|Launch date||February 15, 1965|
|Syndicate(s)||Lew Little Enterprises
then Register and Tribune Syndicate,
then United Feature Syndicate,
then Creators Syndicate
|Genre(s)||Humor, Children, Teens, Adults|
Wee Pals is a syndicated comic strip about a diverse group of children, created and produced by Morrie Turner. It was the first comic strip syndicated in the United States to have a cast of diverse ethnicity, dubbed the "Rainbow Gang."
When cartoonist Morrie Turner began questioning why there were no minorities in the comic strips, his mentor, Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, suggested he create one. Morris' first attempt, Dinky Fellas, featured an all-black cast, but found publication in only one newspaper, the Chicago Defender. Turner integrated the strip, renaming it Wee Pals, and on February 15, 1965, it became the first American syndicated comic strip to have a cast of diverse ethnicity.
Initially syndicated by Lew Little Enterprises, it was then carried by the Register and Tribune Syndicate, before moving to United Feature Syndicate in the 1970s. When it debuted, the strip originally appeared in only five daily newspapers, as many papers refused to run a strip featuring black characters. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the number of papers carrying the strip grew either to 60 or to more than 100 dailies (sources differ).
As the comic strip's popularity grew, Turner added characters. He included children of more and more ethnicities, as well as a child with a physical disability. He also added a weekly section called "Soul Corner," which profiled notable African Americans from history.
- Nipper — African-American boy who always wears a blue or grey American Civil War kepi, and has a dog named General Lee. Turner based Nipper on himself as a child.
- Ralph (Caucasian) — neighborhood bigot and ruffian
- Connie — athletic white girl who frequently clashes with Ralph over his misogyny and racism. She's an outspoken member of the neighborhood "Girls' Lib" organization (a play on the Women's Liberation Movement)
- Sybil — African-American girl who is also in the Girls' Lib organization
- Oliver — chubby, bookish white boy with glasses.
- Diz — African-American boy who's never without his sunglasses and beret. He plays trumpet like his namesake Dizzy Gillespie and often narrates the "Funky Fables" strips
- Charlotte — white bespectacled girl who uses a wheelchair. She has a pet parrot named Polly Esther.
- Randy (African-American)
- Pablo (Chicano/Mexican-American)
- Mikki (African-American; about four years old)
- Rocky (Native American)
- George (Asian-American of Chinese origin)
- Jerry (Jewish)
- Trinh (Vietnamese)
- Sally (ethnicity unstated, but deaf-mute)
- Wellington (ethnicity unstated, dark hair covering eyes)
Wee Pals bibliography
- Wee Pals That "Kid Power" Gang in Rainbow Power (Signet Books, 1968) ASIN B002T6NAOG
- Wee Pals (Signet Books, 1969) ASIN B003ZUKTLW — introduction by Charles M. Schulz
- Kid Power (Signet Books, 1970), ASIN B001IKPRM2
- Nipper (Westminster Press, 1971), ASIN B002IY2XOM
- Nipper's Secret Power (Westminster Press, 1971) ISBN 0-664-32498-3
- Wee Pals: Rainbow Power (Signet Books, 1973) ASIN B000M8UYII
- Wee Pals: Doing Their Thing (Signet Books, 1973) ASIN B00129HWKO
- Wee Pals' Nipper and Nipper's Secret Power (Signet Books, 1974) ASIN B001M5GOOS
- Wee Pals: Book of Knowledge (Signet Books, 1974) ISBN 0451058003
- Wee Pals: Staying Cool (Signet Books, 1974) ISBN 0451060768
- Wee Pals: Funky Tales (New American Library, 1975) ASIN B00072KLVE
- Wee Pals: Welcome to the Club (Rainbow Power Club Books, 1978) ASIN B003VC7JQW
- Choosing a Health Career: Featuring Wee Pals, the Kid Power Gang (Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service, Health Resources Administration, 1979), ASIN B0006XCLLC
- Wee Pals: A Full-Length Musical Comedy for Children or Young Teenagers (The Dramatic Publishing Company, 1981) ASIN B0006XW1I0
- Wee Pals Make Friends with Music and Musical Instruments: Coloring Book (Stockton Symphony Association, 1982) ASIN B00072YGD8
- Wee Pals, the Kid Power Gang: Thinking Well (Ingham County Health Department, 1983) ASIN B0007259DY
- Wee Pals Doing the Right Thing Coloring Book (Oakland Police Department, 1991) ASIN B0006R4G98
- Explore Black History with Wee Pals (Just us Books, 1998) ISBN 0940975793
- The Kid Power Gang Salutes African-Americans in the Military Past and Present (Conway B. Jones, Jr., 2000), ASIN B0006RSDC4
Animated series: Kid Power
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During the 1972-73 television season, Wee Pals was animated as Kid Power, a series produced by Rankin/Bass with animation done in Japan at Topcraft. It aired in the USA on ABC television on Saturday mornings. All of Turner's characters were featured, united through the coalition the characters dubbed "Rainbow Power." A total of 17 episodes were made, most of which aired from September 16, 1972, to January 6, 1973, followed by reruns. In the following year, a few new episodes which were unfinished during the first season aired on Sunday mornings (combined with reruns) until September 1, 1974.
- Producer/director: Arthur Rankin Jr., Jules Bass
- Teleplay: William J. Keenan
- Associate Producer: Basil Cox
- Animation Supervision: Toru Hara, Tsuguyuki Kubo
- Music: Perry Botkin Jr.
- Songs: Jules Bass, Perry Botkin Jr.
- Editorial Supervision: Irwin Goldress
- Sound Engineers: Jim Harris, John Boyd
- Donald Fullilove (Diz and Randy)
- Michelle Johnson (Sybil)
- Charles Kennedy (Nipper)
- Gary Shapiro (Jerry and Wellington)
- Jay Silverheels Jr. (Rocky)
- Greg Thomas (Oliver)
- Jeff Thomas (Ralph)
- April Winchell (Connie)
- Carey Wong (George)
Wee Pals on the Go
During the same 1972–73 television season, Wee Pals on the Go was aired by KGO-TV, the ABC owned-and-operated station in the San Francisco Bay Area. This live-action Sunday morning show featured child actors who portrayed the main characters of Turner's comic strip, Nipper, Randy, Sybil, Connie and Oliver.
- "Wee Pals" at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Accessed January 27, 2014. Archived from the original on January 12, 2015.
- Ross, Martha (January 27, 2014). "Morrie Turner: Pioneering 'Wee Pals' cartoonist, dies at 90". Contra Costa Times (Contra Costa County, California). Archived from the original on March 6, 2014.
- Hamlin, Jesse (September 13, 2009). "Wee Pals retrospective at S.F. library". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on June 10, 2014.
- Cavna, Michael (January 31, 2014). "RIP, Morrie Turner: Cartoonists say farewell to a friend, a hero, a ‘Wee Pals’ pioneer". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on April 19, 2015.
- Jones, Steven Loring. "From 'Under Cork' to Overcoming: Black Images in the Comics," Ethnic Images in the Comics (The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, 1986), p. 27.
- "About Morrie Turner". Creators Syndicate. Archived from the original on May 12, 2013. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
Within three months of King's death, the strip was appearing in over 100 newspapers nationwide.
- Strickler, Dave (1995). Syndicated Comic Strips and Artists, 1924–1995: The Complete Index. Cambria, California: Comics Access. ISBN 0-9700077-0-1.