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Old 10-15-2007, 08:24 AM   #1
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New Biography Of Charles Schulz

I always wondered if the little red haired girl was real Linus is my favorite character.

Schulz's family says cartoonist unfairly drawn in new bio

By Jacqueline Blais, USA TODAY

The family of Charles Schulz, famed creator of Peanuts, is unhappy with a major new biography hitting bookstores Tuesday, while critics praise it as fair and revealing.

Schulz and Peanuts by David Michaelis (Harper, $34.95) portrays the cartoonist as complicated, humble and melancholy. He's seen as an artistic alchemist who drew on his own life as inspiration for Charlie Brown and his gang.

Two of Schulz's five children say the bio skimps on Schulz's role as loving father, portraying him more as distant than supportive. Reviews have been positive. People gave it four stars and called it "fascinating." The New York Times said the book is "revealing … a shrewd appreciation of Schulz's minimalist art and a sympathetic understanding of Schulz the man."

Michaelis, who wrote 1998's respected N.C. Wyeth: A Biography, spent seven years researching the Schulz book and had the cooperation of his family. But the end result has not pleased everyone.

Monte Schulz, the oldest son, says the book accentuates the negative, gets some facts wrong and shortchanges his father's "joys, his passions." Says daughter Amy Johnson: "We were all very deceived. We never should have allowed him (Michaelis) into our homes."

Michaelis says he "invited any corrections for any mistakes." His biography, he says, "comes out very strongly (that) this was a great artist — it is not debunking him or taking him down a peg."

An American Masters documentary, Good Ol' Charles Schulz, will air on PBS Oct. 29. Both the film and the bio play up the connection between Schulz's life and his comic strip.

Schulz was devastated by his mother's death. He was 20 and just drafted into the Army for World War II. "His whole life as he had known it was cut short," Michaelis writes. After the funeral, he returned to the barracks, by train, a lonesomeness later echoed when Charlie Brown goes to camp.

In Schulz and Peanuts, we learn:

•The Little Red-Haired Girl (Charlie Brown's unrequited love) was Donna Wold, a red-headed girlfriend from Schulz's hometown of Minneapolis.

Fussbudget Lucy was partly modeled on his first wife, Joyce. Schulz gave "his wishy-washiness and determination to Charlie Brown … to Lucy his sarcasm, to Linus his dignity and 'weird little thoughts.' "

•Schulz's extramarital affair surfaced in a comic strip, with Snoopy making long-distance calls to a love interest.

•Schulz drew all 17,897 comics without an assistant, starting Oct. 2, 1950. The last scheduled comic appeared on Feb. 13, 2000, the day after he died of colon cancer at 77.

•The reach of Peanuts and its spinoffs was so vast that even now, retail sales are $1.2 billion a year.
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