Sunday afternoons were pretty predictable when I was a kid — if my siblings and I behaved in church, we got McDonald’s for lunch (which was total crap, by the way … we never behaved in church but always got McDonald’s anyway. I think my dad just needed his weekly Big Mac fix.), then off to my grandparents’ house. One of the highlights of going over there (for me, anyway … my sister liked to sneak sugar cubes and my brother preferred listening to music with my uncle), where it smelled of pipe smoke I will never forget, was the Sunday edition of the Boston Globe. You know, the one where the comics were in full color! I loved all of them—from Beetle Bailey to For Better or For Worse to Peanuts—but there will always be a special place in my heart for Little Orphan Annie. And now, after 85 years of the little red-headed, blank-eyed girl, she’s finally … uh, retired.
While Annie inspired a popular Broadway musical, Hollywood movie and radio and TV programs, the once-legendary strip is carried by fewer than 20 newspapers today. For fans and occasional readers, it’s a sad ending to an important piece of Americana.
Yeah. I’m feeling nostalgic and will probably spend the drive home from work (my last day of school for the year, by the way … yay!) listening to show tunes. I’m also feeling kind of betrayed.
According to Times columnist Michael Taube:
Those of us on the right of the political spectrum also should pay homage to the strip’s historical role in promoting capitalism, a free-market economy and political conservatism to a wider audience.
Annie’s creator, Harold Gray, was once described by comics historian Coulton Waugh as “Republican and conservative to his toenails.” During the Great Depression, the cartoonist was a fierce opponent of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. He detested labor unions and communism. He railed against corruption in all aspects of society, especially Big Business.
Gray eventually morphed his political and economic philosophies into his creation. As noted by Richard Marshall in the book “America’s Great Comic Strip Artists,” “Annie’s homilies and examples of self-reliance and realistic optimism struck a chord with millions of readers who formed a fanatical and loyal corps of followers.” But it went much deeper than that. Marshall also wrote that Annie became a “personalized creation in which [Gray's] own voice obviously predominated, yet one that featured a succession of characters and situations so vivid as to move adherents to tears and detractors to impotent fury over events in the ‘lives’ of mere paper actors.”