Drawing cartoons, Charles M. Schulz has said, is his life.

His life, then, presumably, is going on hold for five weeks--as the creator and illustrator of Peanuts takes a breather from his long-running cartoon strip. The sabbatical coincided with Schulz's 75th birthday on Wednesday.

"I've been thinking of taking some time off for a long time," the father of Charlie Brown, Linus, Snoopy, et. al, told the Associated Press. "I wondered if pressure has affected me. I think Jeannie has noticed I've been uneasy the last year or so. Wives notice these things."

The 2,600 newspapers that go to press with Peanuts on their funny pages everyday will run reruns of the strip for the duration of Schulz's vacation--the first gap in the strip since he sold it to United Features Syndicate in 1950.

Schulz is not intending to hang up the pencil for good. He told the AP: "The only thing that would stop me is if I had an illness and couldn't work."

Schulz does have a slight tremor in his hands, but that wasn't cited as a reason behind the self-imposed exile. No, there was nothing more particular or dire than the slight malaise that the alter ego of mopey Charlie Brown hinted at.

In the past, old-school cartoonists like Schulz have been critical of their presumably flakier baby-boomer brethren--successful artists who burned out writing bubble captions and called it a day.

Gary Larson quit on The Far Side in 1995; Berkeley Breathed, ended Bloom County in 1989, and later, his weekly spin-off strip, Outland. Doonesbury's Garry Trudeau pioneered the take-a-break philosophy in 1983, getting out of the panel business for 21 months to clear his head.

Schulz has previously brushed aside any notion that the task of creating a daily cartoon strip is a grind. He's never farmed out art work, or writing chores to assistants. He's dutifully worked six weeks ahead of publication deadlines for years.

"Why do musicians compose symphonies and poets write poems?" Schulz once asked. "They do it because life wouldn't have any meaning for them if they didn't."

If Schulz ever did decide to retire for keeps, Charlie Brown and his round-headed friends would be sent packing, too. Schulz has a contract clause that states there is no Peanuts without Charles M. Schulz.

"It was my kids' idea," Schulz said. "[My daughter] said, 'We don't want anyone else drawing Dad's strip. And I agree."

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