posts from Monte Schulz and the others who knew Sparky speak overwhelmingly against Michaelis and indicate that he did indeed spin the facts to fit his own preferred pattern–which is unforgivable in a biographer, and which should wash out any claim this book has to be regarded as serious biography or history.

  • yolik

    I don’t consider myself a ‘Michaelis apologist’. Rather, I’m a lifelong student of Schulz’s work, and having read the Michaelis book, as well as the earlier ‘authorized’ biography (entitled ‘Good Grief’),and Schulz’s own writings and interviews, I feel neither that Michaelis had a premeditated thesis to present a negative view of Schulz, nor do I feel that this is what the book does. As I said, it’s clear to me that for every negative characteristic portrayed there is one or more positive ones as well. Even stuff that could be seen as negative – Schulz’s discomfort expessing physical affection for his kids – can be seen within the context of the times: he was born in 1922 (he’d be 85 today) and lots of men of that generation were uncomfortable with hugging.

    But there’s lots in the book on how he thrived on being a father, as in the Coffee Lane days (to continue with the fatherhood theme). Schulz comes across in the book as human. I see no attempt to spin the facts to make him appear an ogre. Some details – his affair, his sending his daughter to Japan for an abortion – might seem hard for some to reconcile with the creator of Peanuts. But Schulz pointed out that Peanuts was never meant to be cutesy or exclusively for children. By the same token, Schulz himself deserves to be accepted as the artist he was, the good and the bad. To state, as the previous poster has done, that Michaelis had a premeditated goal of smearing Schulz, so that the book is invalid, is to be unwilling to accept that Schulz, one of the foremost portrayers of human failings of his time, had failings of his own. He did, and was pretty honest about them. Whatever failings the book has, it’s no smear job.

  • Monte Schulz

    I just wonder why anyone would presume that what David wrote was truthful regarding either my father’s parenting or the basic nature of his personality. It really is astounding to read, for example, that my father had difficulty expressing physical affection for his children. Really, who could possibly know that outside of our family? Therefore, if in our comments here, we say that was untrue, why would there be any debate? Though someone might argue that we are simply defending our father, but it might also be argued that only we could really know what is and is not true in that discussion. Simply put, what David wrote in his biography regarding affection in our home life is untrue, and unnecessarily untruthful because I, in particular, told him otherwise for six years. Yes, we did read his book in manuscript, but no, it did not change what he wrote. I’m working up an essay about the biography now, and will demonstrate in that essay how David clearly indicates what kind of book he seems to be writing, and yet finally does something entirely different. I think you will be astounded to see how this evolved. Only David can say why this happened. I have no idea.

  • yolik

    Mr. Schulz, thanks for writing to us all on this subject. None of have an inkling of how it feels to talk of a friend and a father to a bunch of strangers to whom that friend and father is a great artist and an icon. I appreciate your taking the time to engage us on the subject.

    There are those who maintain that people who decide to be in the public eye make their personal lives fair game for display and conjecture. I’m not sure if I subscribe to that, but it doesn’t matter if I do or not, since it’s demonstrably true that that’s what happens: celebrity opens up peoples’ lives for public inspection.

    Of course it would be absurd for me to gainsay your own observations of your childhood. On the issue in question, though, Michaelis’ book quotes several people on your father’s discomfort with physical affection: your sisters Amy and Meredith, and your father’s cousin Patty.

    My question to you is: are these quotes entirely fabricated by Michaelis? If so, that would constitute something more than simply skewing facts to support a thesis – it would make Michaelis an outright liar, and would invalidate the book as a biography and as a history of any kind. If he invented quotes in this instance there’s no reason to think he didn’t in other cases, and so the whole book is worthless.

    Is that your contention? Or is it that the book is simply skewed towards the negative? If that’s the case, I beg to differ, for reading the book did not make me think less of your father. I felt your dad to be an admirable man before the book, and I feel that way now as well.

  • Monte Schulz

    Well, to put it simply, Amy told me that David completely misrepresented what she said about Dad hugging. He wrote that she said she had to learn to hug from the Mormon church. She told me that what she actually told him was that when she was younger, she didn’t like people invading her personal space. Then, once she joined the church, she says so many people were coming up and giving her hugs that she had to learn to hug. She said that had nothing whatsoever to do with Dad, but David used it that way. So, yes, in that important sense, he did, indeed, invent quotes, and much of the book is worthless. In my own quote about how Dad only hugged me before I left for grad school. That was certainly not what I told him. In fact, when asked if I recalled Dad hugging me, I said something to the effect that I remembered him coming up and giving me a big hug before I left for grad school. It surprised me, not because he gave me a hug, but rather because I was just moving some of my things down, and that I’d be back in a month, anyhow. And the context of all that really was whether or not we felt true and loving affection from Dad, which we always did. I can’t comment on what Meredith said about Dad because I neither believe it’s true, nor does it matter because her impressions do not reflect those of the rest of us. Regarding the book skewed toward the negative, well, I’m glad the book does not make you feel less of my father, but if you had a more intimate knowledge of my father’s life, and his personality, I think you’d hold a different opinion of David’s book. I say this because everyone who was close to Dad, family and friends old and new, unanimously feel the book absolutely chooses a darker view of him than was true. Not one person agrees in any substantial way with David, because he is simply and demonstrably wrong. Having known David for six years, throughout the research and writing of the biography, I just find the book disappointing.

  • Monte, how much was Michaelis involved with the direction & editing of the PBS documentary? Craig & especially yourself have less airtime discussing the positives as compared to Meredith, who (IMO)at times seemed very hard on your dad.

    I have several issues with the documentary, but especially did not buy it’s downbeat tone or think it did your father justice. I thought the ‘Citizen Kane’ comparison was absured, I’ve seen ‘Great Pumpkin’ over 40 times, does that mean my life should be compared to a bag of rocks?

    The PBS special on Peanuts at Carnegie Hall much better captured the wonderful spirit of your dad & the strip.

  • Monte Schulz

    That is a very interesting question because to us and a great many other people, there are some odd parallels between the book and the film. Yet David Van Taylor insists he had not even read the book as of our last conversation in November. Still, David Michaelis is there as a consultant and appears throughout the film. But, he himself was worried that Lumiere was going to crib from his book, then release the film before his book was published. So it’s a strange coincidence, if it is indeed a coincidence, how similar both things are. Like how both begin with that silly Citizen Kane idea and both go after the melancholy Schulz, etc. And both used Meredith much more than they did the rest of us, and the filmmakers didn’t even interview Amy or Jill. I think they preferred her controversial take on family matters, little of which is true. Lots of people tell us how much they enjoyed the documentary and are surprised we didn’t. But like the book, some of it is patently false and misleading, particularly that segment where my brother talks about how “we rode our dirt bikes all over . . . and the police didn’t even bother us.” I told the filmmakers that only Craig ever rode a bike, so he knew that was untruthful, and used it anyway. Typical.

  • Rosie

    II have just finished this book and it is not a negative portrayal of Charles Schulz. It is simply a human portrayal of him. I understand his family wanting to focus on the positive, but that would make it a different book (which I’m sure many people would enjoy reading). That was not the book Michaelis wrote. His whole thesis is that it was the “negative” aspects of Charles Schulz’s personality that served as a great motivator for his art (“Charlie Brown as a loserâ€?).

    Pointing this out does not diminish the art, the artist or the person. We all have a dark side and a light side. I see the book not as a smear job or a purely negative portrayal, but as an argument by Michaelis. As I see it, he argues that Charles Schulz was able to take all this negativity (the melancholy, self-doubt etc.) and make something positive out of it – something that influenced and impacted people’s lives in a very positive way. That is an amazing feat and very complimentary to Charles Schulz.

    I’m genuinely surprised by the family’s objections about inaccuracies. Look I have a pretty good memory and so does my sister, but we don’t always remember things in the same way or even remember events in the same sequence. How many times have you sat with your siblings and debated whether some event happened before or after some other event? To me that sort of thing is not as important as the life taken as a whole. And the portrayal (as a whole) of Schulz by Michaelis is very positive. It is in essence a book about how a great man took the negative things in life that we all have to face and made something positive. Read the book and decide for yourself.

    I’m sorry that Monte and Amy feel that the book is not worth it because of the inaccuracies. If my sister wrote a book about my Mother I’m not sure I would be as pleased as if I had written it. I’m sure there would be inaccuracies. Michaelis did not write the book the Schulz children wanted written about their father. I don’t think he ever intended to. I agree with others who have been encouraging Monte and Amy to write their own book. Michaelis should not be the only voice out there. There should be others. But understand that no one can write the definitive book on Charles Schulz. There is no such thing as the definitive book on someone. We are not one-dimensional creatures that can be defined for all time.

    Having said that I also think that an outsider’s view of the family can sometimes be the most objective. My sister and I grew up in the same house, raised by the same mother and yet I was surprised to learn that she thought our Mom raised us to be fearful of all men. I didn’t see this at all. Who is right? Who gets to decide who is right? So I’m sorry, I’m not going to assume that just because you were raised by him that you know the truth. My sister was raised by my mother too and I disagree with her versions of the truth. Did Michaelis get some things wrong? Of course he did, but I don’t think it diminishes from the quality or value of the book or the central thesis he puts forth, which does not depend so much on when a pond was built.

  • Rosie, The controversy isn’t limited to the book not presenting events in chronological order or omitting notable events, it is about painting a picture of Charles M. Schulz that his family, friends & business associates say isn’t accurate.

    Your comparing this to you & your sister’s differing memories of your mother is not the same thing. I agree that no biography can be the definitive story of a man’s life, how can 77 years of such an extraordinary life be condensed to 600 pages?

    That said, Michaelis has said this book as an accurate story of Charles Schulz, so yes, people need to read this forum when not only Jean, Monte, Amy & Jill Schulz take issue, but also when people like Lee Mendelson & Dale Hale, who knew Schulz for decades, add their voices.

  • MJS

    This is to Rosie.
    In saying this I mean absoloutely no offense, but

    A)your sibling writing a book on your mother having different views to you and you not being pleased with it


    B)an outsider (who’s never met the man) writing a book on somebody having different views to the man’s wife, children, friends and colleagues and THEM not being pleased with it

    is NOT something that can be compared!

