Complete Little Orphan Annie reprint


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As a long-time comic strip/comic book reader, I am thrilled that IDW Publications is finally coming out with a comprehensive reprint of Harold Gray's "Little Orphan Annie" strip. The first volume, which collects the first four years of the dailies, has just come out. The second volume, with another four years worth, will be coming out at the end of next month.

Ok, so why should readers of OL care?

If the only idea you have of LOA is from the broadway play or movie, the comic strip is a whole 'nother thing! Gray was pretty much a conservative (of the 1920s type), and his view very much came thru in his strip. In LOA, those who worked hard and dealt fairly with others were the 'good guys'. The thieves, looters, and parasites were the bad guys. When I first read reprints of these strips, I was struck by how similiar many of the themes and ideas in LOA were to what Rand was writting about in the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. For instance, a long story from 1935 about a new metal called "Eonite", seemed very similiar to Rearden Metal from AS.

I have been planning on a longer article about the libertarian/objectivist-like themes in LOA. Hopefully I can put this together soon.

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Michael B.; Keep us informed. I can remember a LOA strip from the 60ths where a Castro like dictator was hanged by some commandos working for Daddy Warbucks. I knew the musical was not accurate.

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The musical was definetly not accurate!!!

"Daddy" Warbucks would not be paling around with FDR! Gray actually killed off "Daddy" because of his discust with FDR (he brought him back, thankfully). I went to a production of the play as a kid. Today, knowing more about the strip (and agreeing a lot with Gray's philosophy), I won't be able to watch it or the movie.

There was a 'rough justice' in LOA that some didn't like. Many times the bad guys (who were ALWAYS obviously bad guys, at least to the readers), many times who were plotting to kill Annie, got their just desserts. It may not have been in a court of law, but they got what they deserved.

Here is a pretty good website on LOA: http://www.liss.olm.net/loahp/ It gives some background on the strip. The article on "Violence & Villians" focuses quite a bit on the excellent, long LOA "Cosmic City" from 1932/33 (a story that ran almost a year).

Many times the bad guys in LOA were not who you'd expect. Yes, you had the obvious crooks and thieves and the like. But the bad guys could be crooked politicians or lawyers, or conniving business men (Gray made it clear the difference between honest, but tough, businessmen like "Daddy", who got their wealth by fair play and honest dealings with those that got it thru dishonest means, even if those dishonest means were 'legal'), or labor organizers (Gray didn't care for labor unions or labor organizers, who he felt were NOT on the side of honest labor. He made it clear that honest businessmen should treat their workers fairly and if so, there would be no need for unions), or the like.

There was also a second level of bad people, who were 'do gooder' and the like (again, Gray contrasted the people who talk a good deal about 'doing good' for others and those who REALLY did do good. He showed this in an early strip were the first Mrs Warbucks is giving a talk at a women's club about how we have to help the poor, destitute people in some country half a world away. But Annie and Mr. Warbucks says why do that, when there are probably people over in the next street who could use our help? They then are out walking and wind up giving their coats to a couple of people who need them more. Mrs Warbucks is appalled that they gave up their coats, which just goes to showing Gray's point. Why make a big show and talk of 'helping other people', when you can just help those people and not make a big fuss about it?)

Many of the storylines in LOA followed a similiar loose plot. Annie would be living with "Daddy", and he'd have to leave on some extended business trip. So "Daddy" would put Annie in the care of someone else. Something went wrong with this (either Annie wasn't able to get to these people OR they turned out to be crooks or deceivers wanting to take advantage of Annie). Annie would then strike out on her own, and come upon a small town. She would usually try to get help from those who appeared to be well off, only to be turned away (and it would usually develop that these would be the true villians of the story, as they had gotten well off thru dishonest means, tho many won't know it and think they were just wonderful people). She would then fall in with people not well off, but who were willing to help out someone even more in need. Annie would soon fit in, helping out these people. Usually there would be attempts (usually instigated by the main villian) to take Annie away from the people she was staying with and put her in some kind of 'county home', which would actually be a worse place for Annie. The story would usually come to a conclusion, almost always with the main villian being defeated. Annie would either be reunited with "Daddy", or would move on to another town.

