An African American kid in a Confederate cap. With a dog named General Lee, no less. Plus a girl named Sibyl Wrights, and a host of other ironically amusing characters. Who thinks these things up? Why, Morrie Turner does, for his comic strip Wee Pals.
Approximately thirty of us gathered to be entertained and enlightened by this accomplished artist. Now eighty-six years old, Mr. Turner was the first black cartoonist to be signed by a national syndicate. He imparted this information to us while dropping the names of some of his famous colleagues, such as Charles Schulz (he called him “Sparky,” Mr. Schulz’s nickname), Bill Keane, and others. But he made it clear that his proudest achievement was receiving the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his talent and acceptance into the pantheon of cartoon distinction.
Morrie Turner does not influence our society only by cartooning, however. A firm believer in the power of education, he also goes to schools in order to impress upon young people the importance of study and tolerance. In fact, this man feels so strongly about these two principles that they are symbolized in his strips like this: the kids are usually depicted carrying books under their arms; and they very often mention “Rainbow Power,” Morrie’s tolerance mantra.
In his witty and charming manner, Mr. Turner shared numerous insights about his strip. For example, why does one of the characters wear a shirt with “42” on it? Because that was Jackie Robinson’s number! Who would have guessed?
As for Morrie Turner’s biggest life goal, now that he has been drawing Wee Pals for 45 years? To reach a total of fifty years, of course, a rare achievement in his profession.
We’re with you Morrie. All of us hope you make it!
Report prepared by Roger Zabkie