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Top Dog: Charles M. Schulz

Charles Schulz's ubiquitous beagle, is the world's preeminent pooch
Neil A. Grauer
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Bacon, May/Jun 00

(continued from page 3)

Snoopy came to exemplify that belief. His development "really grew out of the business of people actually talking to their dogs--even answering for them in a form of baby talk," Schulz wrote. "I put in Snoopy's mind the thoughts we sometimes think the dog might be thinking."  

Soon Snoopy's thoughts became flights of fantasy. He imagined himself the World War I Flying Ace; a Foreign Legionnaire; the World Famous GI, storming Omaha Beach on D-Day; the World Famous Attorney; the Revolutionary War Patriot; the Literary Ace, with his typewriter; Joe Cool in his sunglasses; the World Famous Astronaut. NASA even adopted Snoopy as a promotional figure. The lunar module for the 1969 Apollo 10 mission was named "Snoopy." (The command ship of the mission was called "Charlie Brown.")  

"The best thing I ever thought of was Snoopy using his own imagination," Schulz wrote. And yet even as Snoopy became less mutt and more mensch (with his faithful friend and "secretary," Woodstock the bird), he remained at heart a dog. He sometimes wishes the human characters were canines, too, as he did in one of Schulz's last original Sunday strips. Snoopy frolics in the snow with Rerun, who asks: "How could it ever get better than this?"  

"If you were a golden retriever," Snoopy thinks.  

Like all dogs, Snoopy hates getting rabies shots; despises "that stupid cat next door"; goes wild over the arrival of his supper dish; and grimaces when he hears the words "You stay home now, and be a good dog." He grouses: "The only time a dog gets complimented is when he doesn't do anything."  

Schulz insisted that Charlie Brown remained the star of the strip--which in its Sunday version sometimes carried the title "Peanuts, featuring 'Good ol' Charlie Brown.'" But he somewhat reluctantly acknowledged that Snoopy "rivals and sometimes surpasses Charlie Brown in popularity."  

"I have to be careful not to let the ubiquitous beagle run away with the strip," he wrote. The fact is, Snoopy ran, danced and flew away with it in his Sopwith Camel long ago. Paris' Louvre Museum held a "Peanuts" exhibition in 1990 entitled "Snoopy in Fashion" and featured Snoopy dolls decked out in clothes devised for him by top designers. In Rome, "Il Mondo di Snoopy" was showcased in 1992--the same year the Montreal Museum displayed "Snoopy the Masterpiece."

Snoopy even has been the star of his own Ice Follies television show, "Snoopy's International Ice Follies." And when the little red-haired girl finally appeared in the strip, she was shown as a silhouette--dancing with Snoopy.  

In her biography, Johnson devoted an entire chapter to "Snoopy's Groupies." These include a woman whose house is stuffed with Snoopy and "Peanuts" memorabilia ("I hope I die first," her indulgent but weary husband sighed); and Judy Sladky, a former skating champion who was selected by Schulz to make public appearances in a Snoopy costume--and now has done so for some 30 years. Sladky proudly recalled being in costume backstage at New York's Carnegie Hall and having the late conductor Leonard Bernstein embrace her huge Snoopy nose and fervently say: "You're a genius."  

Among the many "Peanuts"-related Web sites is www.warmpuppy.net, which features a section devoted to the "wonderful sub-culture" of Snoopy tattoos.   For all of Schulz's insistence that Charlie Brown remained the star of "Peanuts," the merchandisers of the comic strip and its products declared that Snoopy is the one who will "surpass The Mouse" in popularity worldwide. (And we know which Mouse that is.) "Pound per pound, Snoopy is bigger in Japan than in America. In Japan, Snoopy is God," United Feature marketers told Johnson.  


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