My late grandfather was as traditionally manly as they come. A drinker, a cigar smoker, a lover of women, on his 50th wedding anniversary he pulled my grandmother onto his lap as she walked by him at the dinner table and shouted/slurred “my woman is still the best lookin’ girl around.” Then he traumatized my 8-year-old self by making-out with her.
My grandfather was also an enormous Peanuts fan. His face would go a little slack whenever the Sunday comics came around, and his usual jokes would melt into stories about “simpler times” and dreams of becoming a cartoonist. In fact, all through my childhood, he’d scrawl out stark, charcoal imitations of Peanuts characters to impress me. (I was impressed.)
He saw himself in Peanuts creator Charles Schulz—and by extension, Charlie Brown. The unassuming mid-western boy whose life was marked by defeat after defeat. “Nobody appreciated Charlie until they appreciated him,” he used to say to me. “You see, you just have to keep trying and eventually someone will see what’cha got.”
And that is precisely what made Peanuts so special. Everyone saw a little of themselves in Charlie Brown’s hopeless romanticism, Snoopy’s dreams of glory, Linus’ neediness, Lucy’s vindictiveness.
Today marks Peanuts’ 60th anniversary. Though Schulz died in 2000—on the day his last comic was published—his work lives on. The first new animated Peanuts film in five years, “Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown,” is coming out next spring. ABC just signed on for five more years of Charlie Brown holiday specials. And for Internet lovers, a new Facebook and Twitter game was released last month called “Countdown to the Great Pumpkin.”
“The innocence and the humor that he brought, I think, helped us as a nation through many bad times,” said Lee Mendelson, who produced the comics for many years.
So today, we’re naming Charlie Brown our Man of the Day. You are a good man, Charlie Brown.