Charlie Brown: Building Character

Charlie Brown is arguably one of the most recognizable fictional characters of all time—he and the rest of the Peanuts gang are larger than life.

But you may be surprised to learn that in the first Peanuts strips, published in 1950, Charlie Brown was little more than a prototype of his future self. He was more like a stock character than the unmistakable loser we all know and love. And beyond Charlie Brown almost every other piece of Peanuts was missing in these first strips. There was no Lucy, Linus, Schroeder, or Pig-Pen. The other starting main characters from the early 1950s strips–Shermy and Patty–would eventually be scrapped to make room for the future stars.

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Above is the very first strip of Peanuts ever published, October 2, 1950.

Although most of what we’ve come to know as Peanuts doesn’t appear in Schulz’s work until the 1960s, the original germ of what the character of Charlie Brown would become is present in this very first panel. Of all that’s absent, it’s what’s present that is most striking. There is Charlie Brown the likable loser:

Good ol’ Charlie Brown.

How I hate him!

I like this first strip and the beginning era of Peanuts–the early 1950s–because, all throughout this period, you can see that Schulz is still working. I think that’s why the first panel is two other characters looking at and commenting on Charlie Brown. It’s a way of acting out Schulz’s own task, which was to see and define a character people would be interested in. He was still trying to see Charlie Brown. He didn’t have a fully formed character to begin with. He just began and worked it out as he went along. It took him some time but he eventually got it. Below is a much more recognizable strip which was published January 1957.

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That’s more like it.

What a great reminder for the creative person. You don’t need to have everything all worked out. What you need is one good idea to build on.


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11 responses to “Charlie Brown: Building Character”

  1. Cool perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Chuck was a hero to many…Then Joe Cool came along and briefly stole my heart 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How interesting to see an artist evolving and learning – gives us hope. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I haven’t ever read Charlie Brown but I can definitely understand what you pointed out here and am glad that you did. It’s interesting because everything is a work in progress.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved charlie brown growing up. I must of watched a million episodes and the christmas movie of his. Interesting, some of which I never new about his character as mentioned before.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for liking.
    Charlie Brown always evoked a smile. One of my favourite cartoon characters. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is great. I was just thinking about this concept of working things out (giving them time to develop) with characters and concepts while working on a first draft novel. I plan to blog about it, but the biggest thing I am constantly having to remind myself is that the characters will become clearer and more fleshed out as the story progresses and when I begin the next draft.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes it is, especially how I’m choosing to write this one. I created a 365 day writing prompt to help people tackle their first novel. There is a word for each day which can prove tricky as you try to weave around a word like casino in a fictional place away from earth where it just doesn’t make since to use…still i press on. 😉


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About Me

A writer and author from Ohio, I believe above all in the power of good story-telling. I have recently published a children’s book entitled “Cruisin’ Susan” and am at work on a YA sci-fi novel that takes place in the distant future.


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