Quincy and friends. Artist: Ted Shearer.

QUINCY

Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: King Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1970
Creator: Ted Shearer
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Cartoonist Ted Shearer created Quincy at a time of growing racial and ethnic diversity in newspaper comics, as in the news itself. Launched on Monday, July 13, 1970, its contemporaries …

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… include Friday Foster, Wee Pals, and the introduction of Lt. Flap in Beetle Bailey. But it wasn't preachy, the way pioneers of this type often wear their virtue on their sleeves. Most commentators on Quincy (no relation, by the way) agree that Shearer's characters were identifiably minorities in lifestyle as well as skin tones, and often derived gags from the fact, but weren't vocal advocates of change. Mostly, they were just a bunch of kids who got along together and didn't give much thought to their racial identity.

This is entirely consistent with Shearer's pre-Quincy career. He'd been an advertising art director for years, winning awards for the prestigious firm of Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborne, before selling his daily and Sunday comic to King Features Syndicate (Tiger, Curtis). But before that, going back as far as the 1930s, he'd been a freelance cartoonist, whose regular themes included the foibles of the black community without getting political about it. As he put it, "I always have to catch myself and realize I'm doing a humor strip and not an editorial cartoon." And his venues included not just publications serving that community, of the sort that ran Torchy Brown and The Ravings of Professor Doodle (sort of a black Everett True). His work also appeared in mainstream outlets such as The New York Herald-Tribune and Ladies' Home Journal.

Quincy thrived on the comics page, becoming one of a handful of the early integrated strips to survive beyond the 1970s. It was even the subject of a couple of comic books, published by King. By 1986, when Shearer retired (taking Quincy into retirement with him), the funnies pages were rife with the likes of Jump Start and Herb & Jamaal, indicating comics with black protagonists had fully arrived — thanks, in large part, to pioneering black cartoonists like Ted Shearer.

— DDM

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Text ©2005-07 Donald D. Markstein. Art © King Features.