Please note, the above plot description is VERY broad, and even so many of the stories are very entertaining. Even in the first collection, these basic plot is repeated several times, but is still different. There is the excellent "Cosmic City" story I mentioned, but also the story from 1931 where "Daddy" is ruined financially and goes to live with Annie on poverty row and soon blinded (he is able to rebuild is fortune and regain his sight). There is the great story from 1936 (which I've read in reprints) about Jack Boot. And I look forward to finally reading the complete story from 1938 about Rose Chance and Shanghai Peg.

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When I was a boy all I cared about in LOA was Daddy Warbucks. Usually, though, it was about Annie. I tended not to read the strip when she was front and center. Unfortunately, Daddy didn't tend to stay around for long. I think it was because how he could be so successful and powerful then seemingly dead or just disappeared then come back richer and more powerful than ever couldn't really be explained.

--Brant

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When I was a boy all I cared about in LOA was Daddy Warbucks. Usually, though, it was about Annie. I tended not to read the strip when she was front and center. Unfortunately, Daddy didn't tend to stay around for long. I think it was because how he could be so successful and powerful then seemingly dead or just disappeared then come back richer and more powerful than ever couldn't really be explained.

Well, keep in mind the strip IS "Little Orphan Annie", not "'Daddy' Warbucks". :)

In my mind, the absense of "Daddy" at times is what made the strip that much richer. Also, keep in mind the title. If she was formally adopted into a family, she's really not an orphan any more. And it would have eliminated the basis for many of the storylines: Annie forced to go out on her own and survive!

In reading the introduction to the first volume, I found that Gray wanted Annie to be adopted by the Warbucks and live with them. Certainly that happened early on, and most of the storyline seems to be a sort of 'comedy of errors' in contrasting the more down-to-earth attitudes of Annie (and to a small part also "Daddy") against the social-climbing Mrs. Warbucks and her bunch. Patterson, who ran the Chicago Tribune, wanted Annie to be an orphan. Hence you have the cycles of Annie with Warbucks, then on her own and so forth. I think it made for stronger stories.

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Did you ever notice how much those old comics left to the imagination? Just what was the story with Annie and Daddy, Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Daisy, Donald and his nephews, Steve Canyon and the Dragon Lady or Batman and Robin? Weren't you supposed to be married in those days? A certain sexual tension prevailed between Lois and Clark, but I doubt that they ever got it on, whereas Popeye and Olive Oyl seem to have been a red-hot item.

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Wasn't Margo Lane always described as Lamont Cranston's companion? I know "The Shadow" was radio and not a comic strip.

The Shadow was from the pulp magazines. It later became a radio show, comic strip, comic book, and movie serial.

Margo was a product of the radio show.

But that was the times. Married couples on tv were shown having their own beds (yeah, right).

Annie and "Daddy" were obviously a parent-child relationship. Annie was about 10 or so in the original strip. They've made her older (looks like a teen) in the current strip, now called just "Annie".

Mickey & Minnie and Donald & Daisy were implied they were dating, and nothing more. (tho the underground "Mickey and the Air Pirates" seemed to imply that Mickey's nephews were really his sons by Minnie...) But you have to wonder why these four characters had their nieces and nephews along. Where were their parents???

The Dragon Lady is from "Terry and the Pirates" (now also being reprinted by IDW), not Steve Canyon. :) The Dragon Lady seemed to have a think for Pat Ryan, but who knows how far it went. :)

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More on LOA.

Artwork

Gray's artwork is certainly not 'slick' or polished. It a good, decent, workman like style. In reading the first volume, we do see an improvement of his style over time. What is interesting is that the sunday pages (a few are reprinted) aren't that impressive. LOA is one of those strips which works just fine in black and white (there are others which I would not like to read in black & white, because the color sundays are so impressive). This is actually the first time I've ever seen color sunday LOA.

