Sunday, September 30, 2007

Blockheads...



If you’re ever in the Western Hemisphere you really should drop by Santa Rosa, California’s Schulz Museum.

I was lucky enough to have a chance to drop by the temple of all things Peanuts during my recent tour. The lovely, enthusiastic museum director Karen Johnson was quite generous with her time guiding me past oodles of incredible original strips, Charles Schulz’s drawing desk, work of other cartoonists, Snoopy’s doghouse wrapped by Schulz’s pal Cristo, even a real, live kite-eating tree.

And that was jus the public stuff currently on view.

Lunch was at Schulz’s ice-rink (a large affair which he built for the community years back) where we were joined by Jeanne Schulz (Schulz’s effervescent widow and prime mover behind the museum) and Creative Associate’s Paige Braddock and Justin Thompson. Three very cool things about Creative Associates (which deals with Peanuts licensing): 1) Their offices are in Schulz’s old studio. 2) The staff seems to be made up entirely of cartoonists. 3) The collection of original cartoons sent to Schulz by cartoonist fans, including a hand water-colored Calvin and Hobbes.

I even met Schulz’s son, the inspiration for Snoopy’s Joe Cool persona. He’d curated a cool show of Joe Cool sculptures fiddled with by local artists.





Charles Schulz’s pals all called him Sparky, a nickname based on an early cartoon strip character, Spark Plug. In all my years of near obsessive Peanuts fandom, I’d never felt that I could call my hero Sparky. But amongst all of these cool folks who worked with him day in and day out, the Sparkies started flying.

But it gets better…

After lunch, I dropped by the archives. My excuse was to chat about an original 1953 Sunday strip in my collection, but in reality it was a chance for me to run amuck in their vault.




We opened boxes filled with original strips, or drawings given to Sparky by Bill Maudlin and others. Literally, hopping up and down with excitement, I was allowed to dig through a box that Sparky kept in his desk filled with unfinished strips.



Some he inked the text, some he merely penciled, others he inked the gag panel. I found a few that were hilarious, and a few that I wouldn’t have finished either, but it was amazing to see the process at work.



I was sad never to have availed myself the opportunity to meet the master when he was alive, but thrilled to dive so deeply into his work. Good Grief, indeed.