  • To Amy and Monte:

    Hi. I have heard about this book and about how much neither one of you likes it. Not knowing much about your dad, I would be inclined to believe what is in the book, but you and your other siblings know him much better than I or anyone else ever will. If I was in your shoes and someone said things about my parents or other relatives that weren’t true, I’d feel the same way, so I understand. What I do know about your dad is that he was a genius. His characters speak to many of us, especially Charlie Brown. In fact, I see a lot of myself in him. Like Charlie Brown, I’ve had a poor self-image (it’s a little better now) and been teased by classmates. But like Charlie Brown, I also never give up. I noticed that about him in “A Boy Named Charlie Brown”. Although he seems to be a loser, I couldn’t quite call him one. Sure, he loses, but he NEVER gives up. That’s his strongest trait. Of course, there are the other characters like Lucy, who is so crabby and so devious that she could have a job in the current administration! And there was also Frieda, who went on about her “naturally curly hair”.

    Whatever your dad may have thought of himself, he was a great artist. He has many fans and will continue to be loved. Nothing that’s in the book will change that.

  • 241 19805

    I’m about 85% through the book right now (I only got it from the library yesterday) and I’m going to have to agree with Rosie on this one. It’s not a matter of “this was Charles Schulz”, it’s more of “this was the Charles Schulz behind Peanuts”.

    I have chronic depression. For a long time I have related to Charlie Brown rather well. Now I understand why. Mr. Schulz wasn’t melancholy or depressed all the time, and neither am I. But it’s an integral part of who I am. This book looks at him from one angle. As much as I’m absorbing it and appreciating it (and appreciating Charles Schulz and his work, and those like Clark Gesner who were able to build on it) I’d love to see other angles too.

  • Mary Bouchard

    I suppose that if I had a famous father, and someone wrote a book about him, and that book outlined some of the less loveable aspects of his life and personality, I’d be upset. What I’ve noted since my father died 18 months ago is how much I think about him, how much I loved him, and that I’ve forgotten about some of the things I didn’t like about him. When I was a teenager we barely got along, and now, I don’t even remember why.

    Memory is a funny thing, especially when we’re remembering people who are no longer with us. People in families remember things differently. I read the book, and I didn’t think it portrayed Schulz negatively. There was some good, some not so good, like there is in anybody. On balance, though, I thought the portrait painted was positive and admirable. (My problem with the book was some psychologizing the author did, for example, stating why Carl and Dena Schulz did one thing or another, and I thought, how did he know? Pure speculation on Michaelis’ part.) Based on the well-researched and extensively-documented facts presented in the book, he seemed to me like a very loving father, and I don’t understand why the big dust-up about the book. Like other posters here, I’d love to see another angle on the man, one painted by his children. I understand one of his sons is an writer (I forget which one…) so how about it?

  • Robert Bernstein

    I landed on this web site by accident, but since I’ve been a huge fan of Peanuts and Charles Schulz for most of my life, I started reading the comments, mostly because I’d been planning to buy the Michaelis book.

    I’m very grateful to the friends and associates of Charles Schulz, and especially to the members of the Schulz family, who have shared their memories and perspectives and anecdotes. It is with a much better perspective that I will read the book, which I’ve now decided I will borrow from the public library, and not contribute further to the author’s enrichment from this book.

    There have been some interesting references the licensing activities of Determined Productions, and I wonder if anyone reading this has memories or anecdotes they can share about the early days of Determined Productions, when Connie Boucher was just beginning to explore licensed products. I have to say, when I was a child, some of my most prized possessions were the giant activity book and the first calendars. Some cartoonists see licensing as “selling out” or somehow cheapening their creation, but in my view, the work done by Determined Productions was done with a real love of the strip and its characters, and I never saw anything that wasn’t beautifully designed, made from quality materials, and totally in keeping with the character of the Peanuts strip and what I know of Charles Schulz’ dedication to maintaining the integrity of his work.

  • Sid Crowe

    Hmmm…is there any chance Monte will read this? I’m surprised there aren’t thousands of posts here, but here goes:

    Monte, please try to pick up the pieces and write a book of your own.

    I also loved Jim Henson, and wanted somebody to write an adult–full length, no kiddie book–bio as well, but who would want this kind of thing, this kind of mess, done for Henson, either?

    The kids and the true friends have to do it. While you gotta admit Charlie Brown was terribly sad much of the time, and I would expect depression to be in there a lot, I’m turned off on the book, based on your review.

    Monte, please write that book, yourself, with your father’s friends.

  • Doc

    Sid, I echo your wonder if Monte Schulz still sees this board, and also your hope that someone in the inner circle puts together another book.

    I was 37 years old in February of 2000, on vacation with a girlfriend and kids. The morning I heard about Schulz’s death I had to go outside so they wouldn’t see me crying like a baby.

    While I already knew of the family’s objections to this book, as I drew near the end of it I got fidgety, and teared up a bit when I finally finished it, feeling sorry all over again that the characters that mean so much to me would not continue in new strips, and sad that I never got to meet the man who created them.

    My point is, understanding going in that there were probably some inaccuracies (apparently many) I see the book as painting Sparky as human, complete with human frailties that we all sometimes show. More so than before, I wish that I’d had the good fortune to have met him. Despite his own claims to the opposite, Charles Schulz was an intelligent, complicated man. I’m sure there was a lot of Charlie Brown in him, and Snoopy, and at times most or all of the other characters. Obviously there was some sadness, maybe depression, or maybe just what he called it himself: “melancholy”. But I’m equally sure that the happier times Monte and the rest of the family talk about absolutely existed in quantity. I’d love to read about them all, but like Mrs. Schulz said, Michaelis couldn’t put in everything. A full treatment would have to be thousands of pages. All that said, putting the book down was another ending, of a sort, and I was sad to part with Schulz figuratively on that level, just as I was sad to part with him figuratively in February of 2000.

    Monte, if you see this, I’m sorry for the loss of your dad (been there) and the bad feelings dredged up by the book. I would love to see the rest of the story from those who knew your dad best, but perhaps you all have shared him with us enough, and prefer to keep what’s left to yourselves.

  • Monte Schulz

    Yes, I do, in fact, come on here every so often to see what’s being offered, and it’s always interesting. Again, though, I want to say that I wonder why anyone believes anything David wrote in that book. Mary Bouchard up above refers to “the well-researched and extensively-documented facts presented in the book.” But how can she know what’s true and what’s not? I do suppose that reading biography, we always tend to grant the biographer a certain degree of authority; I know I have in the biographies of Faulkner, Sandburg, Max Perkins, Carson McCullers, etc. that I’ve read. Yet, having gone through all of this with David’s book on my dad, I guess I will have to re-think all of that. Because there are so many things in that book that are so outrageously false and untrue, so many critical elements to my dad’s life that David either distorts or ignores, that I’m not sure any reader can say anything about my dad’s essential character with any degree of confidence based solely on that book. So why don’t I write my own biography of Dad? Well, I’ve answered that question repeatedly over the last three or four months, but I’ll gladly say again that I write fiction, and enjoy what I write, and have a good and sure voice for it, and have no great interest whatsoever, as a writer, to do a book on Dad. Because I have, in fact, written about half a dozen essays on him over the years. So I sort of feel I’ve done that, and writing his life doesn’t allow me to live my own through my own work. That said, at the request of Gary Groth and The Comics Journal, I am just now finishing a very long essay describing issues I have with David’s book and how they relate to a better truth about my father, a more accurate, well-rounded story. And it’s not just my voice in this essay commenting on problems with David’s book, but that of many people close to my father whose objections will offer clarification on a variety of elements of the biography. I think you will find it worth reading. I hope so. And then I can get back to my own work. At last. Which is certainly what my dad would be urging me to do.

  • Monte, Please let us know when The Comics Journal essay is published!

    Your Dad means a great deal to many people & it’s very important to hear the voices of those who knew & love him!

    I understand you don’t want to write a biography, but perhaps a book similar to one published in 1976 called “The Groucho File” which showed Groucho’s life in photos, memorabilia, etc. with adjoining commentary with each image is an option. “The Art of Charles M. Schulz” does this to an extent, but focuses only on the strip. Perhaps a book in this format covering Sparky’s life with commentaries by family & friends is something you or the Schulz Museum could work on.

  • Doc

    Monte, thanks for the continued replies. I’m sure we don’t really mean to make you answer the same questions over and over, and of course, you have your own life’s work to do which doesn’t include continuing or defending your dad’s.

    While he sounds like a great dad, it must be kind of hard to a.) have had a father who half the world’s population thinks or wishes was their own dad, and b.) to have to ‘share’ him all over again now that a book was published that the family refutes.

    I’m not in the biz or familiar with The Comics Journal, but I’ll look forward to reading the essay. Best of luck to you in getting back to your own work…I’m a fiction fan as well.

  • Mark Lansing

    Having been a great admirer of Charles Schulz’s work since childhood, I was more than a bit curious about David Michaelis’s book, but as a regular CARTOON BREW reader I was also aware of the Schulz family’s objections to it, so rather than buy it, I signed it out from my local public library. Having finished reading it this afternoon, I have to say that I have very mixed feelings about the biography. Michaelis seems to have gone out of his way to paint a detailed portrait of Schulz that goes beyond just a profile of the guy who created Snoopy, and the writing is quite strong. At the same time, it didn’t take long for me to grow tired of his amateur psychoanalysis, his insistence on applying some motivation or character flaw to every action of Schulz’s adult life, and the Ingmar Bergman childhood he depicts just gets comical after a while. I also got a bit tired of seeing every moment in his life, good or bad, mirrored in the strip (because, of couse, it’s so rare for an artist or author to draw from their own experiences i their work). And while Michaelis seems to relish categorizing Schulz’s flaws, for the most part they struck me as the failings and foibles of most men of his generation — not knowing how to show affection without seeming like a “sissy,” an obsession with work and professional success, a need to be loved that sometimes outstripped his ability to show affection for others. Despite all that, at the end of the book I still found much to admire about Charles Schulz as both a man and an artist, and reading the many vintage PEATNUTS strips was a joy, reminding me that I need to bite the bullet and get caught up on the Fantagraphics collections of the strip. And I agree with many of the folks posting here: I would very much like to read a book by Monte Schulz about his father, which I’m certain could tell us a great deal Michaelis could not.

  • Monte Schulz

    I’m almost done with my essay on what David told me he wanted to write about my father, what mistakes he made in doing so, and what he left out about my dad’s life. When you see it, I think you’ll be surprised and wonder what David was thinking. My deadline is Monday and it looks like the piece will be 70 pages long. It’s not a book, but it’s reasonably inclusive.