A convention that Gray used was that each strip was a single day. Later on, he would allow activities to go over more then one strip. At first he would note this, later this would be dropped. But by and large each strip was usually a single day.

No thought balloons were ever used. So in almost all cases the characters are speaking out loud, even if only to themselves and expressing their thoughts and feelings.

Yes, many have commented about the 'blunked out eyes'. This was a style that Gray used in LOA. He also assisted a relative with another strip called "Little Joe". While the little artwork I've seen of "Little Joe" clearly showed the affect of Gray, I am not sure if that particular touch was also used. ("Little Joe" was a sunday-only strip about an boy of 12 or so who lived on a ranch with his mother, his father being dead. They were helped by an old ranch hand and had several adventures in a western setting). He did experiment with putting irises on his characters for a couple of weeks. The effect is very weird.

Growth

One thing that should be noted is that many times the creator of comic strips needs a couple of years to really improve and make the strip really work. Many times with classical strips, the 'golden age' of the strip when most regard it as really good, happens several years into it, and the first one or two or so years, its still being developed and improved. This is so on strips like Dick Tracy, Flash Gordon, and others. The difference can be shocking. Having only read the later, classic period of Flash Gordon, finally seeing the first year or so, the strip is very primative compared to the lush work of the later years. And is so with LOA. While I see the same themes and such of later years, you can see its being developed. When Fantagraphics started their reprint of the strip, they started in 1931, as they felt this was the period when the strip really started to 'sing'.

An example of this is the storyline(s) from the last year the book covers, 1927, which they broke into 2 chapters. It's really one long storyline, similiar in ways to later storylines I've mentioned like Cosmic City etc. The first half ("Blue Bell of Happiness") is kind of the setup. Annie finds herself in a small town (Blue Bell) and is taken in by a kindly couple (a childless couple, and the husband owns the local bank). There is a storyline about a rival bank who wants the buy out the husband, but who refuses because he doesn't like how the other bank does business (too harsh on the local farmers, taking their farms instead of extending things until harvest, etc). The second half ("Haunted House"), brings this all to a conclusion when we find out who the real local villian is. Again, this is similiar to other stories, but what I find a little annoying (or prehaps a little disappointing) is there are too many loose ends that Gray doesn't wrap up, as well as some unanswered questions. I don't want to say too much without giving away more of the story.

[EDITED]

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Wasn't LAO also a radio show? Did Gray have anything to do with it?

Yes, LOA was a radio show.

AFAIK, Gray had nothing to do with it. Keep in mind that the creator of comic strips back then did NOT own the strips. They were owned by the syndicate. Certainly, the smart syndicates would treat the creators very well if their strip was a success, but the creators had little control of how their creations were used outside the strip (tie-in merchandise, reprints, comic books, movies or movie series, tv series, radio shows, etc). Its actually only be in the last decade or so that the creators have come to own the strips, and with it, some control of the tie-in stuff. I know Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes was very much against any tie-stuff, only allowing the book reprints. He wouldn't allow for anything else, hence no dolls, games, animated versions, etc.

The radio show was just a children's adventure series, most likely with little or none of the social commentary of Gray.

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Charity

As noted, Gray used LOA as a sort of soap box (good or bad) to present his views and philosophy, tho thankfully he wasn't as heavy handed as some people are. (he did write engaging stories).

One of his views he aired in LOA, was his take on charity. Its important to realize that he based his concept on the old ideas of rugged american individualism and charity, and not in the way its usually used today. I found it interesting that Neil Parille recently posted an item on his Objectiblog site on Rand's views on charity. While not in total agreement, there is some overlap in them.

As Gray put in, his view of charity I think can be sumed up as such:

* those who are able, should help those who are in need.

* one gives charity because you want to (and ideally you should want to), and not for any attempt at glory or praise (ie, you give it without making a big deal of it)

* helping your neighbors is a just as important, if not more so, then helping people far away.

* for those needing help, don't make a big deal of needing it.

