February 8, 2012

Minorities in cartoons: Wee Pals

Minorities in cartoons: Wee Pals
Wee Pals
A few panels from a Sunday “Wee Pals” strip.

This week’s entry is “Wee Pals,” a comic strip written and drawn by Morris “Morrie” Turner.

Background

“Wee Pals” features the daily antics of a group of children from various backgrounds. Emphasizing diversity, the cast includes various ethnic and religious minorities. The strip also features occasional installments about minorities’ historical contributions.

The strip entered national syndication in 1965. It’s the first nationally syndicated daily newspaper comic strip by an African-American. At first, only five newspapers carried the strip. However, circulation jumped to about 100 newspapers by the early 70s (after the assassination of Martin Luther King).

Turner passed away in 2014 at age 90.The San Francisco Chronicle published an article in 2009 about Turner’s life as a cartoonist and lifelong Bay Area resident.

Other media

“Wee Pals” got a spin-off cartoon in the early 70s. Renamed “Kid Power,” the Rankin-Bass animated series ran on ABC for 17 episodes in the 1972-73 and 1973-74 seasons. Rankin-Bass had some experience featuring African-Americans as lead characters in TV series, having produced the “Jackson Five” series a few years earlier.

(Updated 11/14/16)

Tags: African-Americanscomic stripscomics triviaKid PowerMediaminorities in cartoonsMorrie TurnerRankin-BasstriviaWee Pals