SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) â Morris “Morrie” Turner, the creator of the “Wee Pals” comic strip and the first African American cartoonist to be syndicated nationally, has died. He was 90.
Family spokesman David Bellard says the Oakland, Calif.-born Turner died peacefully at a hospital in Sacramento, Calif., on Saturday.
Turner developed the humorous, ethnically diverse comic strip about a group of buddies, “Wee Pals,” in 1965 at the urging of his mentor, Charles Schulz. Schulz created the widely popular Peanuts comic strip.
Turner’s strip was also known for its “Soul Corner” that often recognized historical black figures.
In 2003, Turner was recognized by the National Cartoonist Society for his work.
Bellard said Turner was surrounded by family members when he passed away. Services are pending.
‘Wee Pals,’ a gentle tribute to tolerance, was the first nationally syndicated strip with a fully integrated, multiethnic cast.
When Morrie Turner was just a cartoon-doodling kid in Oakland, he wrote a fan letter to the creator of the popular comic strip “Terry and the Pirates.” In return, Milton Caniff, who later created “Steve Canyon,” sent young Turner a typed, six-page personal reply with pointers on story lines and drawing.
“It changed my whole life,” Turner told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005. “The fact that he took the time to share all that with a kid, a stranger, didn’t impress me all that much at the time. But it impresses the hell out of me now.”
An artist whose “Wee Pals” comic strip appeared in more than 100 newspapers at its height, Turner was similarly generous with other aspiring cartoonists. In particular, the African American Turner was sought out by young black artists trying to break into territory that he had been among the first to chart.
Turner, who created the first nationally syndicated comic strip with a fully integrated, multiethnic cast, died of natural causes Saturday in a Sacramento hospital. He was 90.
HOW DO YOU say goodbye to someone you never met, yet on some level, through the power of his work, felt as though you always knew?
Morrie Turner had that power, through the heart of his art and the soul of his comic strip. When I read his work, I â like many â felt as though I was entering his world. And what a hopefully inviting realm it was.
âWee Pals,â with its racially and ethnically diverse characters, rose in popularity after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Morrie Turner, via Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco