Annie might be making her modern-day debut this December but her past started long before her story first hit the big screen. Annie was drawn before she could sing thanks to a man named Harold Gray. On Aug. 5, 1924, Harold Gray created a comic strip titled Little Orphan Annie for The New York Times. He thought of the idea for the character when he was living in Lombard, Illinois and worked for the Chicago Tribune. Gray was originally going to have his character be a boy named Otto but decided to change the child to a female named Annie. He changed the character because he knew there were a lot of comics that had boys as main characters. The title of the comic strip might have come from a poem titled Little Orphan Annie by James Whitcomb Riley.
Annie was drawn in her well-known red dress and depicted first as a young, sweet child. The first comic strip showed Annie working to stay at an oppressive orphanage that was run by the cruel Miss Asthma. However, in the next strip, Gray changed Annie into a tougher, braver child. While living in the orphanage, she was adopted by the millionaire industrialist, Oliver Warbucks who she called Daddy Warbucks. Gray sent Oliver on a business trip and returned Annie to the orphanage. After a couple that adopted Annie made her life horrible she decided to run away. On her journey, she fought off gangsters, good fellows, corrupt politicians and sometimes a Nazi. She also rescued her dog, Sandy, from a group of robbers. Oliver later found Annie and took her along with Sandy back to his mansion.
The storyline of Gray’s strip stayed current by focusing on themes that were relevant over the five decades it was written. The themes were prosperity in the 1920s, poverty in the 1930s, warfare in the 1940s and idealism in the 1950s and 60s. In 1968, Gray passed away and the comic was taken over by Tex Blaisdell. The next cartoonist to take over the strip was David Lettick, who took her back to her original roots. Before Annie could sing in movies, Lettick drew her as the young, cute child Gray originally wrote about. The strips were stopped in 1974 and replaced with older versions of Little Orphan Annie.
After the story premiered as a Broadway show in 1977, Leonard Starr brought the comic strip back. It was renamed Annie so people could associate it with the Broadway show. Starr kept the look of the original character but made the images modern and clear. Starr retired in 2000 and gave the strip to Jay Maeder, a staff member for the New York Daily News. The comic strip had three more writers, Andrew Pepoy, Alan Kupperberg, and Ted Slampyak, before it ended in 2010. Slampyak said that the end of the comic strip was sort of painful and like mourning the loss of a friend.
Annie was drawn in a comic strip by Harold Gray titled Little Orphan Annie beginning on Aug. 5, 1924 for the New York Times. Before she could sing in her Broadway debut, Annie was portrayed as both young and cute as well as tough and brave. Gray placed his political views into the strip. In the comic strip, there was a group called Junior Commandos who helped in their neighborhoods by doing jobs to get war bonds, which aided solders during wartime. The group became real in the United States and was joined by children. Junior Commandos had over 20,000 members in just a couple of months. Over the years of the comic’s existence, it had eight writers who molded Annie into the child everyone knows today.
By Jordan Bonte