jumpstart Creator Robb Armstrong narrates news week that he drew Charlie Brown and Snoopy since he was 5 years old.
“When I was a little boy I thought I could draw peanuts Characters just as good as Charles Schulz – and the reason I believed that is because my mother told me so,” laughed Armstrong.
Although he says he drew “rudimentary” versions of the characters, his family and friends were amazed and told everyone they knew that they needed to see Armstrong draw.
“My gift was that I was fearless and fast. I didn’t have to rehearse, I didn’t have to sketch anything in advance. I could just draw Snoopy right in front of someone. … The faster I do that, the more excited people got — even today,” he said. “I think it’s some kind of magic trick – there’s a piece of paper, nothing on it. Then, a few seconds later, there it is.”
Armstrong drew throughout his childhood and had a college streak, bullying, in the student newspaper at Syracuse University. Even though bullying didn’t make the jump to syndication, in 1989 he founded jumpstartand was signed to United Features Syndicate, which also transacted peanuts. He was only 26 at the time, particularly young for a nationally syndicated cartoonist – but he had a request as soon as he signed his deal with United Features.
“And I immediately – the ink wasn’t dry. And I’m not making this part up for the sake of the story. The ink on my contract wasn’t dry. As I leaned in to my editor, Sarah Gillespie, and I said, “Great, I’m so glad we got this part done. Can I meet Charles Schulz now?” And she said ‘What?’ I said, “I think it’s time for me to meet Charles Schulz. My deal is done and he’s my hero!” Armstrong said.
Gillespie said it didn’t really work that way, but suggested sending Schulz one of his strips. The strip he sent was from his first month’s worth jumpstart Strips featuring the character Marcy singing “Hang on, Snoopy” in the shower. Her husband Joe walks in and tells her that the McCoys’ hit song is actually “Hang on, Sloopy,” and there’s a bit of back-and-forth, but she accepts her mistake – and sings “Snoopy” right back.
This was indeed the way to get Schulz’s attention and he sent an original in return peanuts.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen an original peanuts, but it’s about two or three times the size of your average comic strip. A jumpstart The strip is about 14 inches wide, maybe 5 inches high… It’s small, like the size of a soccer ball. An original peanuts is the size of your computer screen. It’s huge,” he said. “My only correspondence with this guy was the cartoon ‘Hang on Sloopy.’ … That was the most overwhelming thing. It shook me more than signing the deal of a lifetime, strange as that may sound.”
Still, it wasn’t really possible to get an original strip To meet Schulz, so Armstrong insisted. He tried again to convince Gillespie to introduce her, but she again declined, pointing out that every cartoonist wanted to meet Schulz. But hope came in the form of the late comic book art collector and realtor Mark J. Cohen.
Cohen reached out to Armstrong to see if he would be interested in selling some of his original artwork. He was also close friends with Schulz and he arranged a meeting. Armstrong was living in Philadelphia at the time, but was more than happy to fly to California to meet his hero.
Schulz invited him to his famously spartan workplace. Schulz always said he was easily distracted and needed an almost bare space so he could concentrate on his work.
“I think I died and went to heaven. I go into his office – and I repeat, there really isn’t anything that would look interesting at first sight. There’s nothing in there, his drafting table and his desk – and one thing is on the wall in a frame. It’s ‘Hang on Sloopy’ by jump-start”, said Armstrong. “I was overcome with disbelief — not disBelieve, U.NBelieve. And I think I said, ‘Oh, I see what you did, that’s very sweet. Mark told you I was coming, you dug that thing up and had it framed.'”
“He said, ‘Do you really think I would do that?’ As, [he was] almost offended somehow? “I didn’t mean to offend you, it’s just, I get it. I understand completely. I understand why you did that.” He said, “Apparently no, you didn’t. You don’t understand why I did it. jump start is great. rob, jumpstart has what peanuts has: great characters. And that’s the whole thing.’ Quote end of quote. “You can have as long a career as you want because that’s what it’s about peanuts has received. This is the engine. I like your strip, that’s why it’s on my wall,'” continued Armstrong, quoting Schulz.
This was the first step in a friendship that lasted over the years and eventually led to Armstrong being asked to give the icon his last name peanuts character Franklin.
Armstrong will perform at the Peanuts pop-up exhibit in San Diego’s Gaslamp District at 200 J. Street, Suite 105 – near San Diego Comic-Con. He is scheduled to appear on Thursday, July 21 at 7:30 p.m. for An Evening with Robb Armstrong and the following evening, July 22 at 7:30 p.m. for Talking Iconic Black Comic Characters. Additionally, Armstrong Project recipients Hailey Cartwright and Promise Robinson will be appearing at Comic-Con with Peanuts Worldwide.