The first ever comic strip of Peanuts written and illustrated by American cartoonist Charles M. Schulz was published today 64 years ago in 1950.
Peanuts is the most popular and influential in the history of the comic strip, with 17,897 strips published in all, making it "arguably the longest story ever told by one human being".
Peanuts ran from October 2, 1950, to February 13, 2000, continuing in reruns afterward.
Performers wearing costumes as Peanuts characters Snoopy, Charlie Brown and Lucy at an event in Japan. Pic/AFP
At its peak, Peanuts ran in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages.
The first strip was four panels long and showed Charlie Brown walking by two other young children, Shermy and Patty. Shermy lauds Charlie Brown as he walks by, but then tells Patty how he hates him in the final panel. This was groundbreaking. Until then, rarely had children expressed hatred for others in comic strips.
Click below to view the offical trailer for the upcoming Peanuts Movie (2015)
Snoopy was also an early character in the strip, first appearing in the third strip, which ran on October 4.
It helped to cement the four-panel gag strip as the standard in the United States, and together with its merchandise earned Schulz more than USD 1 billion.
Peanuts achieved considerable success with its television specials, several of which, including A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, won or were nominated for Emmy Awards.
The holiday specials remain popular and are currently broadcast on ABC in the United States during the corresponding seasons.
The Peanuts franchise met acclaim in theatre, with the stage musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown being a successful and often-performed production.
Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz decided to produce all aspects of the strip himself from the script to the finished art and lettering. (Schulz did, however, hire help to produce the comic book adaptations of Peanuts. Thus, the strip was able to be presented with a unified tone, and Schulz was able to employ a minimalistic style.
Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz. Pic/AFP
Though Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes rivaled Peanuts in popularity in the 1980s and the 1990s respectively, the strip still remained the most popular comic of all time.
The daily Peanuts strips were formatted in a four-panel "space saving" format beginning in the 1950s, with a few very rare eight-panel strips, that still fit into the four-panel mold. In 1975, the panel format was shortened slightly horizontally, and shortly after the lettering became larger to accommodate the shrinking format. Beginning on Leap Day in 1988, Schulz abandoned the four-panel format in favor of three-panel dailies and occasionally used the entire length of the strip as one panel, partly for experimentation, but also to combat the dwindling size of the comics page.
Schulz continued the strip until he had to retire because of health reasons; he died the day before the final Sunday strip was published.
Fittingly, Charlie Brown was the only character to appear in both the first strip in 1950 and the last in 2000.
The final daily original Peanuts comic strip was published on January 3, 2000. At that point, five more original Sunday Peanuts strips had yet to be published.
On February 13, 2000, the day following Schulz's death, the last ever Peanuts strip ran in papers. The strip began with Charlie Brown answering the phone with someone on the end presumably asking for Snoopy. Charlie Brown responded with "No, I think he's writing." The bottom panel consisted of the final daily strip in its entirety, reprinted in color, and included various Peanuts characters surrounding it. The very last strip consisted simply of Snoopy sitting at his typewriter in thought with a note from Schulz.
Many other cartoonists paid tribute to Peanuts and Schulz by homages in their own strips, appearing on February 13, 2000 or in the week beforehand.
After Peanuts came to an end, United Feature Syndicate began offering the newspapers that ran it a package of reprinted strips under the title Classic Peanuts. The syndicate limited the choices to either strips from the 1960s or from the 1990s, although a newspaper was also given the option to carry both reprint packages if it desired. All Sunday strips in the package, however, come from the 1960s.
A CGI film titled, 'The Peanuts Movie' is scheduled to release on November 6, 2015 featuring all principal characters including Charlie Brown, Snoopy and others in 3D format. (View the trailer above)