Widow of 'Peanuts' Creator Charles M. Schulz on Husband's Legacy and Why She's Rocking the Vote at Comic-Con

Peanuts Rock the Vote campaign's San Diego plans include a pop-up HQ and Thursday panel highlighting the political history of Snoopy and the gang.
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Jean Schulz

With the Republican national convention taking place this week in Cleveland and the Democratic convention following next week in Philadelphia, this year's U.S. presidential election is getting into full swing. San Diego Comic-Con won't be escaping campaign fever, with Peanuts Campaign HQ: 2016 allowing everyone to take part in another important race — choosing which of Charlie Brown's crew would make the best fictional leader of the free world.

The Campaign HQ will be a pop-up venue in the city's Gaslamp district, offering Comic-Con attendees the chance to vote for the Peanuts character of their choice as well as register to vote in the U.S. election in November. Visitors also will be able to Instragram themselves into campaign buttons, collect stickers and learn more about the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Sonoma County, California. The location will be created in partnership with the Rock the Vote campaign, as part of a wider initiative called Peanuts Rock the Vote.

"Rock the Vote first came across my radar screen in 2008, and we were happy to co-operate with them," Jeannie Schulz, widow of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz and president of the museum's board of directors, told The Hollywood Reporter. "It's so hard to get people's attention these days and you have to get their attention first and you have to get their attention many times. We felt that, if we could contribute to that, it would be very worthwhile."

It's a revival of a campaign that ran to great success in 2008, with a similar fictional election driving registration for the real election that elected Barack Obama. As with the original outing, the 2016 campaign will include PSAs from celebrities supporting their chosen candidate, with George Lopez and The Middle's Eden Sher among those lending their voices to the effort this time around.

The element of allowing people to vote for Charlie Brown, Lucy, Sally, Snoopy, Franklin or Linus (the latter being described as "the thoughtful candidate who places a high value on security — in the form of a warm blanket" on his campaign literature) is "the playful part" of the campaign, Schulz believes, and a necessary part of engaging potential voters for the real deal.

"I think that you use that to catch their attention, and then they can pay attention to the serious message behind it," Schulz says. "Even though my husband — who we all call Sparky — said, 'it's only a comic strip,' he put into it everything he knew and thought and read. He was a serious man, he thought seriously about life and about the world, but he could say things and know they'd go down better with humor."

For Schulz, the partnership with Rock the Vote is very much keeping in step with the social and political engagement of the original Peanuts comic strip. "We had an exhibition at the museum maybe a year ago, based around social commentary in Peanuts," she explained, "and there were things in that exhibition, Peanuts strips, that you could not have in the comics pages today. It's very interesting how much more we know, and how much more narrow we have become in many ways."

Schulz was progressive enough, in fact, that as early as 1984, he was speculating about the nation's first female president — more than 30 years before that became a serious possibility. "By the time I've grown up, we'll probably have a woman president," Lucy complained in the March 29 strip that year. "You know what that means, don't you? It means I won't get to be the first one. Boy, that makes me mad!!"

Campaign HQ 2016 is one of two Peanuts promotions for the campaign at Comic-Con this year. On Thursday, the Snoopy for President: Politics in Peanuts panel will feature a discussion about the strip's political history, including the 1968 campaign that led to California law being changed to outlaw including fictional characters as write-in candidates.

More information about Peanuts Campaign HQ 2016 and the Peanuts Rock the Vote can be found at the campaign's official website. As for Jeannie Schulz, she knows who she's planning to vote for — in terms of the Peanuts crew, at least.

"I'd have to go along with Snoopy, because Snoopy can be anyone he wants to be," she says. "Let's face it — you almost have to be a chameleon, and so many things to so many people, as President. Snoopy's not a bad pick."

San Diego Comic-Con runs July 21-24 at the San Diego Convention Center, with the annual Preview Night taking place Wednesday.

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