On what was Snoopy’s birthday, Peanuts Worldwide executives and Harlem’s Fashion Row celebrated a capsule collection inspired by the character “Franklin,” the comic strip’s first and only Black character.
The HFR x Peanuts limited-run assortment was created with Tier Inc. founder Nigeria Ealey. Melissa Menta, senior vice president of marketing and communications, was more than dressed for the occasion, wearing a beta prototype of a Snoopy Apple watch that will be released this fall and a Marc Jacobs-designed Snoopy pendant around her neck.
Snoopy’s birthday is celebrated Aug. 10. “Snoopy doesn’t have an age. He’s ageless. But he’s been in the comic strip since 1950,” Menta said.
Peanuts’ creator Charles Schulz wrote 18,000 strips for 50 years. Unlike some competitors, he was responsible for all of them. “We call the comic strip ‘the bible of Peanuts.’ We stay true to the strip,” Menta said.
Franklin joined the Peanuts characters after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, and a woman (Harriet Glickman) wrote to Schulz suggesting he introduce a character of color, since the world was in strife, Menta said. Schulz wrote back that he was wary that might appear as tokenism, but Glickman encouraged him again in another letter and enlisted some friends to write to Schulz as well. The illustrator created Franklin that same year and when United Feature Syndicate waffled, concerned that some newspapers would protest, Schulz insisted the first strip with Franklin run as written or he would quit. The syndicate then relented. (In the ’90s, Schulz gave the character the surname of “Armstrong.”)
Fittingly, Peanuts Worldwide has partnered with NASA for years, and last year, when Artemis 1, an uncrewed flight test of the Space Launch System rocket, and Orion spacecraft orbited around the moon Snoopy rode along as the zero gravity indicator (the visual indicator that is used to signal weightlessness). In the ’60s, Schulz wrote a week’s worth of Snoopy going to the moon.
Alliances between Peanuts Worldwide, Harlem’s Fashion Row, Tier and The Armstrong Project are equally natural, Menta said. With The Armstrong Project, a scholarship program for students at Hampton University and Howard University with aspirations of a career in cartooning, Peanuts Worldwide has seen Franklin’s history brought to the forefront. Intent on devising new ways to celebrate the character in a genuine way, the Peanuts team thought that HFR would be the perfect partner, Menta said. In addition, whenever a sweatshirt, T-shirt or any other merchandise featuring an image of Franklin is in stores, “People go crazy, because he is so beloved.”
HFR then introduced the Peanuts executives to Ealey, who has amassed a range of Peanuts collectibles through the years.
“The younger version of me can appreciate and the older version of me can idolize by putting it out there with Harlem’s Fashion Row,” he said. “When you think about the character Franklin celebrating 55 years, since his debut in 1968, that was before I was born and even before my parents were born. There is a lot to be said for a character that can stand the test of time. To this day, Peanuts is a legendary comic strip that is widely known. What’s amazing about this collaboration is that we are focusing on Franklin’s character and how he was a symbol of Black representation,” said Ealey, adding that the aim is to attract new fans and revitalize that existing love with other fans.
Having designed six of the 11 items in the capsule collection, he singled out the varsity jacket and a comic strip-imprinted dress as his two favorites. Menta added, “It’s so true that everything we do with Peanuts has to be genuine and historical to Charles Schulz and the strip. Everything we’re doing with HFR Tier and The Armstrong Project is carrying on his legacy.”
In addition, the Black-owned eco-chic beauty brand LaPierre Cosmetics has created Franklin-inspired nail polish based on a color palette from the comic strip.
The comic strip character appears to be making a comeback. While a few years ago Franklin was the source of a social media debate around an airing of the 1973 “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” special, as viewers took issue with him seated alone in a beach chair on one side of the dinner table, today, fresh efforts are being made to recognize the character.
Apple TV+ has ordered a special titled “Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin” that is expected to debut next year. In December, a Franklin statue was donated to the Piner High School in Santa Rosa, California, the city that Peanuts creator Charles Schulz called home for decades. It also is the location of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.