This essay takes another look at the comics life and cultural legacy of Franklin from Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts. While the appearance of this figure marks an important moment in US comics, it was also not without complications and even problems. In a heretofore overlooked detail, the shading technique that Schulz used to signify the race of his new black character mirrors the one that he used to shade another long-established figure from the strip: Pig-Pen. As his name implies, Pig-Pen is known for being filthy: his face is dirty, his clothes are soiled, and his body is surrounded by an ever-present cloud of dust. Schulz uses a similar hatching method to indicate that Pig-Pen's skin is dirty as he does to indicate that Franklin's is black. In so doing, Peanuts connects itself with the long history in American popular culture of likening blackness with dirt. The visual links or aesthetic connections that occur between Franklin and Pig-Pen not only complicate celebratory views of Franklin as a progressive character, but they also add to recent discussions about the importance of paying attention to the line in comics.


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pp. 227-248
Launched on MUSE
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