It always comes as a shock when I hear of someone’s passing—especially if my memories are mostly of the person with Sparky, whose passing was itself 20 years ago.
So I was indeed shocked when a mutual friend told me that Thomas Inge had passed away on May 15. Inge was one of the first professors to teach comics as popular culture, as well as being the author of Charles M. Schulz: Conversations (University Press of Mississippi) which was published in 2000, shortly after Sparky’s passing.
We first met Thomas Inge at The Oakland Museum’s 1986 Peanuts exhibition, The Graphic Art of Charles Schulz. Tom had written an essay for the exhibition catalogue and was a guest of the museum’s. The two men hit it off, and Tom came to visit us several times in Santa Rosa, and at least once with his wife, Donaria, who was from Brazil.
I remember his imposing presence in the room and his always fascinating conversation about literature and current events. It was a pleasure to just listen to Tom, Sparky, and our good friend Mark Cohen as they discussed cartoons, cartoonists, and the state of the industry.
That was 24 years ago, and over these past 20 years I have referred to Tom’s book, Conversations, as the “go to” book for anyone who wants to know about Sparky. In fact, it is compulsory reading for our Museum volunteers. Within the covers they find quotes they themselves can use in conversation with visitors—allowing them to share Sparky’s thoughts word-for-word.
In Conversations, Tom collected all of Sparky’s interviews from the 1956 Hugh Morrow interview in the Saturday Evening Post titled, “The Success of Utter Failure.”
Tom’s second book having to do with Schulz and Peanuts is titled, My Life With Charlie Brown. Rather than interviews, it is a collection of Sparky’s incidental writings: speeches, forwards to the work of others, speeches, and unpublished writings.
I love the fact that through his books Tom will live on