* taking charity is a last resort. Ideally, pay back what is given to you (better to take it as a loan to be paid back, then take it as a freebie)

* don't assume charity is a right

* giving charity is a choice. No one should force anyone to give charity

We see this a lot in LOA. As mentioned, in many of the storylines, they usually start off with Annie on her own, coming into a town. Many times she tries to get help from rich people in town (figuring that rich people would have enought to share, and be willing to do so), only to be turned away. In almost all cases, she is usually taken in by working class people, many times people who don't have a lot to give, but who are willing to give to those in greater need. However, Annie is no mooch. She always pitches in an helps the household that takes her in. This can be as simple as just helping out with cleaning and cooking, or helping out in raising money to keep things going, and the like. Her attitude is that she is now part of the household, and so should pull her own weight.

Many times people are shown to be in great need and are helped out. These people are usually too proud to take charity, and so prefer that the help be in a loan to be paid back. In an early storyline where "Daddy" helps out the Silos (a farming couple that took in Annie), they prefer that he be a partner investing in their farm (to be paid back), and not a charity case that "Daddy" is giving money to.

The theme of not making a big deal about helping out others is also touched on. I had mentioned the early materials showing "Daddy" and Annie casually giving their coats to a couple who obviously needed them more and not making a big deal about it, as contrasting with Mrs. Warbucks who seems to do charity work only as it made her look important to her society types.

Another thing is that 'social workers' and 'professional do-gooders' where not shown in a good light in the comic. It's clear to me these people were shown as nothing more then busybodies and parasites, and the only people in a good light were those people doing productive work, whether it was as a common laborer or a farmer or shopkeeper or the like. In the "Jack Boot" storyline from the late 30s, there was a man shown who was a sort of 'professional fundraiser' for charity. He had been a failure in business (hint hint), but was a successful fundraiser and so many people thought well of him. Annie commented that the people who should get the praise for the money he raised should be the businessmen who made the money in the first place which he got to donate, not the fundraiser!

Also, in the "Jack Boot" storyline, there was a nearby family in dire straights. Annie's 'guardian' at the time, Jack Boot, took out the money from the bank they needed, and annoymously donated it to them (he left it in their mailbox). When that professional fundraiser came by to raise funds for something, Jack turned him down. The fundraiser commented later that Jack was obviously a miser and skinflint because he wouldn't donate any money. However, we the reader knew that he had actually taken out $400 (a lot back then) to donate to that family. So he most certainly wasn't a miser or skinflint, just someone who decides who and how to donate their money. He was willing to help out his neighbors (without anyone knowing it, including them), but wasn't willing to spend money for people halfway around the world.

I need to pull together some quotes from LOA, because I think some of them will illustrate these concepts well.

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Michael; Very interesting post! It sounds like Gray should be included with libertarians like Garett Garrett*.(*sic)

In most cases, Gray has been referred to as just a conservative. But he is obviously an 'old right' conservative, many of whom could be argued to be libertarians or proto-libertarians. The Wikipedia article refers to his conservative and libertarian views.

Few comic strip writers/artists allowed their political views to be expressed in their strip. Most are only aware of a few: Walt Kelly's liberal viewpoint colored his social/political satire in Pogo, Al Capp went from being a liberal to a conservative, and his colored his social/political satire in Li'l Abner. And most people are aware of liberal Trudeau's Doonesbury.

It's interesting that the hardback "Arf" collection of LOA strips (first major collection of LOA strips, done in the 70s) has a forward by Al Capp about Gray and LOA, and that Capp had met Gray.

While a conservative, certain themes are absent in LOA that some might expect of a conservative.

