What’s Her Story: Carrying on the ‘Peanuts’ Legacy While Drawing Her Own, Too

Paige Braddock, Snoopy, Peanuts, Jane, Jane's World, lesbian, comic, groundbreaking comic book, Charles M. Schulz, creative director

Paige Braddock, in a photo by her wife, Evelyn Braddock

The “Peanuts” holiday shows are seasonal classics enjoyed now by several generations. Starting with Halloween’s “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and going through to “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” the beloved comic strip characters Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Woodstock and, of course, Snoopy work their magic every time.

But for Paige Braddock, the “Peanuts” gang is a year-round job of spreading sweet bliss. She is the creative director at Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates in Northern California. Paige oversees the visual and editorial direction for all “Peanuts” licensed products all over the world. A cartoonist herself, she has drawn several “Peanuts” books, the Snoopy U.S. postage stamp, and the Newsweek cover of Snoopy when Schulz died in February 2000.

Paige, a former Atlantan with deep Southern roots,  also creates her own characters. She has written and drawn the groundbreaking comic “Jane’s World” since the ‘90s, among other projects. “Jane’s World” is about a sweet-natured, romantically befuddled lesbian and her group of friends. It became the first gay-themed comic to receive national syndication when it was picked up for Internet distribution in 2001. Paige started a publishing company to make it available in comic shops and bookstores. (Check out her home page, PB9.com.)

Up next for this endlessly creative storyteller? A new illustrated children’s book, plus her first novel next year — and still running “Peanuts,” of course, created by her childhood hero, Schulz, who handpicked her for the job.

What does it mean to be creative director of Peanuts, Inc.?

It basically means you look at a lot of stuff featuring the “Peanuts” characters. Everything: pajamas, T-shirts, toothbrushes, slippers, tennis shoes, nail decals, video games and apps, books, animated commercials for MetLife. It’s to make sure items meet with our editorial standards and don’t use any “Peanuts” characters in inappropriate ways. Like, no profanity, or alcohol use would be two obvious elements to look for, but most of the time it’s much more subtle. For example, the characters need to stay “in character.” Linus should never sound like Lucy and vise versa. People ask sometimes what my typical day is like and it’s sort of impossible to describe. We do a little of everything at the studio and, on top of art direction, I actually still draw the characters from time to time for various uses.

Do you mind telling how you came to this job?

PicMonkey CollageCBI met Schulz — everyone called him Sparky — several times at National Cartoonist Society gatherings and one time, after I’d given a talk in San Antonio, he just came up out of the blue and asked if I wanted a job. I accepted immediately, not really knowing at the time what the job would involve. I think he’d been thinking of stepping away from all the demands of the licensing side of his business — basically, all the “stuff” — so that he could just focus on his comic strip. He wanted help with art direction for the licensed product. He never even advertised for the job. We just sort of met and something I said during the presentation struck a chord with him.

What was he like, Schulz? How was it becoming friends with someone you admired so much?

He was everything you’d hope the creator of “Peanuts” would be. Really. It was nice to meet someone you’ve admired forever and have them actually meet your expectations.

Can you share an example?

One of the things I liked about Sparky was that he took lunch very seriously, as do I. He took a lunch break at the same time every day no matter what was going on. We could be in the middle of some high-level discussion with a potential licensee and when 11:30 rolled around he’d say, “Well, it’s time for lunch.” I loved that. He would also show up at the door to my office with donuts or other desserts around 3 p.m. He’d say something like, “I’ve got this apple pie. Where should we eat it?” And then I’d follow him into the conference room for pie, coffee and some great discussion about theology. His observations were always funny and unique.

As a storyteller, what’s your role in carrying on what he started?

We try not to create new stories with the characters. But that’s not always entirely possible because, as we move the content to different platforms, like digital, we have to alter the content to fit the format. In those cases we use the comic strip as our “Bible.” Luckily, Schulz gave us 50 years of material to use as a guide. I see my role as one of stewardship, not authorship. I encourage everyone on the studio staff to employ the same approach.

How is that different from the work you do on “Jane’s World” and other projects that you originated?

It’s very different in terms of content. But I’ve learned a lot about character and story integrity from working on “Peanuts” over the years. Might as well learn from the master, right?

“Jane’s World” is doing great. How long have you been drawing it now?

I started “Jane’s World” in earnest back in 1995. There were even some early character sketches and single panel comics featuring Jane as far back as 1991 when I was working for the Chicago Tribune.

