Morrie Turner, a pioneer of popular art and humanity

This past weekend the cartoonist community and the world at large lost an amazing person, Morris “Morrie” Turner.

Morrie was the first professional cartoonist I met after moving to the Bay Area in 2002. He regularly invited this greenhorn into his home and was happy to spend hours discussing cartoons and life over coffee, and reveled in showing me the amazing pieces of original art he had procured over the years from colleagues of his. Forty years on he still radiated excitement and a childlike wonder for the craft. Morrie continued  to genuinely seem in awe of the fact that he had been able to make a living from his art, not to mention the fact that he was one of the most influential and trailblazing cartoonists of all time. Humble is not a word I would use to describe many of the artists that I have met over the years but for all of his wonderful, barrier breaking achievements Morrie remained one of the most self-effacing and gracious individuals I have ever had the pleasure to have known.

More than being the ever delightful and sublimely talented creator that he was, Morrie was an unwavering supporter of the arts and up-and-coming creators. His support and encouragement made me actually feel as though I could achieve my goals. He even went so far as to get me involved with the Northern California chapter of the National Cartoonists Society as well as the fantastic Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco and the Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. Morrie believed in people and his philosophy in life was echoed in three words he used often: Keep the faith. While Morrie was religious, this sentiment was not merely confined within the boundaries of spirituality. He was talking about the faith in humanity and the faith in others. The faith in the world and the faith in all that is good around us. I truly believe that, above all else, he was talking about the faith in love. Morrie loved everyone regardless of race, creed, color, sex, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, etc. In return, everyone loved Morrie.

I moved away from the Bay Area in 2009 and since then there had been an unfortunate decrease in our communication. We spoke on the phone a few times each year and kept each other abreast of our latest projects and appearances, but nothing would compare to the years I was lucky enough to spend with Morrie in his studio. I was able to see Morrie one more time in person last year at the Big WOW! Comicfest in San Jose where I spoke with him at his booth and attended a panel featuring him and Frank Hill about creating comic strips. Even at 89 and despite obvious medical issues Morrie was full of joy and as welcoming as always. He passed away this past Saturday surrounded by family and since then it has been beautiful to see the outpouring of emotion from so many like me who were touched and inspired by this man. So many like me whose lives and careers would be completely different had it not been for him. So many like me who know there was no one like Morrie Turner.

Thank you, for everything. Rest peacefully and we’ll all try to keep the faith.

Morrie comic con 2007_2

Morrie and me at San Diego Comic Con 2007


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