Immigrants. Gray was not anti-immigrant. More in-line with is 'hard work' ethic, he seemed to feel that if someone were to come to this country and work and and do well, they should be respected for that. Minorities and such were never treated poorly. Now, he may have sinister foreigners, which is a different thing, IMO. I have to admit not seeing much evidence of blacks, but in several of the strips I've read, non-WASP characters are shown in a positive light:

* During a 1926 storyline, when Annie was living with a guardian temporarily, she was warned to keep away from a nearby street/neighborhood, because it was full of 'no good people'. Actually, Annie finds that its a lively immigrant community, and she fits in quite well, making friends with a young Italian boy. His father was framed and sent to jail, and Annie is able to get the help of a local alderman to get him out. While other characters make disparaging remarks, its clear that Gray (thru Annie and others) don't buy into that.

* "Yellow Peril" storylines, about menacing orientals abounded in fiction of the time, including comic books and comic strips. But this really didn't happen in Annie. In a late 1930/31 storyline, she comes under the protection of Wun Wey, who is in charge of a chinese protection org. Members of the org prevent harm to come to Annie from dangerous chinese tongs. Wun would become a friend of "Daddy", tried as an equal, and show up from time to time thru the 30s.

* Also around the time of the 1930/31 storylines, Annie goes to work for a small grocer. While never said explicity, it seems clear from his dialogue and mannerism, that he's meant to be jewish. With Annie's help, he is able to build up his small grocery into a successful, larger store.

Religion. Gray never pushed religion. His view was more along the lines that all the world's religions are ok. By and large, I don't recall many good preachers/ministers in the LOA. In a 1927 storyline, the local minister seems to be pretty good, but we never met him, only hear about him and his good work second hand. Too often when you see the local preacher, he's usually portrayed as part of the local gaggle of do-gooder busybodies.

And then there's Mr. Am.

While being a fairly realistic strip, Mr. Am bring in an element of fantasy that is pretty strange, and one with some touches of religion to them. Mr. Am seems almost a Santa Claus like character. But we know that he is either very long lived or maybe immortal. He is very knowledgable, even able to bring people back to life. When we first met him, he's living in the jungle, with many slaves. He is one of those few characters who made a few return appearances in LOA.

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  • 4 months later...

The second volume of Little Orphan Annie strips has finally come out. This one reprints dailies from October 1927 thru December 1929, with all the Sundays of 1928. So a little over two years. Am hoping the third volume will be coming out in a couple of months.

Like the first volume, this one is 'virgin territory' for me, having never read any of these strips. I have yet to get into them, but will report back once I do.

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  • 5 months later...

I've just received the third volume of LOA, with covers daily and sunday strips from 1930 thru 1931.

For me, this is a mix of stuff I've read and stuff I've not read. I know the major storyline for 1930 has Annie shipwrecked, which I have never read and look forward to. The major storyline from 1931 is a classic I read in the Fantagraphics book.

This 1931 storyline has "Daddy" being wrecked financially by his enemies. He and Annie are forced out into poverty row, to make the best of things. "Daddy" finally gets a job as a truck driver, but is blinded (unknown to Annie) and more or less disappears. He slowly recovers and with a backer is able to rebuild his fortune. Annie, on her own, starts working with a jewish grocer, and helps him build up his store. Finally, they are re-united and "Daddy" eyesight is restored.

Several new characters are introduced. Their landlord is "Ma Green", who would be spun off into her own 'topper' strip. Flophouse Bill is "Daddy"'s partner, and would appear for awhile afterwards, then disappear, as well as a Doctor who helps both Annie & "Daddy".

After I read this volume, I think I need to sit down and write up a review (or maybe a series of reviews) touching on the different storylines and the things I see good/bad from a libertarian standpoint.

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  • 1 year later...

Here we are with the 4th volume, another complete volume with both sundays (in COLOR) and dailies. This volume covers the years 1932 to 1933.

We have several new storylines and characters.

First off, "Daddy" gets a new wife. But she is trouble and is soon 'dealt with'. "Daddy" will remain a bachelor (or is that widower?) for the rest of the strip.

A new character is introduced who I have mentioned in the past: Wun Wey, an asian character. But not the stereotypical asian of the time, either a menial or a 'yellow peril' villian. He is an associate of "Daddy", treated as an equal. He will be a minor character for a few years before he fades away.