 

Paige Braddock, Jane's World, lesbian, comic, cartoon, Snoopy, Peanuts, Schulz

Jane’s World

She’s kinda you, right? Sorta?

Only in our shared love of donuts and our hairstyles.

What draws you to telling stories through comics, rather than just writing or just drawing?

Funny you should ask. I actually wrote a novel this past year and it will be released in May of 2015 from Bold Strokes Books. I’m writing it under a pen name. It’s a lesbian adventure romance. … Graphic novels and comics are very labor-intensive, and I just decided to tell a story rather than draw a story. It was kind of liberating, but hard at the same time. I realized how much I rely on the drawing to relay an emotion or feeling that, in a narrative, has to be represented in words. 

What’s your favorite comic?

Besides “Peanuts,” my favorite modern comic is “Cul de sac.” Hilarious.

As a reader, do you like them online or in print?

Definitely in print.

Does Snoopy tweet? Is Charlie Brown on Facebook?

Yes to both questions. Peanuts social media is managed by our licensing office in New York, Peanuts Worldwide.


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Why Social Media Storytelling is Like a Good Burger

PRSA, Georgia, Atlanta, Maggiano's, public relations, internal communications, business communications, social media, storytelling, facebook, twitter, instagram, children's hospital of atlanta, fleishmanHillard, Georgia Tech, Tech

My burger of choice is at Yeah! Burger, and here Steven Norris and I disagree. He’s more a Bocado man.

I love a good burger and I love storytelling. But it took a Georgia Tech social media pro to connect them for me today.

Social media storytelling is a lot like a good burger, Steven Norris said at a panel discussion sponsored by the Georgia chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. A burger should be handcrafted, authentic and multi-layered, just like many stories told via social media. Different channels are like various toppings and condiments — with content being the meat patty and analytics the bun.

I like the idea, largely because it puts content as the centerpiece, regardless of, say, condiments or toppings. It will vary from project to project whether we employ chiefly Twitter, Facebook, any of the others or a combination of some of them. Maybe you lead with a nice slice of American cheese, squirt on a little ketchup and mustard and add some pickle slices today. Tomorrow, you keep it to a simple double-stack with mayo and lettuce. Wrap it all up in fresh-baked analytics, and you’re good to go.

PRSA, Georgia, Atlanta, Maggiano's, public relations, internal communications, business communications, social media, storytelling, facebook, twitter, instagram, children's hospital of atlanta, fleishmanHillard, Georgia Tech, Tech

Maria Jewett and Meg Flynn, with Steven Norris’s slide on the social media storytelling/burger recipe.

You get what he meant.

Some other nice moments from him and the other two panelists:

  • Steven: Any good social media post drives readers back to your website.
  • Maria Jewett of FleishmanHillard: “Having a great cause and having a great story will help your brand grow.”
  • Maria: “I am the editor of my own personal story and so are all of you” — and it’s not much different working for brands or companies.
  • Meg Flynn of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta: It’s better to focus on original content (including images) than repurpose marketing material and stock photos.

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Featured Image -- 1953

9 Times An Editor Would’ve Helped

Jay Croft:

These kind of compilations are always fun, and thanks to 101books blog for putting this one together. (A minor quibble: This shows the need for proofreaders and copy editors. The term “editor” is so broad and often means people who provide other tasks as well. But anyone who has been in publishing — or read a blog post like this! — knows how invaluable copy editors and proofreaders are.)

Originally posted on 101 Books:

Editors are my favorite.

They are the unsung heroes of the content world. Writers get all the credit, but editors make the content sing.

If someone ever tells you that editing isn’t that important, or that anyone can do it, or that you don’t really need to hire an editor for your article or book, then you should know this: You’ve just received the worse piece of writing advice in the history of writing advice.

Everyone needs an editor. Even the President of the United States.

Need proof? Here are just a few of the many times using an editor would have been highly beneficial. 

View original 168 more words

Building the BeltLine Culture in Atlanta: ‘I Want to Be a Part of That’

I just got in from a bike ride on the Atlanta BeltLine, where it’s no surprise that everyone loves it. I was curious if people had an opinion about something I heard this week from a top editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The BeltLine will be bigger for Atlanta than the 1996 Olympics were.

I was never a big believer in the scientific veracity of “man on the street” interviews. But they can be fun and, as was the case today, illuminating.

Atlanta, Atlanta BeltLine, BeltLine, North Avenue, bikes, bicycle, trees atlanta, jake's ice cream, Piedmont Park, Inman Park, Krog

Daniel Keiger is a big fan of the BeltLine and hopes it lives up to its full potential.

