It takes a special kind of genius to transform frustration, insecurity, anxiety, clumsiness and outright failure into something so sympathetic and universal that literally hundreds of millions of people embrace your creative output as part of their lives. Comedians, of course, have mined the humor inherent in personal debasement for years — although, with an awful lot of “confessional” comedy, one has to dig through mountains of wretched, indulgent material before finding a nugget of self-revelation that feels even remotely sweet-natured or genuinely vulnerable.
Charles M. Schulz, on the other hand, spent decades weaving stories around the central characters in his legendary comic strip, Peanuts, that somehow managed to feel both emphatically G-rated and, whether the reader was a kid or an adult, profoundly, recognizably true. Working in a medium — the newspaper comic strip — that, by its very nature, is among the most transient creative endeavors ever devised by human beings, Schulz conceived a marvelously undramatic world of flawed, generally kind-hearted youngsters muddling through as best they could, and then spent the next half century exploring that world and its inhabitants as compassionately as, say, Faulkner explored Yoknapatawpha County.
Charlie Brown; Snoopy (and his siblings); Peppermint Patty; Lucy; Linus; the soulful Schroeder; the beloved, never-seen “Little Red-Haired Girl”; the ever-popular Pig-Pen: for generations of readers — and, later, for viewers of the classic Halloween and Christmas TV specials — these and other characters were, and remain, as companionable as old friends.
Here, on the anniversary of the October 2, 1950, debut of Peanuts as a daily newspaper comic strip, LIFE.com presents a series of photos — none of which originally ran in LIFE magazine — of Charles M. Schulz at home and at play with his family in 1967.
There have been flashier comics, and there have been more impressive illustrators and more psychologically complex comic strip characters and more dramatic storytellers in the genre than Charles M. Schulz. But there was never a more influential comic strip than Peanuts, and there was never one more consistently, wonderfully engaging for so many decades.
It’s not easy keeping both kids and adults entertained day after day, week after week, for years on end. But that’s just what Charles M. Schulz did with Charlie Brown and the gang. All things considered, that’s not too shabby a legacy for a shy kid from Minnesota who, from an early age, just really loved to draw.