On This Date in History: Harold Gray had been toying with an idea he had regarding a comic strip. He had sent several to Captain Joseph Medill Patterson, who was the founder of the New York Daily News. Patterson liked one of the ideas in 1924 and called Gray into his office. The main character in the strip was a boy named Otto. While Patterson liked the concept, he wasn’t enthused with the main character and thought that Otto was a mistake.
Seems that there were already 40 other strips that featured a boy. Beyond that, Patterson also thought that Otto looked pretty effeminate. Now, the paper had from time to time taken to reprinting a poem by James Whitcomb titled “Little Orphan Annie.” That gave Patterson inspiration. The story goes that Patterson told Gray, “put skirts on the kid and call her Orphan Annie.” Artists don’t always succomb to management pressure when it comes to their art, but I suppose that Gray needed the gig. So, he did what Patterson suggested and on this date in 1924, the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip first appeared. Comic strips of that time were different from today in that adventure strips ran a single story that lasted for months, if not for an entire year. On Sunday’s a single comic might take up an entire page. Little Orphan Annie was different too. Little Orphan Annie is regarded by some as one of the most violent comic strips ever to hit the news pages.
Her adventures took her into the realm of crooked politicians, gangsters and do-gooders. She even took time out to do battle with Nazis. The “life” of Annie also was not the stuff of which the now famous song was made but instead was filled with violence. The original Annie went months at a time without seeing her father, her house was burned down numerous times, she lived in run down flop houses, was kidnapped and even tortured. She seemed to walk endlessly with the threat of murderer lurking behind her every move. The strip also had a touch of the supernatural as, at times, it featured leprechauns and ghosts. A character that appeared from time to time was “Mr. Am” who had lived for millions of years.
Gray continued to produce the strip until his death in 1968. The correction of Gray’s mistake of Otto by Patterson most likely resulted in one of the longest running and most recognized comic strips of all time. For some reason, I don’t think “Little Orphan Otto” would have been so endearing as the revised version. But, the revised version has skewed far away from Gray’s creation. “Little Orphan Annie’ continued after Gray had died but it’s popularity faded as the writing was considered by many to be poor and lacked the creativity and relevance of Gray’s work. The artwork also did not meet the standards set by Gray. In the late 70’s, the Broadway play Annie had gained great popularity and so Leonard Starr revived the old strip on December 3, 1979 under the moniker of “Annie.” However, that version of the strip was cancelled in 2010 with further plans to once again revise what is now considered a “franchise.”
Tribune Media Services, the syndicator, says that it wants “to go where this new base of Annie fans finds their entertainment.” The repackaging will be an effort to make Annie to a global, cross-over audience of children and adults. In other words, they want to be the next Harry Potter. I wonder how Gray would like the way his little girl has changed over the years? Seems that the message and story that made the original Little Orphan Annie so popular has now been clouded by marketers and profit motive. Gray wrote a book, Arf! The Life and Times of Little Orphan Annie and a synopsis of Little Orphan Annie in the form of a book review draws a good picture of how far Annie has come, for better or worse.
Weather Bottom Line: Fortunately, my great idea of there being a much better risk for rain came about on Thursday morning and even came through better than I imagined. My sunflowers loved it. There were some big thunderstorms on Wednesday night up near Seymour that I could see from my house. I was called by a family member who claimed he could see the northern lights. There has been a huge solar storm going on but reports of the Aurora being visible have mainly been from Southern Canada and the northern states. He was disappointed when I told him the frequent flashes he saw from various spots in the sky was nothing more than a distant thunderstorm. Well, its all behind us as are the extreme temperatures as we go into the weekend. Look for highs in the upper 80’s on Friday and Saturday before we heat back up into the 90’s starting on Sunday.