Magazine article Editor & Publisher

It's a Big Week for Pioneering 'Wee Pals' Cartoonist Morrie Turner

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

It's a Big Week for Pioneering 'Wee Pals' Cartoonist Morrie Turner

Article excerpt

For renowned "Wee Pals" creator Morrie Turner, the week of Feb. 10-16 is a memorable one.

The Berkeley, Calif.-based cartoonist will be the featured guest Saturday at Pittsburgh's ToonSeum, where he'll speak and draw. Since last month, the museum has been exhibiting Turner's work.

"I'm pretty excited about it," Turner said of the exhibit and the appearance.

Also, tomorrow is the 43rd anniversary of "Wee Pals" -- considered the first comic strip with a truly integrated cast.

And this past Sunday, more than 10 cartoonists of colors participated in a comics-page action to draw attention to the way many newspapers run only one or two so-called "black strips."

Did Turner, 84, want to take part in that action? "Oh yes," he replied, when phoned today by E&P. "But I'm on a 13-week deadline." Meaning Turner handed in his Sunday, Feb. 10, "Wee Pals" comic before he learned about the action.

"Compared to what it was, comics pages have gotten a lot more diverse," said Turner, who was virtually the only cartoonist of color in syndication when "Wee Pals" began in 1965. But Turner, whose pioneering strip is now distributed by Creators Syndicate, said some of today's newspapers "seem to feel two is the limit" when it comes to running comics by African-American cartoonists. The problem, he said, is that some editors categorize these comics as interchangeable "black strips" rather than as family strips, children's strips, friends strips, or political strips.

Turner hopes the Feb. 10 action brings more diversity to comics pages, but is not sure if the event will have a lot of impact. "The whole business has changed," he said, noting that there are fewer newspapers and smaller comics sections.

Back in 1965, newspapers were even more reluctant to integrate comics pages. "Wee Pals" -- which had started in the Chicago Daily Defender two years before under a different name -- only found about a half-dozen newspaper clients when it was introduced by the old Lew Little Syndicate.

It wasn't until 1968 that the "Wee Pals" list suddenly skyrocketed into more than 100 newspapers. That was right after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and a number of papers -- whether because of guilt or other reasons -- decided to finally bring more diversity to their comics sections. …

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