  • My name is… Just call me Chris. I’ve been reading this blog for the past three hours, and as a personal reader of David Michaelis’s book, I feel my opinion may be useful.
    First of all, I’m not going to pretend I’m any smarter than anyone else here, and I’m not going to concentrate on Cathy Guisewite, Lynn Johnston or Bill Watterson. I am here, simply, to state my beliefs on the great Charles Schulz (I have not the privilege to call him Sparky) and this biography.
    To put it, in a nutshell, my opinion on Charles Schulz changed completely after having read this book. Which made me think about the factual representation of David’s book. I read that many members of Schulz’s family and friends were rather displeased with this book. This led me to take it out from the library yet again, to study it more carefully.
    The mood of this book illustrates Charles Schulz as being a very depressed person – Whether or not he was, I do not know. I’ve never met him. But the book made him out to be a very cold, uncaring, unloving type of person (Not to mention a very cruel and oblivious father.) Previous to my expedition into this book, I had formed the opinion that he was a very funny type of man – depressed, maybe, but nonetheless an eager, content, sharp, funny husband and father. I had also identified him as being a very insecure person from anywhere other than places he knew of and was comfortable with (Again, maybe I am wrong.)
    In short, my analysis proves (In my humble opinion) that everything Monte, Jill, Amy and Jeanne Schulz have posted here (Not to mention Lee Mendelson) proved quite factual. I was considering actually purchasing the book – But borrowing a poorly constructed book on my idol beats wasting $35 dollars on it.

  • Don Hargraves

    Bought the book. Read the book. Was very negatively impressed with it. Mourned that I spent $40.00 on it when I could have checked it out a few times from the local library.

    It seems to me that Mr. Michaelis didn’t so much want to write a biography but wanted to play around with a few motifs. They seemed to be, in my mind:

    1: Redheads and the pain they cause
    2: Like parent, like sibling
    3: A Man Ahead Of His Time, Doomed to Suffer until society catches up ™
    4: The artist as naturally depressed, fearful and worrying.
    5: The Successful Artist Myth (which involves a constant market for your wares, millions of fans, acolytes that can be shat on occasionally without worry of losing their worship, all the attention you can get from others (sexual or otherwise) and a lover/spouse who knows better than to get in the way of the attentions. That last part is especially important)
    6: The artist can only talk about what he intimately knows: His Life, and the painful parts are the only interesting parts.

    There are a few insights that work wonders. However, even here they tend to work against Mr. Michaelis.

    Like his focus on Lucy. Agreed that in many ways she was probably the most important character in that she set the tone for the rest of the strip’s characters. However, I find it disturbing that he then proceeds to dismiss everything after 1972 in six pages, basically stating that Lucy was neutered and that the rest of the strip dropped off with her. Nothing about the development of the Peppermint Patty/Marcie relationship, little about Sally’s Struggles with School outside of the Building/Jean link, nothing about Lila (Wish fulfillment? Red Haired Girl in a Camp Setting? that’s my thinking), little about Rerun (a gold mine Mr. Michaelis missed because of his fixation on Lucy) or Snoopy’s siblings, and NOTHING about the changeover from a strict four-square to a more flexible format in the mid-eighties (saved the strip, IMHO) — and I’m sure there’s other things that could have been commented on but which I’m unaware of.

    Then there was the comment about the size of the strip, in which Mr. Michaelis blithely hints that Peanuts destroyed the big story strips because of its small size and great influence. This despite the steady decline in newspapers, which even Mr. Michaelis noted. Did he stop and think that, as newspapers went out of business, the remaining papers responded by putting in more comics and, as they wanted them to fit in the same space they’d always used, the comics had to grow smaller (and get rid of details in the process)? Simple economics in an industry suffering a long decline, but Mr. Michaelis was too deeply in love with his “Man Ahead Of His Time” motif to pick up on the obvious.

    But then, it seems that Mr. Michaelis didn’t seem to have too tight a handle on facts to begin with. As the family members and long-time friends who have shown up on this board have noted, the book is shockingly filled with inaccuracies and falsehoods. I can handle a skewered view of someone successful yet severely unhappy (that’s what “grains of salt” are for), but when the writer can’t even be bothered to get the details right it only proves there’s something wrong at the core of the book.

    This book is what Libraries are for. Check it out, keep what you’ve read here (especially by the family members and friends of Mr. Schulz) in mind, mine what you can and hope you can forget the dross that comes along with it.

  • “This book is what libraries are for.”

    I’m sorry…That made me laugh.

    I checked out Good Grief: The story of Charles M. Schulz by Rheta Grimsley Johnson. She illustrated Sparky’s personality to be more pleasant, funny and charming – Much more of the image I’d captured myself. She mentioned that Charles Schulz DID suffer from panic attacks, but that he was still a very friendly, funny person, not a complete depressed nobody who ignored his own children over his strip.

    I admired Johnson’s book because she didn’t linger on unimportant facts. Unlike David, who elaborated on the details of Schulz’s crushes and the eventual divorce of Joyce, Johnson stated important facts and information on Charles Schulz, and his strip. She did not linger on unimportant issues (Such as how much a young Charles hated the farm) and did not make his mother seem like a terrible hag (“She does not touch him in the photograph – Schulz is left standing alone.”)

    I may be getting too personal here, but the more I read it, the more I realize how focused Michaelis was on proving that Schulz was a completely depressed flop that he forgot to expand his viewpoint. I think he (David Michaelis) would have liked to imagine that Schulz was a genius who suffered through his fame and admiration. Therefore, he wrote a 600 page book on what HE thought Schulz was like and what he thought would make a good story.

    Having a well loved, famous genius who suffers on the inside due to his tragic past and rejections – Certainly, that makes a very good story. Unfortunately, Michaelis was too concerned making a good story that he forgot to mention the truth.

  • Paul S.

    I just finished the book and then found this fascinating string of posts. To Monte and all the Schulz family, I am glad to read your corrections to the factual errors but you should know that I did not think at all negatively of your father after reading the book. The picture I got was of a very sensitive, talented, humble person. Please know that in spite of the errors, readers of this book will come away appropriately impressed by Charles Schulz.

  • Don Hargraves

    As to my final paragraph (“This book is what Libraries are for….”) here’s what I should have said:

    “Figure out a way to borrow it. If a stupid friend has bought the book, read his/her copy; if the library has his book, read it from there. Use plenty of salt, pick out the insights (of which there are a few worthy ones) and toss aside the piles of trash in it. But whatever you do, DON’T BUY IT.”

  • Thanks for this blog and thank you Monte Schulz for your clarifications. I just finished the Michaelis bio today. While I found it generally touching and respectful, I did take David’s analysis with a grain of salt. I also have his N. C. Wyeth bio in which he does the same. As did Laura Claridge with Rockwell. There must be a driving need for writers to figure out artists.

    I’m not sure whether I’m enriched knowing details of the Schulz family struggles. For my part I wish more time was spent on Mr. Schulz developing his craft. I’m a professional cartoonist and illustrator ( and very interested in those details. The book gave a fair amount of info about the art, but I could have used more and could have done with less speculation as to whether Carl and Dena hugged Sparky often enough.

    But overall I enjoyed the book, perhaps because I go into these biographies suspecting the authors will not quite get it entirely right. I was left with the same high regard I already had for Charles Schulz as , quite simply, the best and most innovative cartoonist in American history.

  • James

    I haven’t read the book; I don’t intend to

    I do want the members of the Schulz family to know that their comments here are meaningful and well-taken, and they’ve done a service to their father and husband’s memory by providing them. The internet is forever; this book will suffer the scrutiny of history. Their comments are part of the record, too.

    I grew up in the 60s and 70s and thought that Charlie Brown belonged to me. I know that he belonged to your Dad, and by proximity to you, and by extension to the rest of us.

    My kids now love Charlie as I did; the backstory of Charlie Brown has less meaning than you might imagine, even to a devoted fan

    I think: Our time here is limited and we ought to use it better and in a more constructive way– that’s what I’d tell this author

    Peace to you, and I hope, someday, peace to this author

    — James

  • Justine

    I can’t say how disappointed I am that not only the book to finally give background on your father is terribly falsified (and a top-seller to further spread lies) but that now that Michaelis’ story is pretty much utter bologna to me, I’m back to wondering about your mysterious dad and concentrating merely on how much I love his work.

    Though… I can’t say how happy I am to see he wasn’t a depressed individual and such and such–I’d started reading Michaelis’ novel (enjoying it because I was completely surprised at everything he was saying) and as I realized how terribly down-and-out Michaelis played him up to be, I must say I was rather downhearted.

    Nonetheless–thank you so much for taking the time to post a reply on here, Monte–odd chance I’d even come across this to begin with, but I’m so glad I did–like so many others who have posted before me, your father’s work holds a tremendous amount of worth to me.

    I wish you the best in helping to clear up this mess.

  • Doc

    Monte (hopefully you’ll check in here again to see this), do you know what issue your essay will appear in? I’m not a regular subscriber to The Comics Journal, but I’d like to obtain a hard copy of that issue. Thanks!

  • Monte Schulz

    It seems as if my essay and the others will appear in the April issue of The Comics Journal. I hope you will all find my 36,000 words to be both informative and entertaining! And I hope to never have to write about the biography again! I think it’s a decent essay. It offers a lot of information, and it is not a re-hashing of what I’ve written on here. It’s all new.

  • Janet Hazen

    First off, I’d like to thank Monte, Amy, Jeannie, and everyone else who has posted such thoughtful analysis of how flawed Michaelis’ book is. I did buy it, but I’m sorry I did. I’m grateful to have this forum in which to read the truth.

    One of the many things that bugged me about “that book” was its omission of Sparky and Jeannie’s involvement in Canine Companions for Independence, which I love supporting through events of the Peanuts Collector Club. Thanks to meeting the CCI dogs, my fear of dogs has completely disappeared! I guess D.M. thought a discussion of the Schulzes’ work for CCI would invalidate his spin on Sparky.

    Another thing that has been bugging me is the implication that it was a serious flaw that Sparky did not drink. I know a lot of people, especially in business settings, who seem to look down upon people like Sparky (and myself) who by choice do not drink alcohol and are therefore uncomfortable in alcohol-based settings. In the TV special and if I recall correctly, the book as well, Bill Melendez seemed to sneer at Sparky’s unwillingness to have a drink, which Melendez apparently considered essential for one to “join life.” Melendez seemed to be painted as someone who really disliked Sparky as a person. I hope that Lee Mendelson, Monte, or someone else can give us some insight about this.

    Monte, I’m really looking forward to reading your essay.

  • Monte Schulz

    Actually, Bill Melendez adored my father and could not have cared less whether Dad drank or not. That’s just another example of something David wrote that was either false or misleading. Bill and my dad were truly great friends and Bill is distressed over some of things David quotes him as saying in that book. In any case, had you ever seen my dad and Bill Melendez, you’d have known how fond they were of each other, and of Lee Mendelson, too. They made a great team back then.

