WHEN YOU MEET royalty, you later tend to remember it all so clearly, as crisp as yesterday. And so it was with meeting “the king.”
The room was chockablock with cartooning stars and legends, but the house had one clear head that wore the crown. It was the National Cartoonists Society’s 1998 Reubens in Pasadena, I was one of the young turks that had just been signed to the New York syndicate — and just one table over, holding court, was the company’s reigning great: Charles Schulz.
We were introduced by our common editor. We shook hands. And he paid me an undeserved compliment.
Then he proceeded to be mildly deprecating about how some viewed his own work.
We’re talking “Peanuts,” for Pete’s sake. A national treasure. A cultural institution. And a creation that surely continues to influence, in some way, the majority of cartoonists working today.
Not so many months later, that same comics editor, Amy Lago, would tell me about “Sparky” Schulz’s cancer.
Sparky died Feb. 12, 2000. His final “Peanuts” strip appeared around the world — as if by design or something divine — the very next day.
Today, Schulz — born in 1922 in Minneapolis — would have been 91.
A new “Peanuts” movie is in the works. The Emmy-winning “Peanuts” specials continue to draw strong ratings come the holidays. And his redefinition of the modern comic strip resonates still in his characters that are more than iconic.
They are truth.
Here are cartoons I drew in tribute to Schulz several months after he died: