BLACK ARTIST AND CARTOONIST MORRIE TURNER "BROKE THE COLOR BARRIER TWICE": PRESENTATION FIRST EDITION OF NIPPER, INSCRIBED BY TURNER, CREATOR OF WEE PALS, WITH ORIGINAL SKETCH BY HIM
TURNER, Morrie. Nipper. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970. Octavo, original pictorial green and yellow paper boards, pictorial endpapers. $800.
First edition of Turner's lively book about his pioneering Black cartoon figure, Nipper, the lead character of his Wee Pals comic strip, here capturing the joy of baseball, where Nipper's mishaps on the field prompt him to instead "study hard" and become "another Frederick A. Douglass," an exceptional presentation copy boldly inscribed on the half title by Turner in green ink, "To C—, C— and J— Morrie Turner," with his original sketch of Nipper, containing foreword by Turner's close friend and fellow cartoonist, Charles Schulz.
Morrie Turner "broke the color barrier twice—as the first African-American comic strip artist whose work was widely syndicated in mainstream newspapers, and as the creator of the first syndicated strip with a racially and ethnically mixed cast of characters." In WWII Turner had served as a "journalist and illustrator on the newspaper of the 332nd Fighter Group, known as the Tuskegee Airmen," and after the war his illustrations regularly appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, Ebony and Negro Digest. In the early 1960s Turner and Charles M. Schulz met and became close friends. "In a conversation one day, Turner lamented the lack of Black characters in newspaper comics, and Schulz suggested he try to do one… In the imaginary world Turner created, a diminutive African-American boy named Nipper, who wears a Confederate cap that always masks the top half of his face, leads a small gaggle of friends, including Jerry, a freckle-faced Jewish boy; Diz, a Black child permanently arrayed in dashiki and sunglasses; and Ralph, a white boy who parrots the racist beliefs he hears at home."
Turner's Wee Pals, his comic strip featuring Nipper, was early seen as subversive and rejected by newspapers, but soon after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "thirty newspapers began subscribing to it… within a few months the number had swelled to 100." After Wee Pals began appearing widely, "Turner received an angry letter from a reader about Nipper and his Confederate hat. 'No self-respecting Black person would wear such a hat,' the reader said, suggesting that Turner 'get to know some Black people.' 'I wrote back and told the person that I happen to know two black people—my mother and my father,' he said in the 2010 interview. After a good chuckle, the interviewer followed up: 'But what was the deal with the Confederate hat?' Turner paused, considering the question, then replied, 'Forgiveness'" (New York Times). Turner, who died in 2014, won the Cartoonists Society's lifetime achievement award in 2003. He once said that "he wanted 'to portray a world without prejudice, a world in which people's differences—race, religion, gender and physical and mental ability—are cherished, not scorned'" (Comic Journal). First edition, first printing: with no statement of edition or printings on the copyright page. As issued without dust jacket. With foreword by Charles Schulz.
A fine copy.