Lucy’s Ghost

LucysCoverIf you’ve read the 1971 Holt, Rinehart, and Winston-published storybook Snoopy and “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night”, then you’ve seen the interesting image shown here. If not, then just understand that the book (built around strip stories, but with new Schulz art) is about Snoopy’s writing his great novel, and toward the back they include a finished version of the novel, for which this is the cover. It is drawn, according to the story, by Lucy.

Of course, it wasn’t. She’s a fictional character. But unlike other art supposedly perpetrated by the Peanuts characters, this one wasn’t drawn by Schulz. The book credits one Mark Knowland for the art… and with a bit of searching, I found him, and got his tale. (And then my recording device apparently ate the first portion of the interview, which is why you’re not getting a word-for-word report here.)

Mark Knowland is a former art teacher. Back on August 28, 1969, when he was a not-yet-former art teacher, he read the Peanuts strip in which Snoopy described a possible cover for his book: a bunch of pirates and foreign legionnaires fighting some cowboys with some lions and tigers and elephants leaping through the air at this girl who is tied to a submarine. (Four days later, he would see Lucy deliver that cover, only to learn that it needs more tigers.) He was inspired to try to draw that cover, in the style of a child. Adding to the inspiration was the fact that his wife used to write Charlie Brown, to send the poor fictional character Valentines. “She had all of these little form letters back from Schulz,” he explains, only to have his wife insist “they weren’t form letters!”, a bit of banter that they’ve clearly done over the decades. He did the cover on an 18″ x 24″ posterboard as a watercolor. When he sent it off to Schulz he figured “I’ll get a thank you note, and I can tell my wife “ha ha, I got a thank you note!'”

About a year passed. No note. “All of a sudden we got this telephone call, and it said that Schulz would like to use your illustration on the inside of A Dark and Stormy Night, so when you got to Snoopy’s actual writing of it, that was Lucy’s actual cover drawing.”

In reproducing it, they made one change. The original drawing had Snoopy dressed like a French Foreign Legionnaire standing on a parapet in the lower left of the image, but that got airbrushed out.

Knowland was told that there’d be no pay for the use of his art. He made this request: “what I would like is a signed first edition copy of A Dark and Stormy Night. And not only did I get it signed by Schulz, but on the inside, near where Lucy’s illustration was, I got a signed copy from Snoopy with his paw print.” To augment that copy, he bought three more, one for each of his children… and he notes that as this was not one of Schulz’s bigger sellers, those might be the only four they sold.

This did put Knowland in an interesting position, being probably the first non-Schulz art credit on a book “by Charles M. Schulz”. It would be years before art credits would become standard on such nominally-by-Schulz enterprises as some of the book adaptation of animated specials.

Talking to him, you can tell that this event remains a point of pride, decades later. As well it should.

The fame game

My co-writer on Charles M. Schulz: The Art and Life of the Peanuts Creator in 100 Objects, curator Benjamin L. Clark, is interviewed on the latest episode of the Unpacking Peanuts podcast, so if you liked him on his AAUGH Blog Podcast episode, there’s more of him! Now, I usually …

The AAUGH Blogger on “It’s a Podcast, Charlie Brown”

William Pepper has a podcast where he is recapping and reviewing all of the animated Peanuts, piece by piece. Thirteen episodes in, he decides to vary from the format to have his first guest – me, the AAUGH Blogger. It’s playable below (or, if you’re getting this via email, here’s …