  • Janet Hazen

    I think they made a great team, too! I met Bill Melendez on a Snoopy-themed Royal Caribbean cruise back in 2000, a few months after your dad passed (and my own mother passed six weeks after he did.) Bill actually said that a drawing of Snoopy that I did was a pretty good one! That was quite exciting! I remember how the mother of one of the Snoopy cruisers had a little crush on Bill. She thought he was just adorable.

    Thanks, Monte, for proving yet again how incorrectly Michaelis pictured people. As your dad said through Linus, “These aren’t faults, they’re character traits!” Your dad created wonderful characters, and was certainly one himself.

    My thoughts are with you and the rest of the Schulz family this week.

  • Maybe I missed something, but I didn’t find the book as mean-spirited as you folks. I certainly accept and respect Monte’s clarifications and corrections, but I didn’t find Michaelis to be down right mean. I came away with no indication that Bill Melendez disliked Charles Schulz (I’m sorry, I can’t bring myself to call Mr. Schulz Sparky, as though I knew him) or that his abstinence really bothered anyone. As I wrote before, I do think Michaelis ventured into unnecessary psychoanalysis, and I would have prefered more of some info and less of others.

    Even the Johnson bio indicates Schulz’s social anxieties and suggests other issues, so Michaelis probably felt up to the task of fleshing those out and maybe he thought readers would like to know some of the inner workings of a man who wound up being the most successful cartoonist to date.

    I didn’t know Mr. Schulz, but I did speak with him on the phone. Sort of. He was interviewed in later years by a local radio station. The program for which he gave the phone interview airs Monday through Friday. Mr. Schulz was interviewed on a Saturday, and the tape was played on a following weekday. This program ordinarily does live interviews with listener interaction.

    Mr. Schulz’s exception may have been dictated by his schedule, or intended to avoid unpredictable interaction. Callers simply asked a question or offered a comment and then were disconnected before Mr. Schulz responded. Having read the Johnson bio, I deduced that Mr. Schulz was not comfortable with the live interaction. I could be wrong. It doesn’t matter to me, or change my respect and admiration for him. I only mention it to say that I got that impression from reading the Johnson bio, which nobody is maligning as an ill treatment of Charles Schulz, which of course it isn’t.

    Let’s face it. If someone were to write a biography of any of us, there would be many voices and many ideas about who we are and what makes us tick. To one person I’m a gifted cartoonist and illustrator (yes, that is really what I do), to another I’m a hack. To some I’m the funniest guy they know, to others I’m a strange hypochondriac. Most (I hope) know me as a very committed and serious Christian, others (I’m sorry to say) may think I’m just mildly religious. So you know what I’m saying.

    If David Michaelis intentionallyt falsified data to sell a book, that is a sad and ugly thing. And I don’t disagree with Monte Schulz for one minute, nor deny him his anger for any ill-treatment of his father. But I only say the book did not leave me thinking Charles Schulz was insane, or unfeeling or weird. He came across to me as a man with much talent, many hardships, many confusions, and probably many regrets. Sounds like all of us to me. In any case read the book for yourselves and see what you think. Borrow it if you wish, but give it a try, I’d like to hear your thoughts.

  • Doc

    Monte, thanks for the update. I’ll look forward to the April issue, and your essay.

    And thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, and for spending so much time on here with us “hangers-on” ; ) I know it takes you away from your own work, and talking so much about it, especially this week, it takes you back. My time for memories of my own dad is in May, and though I think back fondly on him every day, the anniversary is still a day when I pause. I’m guessing you’re pretty much the same way. Best wishes, and thanks again.


  • Janet Hazen

    A beagle named Uno won the Westminster dog show last night! A Yahoo! link to the story today says “Hail Snoopy!” Maybe it’s a coincidence, but I think maybe God may have sent us a special tribute to Charles Schulz on the anniversary of his passing.

  • Will Turner

    Hi, Amy. Yes, it’s me. I hope you’re well and happy. I’m doing fine.

    My best to you. Take care.

  • Monte Schulz

    Will, there we were, all those years ago up at Dad’s house one sunny afternoon, plugged in on his deck, me on rhythm and vocals, you on a scintillating lead, playing the Beach Boys and having a great time . . . until the neighbors across the valley complained, and the show closed down! Oh to be so young again.

  • Steven Torchia

    I have a question for the Schulz children:

    I am currently reading the book and I found the level of anti-Catholicsm in your father’s family (especially in his aunt Marion) to be sad. How did such intolerance affect your religious upbringing? Did Aunt Marion ever change her attitude?

  • Monte Schulz

    Well, I don’t think you’re going to get any true opinions about how my dad’s family felt about Catholics from the biography. So don’t trust everything you read there. I can’t comment on Aunt Marian because she never talked about religion around me, and she died while I was young. My dad had many religious beliefs, but most of them revolved around the idea that no one has all the answers. If anyone were to suggest he had anti-Catholic opinions, those would have to come from his disagreement regarding the inerrancy of the Pope. That said, he was great friends with a Father Lombardi and was certainly not anti-Catholic in any mean sense of the word.

  • Steven Torchia

    Thanks, Mr. Schulz. I loved the picture of you, your brother Craig and your father in front of the hockey net at the ice arena–the three of you looked like the perfect all-American family there. I’m sorry you’ve been so hurt by the book. Good luck to you.

  • Monte, I’m glad you touched on great Bill Melendez & officially set the record straight that he & your dad were good friends.

    I met Bill several times and he ALWAYS spoke VERY highly of your dad. Between the book & the PBS documentary’s ‘wimp’ soundbite (which I have no doubt was taken out of context) there was a false illusion being made to a lot of people that they were not friends.

    Their collaboration on the Peanuts TV specials & feature films could not have succeeded for 35 years without mutual respect & friendship.

  • Will Turner

    Monte: Actually, I think it was the Rolling Stones we were playing ; ). But, yes, those were some good days. I hardly touch the guitar anymore, which bothers me.

    I haven’t read this book that has upset your family, and I won’t. I’m sorry your dad has come under this public microscope. I have my own warm memories of your father, which I prefer to leave unchanged. He was kind and emotionally generous to me as was your family, which was more than I deserved. Being a father myself of my own daughter, I now have a very different perspective on those days. I’ve come to believe that, though youth has it’s pleasures and advantages, it’s overrated. Someone said that, “youth is wasted on the young.” Still, when I think back on those times, I remember fondly …

    What are you doing with yourself now? I seem to remember you were studying English Literature in Santa Barbara back then. And somewhere I saw an article indicating that you live in Grass Valley, is that right? Beautiful country up there. I’m in Sacramento.

  • Ed Koehler,

    Thank you for bringing up that point – All of them, I mean. I want to point out that while Johnson, in her biography, did mention that Schulz was a depressed, melancholy person, she did not linger on this aspect page after page.

    I think, however, that everyone here who is judging the book merely based on Monte’s comments should rethink – I am in no way suggesting that what Monte is saying is untrue – But I think you should read the book before assuming things on it – I found the book to have a rather negative view on Schulz’s emotions – But, Ed Koehler read the book, and found no such problem. Both of us enjoyed the book all the same, but we both had different opinions – If you haven’t yet read the book, how can you possibly judge the book? I’m rather disappointed in your (And by your, I’m reffering to the people who say they’re not going to read the book) shallow judgement of the book. Schulz and Peanuts taught me many things on my hero – Whether or not the book displayed a negative opinion or not is besides the point. It was an enjoyable read, and I think I have a better opinion on Charles Schulz because of it.

    I repeat: I do not think that the book was the best that it could’ve been. Some un-factual talks and events were brought up, and, in MY opinion, I thought the book expressed Schulz’s character in a negative way. YOUR opinion might be different, which is why I thank Ed Koehlers for offering a second opinion.

  • Hello, Monte ~

    I came upon this site tonight quite by chance and found it interesting that you would chastise David Michaelis for presenting (or, rather, misre-presenting) your father through filtered and selective information.

    Perhaps you committed this same insult when you wrote and disseminated the following biased and inelegant statement to a wide audience:

    “Why only ten lines or so about the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, which Dad and I attended for more than twenty five years? That was huge interest of Dad’s. He loved books and writing and talking about both. In David’s first draft, his only mention of the conference was regarding Dad’s ‘writer’s conference girl-friend, Suzanne Del Rossi,’ a completely preposterous page and a half about a woman Dad knew there, someone all of us knew, anyone attended the conference knew, who was married and flirted endlessly, not only with Dad but with many other men there.”

    Monte, there are any number of reasons why people at the Conference might remember me (alternative newspaper; raffles to raise scholarship monies; workshops participation; and maybe even the Tuesday night wine & cheese party) – but your noting my marital status along with your perception that I ‘flirted endlessly’ insinuate improper behavior on my part – and that’s just wrong.

    Your father and I enjoyed a friendship that began at the Conference in 1991 and which continued until his death. Flirting, if you must use the term, was mutual insofar as we respected each other’s interest in writing, writers, tennis, families, and more. He was proud of all his children and loved his wife; that was clearly evident. He was curious, provocative, challenging, and more.

    You chose to disseminate parts of the unpublished and not-final-edited manuscript to a number of people in order to express your personal outrage and disappointment. As a writer, did you consider this professional? Ethical?

    Did you consider whether your editorial comments that accompanied that dissemination were fair? Reasonable? Responsible?

    So, there you go, Monte. Everyone does what they think is best/right/fair. Some do it better than others.

    Glad to hear you’re moving on from this and getting back to your own work — you’re right: it’s what your father would want you to do.

    Best regards,

  • Monte Schulz

    Well, yes, I am moving on — have moved on, in fact — but I also have no problem with what I said regarding the first draft of the manuscript. Why would I? Draft or not, it’s what David wrote. Nobody forced him to say what he said, and what he said was way out of line. I wonder where he came up with the SBWC info he got regarding your quotes. If they came from you, then I’d have to say you’re as much to blame as he was. If he misquoted you, then you ought to be mad as hell. If not, then I have every right to mad. Ethical? There was nothing ethical on either side regarding David’s first draft summation of Dad’s involvement at the conference. It was a wicked, unnecessary thing to write. The top of my head blew off when I first read that segment. I think if you had any objections to my take on that segment, you knew where to take them. We were all very curious about how David got that information. Nothing I wrote was as provocative as his page and a half. Since I don’t hear you saying anything about his take on things, should I presume you agree with him? In any case, my take on David’s book was not a professional one, (until the essay I just wrote for The Comics Journal), since I’m a novelist, not a biographer or a journalist. My opinions are my own, fairly stated and reasoned. Maybe one day you’ll offer your own opinion about where David came up with the idea that you were Dad’s “writers conference girl friend.” Either way, yes, I am through with this, and gladly so. Good to hear from you. I hope you’re well.

