Monday, January 21, 2019

BRENDA STARR, Reporter: The Art of Dale Messick: Review By Polly Guerin

BRENDA STARR, Reporter may not have been the first female reporter to capture the collective imagination of young women and girls, but when Brenda Starr made her debut in June 1940 her fast-paced career and riveting adventures made comic book history. Not only was she a knockout beauty, but she had a distinct fashion flair. Her persona was highly dramatic and mirrored leading Hollywood actress, the iconic Rita Hayworth, with matching long, fiery red hair. Brenda was no ordinary reporter. She was brainy, she took risks, she traveled wide into adventures where no woman had ever ventured, and, Yes, she even fell in love. As a forerunner, role model,  BRENDA STARR WAS AN INSTANT HIT!!!
      Brenda Starr gets her due recognition in a delightful
exhibition at the Society of Illustrators, at 128 East 63 Street, through March 23, 2019. 
      Who gave birth to Brenda Starr? She was the brainchild of
Dale Messick. Known as the "Grand Dame of the Funnies,"
Dale is America's first syndicated female cartoonist for creating the popular adventure comic strip BRENDA STARR REPORTER. Her name was inspired by the 1930's debutante Brenda Frazier, who was a social headliner in the society of celebrity, at that time. So it seems to me that Brenda's incarnation combined the social antics of a debutante with a modern woman wrapped up in an appealing package as Brenda Starr.
        Dale Messick had no idea she would become America's favorite comic strip creator. She applied her talent and studied art at The Art Institute in Chicago and soon obtained a job creating greeting cards---a far cry from her ambition. After one fledgling job she found another at a greeting card, this time in New York City. Though she had drawn comic strips during her school years, she began several cartoons with women as the lead character. By 1940 she had already tried in vain to sell four comic strips.
       
Dale Messick created  Brenda Starr
As serendipity would intervene, after reading about  a contest searching for new comics in The Chicago Tribune's New York Daily News, Messick submitted a  strip with a beautiful girl bandit who was a dead ringer for Brenda Starr. However the odds were against her because the head of the New York Daily News, Joseph Patterson, swore he would never publish a woman cartoonist.              Well, this caught the attention of his female 
assistant, Mollie Slott, who saw things quite differently and pulled Messick's work out of the trash. Mollie encouraged Messick to make a few tweaks; she thought that her female bandit should be a reporter, and according to lore, she also suggested that Messick change her name from Dahlia to Dale to sound more like a man. Messick took Slott's advice and re-submitted Brenda Starr as a red-headed reporter who worked for a newspaper called, "The Flash." She also signed it Dale Messick. And so the rest is history. Each week for the next forty years Messick created imaginative and often gripping story lines that sent Brenda Starr on assignments to exotic places that only male reporters were given, which ironically mimicked real- life journalism.       
The audacious reporter would free herself from being kidnapped, and jump out of airplanes, landing just outside her editor's window And once she even filed a story with the newspaper's cleaning woman. She even talked back to her managing editor. That was a "first" for women already asserting themselves in the business world.
      Other Outlets: In addition to drawing her strip, Messick also would include Paper Dolls, that became very popular with young girls who sent in fashion ideas. She also included an African American paper doll, Lona Light in 1948.
      DISTRIBUTION: At its peak, Brenda Starr was included in 250 newspapers  and read by more than 60 million readers.
When Brenda Starr and her long time "Mystery Man," boyfriend, , whose very survival depended upon the serum found in the fictitious but famous black orchid, finally married after 36 years in 1976, President Gerald Ford sent a a congratulatory telegram. 
      IN RECOGNITION o her work, Brenda Starr, Reporter was one of the 20 characters--and the only female characters---chosen to be on a stamp during the U.S. Postal Service's 100th Anniversary. The strip had also been turned into a movie serial in 1945 , a made-for-television-movie in 1976, and a film that starred Brooke Shields in 1992. In honor to her ground-breaking work, The National Cartoonist Society awarded Messick with the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement award in 1997.      
        The Society of Illustrators is open Daily check the schedule and admission charge at www.societyofillustrators.org/events.  
      Ta Ta Darlings!!! Brenda's quite a gal, Check her out in full exhibition display.  She's fascinating. Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com.  Visit Polly's Blogs at any time,
www.pollytalk.com.

2 comments:

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