By People Staff
January 01, 2000 12:00 PM

His kite was always stuck up a tree. He never booted Lucy’s football or won the heart of the Little Red-Haired Girl. But we are the real losers, for we won’t have Charlie Brown to see get kicked around anymore. Last month cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, 77, suffering from colon cancer, announced he was retiring and—after a final Sunday feature Feb. 13—putting Lucy, Linus, Snoopy and the rest of the lovable Peanuts gang to bed. Growing up in St. Paul, Schulz read the comics with his father (who nicknamed him Sparky after the horse Spark Plug in the Barney Google strip) and learned to draw from a correspondence course. Peanuts debuted on Oct. 2, 1950, in seven papers; it now appears in 2,600, with 355 million readers worldwide. “I never realized how many Charlie Browns there were in the world. I thought I was the only one,” Schulz once said, marveling at the appeal of his alter ego. Fellow cartoonists are as saddened as his fans. “He said this was not the way he planned to end it,” says Cathy creator Cathy Guisewite, who phoned Schulz and his wife, Jean, at their Santa Rosa, Calif., home on Christmas. “But he sounded great. He deserves a life without deadlines.” In this exclusive, PEOPLE asked the country’s premier cartoonists to pull out their pens, sit at their drawing boards and salute the artist they consider their friend and mentor.

JIM DAVIS

Cartoons featuring animals with human emotions (like Davis’s Garfield) owe a lot of their cuddly appeal to Schulz.

STAN LEE

The artist behind Spider-Man salutes Snoopy, whom Schultz based on a boyhood pet he described as “the smartest dog I’d ever seen.”

CATHY GUISEWITE

When she first met Schulz in San Francisco in 1977, “I felt like I was meeting God,” recalls the Cathy cartoonist.

CHRIS BROWNE

The artist who draws Hägar the Horrible says Schulz inspired him to do his own strip.

MORT WALKER

The men of Beetle Bailey bid a fond farewell to ace pilot Snoopy, a legend in his own mind.

MELL LAZARUS

“Peanuts has gotten better the longer it has run,” says Momma’s creator, a longtime Schulz pal.

JOHNNY HART

The B.C. caveman may tempt him to keep writing, but Schulz has said he wants to focus on his health and family.

KEVIN FAGAN

“It’s mind-boggling what he’s produced,” says the creator of Drabble, who will miss, among others things, Linus and his security blanket.

PATRICK MCDONNELL

“When I was a kid, I wrote Schulz a letter telling him that he should put a cat in his strip,” says the Mutts artist (imitating a 1950 Peanuts cartoon). “Imagine the nerve of that!”

GREG EVANS

The Luann artist is amazed that Peanuts “appeals to 5-year-olds and 90-year-olds. Do you know how hard that is?”

SCOTT ADAMS

Unlike Adams’s office drone Dilbert, Schulz, who drew his comic strip all by himself some 365 days a year, had a terrific work ethic.

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