  • I think each reader should be allowed to draw his own conclusion from the book. But if you haven’t read the book, you’ve no right to stick your nose in here and criticize his writing.

    I can’t wait to read your article, Monte. I appreciate your coming on here and taking your time to express your opinion.

  • Suzanne Del Rossi

    Hi, Monte ~

    I have no issue with what you’ve said about that first draft of Sparky’s biography. I DO have an issue with your having disseminated parts of it without permission and with your editorial comments attached to them — in particular, as they relate to me. You disparaged my integrity and my marriage with your innuendo.

    It is no secret that I was interviewed by David Michaelis and provided access to the letters and other ephemera I have from the time your father and I became friends. I have never seen the part of David’s manuscript that referred to SBWC, so I can’t comment on what quotes he used or how he characterized my friendship with Sparky.

    You say your opinions are fairly stated and reasoned, but I would suggest they are not…not when anger at what you read influenced your decision to send out parts of the manuscript that weren’t yours to send, along with the inappropriate comments you attached to them. There was no need to slap me because of your frustration with David.

    I look forward to reading your Comics Journal essay~

  • Monte Schulz

    By that, I presume you believe it was entirely ethical to share with David those correspondences that my dad imagined were private when he sent them to you. Moreover, I think you ought to see how David used your material before you question my actions. Your displeasure might be oriented in the wrong direction. Suffice it to say, I am not the only one who was unhappy with the part you played in the first draft of his manuscript. That said, reading over this morning what I wrote about this in my essay, I can see I used a lighter hand this time. Maybe you’ll be happier. The question will always remain for me, however, what you can do to mitigate the distress your sharing of private confidences created within our family. That, I would suggest, will be more difficult.

  • Suzanne Del Rossi


    How would a biographer collect information if people censored their experiences, correspondences, and other recollections of the subject? Have you read any biographies that didn’t include or depend upon such reference material?

    Of course it was entirely ethical for me to share my knowledge of Sparky. Since I’ve neither read the cursed manuscript pages nor heard from any of your family, I have no idea as to what distress my participation in David’s research caused you all. Perhaps instead of distributing those pages and your reaction to it to any number of people, you could have contacted me directly with your concerns.

    This is a biography, Monte, not a memoir. People other than you and your family did actually have their own relationships with Sparky. You might disparage that which you didn’t participate in, but you cannot eradicate the veritas of those experiences.


  • Monte Schulz

    It is entirely incomprehensible that you would be miffed at me for my responding angrily, as you say, to something David wrote about you and my father without first wanting to read what David wrote. Why would you not want to see what he wrote? If I did an interview with someone, and shared personal anecdotes and memorabilia, I’d certainly want to see how it all was used. I think anyone would. It would be peculiar not to. This is the strangest dialogue we’re having. You’re defending a manuscript you claim never to have seen, part of which involves you personally, against my criticism of it, yet seemingly have no desire to see precisely what prompted my criticism. Therefore, I am having quite a lot of trouble accepting the “veritas” of anything you say here. And, in fact, I did try to contact you repeatedly last spring through MBB and RP, without any success whatsoever. I wanted to know what you were thinking when you gave those private correspondences to David. What was in it for you? How did you meet him? At any rate, I don’t think this is the proper place for us to conduct this conversation, If you wish you to contact me, do so through RP. And I thank you very much.

  • Suzanne Del Rossi

    I don’t know who RP is.

    Pat P. introduced David to me.

  • Suzanne Del Rossi

    To answer your other questions in your post:

    I’m not defending a manuscript I haven’t seen…I’m objecting to your putting your offensive innuendo about my character and my marriage out onto the internet.

    Regarding my giving David private correspondences and what was in it for me? What was in it for me was nothing more than providing resources for a biographer as he researched his subject. Sparky was part of my life, and I a certain part of his. (I don’t claim any more space than I actually occupied.)

    All your questions as to why I would be involved in this project could’ve been easily and gracefully answered if you had asked me in the first place — before you ranted online.

    You and your family had access to David and his manuscript; I did not. I did not know anything of this SBWC trauma until our friend Sid sent out the word that you were working me over.

    Finally, you ask why I “would you not want to see what he wrote? If I did an interview with someone, and shared personal anecdotes and memorabilia, I’d certainly want to see how it all was used. I think anyone would. It would be peculiar not to.”

    It’s not that I didn’t want to see what David wrote, Monte…I’ve got an ego, too — and I would’ve loved to have read all good things. But who defines ‘all good things’? Me? You?

    If you think this is not the proper place for us to conduct this conversation, you should not have made the comments you did here and other places online.

    And I thank you very much.

  • After reading through many (but not all!!) of these comments, I would like to comment. :)

    I am glad that I am intellectual enough to research every book I read. I have a degree in English, so I was taught to not believe everything that is in print. And as an avid Beatles fan, I know what it’s like to be fed garbage that is not true, but is universally accepted (i.e. that Yoko Ono “broke up the Beatles”.)

    I wanted to tell Monte Schulz that I am fortunate to own “Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life,” which he put together. I wouldn’t be doing so normally, but he was just on here last week. If you (Monte) recall, you wrote a lovely introduction to that book. In it, you highlight how deeply intellectual your father was, and how much he loved to read and learn. The interactions you detail about how you spoke together about writing and your shared interests gave the impression of a deep, close father-son bond. I kept thinking back to it throughout reading David’s book and feeling that his account and your intro didn’t seem to mesh. You had painted a completely different picture entirely. That’s when I truly realized that Michaelis was leaving so much out.

    I just got past the part of the book (which may or may not be true) stated that most of the children spent long period of time living with Sparky and Jean and her two children. I thought to myself, “Now if he was such a cold dad, why would they do that?” It didn’t make sense. He even chooses not to analyze this like he analyzes so many other aspects of Sparky’s life. He simply states the fact and moves on. I thought it interesting and important that most of his children spent long periods living with him after his divorce. Why didn’t he delve into that a little more? Well, of course we know why—because the loving-dad picture isn’t the portrait he wanted to paint.

    Thanks to everyone in the family who posted their comments so people like me who like to dig deeper and make sure what they’re reading is true could find them and learn more. I know I didn’t add anything necessarily, but I wanted to point out my observation and to thank Monte for his loving tribute in “Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life.” It gives an account of a big side of him that “Schulz and Peanuts” does not.

  • Luke

    I am half way through the biography. I have read all of the above posts by his family. I think the common thread is Schulz’s drive and ambition. He really comes across as wanting to be recognized as the best at everything he considered to be worthwhile–whether that was drawing, writing, hockey, golf or his relationships with his father, mother, wives or children. And when things didn’t work out, he was fortunate enough to be able to work out his frustration in his art. You can argue the details, but he was very much like Walt Disney or Norman Rockwell in his drive and ambition for personal fame and financial success, and I think that so far (half way through), the biography does a good job of illustrating that.

  • Monte Schulz

    My essay coming out next month in The Comics Journal does a more complete job in exploring how close all of us were to Dad, and how close and loving and attentive he was to us. I don’t even think it was a case of David not writing about that; my understanding is that he simply chose to cut it out of the manuscript, even the first draft. It just didn’t really interest him enough to leave in, and certainly was at odds with what intrigued him about my father’s and what themes he preferred to explore in his biography. He knew plenty about Dad’s relationship with family and friends; anyone, myself included, who spoke at length with David over the years, can confirm that. Again, he just chose not to use the material. And I think that’s fine, as an editorial decision. But what bothered me was excluding that information, and in its absence characterizing those relationships in an untruthful way. That’s wrong.

  • Monte, I’m looking forward to reading your essay & learning more about THE REAL Charles M. Schulz.

  • Also, people can borrow or buy “Around the World in 45 Years”. Pages 7-32 is an introduction by Charles Schulz himself about his life, his kids, and the strip. Connie Boucher of Determined Productions (featured in the Michaelis book) also has a short intro written by herself.

    I look forward to your essay, Monte. I hope that they put it on their online version of the magazine.

  • Last Christmas I bought three copies of the Michaelis book as gifts. One was given to my son, one to my son-in-law and one to myself. I have just finished reading every word of its first 631 pages. I did not read the Index. I bought the books because I believed that a biography of a man who gave so much mirth and pleasure to the world must inevitably bestow similar gifts upon its readers. I found the book to be a slog to read and cumulatively depressing. I couldn’t understand how 639 tight pages could be written about a man such as Charles Schulz without finding more to celebrate than dogged determination. No, no pun was intended. Were I not of the old school (very) which suffers a compulsion to finish a book once started I’d have abandoned it early on.
    I was just about to write my son and son-in-law to recommend that they utilize their gift receipts if they still had them and, as a touch of humor, to suggest substituting Wikipedia for the book. Before doing so I thought I had better check Wikipidea, through which, happily, I found Monte’s “letter.” For a reason that I can’t fully articulate I took great comfort from Monte’s clarification of his father’s life. It helped rid me of a very bad after-taste left by Michaelis’ book.

  • Adrian


    I’m very inspired by your spirited defense of your dad. You have a passion for justice.

    Also, to people discussing this whole subject, let’s not forget that Sparky was an incredible hero who had the courage to push forward in creating so much. That takes fortitude. Look at what he created! It shows that his character was extremely strong, and everything else should be judged in that light. Any possible shortcomings that may (or may not) have existed are minor in comparison to the virtue shown by his work and creativity.

    When I drive up to visit the ice arena and the museum in Santa Rosa, I always feel greatly inspired to forge ahead in my own life and attempt great things.

  • Here we are 6 months later and I finally got around to reading the book. If anyone cares what one little poster who actually read the book thinks, you may click on my name.

  • George Olson

    Hi, everyone, from those who are just casual readers to the Schulz Family.

    Speaking of the Schulz Family…

    I am heavily inspired by all of your never-ending defenses for Sparky’s dignity, even if he isn’t physically here. Reading your comments inspired me and my family to have a different outlook on life. I will look forward to Monte’s all-ready excellent, well-thought-out essay. Sparky is proud of you.

    To Everyone Else-Sparky is also proud of you. You have stood up for a man you might not have met in person, but you still stood up for him in a time of need. Keep on posting your opinions.

    God Bless You All.

    -George Olson

  • Syd

    In October my brother sent me this book as present because he remembered how I read Peanuts endlessly as a child. I still remember the local librarian helping me check out the collection books in order so I could read the entire collection from start to present (that was in the 80s).

    Because I knew NOTHING about Charles Schultz, even with the extremely one-sided point of view provided this book did give me some information about him.

