Santa Rosa cartoonist of LGBT comic strip draws inspiration from ‘Peanuts’

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There’s hardly a cartoonist alive who hasn’t taken at least some influence from Charles M. Schulz. His legendary “Peanuts” comic strip has entertained audiences across the globe and, in its 65-year run, has inspired countless writers and artists to create their own comics.

One such person is Paige Braddock, current creative director of Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates and writer of the Eisner Award nominated Web comic “Jane’s World,” the first gay-themed comic to be widely distributed.

Braddock started working for Schulz a year before his death in 2000. Today, she works in the Peanuts Studio reviewing all licensed products that contain “Peanuts” artwork, in conjunction with a licensing firm in New York City. She looks over everything from toys to T-shirts, making sure they are appropriate and fit the voices of Schulz’s timeless characters. From time to time, she also will contribute illustrations to books featuring “Peanuts” artwork. On top of this is original work that includes the all-ages graphic novel “Stinky Cecil,” released in February.

Since 2012, Braddock also has helped produce a new ongoing comic book series starring Charlie Brown and the gang, working with a team of writers and artists to produce new adventures for the characters every month. She also has collaborated with fellow author and illustrator Vicki Scott on a series of “Peanuts” graphic novels, the most recent being “Where Beagles Dare,” which was released in September.

After Schulz died, his children requested that the comic strip not be continued, so the syndicated honored their wishes. In other uses, Schulz requested that the characters stay true to the way they were originally written, something that Braddock said she takes very seriously in her job as creative director of the Peanuts Studio.

“Keeping on-model with the voices is one of the toughest challenges,” she said. When the editors have a question about how characters like Sally or Woodstock would react to a given situation, they always go back to the original comics.

Braddock also has been involved with “The Peanuts Movie” from Blue Sky Studios, making sure that the characters are well represented and overseeing the products that were made for the movie.

Braddock’s two favorite characters are Linus and Snoopy, but the ones she finds most fun to write are Peppermint Patty and Marcie. “They are weirdly funny,” she said.

Braddock first met Schulz in 1994 at a meeting of the National Cartoonist Society, but they had known of each other long before then. By the time Braddock met Schulz, the two had already been corresponding with each other since 1985, as both had the same editor in New York.

The ongoing comic is published by “Kaboom!” studios, which is also responsible for the revival of classic King Comics’ characters such as Flash Gordon and The Phantom. Once a month, a team of writers and artists meet to pitch and evaluate story ideas for upcoming issues before splitting up to work on their individual projects.

Braddock wanted to get a job in cartooning since she began reading the Sunday comics at 7 and has a long distinguished career in her own right. Her most famous work is “Jane’s World,” about the everyday life of a lesbian woman. It was first conceived in 1991 when Braddock was working for the Chicago Tribune. It was meant for a special section of the Tribune dealing with news for women, but when that fell through, Braddock made it into a stand-alone comic instead.

While Braddock is one of the most notable LGBT cartoonists in the industry, she said she doesn’t know if her sexuality has much of an impact on her work.

“I think my work has been more effected by publishing online,” she said, “because that’s how I got ‘Jane’s World’ started.”

On the plus side, her gender preference hasn’t been a big hindrance to her choice in careers either, although it’s less to do with cartooning being more liberal and more to do with cartooning already being a niche market.

“Comics is a hard field,” she said, “because it’s so specialized and there are only so many outlets for publication.”

With a new comic book series, an upcoming graphic novel and “The Peanuts Movie” set to premiere Nov. 6, Schulz’ motley crew continues to entertain, and Braddock will be there to make sure they remain true to the vision created by her one-time mentor and friend. A special oversized issue of the comic was released in February, celebrating two years in print and 65 years of the seminal franchise.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the Eisner Award and information about the fate of the “Peanuts” comic after Charles Schulz’ death. This story has been updated to correct the errors.

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