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Wednesday May 9, 2012 11:54 pm
Forgotten Comics: Quincy by Ted Shearer
My local newspaper never carried Quincy by Ted Shearer, but I would occasionally see the strip in The Baltimore Sun when visiting family. I liked its “urban Peanuts” vibe, and I really liked Shearer’s artwork.
I recently snagged - thank you library book sale - a long-out-print copy of Quincy’s World, one of the type of once-ubiquitous reprint paperbacks that used to pop up in drug stores and newsstands back in the day. I read through it in one sitting and it was just as good, perhaps even better, than I remembered.
Quincy is a sort of “everykid” in the tradition of other comic strip archetypes like Skippy, Charlie Brown and Tiger. What makes him unique is his optimism, and his light-hearted outlook on his downscale urban setting. Quincy, the strip, is set in a city environment, in a low rent neighborhood populated by rundown buildings, broken fences, and abandoned lots.
But it’s not depressing or Afterschool Specialy. It’s warm, funny, upbeat, and supremely well-drawn by creator Shearer. Characters always seem to be in motion - they bounce, they move, they talk while playing, and the whole thing is drawn at kid level. There’s a real joy in the loose but steady hand of Shearer’s art. And he works hard to vary the layout and make it not just visually appealing, but beautiful.
Quincy’s setting lends itself to jokes about the “numbers racket,” money problems, landlords, bills, water getting shut off, all from a kid perspective. But Quincy is mostly about not taking a bath, doing homework, not eating the right foods, playing ball with his friends and living life to its fullest. Quincy has a loving family (he lives with his Grandma, and there’s no reference to his parents), good friends, does well in school and considering his Grandma’s financial circumstances, is reasonably comfortable.
Shearer’s art is just spectacular. With just a few strokes, he creates masterful backgrounds that establish the setting without clutter. His steady line should be studied for its craftsmanship, and as others have pointed out, his ability to use old-school Zip-a-tone is unrivaled. Quincy is an excellent blend of writing and art and it - and creator Shearer - deserves to be remembered.
Cartoonist Mike Lynch posted a bunch of Quincy strips a couple of years ago along with excellent biographical info on Shearer.
And here’s an article on Shearer that digs a little deeper into his groundbreaking career.
And finally, here’s a nice unpublished Shearer original that lets you see some of his mastery of the form.
[Artwork: Cover to Quincy’s World by Ted Shearer]
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