    However, I’m glad that Mr. Schultz’s children took the time to write here and tell their side of the story (and warn about the outright errors in the book). I was actually quite sad while reading this book to think they didn’t have a good family life when their father had brought so much happiness to my childhood.

    As a person with a lifelong depression issue, I thought while reading the book that the author’s negative point of view was insane. Even if Mr. Schultz really did fight depression issues his entire life, we should look at his life and say WOW, look at all he accomplished, all he added to the public world and his family and friends lives, IN SPITE OF his personal battle with depression. It’s ok to provide a window into that battle so we can perhaps understand him, but no one should be defined by their “issues.”

    I will not think of Mr. Schultz as the man presented to me in this book instead I’ll know he was so much more thanks to the comments of his children.

  • Lanny Julian


    Looking forward to your essay. Apparently, it is not in the April edition of The Comics Journal. Where might I find it?


  • Richard Torrance

    Monte, I also will look forward to your essay.

    Will you write anymore anytime soon?


  • Monte Schulz

    Actually, it will be appearing at the end of this month in The Comics Journal. I haven’t posted anything on here for a while because it’s just easier to have everyone see what I wrote in that essay than to address any other comments. My opinions about the biography will be very clear and pretty complete in that essay. I’ll be happy to talk about the essay once people have read it. And then, I hope that will be the end of it. I appreciate everyone’s interest. Thanks!

  • Michael Barriwe just posted his scathing review of the book on his website:

  • craig waldvogel

    Here is a great article written by Melendez on working with Schulz. It really shows Schulz as he was.

  • Richard Torrance

    Nice article. Really accurate, too.

    PS: Any “PEANUTS” Specials alumni is welcome to comment on this website for their insights.

  • Fred

    I wish I had found this thread before I read the book.

    Michaelis could have stated his thesis in a brief essay – pearls grow from irritation and discomfort. Instead he spent six years cherry picking details from Mr. Schultz’s life to support his pseudo-psychological analysis – and basically ignores the fact that he was contracted to write a biography.

    Thank you to the family and friends of Mr. Shultz for making sure that this book was not unanswered.

  • Mary Beth

    Monte, I had not had the time to read ALL of your comments until this evening. I, like Suzanne, do not appreciate being misrepresented in your postings. If I am the “MBB” you reference in this quote from 2/29/08: “And, in fact, I did try to contact you repeatedly last spring through MBB and RP, without any success whatsoever.”
    then you must have been trying to contact me is some form other than email or snail mail. I received no contacts in any form directly from you or from other mutual acquaintances.

    Perhaps your memory is not quite as clear as you imagine it to be.

    And I join Suzanne in her response to your comments: “I presume you believe it was entirely ethical to share with David those correspondences that my dad imagined were private when he sent them to you.”

    Biographers talk to people who knew the subject. That is how they collect information. David spoke to a large # of people over more than 5 years.

    I loved his book. I felt it “gave me back the Sparky I got to know over 10 years at SBWC.” A biography is not a memoir. It is not intended to represent the feelings of the family of the subject.

    Your father meant many things to many people. In the conversations I had with him at SBWC, I got to know a person who was like my father in many ways: in childhood dramas, in WWII service and its lasting effects on his life, with a long history of depression and lacking the tools to deal with and discuss it, on the side effects of open heart surgery (including the damned hand tremor), total devotion to his wife, the fear of aging. I loved your father for who he was with me and for the lessons he taught me about my own father.
    I am so grateful to have met him and gotten to know him a bit.
    I am sorry that you, Jeannie and other family members are so unhappy about the book.

    I can’t wait to read it again…right after I finish “Wyeth.”

    Mary Beth

  • Morris Webb 3rd

    Monte and family. Thanks for standing up for your dad. I’m sure he’d be proud of you.

  • maggie

    Dear Monte, it’s incredible to me that some people are writing in to criticize you and your family for saying the book is basically wrong. You and your family are the primary players in this story and to dismiss your complaints is amazing. You and your family members are the ones who knew your father the most. Some people don’t care about or hear what you’re saying, that conversations were changed, taken out of context, left out entirely, or made up. That isn’t a book, it’s a lie. Some people writing in haven’t read the book, yet berate you for saying the book isn’t true. Incredible. Others who have read the book, berate you and your family members for saying the book isn’t true. Why won’t they believe you i wonder. A complaint is made about one personal comment you made concerning a derogatory comment initially made by the author, yet the author is defended. If they’re that upset about one comment, which was the book author’s innuendo, why can’t they understand why your family would be upset about a book FULL of incorrect and demeaning statements, incredible. You had the class to want to end what was becoming a public slinging of mud over this subject and were berated. Many people are missing the point you’re trying to make, that incorrect statements are hurtful, yet they tell you the book is a good one, they ignore you, and claim you shouldn’t mind, while voicing grief at what you say about them. Don’t they get the point, that it is painful to hear something untrue. Another writer implies that you’re lying. Could they not imagine that you did try to get in touch and it didn’t succeed? Amazing to hear people say they admired your father and call you a liar, and say they like the book. They aren’t listening to what any of you, his actual family are saying. Thank you for writing, Monte, Jill, Amy, Jean. I’m getting to know the real Charles Schulz through your efforts.

  • Amy S. Johnson

    Thank you to Maggie for her wonderful insights and kind comments concerning my dad’s lousy biography. Allow me to take some time here to again express what it is the family, and me, in particular, is upset about. Let’s begin with Webster’s definition of the word “biography” which is “one’s life story written by another.” Here in lies the problem. We do not feel that our dad’s life story was written by David. We do feel, however, that David’s OPINION of our dad’s life story, and everyone that dad was related to or friends with, was written. I am reading “my hero’s” life story right now, and that would be Elton John. The biography is not even an official one, but what I have looked for while reading it is the author’s opinion of Elton. I am nearly done with the book, having read hundreds of pages and I could not tell you what the author thinks of Elton John. Are all of his facts 100 percent accurate? That, I do not know and I will take into consideration when forming my opinion of Elton. But what does iimpress me is that the author never tries to persuade me to feel one way or another.

    There has been a great misunderstanding that the reason we, as Charles Schulz’s family, have objected to the book is because it was too uncomfortable for us to hear the “dark” side of our dad. On the contrary, none of us ever objected to anything uncomfortable that David reported. We are aware that our dad was human and made mistakes. We have tried over and over again to explain that our objections were mostly: that David left out so very many important parts of dad’s life that would have helped the reader to learn about who he really was and how those things helped him write a comic strip for 50 years. And, that David psychoanalyzed too many things about dad and the people in his life. When you do this to people, you rob others of the opportunity to see people as they choose. Being a member of the LDS (Mormon) church, we are big into genealogy and all that it entails. One of the most important things it entails is that of life stories and making sure they get recorded for our posterity. I do not feel that a famous person’s life should be looked at any different than someone who was only known in this world by their family, friends and associates. It is unfair to take “pot-shots” at famous people as though they somehow deserve it by virtue of their bigger place in the world. I have thought a lot about this over the passed 6 months. You have to sincerely ask yourself if you would like someone who has never met YOUR dad, grandfather, mother, etc.. to write a life story on them. And, if they did, how would you feel if when it was done, it did not seem to depict who that person really was? It’s important that you understand that the “sin of omission” is one of the “sins” committed by David. Nobody’s life is made up of great moments, rather our lives are consumed by tiny moments, small gestures, sacred times with friends and family, and glimpses of eternal happiness, all taking place day by day.

    As Charles Schulz’s daughter, I wanted YOU, as his faithful readers and fans, to KNOW about some of those times. I wanted YOU to be able to read hundreds of those little moments and then….be able to form your OWN opinion on the person you’d grown to love through his comic strip. David Michaelis took that away from you and you need to believe that he did. WE already know our dad, WE already knew his friends, his family, WE already knew why he wrote what he did in his strip, WE already knew what an average day in his life was like. We wanted YOU to know. But as it stands, there is NO WAY you could know him, having read Davids’ book. Again, I reiterate, my dad’s life story is still untold. That is inexcusable.

  • Amy, thank you for again taking the time to discuss the truth about your dad. I’m looking forward to reading Monte’s Comics Journel essay.

  • Amy, very well said. I may have posted this here before, but I’m a bit of a writer myself. Ditto my younger sister. One day I hope to write a book about my mother, who was an actress before she met my father. Our childhood was anything but normal. There are a lot of dark sides to this childhood, which I could include, but if chose to do so, it would potentially hurt a lot of people, especially my father and my siblings. Why? Because it would only be from MY point of view. What IS important is the great gifts my mother (and father) bestowed upon their children. My mother gave us all a tremendous sense of creativity and fun, while my father sent our IQ’s soaring. What would I gain by dwelling on the bad times?

    My mother was not famous, but many of her old friends were, and the ones who are still alive most likely do not remember her. But if they did, they would only have good things to say about her.

    Thanks to you and Monte for setting the record straight!

  • Norman Spencer

    First of all, I want to do as others have done before me and thank the Schulz family for their responses.

    Second, I want to say that I am a life-long Peanuts-fanatic. The strip has inspired me and supported me through difficult periods in my life to a degree probably impossible to overestimate.

    I too have been largely disappointed by David’s book. The one thing that puzzled me most, perhaps, was the constant focus on his depressions; I knew very well that Schulz openly battled periods of anxiety and insecurity, but I’d always had the impression, despite never meeting the man, that he consisted of so much more, that he was a charming and supportive man full of wit. After reading the comments of family members here, this impression been rehabilitated, but while I was reading the book I was sometimes in shock. What I now wish to have clarified is: approximately how much of the statements and theories of Schulz’s depressions agree with the truth, as you see it? I know this is a very personal question and I neither expect nor desire that you go deep into details, but it would be of some interest of me to get a more reflected view of Schulz’s personal battles as these (after what I have heard) so largely influenced his work.

    Anyway, thank you for all you did, Schulz! Your work will maintain in public consciousness long after David’s book is deservedly forgotten.

  • D Converse

    Just FYI: The Comics Journal #290 with Monte’s essay is out in stores. GREAT stuff so far and I’m still reading!

  • I’ve read Monte’s essay, and it’s a real antidote to the lingering after-taste I’ve had for the past six months, since reading “Schulz and Peanuts.” I feel Michaelis did what Sherlock Holmes warned against — instead of making the theory fit the facts, he made the facts fit the theory.

