To some, they resemble “Peanuts” characters – if Charlie Brown and the gang had ever grown up.
These rare curiosities intrigue and baffle even the experts. “They’re a puzzle to me,” says Jean Schulz, wife of the late cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, who drew them.
They are the seven black-and-white works of comic art from the mid-’50s collectively called the “Hagemeyer” strips. Four of them have appeared in books. The three other “lost” strips were found and purchased at auction in May 2020 – but have never been widely published, according to the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.
The seven “Hagemeyer” originals will go on public display for the first time June 17 at the museum’s gallery space in Santa Rosa, Calif., as the centerpiece of an exhibition titled “Adults by Schulz.” And some viewers will inevitably try to draw comparisons to “Peanuts.”
Yet unlike Schulz’s famous creation – which never pictured its adult figures – the “Hagemeyer” samples show only adults. The characters include a meek office worker named Elmer Hagemeyer and a shouting boss, named Miss Hamhock, who throws haymakers with the familiar wham of Lucy Van Pelt in “Peanuts.”
The seven samples were created several years after the 1950 debut of “Peanuts”; the museum believes Schulz pitched “Hagemeyer” as a potential feature to his distributor, United Feature Syndicate, which apparently passed on launching it. Schulz started several comic features during that decade, including the sports-and-games panel “It’s Only a Game” and the religiously themed gag panel “Young Pillars,” which centered on adolescence.
After the museum acquired the three rediscovered “Hagemeyer” originals last year – the seller remained anonymous – Schulz officials were able to glean a bit more about the strip’s concept, including who the title character was. (The museum now owns all seven pen-and-ink works, each about 29 by 7 inches, which still show the cartoonist’s underlying pencil lines.)
The “Peanuts” creator, who died in 2000, “had wanted to draw an adventure strip,” Jean Schulz says during a recent Zoom call, noting that her husband often drew adults, including in his Army sketchbooks from World War II – illustrations that ranged from the grittily realistic to the more humorously rendered. She adds, “He was a firm believer that you have to know how to draw something before you can cartoon it.”
Not long after “Peanuts” launched, Charles Schulz and a friend, artist Jim Sasseville, pitched an adventure-story collaboration titled “Joe Cipher.” It was rejected, with an executive at Schulz’s syndicate saying, “Please don’t attempt it if it cuts into ‘Peanuts,’ my first love.” Yet the “Hagemeyer” art suggests how determined Schulz was to launch another feature.
Gender and office politics reflective of the era are on display, such as when Hagemeyer says, “I just can’t get used to having a woman for a boss.”
“Hagemeyer” also has sparked questions about Schulz’s creative inspiration – and any “Peanuts” connection.
“He’s just trying to tap into something that might work – I think he’s trying to pitch his best thing,” says Schulz Museum curator Benjamin L. Clark. “He’s thinking as a comic-strip connoisseur, and I don’t think of them as grown-up ‘Peanuts.'”
One connection that is concrete is between the real-life Schulz friend named Hagemeyer and appearances of that name in Schulz comics.
Elmer Roy Hagemeyer and Schulz met while posted in Kentucky during World War II. The young Schulz was visibly homesick, so Cpl. Hagemeyer, a decade older, “big-brothered” Schulz, he later said – even bringing his fellow soldier to his St. Louis home to spend time with him and his wife. “He needed somebody to help him and make him feel more secure,” Hagemeyer later said of their time at Camp Campbell.
Nearly a decade after the war, Schulz would visit Hagemeyer in St. Louis. Perhaps “he was looking around for another idea” during the trip, Clark says.
In “Peanuts” adventures, “Hagemeyer” would later be the married name of Linus Van Pelt’s teacher, as well as the surname of Marcie’s music teacher. There also was a lonely camper, warmly befriended by Charlie Brown, named Roy.
The office strip that never launched joins that list of real-life references from the pen of Charles “Sparky” Schulz.
Still, Jean Schulz says, when looking at the “Hagemeyer” art: “I don’t see Sparky in it.”