I found Daniel Keiger lounging in the sun outside Atlanta BeltLine Bicycle. He loves the positive, creative energy the trail fosters, and notes that it just keeps building on itself. Like others I spoke to (and the AJC’s senior managing editor Bert Roughton) he said the permanency of the project could mean it indeed will have a great effect on Atlanta. “There’s apartments going up everywhere here,” he said. “Everything leftover from the Olympics is going to be torn down. You know Turner Field is gonna be gone” with the Braves leaving downtown.

I stopped in for ice cream at Jake’s, because who wouldn’t, and I met a guy behind the counter who gave his name as just Kenya. “I love the BeltLine. It keeps it moving — that energy of it, people expending their energy getting around on their own. I love the area, period. It’s going to do nothing but get better.”

And my favorite quote came from Anthony Spina, who’s moving here from New Jersey to open a pizza shop in the same building as Jake’s (on the Irwin Street end). He told me he chose that location partly because of the trail, and he is proud to live without a car, noting the eco-friendly nature of the BeltLine. He likes seeing folks walking their dogs and jogging, but notes there’s more to it than just recreation. There’s real community, he said. “It’s the culture of the BeltLine. I want to be a part of that.”


EARLIER:  Journalists offer advice for the BeltLine

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No Surprise: John Rocker Does as John Rocker Does on ‘Survivor’

John Rocker, Survivor, Braves, closer, baseball, pitcher, asshole, jerk, bigot, racist, homophobe, Sports Illustrated, New York, subway, queer with aids

John Rocker on “Survivor” — sorry, big guy

Predictability can be good in some stories, like the one about John Rocker and “Survivor.”

Before the season started, I wrote that the ex-Braves closer/infamous jackass wouldn’t last three episodes on the reality show, on which contestants must “outplay, outlast, outwit” each other. Big, aggressive jock types never do well on “Survivor,” and Rocker’s temper and lack of social skills would do him in quickly, I said.

And I was right! Wednesday on episode 3, the opposing tribe called out Rocker for some questionable play and for the Sports Illustrated article that obviously haunts him still. Rocker took the bait, telling a woman that he’d punch her teeth out if she were a man, and then proposing a fight. That made Rocker’s own tribe nervous, and they booted him.

Best part?

“I had a damn (immunity) idol right in my pocket, too,” Rocker said after the vote. So he joined the ranks of embarrassed contestants who got ejected while holding a free pass.

“Survivor” is such a great show, often a microcosm of real-life social interaction, and in this case a repeat of it.

And John Rocker? He’s a gift that keeps on giving.


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4 Tips for the Atlanta BeltLine from Top Journalists

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The BeltLine, one of the country’s most ambitious urban renewal projects, rises above North Avenue here.

The Atlanta BeltLine got some free advice from five journalists talking to a roomful of public relations professionals this morning.

  1. The BeltLine could become the biggest thing to happen to the city since the 1996 Olympics – bigger than the Games, maybe, since it will be permanent.
  2. The BeltLine might be too popular (crowded) for its own good.
  3. But residents are still going to be worried about security at night.
  4. And, finally, BeltLine neighbor Kroger “should just own (the nickname) ‘Murder Kroger.’”

The forum at the Mandarin Hotel in Buckhead was put on by The Wilbert Group, a PR agency owned by two of my former colleagues at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tony and Caroline Wilbert. Another, ex-AJC Business editor Mark Braykovich, further shows the agency’s deep roots in news. The AJC’s senior managing editor, Bert Roughton, was on the panel, along with:

  • Melissa Long of 11 Alive TV News
  • Steve Fennessy, editor of Atlanta magazine
  • Richard Fausset, Atlanta correspondent for The New York Times
  • Anita Sharpe, Atlanta bureau chief at Bloomberg

Topics included top stories of the year, the upcoming elections, commercial real estate and more. Other highlights tweeted live from the audience included:

@SavannahBDuncan The @AtlantaBeltLine is an important project but security is a concern says @MelissaLong

@HadleyHCreek The Atlanta beltline has been huge in attracting companies and people back to the city core – @BloombergNews Anita Sharpe

@lianamoran “Younger people want a walking city” – @BloombergNews on the @AtlantaBeltLine

@CarolineWilbert “What is the big thought? That is always the question from New York Times.” — NYT bureau chief

@adahatzios Panel agrees that commercial real estate is back…more cranes in town, urban centers growing in places like Roswell & Woodstock

@conorsen  Atlanta, with no natural boundaries, is defined by [transportation infrastructure and] commercial real estate.