  • David

    I’m parachuting in here as someone who is in the middle of “Schulz and Peanuts,” having picked it up recently at the library. Thanks, kids of Charles Schulz, for reminding me that even meticulous books must be read with skepticism. I know so little about your father, other than the strip itself, that I can’t of course speak to the distortions in question. I do acknowledge coming away from Michaelis’ book with a renewed and deep appreciation of the Peanuts strip and how it continues to resonate in our lives. I do believe the book’s emphasis on Charles Schulz’s underlying melancholy and how he translated that into comic art that gives voice to all of our very-human faults and struggles. I’m a father of four, and one moment in the book that somewhat shocked me, that I still cannot understand, is why Schulz declined to attend the funeral of his own father in Minnesota. Michaelis speculates on his insecurities as a reason, plus a resentment over his burial location. But I still find it disturbing. Do you have any insights of your own?

  • Doc

    Monte, if you’re still checking in, thank you for the portrait of your father in the recent Comics Journal. It’s obviously written with much love.

    I also enjoyed the rest of the roundtable, particularly Bob Harvey’s comments. How could anyone so permanently blue have done what Charles Schulz did for so long? Well, of course he couldn’t have, so he was obviously a normal guy with the same basic ups and downs as everyone else.

  • Monte Schulz

    Thanks for reading it. Not perfect, but sufficient. I don’t have anything else to share on the subject now, having written 36,000 words to express my opinion. I liked Harvey’s piece, too. Very eloquent and interesting. I’m glad we’re done with it. The next thing you’ll see from me will be my own novels. I’m very proud of them. Dad was, too. I miss him daily.

  • Doc

    You’re welcome. You write well. I like the decriptions you use and the way many of your passages flow. I look forward to more of your work.

    I read everything I could get my hands on in order to get a better picture of your father, who’s creations are such favorites of mine. It amazes me when one person or group changes the face of the planet in such profound ways. And to learn that your dad was as I thought he’d be is great.

    I can imagine how you miss him. I miss mine, too. Thirteen years now. Sometimes it feels like yesterday, sometimes like it was 100 years ago. Strange. I was particularly reminded of him reading about you playing catch with your dad. That was one of the things we did. I learned how to keep my eye on the ball after taking a pitch off the forehead one day when I was dogging it. That was probably 35 years ago and I can still remember the sound…

    Thanks again for giving so much time for this when you didn’t have to.

  • Olivia

    I have been reading this ongoing discussion with great interest. I, too, am a huge Peanuts/Schulz fan left with a bad taste after reading Michealis’ hatchet job of a “biography.” Monte and Amy, thanks so much for taking the time to set the record straight. Unfortunately, I cannot read the Comics Journal article because all of the issues online have sold out. I am home bound and was unable to get to a book store. If anyone has suggestions about how I might go about obtaining a copy, I’d love to hear them. My Dad and I had a special bond involving Peanuts all the way up to his death in 1991. He bought me the Hallmark Peanuts ornament every year and, even though he died in November of ’91, I still found my ornament under the tree on Christmas Day of that year. Seems he had instructed one of my brothers to “make sure she gets her ornament, no matter what.” Does it get any better than that?

  • Jasper

    I don’t know folks – somewhere between the family and the writer – is the story. I enjoyed the book – and find the family’s response “interesting”. I can’t deny that much of what is written makes sense? no one is perfect, CS was able to harness his thoughts – both positive and negative – into the strip. HEY – I love peanuts – but I feel more informed now that David wrote this books – you cannot deny the sense of it all….

    insecurity, confidence (or lack there of), feeling alone, missing, losing a loved one, marriage – divorce – and marriage again, flirting, infidelity, joy, success – etc…… This dude had it all…….

    as for the family – sorry this has happened – it must feel very personal……no other words to say

  • Richard

    It’s obviously a sham.

    “More on Schulz Book” = “Moron Schulz Book”

    The perfect crime!

  • Having just finished reading the book and having enjoyed as much as I did, I came here to read about the controversy surrounding it.

    I was aware that the Schulz family was unhappy with the book, prior to my reading it. But my intent in the reading, was to get a better sense of where the Peanuts strip was coming from, not to assess to what degree Charles Schulz was a good or bad father. And therefore, I think I got that from the book, what was intended by both the writer, and myself the reader.

    I can fully understand why the family would be enraged if the book contained many factual errors (albeit many small, and of little consequence) and did not present a more balanced picture. But what I can’t understand is this quote from Monte:

    “So, why didn’t I correct him when I read that first version? Because to change the central erroneous nature of what he’d written would have required a massive re-write and re-thinking of the entire book, something he would never have had time to do, even had he the will and the desire, which he obviously did not. I did not want to clean up the minor errors, only to see the bigger ones remain.”

    Wow. I’m sorry Monte, but that is very difficult for me to understand.

    If I felt that my father was being so unfairly misrepresented, I wouldn’t care HOW MASSIVE A REWRITE AND RE-THINKING OF THE ENTIRE BOOK, was required. I would have done everything within my means, to correct whatever injustices I felt were being perpetuated. And might possibly have to be restrained from wringing Mr. Michaelis’ neck.

    This excuse seems—forgive me—lame and incredulous.

    As in all controversies, the truth lies somewhere in between. In time perhaps, other books will be written about the genius and talent that is Charles Schulz. I can’t wait.

  • Anonymous

    If there will be other books about Charles Schulz, they better be truthful.

  • Monte Schulz

    Ron, I’m sorry if my explanation of why we were unable to correct David’s biography seems lame and incredulous. It’s true, nonetheless. What on earth makes you think he would have changed in two months a book he had formulated and wrote over six years? That seems incredulous to me! Moreover, we did, in fact, contact his editor and publisher, and no one there had any interest in speaking with us at all, saying, in fact, that “Nobody expects the family to like a biography.” What do you do with that? Nothing, that’s what you do, because there’s nothing to be done. Except to write one’s own response, which is what I did in my essay for The Comics Journal. In any case, we did everything within our means to effect change in the book, and I was the only one who really saw the hopelessness in it. My stepmother and sister and our lawyer did suggest changes, very few of which were finally incorporated, validating to everyone in the family, in the end, that my opinion on whether or not David would really fix the book. He would not, and did not. And why should he, anyhow? It was his book, not ours. Whether it was true, or not. Again, there are certain realities of publishing you are simply taking into account when you take me to task for not “making” David change his biography. But if you are able to understand how publishing works, my response will make more sense. As things stand today, as I said, I wrote my response to his book and, in doing so, have put all that behind me. I don’t think about it anymore. I have my own book coming next fall, and my own life to live. I miss my dad.

  • Latecomer

    What a fascinating read this series of comments has been. I’m truly glad I stumbled upon it…

    I know I’m not the only one who has grown up with Mr. Schulz’ work as a constant companion. I know I’m not the only one who learned to read more by following the joys and anxieties of his characters from one frame to the next than by tracing the paragraphs in his kindergarten schoolbooks. I know I’m not the only person who counts a thirty-year-old Snoopy plush among his most prized and sentimental possessions. It shouldn’t be a surprise that those of us who think of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and friends as though they were our own friends from childhood would be curious about their creator. Every time I find a new bit of audio interview or video special that I haven’t seen before, it’s always a treat and sometimes a surprise to learn about how and why Sparky did what he did for all those fifty years of bringing the Lil’ Folks to life.

    That kind of curiosity can devolve into prying, of course. And people do have an insatiable – even rude – appetite for the secrets of others. But me, I couldn’t respectfully ask Mr. Schulz to share more than he already has. Every writer puts a bit of himself in his (or her) writing, out there for anyone in the world to read. If that’s true, after fifty years of drawing and writing Peanuts, I can only believe that Mr. Schulz shared far more than most – which is why I agree that no one else could really carry Peanuts on after his passing. The Lil’ Folks are far more than a style of drawing. Just being able to write “Good grief”, “you blockhead”, or even “sometimes I marvel at his consistency” wouldn’t be enough, either. I don’t think Peanuts would truly have its soul without Sparky’s idiosyncracies as part of its wellspring; far from being something worthy of lurid or scandalous deconstruction, they’re the kind of imperfections that can (and perhaps should have been) addressed with humanity and appreciation. Whatever else he wanted to keep to himself – or whatever he could only talk about obliquely – I would happily leave to him. It would have been a small thing to ask for what he’s added to this fullness of life.

    But that said, it really has been an unexpected pleasure to see so much about him written here, whether opinion or anecdote. And especially by his family, whose voices I’ve largely not heard before.

    To Monte, Jill, Amy, and Jean, and Lee Mendelson: I’m sorry to see that Michaelis’ book (which I’ve not read) has caused you grief. But I’m glad you’ve taken the time to write so much here. If these pages of comments had been a book, I would have been happy to order a copy. Certainly it’s given me some more insight – by anecdote and opinion – into who Mr. Schulz was, as a father, husband, and friend. Something about commenting on blogs and reviews seems to encourage people to be whiny, petulant, or cavalier, but if you don’t mind me saying so, it looks to me like you took that risk and still largely resisted the temptation even while giving voice to anger or indignation. The way you’ve expressed yourselves here speaks volumes about his effect on you as a father, husband, and friend, and that too, tells me a lot about who he was. To me, that’s a lot more real – despite subjectivity – than any third-person account, even a faithful and well-intentioned one.

    There was no way to read this all in one night.

    Merry Christmas, all. Especially to Monte, Jill, Amy, and Jean Schulz, and Lee Mendelson

    And most of all tonight, to you too, Sparky.

  • opus 131

    I just finished the book. I enjoyed it very much, and found that I admired Charles Schultz even more for having read it. He does not come across as a miserable or mean-spirited man. Indeed there is something heroic about how he overcomes his demons and finds joy late in life. Like all bios and all non-fiction, there are no doubt inaccuracies, and many of Monte’s objections are probably valid. But as Whitman said “Do I contradict myself?/Very well then, I contradict myself.?(I am large; I contain multitudes.)” I can believe that when the subject is a genius like Schultz, there can be very different yet equally valid viewpoints.

  • Monte,

    My apologies for perhaps being too harsh in my assessment. But to quote the previous commenter “Opus 131”:

    “I just finished the book. I enjoyed it very much, and found that I admired Charles Schultz even more for having read it. He does not come across as a miserable or mean-spirited man…”

    No harm, no foul I hope.

    The best to you and your family….

    Happy New Year!

    Ron Vazzano

  • I grew up reading Peanuts – I daresay it got me through elementary school – and by the time was 10 I owned 2 autobiographical books by the late great Charles M. Schulz (one, “Peanuts Jubilee,” from 1975, the other from 1980). So I knew a lot of the basic background of Mr. Schulz’s story even before I picked up “Schulz and Peanuts”. I came away from those earlier autobiographies with a very favorable impression of the man; had I not known better, “Schulz and Peanuts” might have destroyed that.

    I think I subconsciously avoided reading it for over a year because I had heard…things, way back in late ’07, upon publication. I wasn’t eager to read what sounded like a laundry list of every flaw of an artist I greatly admired, and I now wish I’d stuck with that instinct.