The main storyline in this volume is the long "Cosmic City" storyline, which I had previously mentioned, actually broken up over 3 chapters. It follows the basic storyline of most Annie stories: "Daddy" goes away and puts Annie under the charge of others. Something goes arrie, and Annie is on her own, finds a small town, and some ordinary people to live with. But here is some mystery/danger there that Annie gets involved with and must resolve. After this, Annie is either reunited with Daddy or moves on to the next town.

In "Cosmic City", Annie moves in with the Futiles, a elderly couple. She is able to help them out, eventually setting up a small store for Mr. Futile to run. But she runs afoul of the town 'richie', a Mr. Pennypincher. There is a mystery to resolve with him, which she does. As is usually, the town busybodies think the work of him, because they don't know his real side.

I first read the "Cosmic City" storyline in a Dover edition, and it wasn't until later that I got to read the 'rest of the story'. You'll get it all here in this volume.

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Here we are with the 5th volume, another complete volume with both sundays (in COLOR) and dailies. This one covers the years 1933-35.

We have several new storylines and characters.

First off, is the Dan Ballad storyline, here called "Who'd Chizzle a Blind Man". Annie, again on her own in the big city (Daddy is stuck overseas), teams up with a blind violinist, "Uncle" Dan Ballad. Annie sings, Uncle Dan fiddles, and they get good tips. Then a sharper comes in named Charles C. Chizzler, who becomes their manager and tricks them in signing a contract that gives him 50% PLUS expenses. They are pulling in a $100 a night at halls, but are being given only $5-10 by Chizzler. When Annie gets sick, another sharper comes into the scene. He's different. While he'll go after rich guys, he draws the line at ripping off blind men and kids (this is something we occasionally see in LOA: the bad person who has some good elements, and will actually help out Annie). So he tricks Chizzler out of all his money and gives it to Annie. And to wrap up the story, Dan Ballad is found to have inherited money and title in England, and so leaves Annie as we see "Daddy" working his way there.

In the next story, we find Annie trying to get a job, but running afoul of annoying "do gooders" (who don't want kids to work- hint at the problem with 'child labor' laws and minimum wage), when "Daddy" comes to the rescue. Then we have a couple, the "Bleeks" who claim to be Annie's real parents. Is that possible? Will we finally get the answer to her parentage hinted at a few times in the past by Miss Asmaha (who makes a brief re-appearance). We have a long story where the Bleeks try to prove Annie is their daughter, and succeed. But it appears to be just a scheme by them to get money from "Daddy", who still cares for her. But then "Daddy" has serious problems with his business (due in no small part to his long absence). Some try to help him "save" his business at the expense of others, but "Daddy" won't (hmm, shades of today with bailouts and such). At the end, "Daddy" sets aside money to pay his taxes, and is ripped off by a crooked lawyer named Hare. Due to this, "Daddy" runs afoul of a crooked prosecutor named Phil O Bluster, which is the focus on the next story.

Bluster, with his associates Ward Healy, Bill McBribe, and a crooked Judge Cogg (note those names!), try to railroad "Daddy". He's doing it for political gain. He sells himself as a "friend of the pee-pal" (frequent spelling that Gray uses) against a rich man like Warbucks (who obviously didn't earn his money fairly. Yeah, right). So we see corruption, including jury tampering, and a Judge in the pocket of the prosecution (who knows Warbucks is innocent, but doesn't care). The Judge hopes this will get him a higher position, too. Later in the story, we see the crookedness of Mr Bleek, when he gets in bed with criminals and they start breaking into rich houses. Bluster, unable to catch this gang, is under pressure from the "pee-pul" to get things done. Meanwhile, Mrs Bleek comes to care more and more for Annie.

In the fourth story, these crooked politicans and judges get their comeupance, in no small fact due to the assistance of "Daddy's" friends Wuy Wey, Flophouse Bill, and Jake the storekeeper (from past volumes). "Daddy" is freed and helps clean up the town. Now he is poor once again, and forgotten by the public.