@JBryantFisher Will the new Buckhead work? #ATL‘s top newsies debate the new feel of a city grappling with transportation cramps. #coveringatlanta

@MaryJaneCredeur Surprised by how many young business professionals say they plan to vote for @carter4governor. -Anita Sharpe, Bloomberg.

@AR__PR  .@MelissaLong says you can get just as much traction from an online story as one on the air. #coveringatlanta

And here’s The Wilbert Group’s nice SlideShare about the event. Good stuff for anyone interested in news and its coverage in our city.


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10 Pics from the College Football Hall of Fame, Atlanta’s Latest Tourist Addition

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The wall of helmets greets visitors. It’s pretty impressive and lots of fun.

With millions of college football fans glued to the tube this time of year, downtown Atlanta is marking its first season as home of the new College Football Hall of Fame.

It opened in August. It’s a beautiful facility, with more than 90,000 square feet of historical artifacts, displays, interactive features, photos and lots more. The hall is also the latest Really Cool Thing to have downtown, after the Center for Civil and Human Rights across Centennial Olympic Park.

I’m not a college football fan, but I get that many people are. So if you’re watching the game and want something to look at during commercials, check out my pictures here. And plan a trip to the hall. Great stuff.

Click on an image to make it bigger; mouse over to see caption.

EARLIER: Why ‘BeltLine culture’ is so much more than biking

EARLIER: John Rocker is as John Rocker does on ‘Survivor’

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Between 277 and 3,262 Reasons I Won’t Be Seeing Fleetwood Mac in Concert

That’s the range of ticket prices I found on a quick check on Ticketmaster and StubHub: $277 each for nosebleeds behind the stage; $3,262.40 EACH for front row center.

Have mercy, baby. Love me some Mac, but that’s too rich for me. How about you?

Here’s a free YouTube video from their 1982 Mirage tour, instead.

The Story of My Lifelong Love Affair with Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac, Atlanta, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, reunion tour, Rumours, 1977

Back in the day, John McVie and Christine McVie were divorcing; Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were breaking up; and Mick Fleetwood’s marriage was ending while they wrote and recorded “Rumours.” It’s still one of the biggest-selling albums ever.

Fleetwood Mac was everywhere in the summer of 1977, including the back seat of my parents’ Oldsmobile.

We were moving to another state, far away. I was 13. And near the beginning of the trip, I found “Rumours” on sale for $3.99 in Eugene, Ore. A friend convinced me to scoop up the bargain, the first album I ever bought.

It was on vinyl, long before personal cassette players, and our car didn’t even have an eight-track player. So for the unfolding weeks of that sultry season, across the country and halfway back again, I guarded the album from heat, unable to play it but convinced I’d scored a deal because my friend — who was a little older, much more physically mature and impossibly more sophisticated than I was — had told me so.

Fleetwood Mac, Atlanta, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, reunion tour, Rumours, 1977

… and today. The tour, with Christine McVie back behind the keyboard, stops in Atlanta on Dec. 17 at Philips Arena.

Plus, the music was inescapable and, for reasons I couldn’t begin to understand, I knew I loved it, even then. The churning rhythms. The gorgeous harmonies. The Southern California glamour. The already famous infighting among the band’s lovers — songs by three startlingly individualistic writers on an album that morphed to provide, as one critic put it, the audio equivalent of a soap opera told from three different characters’ points of view.

“Oh, Daddy, you know you make me cry. . .”

“Take your silver spoon and dig your grave . . .”

“You can call it another lonely day . . .”

Art from Drama

The back cover of "Rumours"The band had two couples, both breaking up while the album was made, and there’s blood and tears all over it. Back then, I knew nothing about love or its demise. But I already knew I liked a sharp turn of phrase and was drawn to larger-than-life characters, and this band had five.

And, although I didn’t fully realize it until later in life, I wonder whether the epic cohesiveness of the record tapped into some innate understanding I had of alchemy, the magical process of creating something grander than any of its parts.

Sure, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie are a top-flight rhythm section. Of course Lindsey Buckingham is a fabulous guitarist, Stevie Nicks an enchanting beauty and Christine McVie a pristine vocalist and journeyman musician. But put them together, and there was history. Let them all break up with each other at the same time, and forget it.

