Cartoonist: Timing of Schulz's death 'as if he had written it that way'
By Jessie Seyfer, Associated Press, 02/13/00
SAN FRANCISCO -- Some of the most fervent "Peanuts" fans were Charles Schulz's fellow cartoonists. And Sunday, they found themselves mourning their elder statesman.
"In a couple of centuries, when people talk about American artists, he'll be one of the very few remembered," said longtime friend Sergio Aragones, an illustrator for Mad magazine. "And when they talk about comic strips, probably his will be the only one ever mentioned."
Schulz's work ethic and endearingly honest way with characters made him the standard by which many cartoonists measured themselves.
"He worked every day. He never ran out of ideas," Aragones said. "He was a cartoonist, a true cartoonist."
The creator of the most widely syndicated comic strip in history died Saturday night at his Santa Rosa, Calif. home, just as his final Sunday strip -- a poignant farewell to his readers -- was headed for newsstands.
"It's amazing that he dies just before his last strip is published," said Lynn Johnston, creator of "For Better or For Worse." Such an ending, she said, was "as if he had written it that way."
Schulz had talked with Johnston around Christmastime about his retirement as she sat at the foot of his hospital bed.
"He said, `Isn't it amazing how you have no control over your real life?"' she recalled. "'You control all these characters and the lives they live. You decide when they get up in the morning, when they're going to fight with their friends, when you're going to lose the game."'
"You have no way of writing your own story," she said. "But I think, in a way, he did."
Mell Lazarus, who draws the "Momma" and "Miss Peach" strips, knew Schulz for 42 years. His death "leaves a big, big hole," he said.
"I think 'Peanuts' has been for most of its existence the best comic strip in history, and nothing's ever approached it," Lazarus said. "He's going to be missed and will clearly never be replaced."
Schulz twice won the Reuben Award, comic art's highest honor. In 1978, he was named International Cartoonist of the Year, an award voted by 700 comic artists around the world.
He was to have been honored with a lifetime achievement award on May 27 at the National Cartoonists Society convention in New York.
Johnston was among many cartoonists who considered Schulz a mentor.
"We would often talk about him and what an amazing diversity of individuals he was," she said. "He was every single one of the characters he drew. And he used to say, 'If you want to know me, read my work.' And that's the truth."