    I am very relieved to hear confirmation from Schulz’s children and his wife that he was not the man depicted in Michaelis’ book, because when I finished it earlier today, I simply wanted to cry. Partly, this was because of the deeply saddening (to me, anyway) depiction of Schulz’s final months; it sounds like he truly suffered, and his words to Al Roker are heartbreaking.

    But mostly, I was upset with Michaelis’ portrayal of Schulz as self-pitying, clueless about his own role in his life’s problems, disingenuously self-effacing, and, at times, mean-spirited (despite what Opus 131 wrote, I did find that he came across that way a number of times). And as I read various online reviews of the book this evening, I was relieved to note that I wasn’t the only one who noticed the endless repetition of certain themes (e.g., Schulz was self-pitying, clueless about his own role in his life’s problems, etc.)!

    No one is a saint (something I was too young and naive to understand when I read “Peanuts Jubilee” and the later autobiography, which I believe Schulz actually wrote with another author); but there is very little in Michaelis’ book about Schulz’s goodness, and that is simply unfair and unbalanced.

    To Monte Schulz: I’ve read several comments you made both here and in (I believe) “Comics Journal”, and you’re a heck of a writer! I’ve admired the relatively restrained manner in which you’ve managed to very clearly elucidate your, and your family’s, feelings about this undoubtedly upsetting turn of events. I never met your father, but I have a feeling he’d be proud. To me, you’ve taken the high road. I wish you and your family all the best.

  • David Malone

    I have been part of a reading group that chose the biography. I have never been much interested in biography (for reasons illustrated in many ways by this blog.) Having grown up enjoying and looking forward each week to the ‘Peanuts’ installment, I thought it would be fun to join the reading group.

    Fairly early, however, I found myself a little uncomfortable with what I have been calling errors on ‘silly details.’ For example, in a couple of places, Michaelis refers to Schulz as “as scratch golfer with a 7 handicap.” Well, anyone who plays golf knows that a scratch golfer is a person with a zero handicap. (And actually, the handicap is reported as different numbers in different places in the book.) Before stumbling on the NY Times article, which led me to this blog, I mentioned to our group that this silly error made me wonder as to what other errors, perhaps less trivial, the author had made. …pretty ironic.

    But moving away from the question of who is right, the family or Michaelis, I have found this discussion very interesting in the context of biography in general. As I was reading the book, I have many times stepped back and wondered how, say, my life would be characterized. As I read the skeletal details of Charles Schulz’s life – joined the army, fought in Europe, came home as a decorated veteran, focused on the study of art, was shy with people, worked at finding an outlet for his proposed strip, get married, moves a couple of times, has an affair, gets divorced, finds a second life, etc. – I couldn’t help wonder which of my “eccentricities” a biographer would pick up on and choose to accentuate. From all appearances, Charles Schulz was simply an ordinary person with one extraordinary talent (one, but certainly multifaceted – gifted artist, creative genius, dedicated work ethic toward that end.) And thank goodness for that talent. But also, for his children, thank goodness he was also, at a basic level, a relatively simple, honest man.

    One relatively simple observation that also underscored the overstatement by Michaelis is the enduring nature of the strip. We know ahead of reading the biography that it will be a success story from our (Peanuts fans) perspective. The strip endured his life. So, to paint his life fraught with division, depression, lack of personal focus and direction seems not to ring true. As the book progressed, I kept waiting for the shoe to drop – for the strip to be interrupted or to fail completely because of lack of focus on the part of Schulz – but of course, it never does.

    In any event, I suppose I want to thank Michaelis for what he did do – wrote a biography; however, I also want to thank the family for ringing in and providing a larger and kinder context in which to view the contributions Charles Schulz made to the daily lives of so many of us.

  • Rob Mattheu

    I picked this up at the library and googled it tonight to see comments about it, leading me here. I’m now torn about reading it. I’m reminded of the Woodward biography of John Belushi, Wired. Everyone surrounding Belushi talked to Woodward about it, and got the sense that he was writing a complete picture that included not just the bad, but the good in the man, and Woodward did nothing to pretend otherwise. Then the book came out and everyone was shocked that the person in the book was not anything like the person they knew.

    Peanuts was a permanent part of my life forever, and plays an important part in the story of my wife and I (her first gift to me was a Halloween Great Pumpkin display) and my daughter (who loves all of the TV specials and was born in the early hours of Halloween, just after the Great Pumpkin aired). I’m not sure I want to read through a biography that tells me what a miserable person Schulz was. If nothing else, Charlie Brown was the optimistic pessimist, the guy who always figured the worst was going to happen to him, but kept going anyway.

  • Clara

    I was so delighted to find my local library held it on the shelf beside the art books rather than the “bios”. I read it several times over two days. It was detailed and interesting, but I felt worried about Schulz by the end of it.

    Peanuts and the gang have always been my one of my favourite cartoons. And I was looking for cartooning tips from this biography. I did glean one thing from Micahelis’ biography on Schulz was use life’s downers as inspiration.

    I then did an online search on what did the family think about this book on their father and landed up on this site. I breathed in relief to hear the family’s response and contradiction to what I’d read about Charles Schulz, that the biography was not actually accurate. I’d watched some documentaries about Charles Schulz and read other biographies of him and they had wonderful insights into what he thought about cartoons, cartooning and cartoonists. I wish I had a chance to meet him and show him my work!

    But my relieved at the thought that who would know better than the children about their father than the rest of us adoring fans who only glimpsed – thinking we knew him through his wonderful cartoons?

  • The world loves Charles Schultz, and so obviously it wants to know about his life, and the evolution of his wonderful comic strip. IF David Michaelis did not accurately portray Schultz’s history or personality, and gave a distorted view of his comic strip, then the bottom line is the family should get someone who can and will do an accurate representation.

    Otherwise, people will continue to be misled by Michaelis’s biography, and that is not fair to the rest of us, who did not know Charles Schultz personally. Since Michaelis’s biography is already out there, it would be remiss of the Schultz family to not have a family-approved biography written and released as well, in order to set the record straight. I hope they do so, for Charles Schulz deserves no less…

    ….And for someone who knows what having a loved one pass on is like, I also would like to offer my sincerest condolences to the Schulz family….

    A man who was once an elementary school age kid during the seventies, and could relate all too well to Charlie Brown, the greatest, and most lovable loser the world will ever know.

  • Greg Ray

    I was 16 years old in November of 1980 when I decided I would try to call Mr. Schulz to wish him Happy Birthday. Imagine how surprised I was to find his home number listed in the white pages. Imagine also how surprised I was when he answered the phone himself – No unlisted number, no answering machine! We talked for several minutes although it seemed like hours to a nervous, stammering kid like me. Towards the end of our conversation he asked for my address and about a week later I received a personalized Snoopy sketch with the note “Thanks for calling.”

    This I think is only one of a thousand stories that we fans could tell about the kind, unassuming character of Mr. Charles M. Schulz. As a grown man of 35, I wept openly at his death and at 45 I still mourn his loss.

    To the family of Mr. Charles Schulz: The millions of fans who only know your dad through his work know him enough. Those of us who were fortunate enough to meet him even briefly know him a little better. Those who only know him through books such as this don’t matter. The rest of us know better.

    Thank you for sharing your dad with the rest of us.

  • Jake

    Monte, immediately after having read the biography, I read your comments above. I’m sure glad you set the record straight, as I thought the book was largely negative and a bit hard to believe, and your comments validated what I was thinking. Everyone has their good and bad points in life, but this book was pretty one-sided to the bad, and it would be hard to believe others reading it don’t have the same sentiments.

    One of the pictures had your Dad wearing a Montreal Canadians jersey. I would have thought he’d be a Minnesota North Stars fan. :)

    Happy new year.


  • Jim Montgomery

    I ran across this quote that appeared in an essay(“Hunting Mark’s Remainders”, Streamlines) by Christopher Morley about William Dean Howell’s book of criticism of Mark Twain and his writings and seemed to fit Michaelis’ biography and approach to Mr. Schultz.
    “And then I am reminded of an extraordinary statement in Van Wyck Brooks’s tuly brilliant “Ordeal of Mark Twain”, a book which set the fashion in Mark Twein criticism for some 15 years; a book of flashing insight and of noble spirit, but which did as much harm as only a brilliant book can do. “Who does not see in the extraordinary number of books about boys and boyhood written by American authors” (said Mr Brooks) “the surest sign of arrested moral develpment.” That is what I mean by approaching the work of a humorist without a sense of humor. (says Morley)”

  • Scarabim

    Well, I just read the book. Or most of it.

    I quit when the prose turned purple – when the book nosedived into Schulz’s slobbering affair with some chick named Tracey. Ick. Really, I must agree with Sparky’s kids: that incident took up way too much of the book, and not only is it written in such a way as to give one nausea, it’s downright pointless. Why is it treated like it’s such a defining moment in Sparky’s life? Michalis’ ponderous analysis of what seemed like a very brief fling pretty much ruined the book for me; I doubt I’ll ever finish it.

    And you know, paradoxically, it’s too bad, because the book does have its good points:

    1.Michaelis’ writings about Sparky’s early life as a child, a soldier, and a struggling artist were truly fascinating. I did get a definite sense of progression and growth as Michaelis detailed how grief and ambition played their parts to fuel Sparky’s determination to succeed. I actually found those parts of the book inspiring.

    2. The author does give due credit to Lucy, to the way that she, more than any other character, gave the strip its memorable bite. And I suppose it makes sense (although of course I haven’t a clue as to whether it’s the truth) that Spark’s relationship with his (seemingly) volatile, driven first wife paralleled the relationship between Charlie Brown and Lucy. Artistic inspiration doesn’t come out of nowhere, after all. So that bit was kind of interesting.

    2. And the author does cover the way the strip weakened after Schulz’ second marriage. I have to admit that the strip became unrecognizable to me in its later years. The dog and the bird took over, the other characters faded badly, truly awful ideas entered the strip like the characters Rerun and Snoopy’s brothers, and the writing lost not only its edge, but its heart. The strip ran on too long; that’s the plain truth. I applaud cartoonists like Bill Watterson and Gary Larson who knew when to get the hell out. As it is, because of the strip’s sad final years, my rabid affection for it has grown cold. This biography did at least make me appreciate what Peanuts used to be – at least until the book descended into mawkish melodrama.

    And to Sparky’s kids…well, now I guess you know how the family of Walt Disney feels. Very few books written about him have NOT had an axe to grind, and have NOT mischaracterized him in some way. The only book about Walt I trust is Bob Thomas’. I wish he’d written the book about Sparky.