After “Rumours,” they continued to create, throughout the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, music that played large parts on the soundtrack of my life — some forced upon us all as mere members of the planet and some, quite deliberately, chosen by me to illustrate my very own affairs of the heart.Buckingham’s self-torture. Nicks’ self-worship. Christine McVie’s nurturing earthiness.

As much as I love Fleetwood Mac’s music, I know that millions of people feel the same way. It’s a powerful connection, and it’s lasted all these years like a bell through the night.

VIDEOS of their 10 best songs, voted by Rolling Stone readers 

Then Play On

Fleetwood Mac, Atlanta, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, reunion tour, Rumours, 1977

The gorgeous “Mirage” cover, 1982… “the gypsy that remains…”

Beyond my family’s move in 1977, I remember that early video with the University of Southern California marching band for “Tusk.” Then, a few years later, my love — timeless and sublime (just a wish) — on her parents’ porch in Denver, the wind whipping her hair as she listened to “Mirage.” And, in the early ’90s, a date with someone 10 years younger who had no idea: “Stevie Nicks? Who’s he?” I even wrote an early version of this post for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution a decade ago, when the band released “Say You Will” without Christine McVie, who had retired.

Now, 37 years after my family’s long drive, I’m in my Atlanta condo listening to an iTunes playlist of Mac classics. Nicks is everywhere in the media — traditional and social – promoting her new solo CD and the band’s tour, which started this week, its first with Christine McVie since the late ’90s. It stops here in Atlanta in December.

Most of them are in their 70s now. They’ve been together off and on for 40 years. Drummer Fleetwood has come back from his improbable bankruptcy, John McVie from his recent cancer diagnosis, and Christine McVie from early retirement in England. Nicks has survived drug addiction. And Buckingham, the eccentric genius, has found peace with gaudy success.

I’m 50 now. It’s been a long time since that summer of “Rumours.” But I still see those bright eyes. And I’m still fallin’, fallin’ . . . fallin’ . . .


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What I Learned from 3 Musicians in Their Underwear

The Skivvies, Atlanta, Westside Cultural Arts Center, West Midtown, Chappuis, Fay Gold, art gallery, Actor's Express, Broadway Bares, musicians playing almost naked

In Atlanta Saturday night. Yes, they did “It’s Gettin’ Hot in Here.”

So there we were Saturday night, watching a buff young man in nothing but tiny briefs and a curvaceous blonde woman wearing only a Victoria’s Secret bra and panties. He was singing “Love to Love You, Baby” and playing the glockenspiel while she accompanied him on the cello.

This was sometime after the Rhianna tune but before the Carole King number.

Just another fund-raiser in Atlanta? Or a chance to see three essential truths of communications and business brought together by two hot, young Broadway performers who sing and play their barely covered butts off?

The Skivvies, Atlanta, Westside Cultural Arts Center, West Midtown, Chappuis, Fay Gold, art gallery, Actor's Express, Broadway Bares, musicians playing almost naked

In People magazine

They call themselves The Skivvies. From their website:

The Skivvies are Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley, award-winning NYC singer/actor/musicians performing stripped down arrangements of eclectic covers and eccentric originals. Not only is the music stripped down – cello, ukulele, glockenspiel, melodica – but the Skivvies literally strip down to their underwear to perform. The Wall Street Journal calls them “smart, sophisticated…ingenious,” and Out Magazine says, “The Skivvies have managed to carve out a niche that we never knew needed to exist: part Weird Al-parody and part sexy burlesque…and unusual explosion of satire and sultry.”

The duo (along with a percussionist — older, rounder, in boxer shorts) played a benefit for Actor’s Express at the Westside Cultural Arts Center in West Midtown. In other words, an audience used to a high level of performing excellence. And the group delivered so well and definitively that you had to wonder: What’s up with the underwear thing?

And that’s where we get to the three lessons I mentioned before.

  1. Sex sells. No kidding, right? Because who would pay to watch a couple of unattractive Broadway babies in their drawers?
  2. You Gotta Have a Gimmick if you wanna get a hand. Says so in a showtune, right?
  3. Build your brand. “The Skivvies” brand covers the gimmick and the music, and it’s cute and memorable and gently naughty, like the act itself.

There might be a fourth lesson, as well. The Skivvies play fast – mashing up songs, sometimes playing just enough for the audience to recognize one before zipping off to another, usually connected by a theme (generally sexual, some unprintable). A friend pointed out the lesson for today’s communicators and marketers: Don’t take too long. Nobody has time or the attention span. Hit the high note, flash the abs and move on fast.

OK, a fifth lesson: Get back to Pilates.


 

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