The thing that stands out, of course, the staggering, brilliant feat of his life, was this consistency creating a funny, interesting set of characters that we were still glad to see next to our cornflakes, even after 50 years. All of Schulz's would-be successors flamed out. Berke Breathed was brilliant in "Bloom County" for a while, then retreated from the strip after an accident and could never recapture the magic with his next try, "Outland." "Calvin and Hobbes," surely the postmodern offspring of Lucy and Charlie Brown, delighted (Schulz himself was a fan) until Bill Waterson ran out of ideas and mercifully shut the thing down. Gary Trudeau tried taking a long break from "Doonesbury," only to return to find that, despite the occasional hilarious essay, he'd left his sense of humor somewhere in Jane Pauley's linen closet. We will not speak of "Cathy."
But there was always Schulz. "Peanuts" was his life, and we followed its arc in the lines he drew for the strip: Tentative at first, in "Li'l Folks," the proto-"Peanuts" comic started for the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 1947; bold, strong and in control it its 1960s heyday (even Linus lookedsecure); ragged in its final years. Somehow, even though we all knew what to expect and what an ultimate betrayal that would have been, for Lucy to actually let Charlie Brown kick that football we were always interested in the whole neurotic gang, and now that Charles Schulz is gone we have lost not just him but a whole family.