And in the final story, Annie and "Daddy" work to get back on their feet. "Daddy" takes on any work he can (as he's had to do in the past when he lost it all), and not wanting to mootch off his friends, or even get a loan from them, they decide to move on for greener pastures.

And we met for the first time Punjab!!!

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Here we are with the 6th volume, another complete volume with both sundays (in COLOR) and dailies. Finally, with this volume we move past what was covered by the past 5 volume Fantagraphics series. We have several new storylines and characters. This volume covers the years 1935-36.

First off, is the Eli Eon storyline (which I've mentioned before), a minor classic, IMO. This one deals with Annie & "Daddy" meeting a crazy old inventor of a miracle material, Eonite. This storyline is broken up into 2 chapters. First off is a chapter that more focuses on Annie & "Daddy" getting back on their feet, with visits by Punjab. Punjab at this point works for a good friend of "Daddy", Henry Morgan. Punjab would soon become one of the few standard characters in the strip, working for Warbucks.

During this time, they rescue Eli, who has been attacked. We later learn this was done by the command of crooked businessman who is in many ways the opposite of "Daddy", J. Gordon Slugg. After trying to use force to get Eli's invention, he turns to trying to use trade unions (but "Daddy" treats his workers too well for them to want to unionize) and then a political rabble rouser to turn the crowd against "Daddy", Claude Claptrap. Sadly, this leads to a greater tragedy. In many ways, Gray uses Slugg here to compare and contrast with "Daddy", showing the differences in how these 2 businessmen conduct themselves. Apparently the liberals at the time hated the strip for it.

"Daddy" is now once again broke, when old friend Wun Wey returns, and informs "Daddy" that large holdings of his in Asia are actually very valuable. "Daddy", Morgan and Punjab journey to Asia, while Annie stays with Wun Wey, who will be dropping her off at a school. Sadly, sinister forces kidnap both. Annie escapes and is on the road again.

The story continues with Annie in Hollywood, working as a double for a spoiled brat child star and in the next chapter, a romance between two minor characters Annie mets in Hollywood. In some ways, one sees some of the same nonsense today with Hollywood.

A bried interlude story allows Annie to move East a bit, and find a new town, Buttercup, for the final story.

The final story, actually broken up as 2 chapters, is another classic: the Jack Boot story (again, one I mentioned before), a story of a hardworking, innocent man whose life is turned upside down due to meddling busybodies and an old enemy. He seems nothing more then a simple shoe repair man. In the first part of the story, he deals with a crocked, possible competitor, George Chiselopolis, and the issue of charity (which I had covered in past postings). In the second part of the story, we learn more about Jack's background, which comes out when 2 new characters appear in town, who have a 30-year connection to Jack Boot. One is Fred Free, a river bum who travels the world and occasionally returns to a little shack near town. The other is the well off gentleman, Hunterdon H. Halk, who moves to town and impresses everyone (of course).

This will lead to the next volume which will include the introduction of 2 more classic characters: The Asp and Mr. Am. Sadly, I don't know when we may see this volume.

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  • 7 months later...

Here we are with the 7th volume, another complete volume with both sundays (in COLOR) and dailies. And here we have some of the BEST stories of Little Orphan Annie. I had read parts of several of these stories, so its a great collection I've been looking forward to.

The introduction is also great, with a section highlighting a sunday-only strip called "Little Joe" that Harold Gray ghosted for his cousin for a couple of decades (sadly, the wikipedia article doesn't credit him). This strip I've heard of and wonder if we will ever seen a complete reprinting of this overlooked strip.

As to LOA, we have 4 main stories. Two re-occuring characters are introduced in this volume. First, is the sinister Asp, a dangerous associate of "Daddy", who now rounds out the roster of the permanent characters in LOA. The next is the mysterious Mr. Am, who will come back on occasion, so I think this makes him the last re-occurring character to the strip. This character, a mysterious, almost Santa Claus like character, adds a strange element of mysticism to the strip, more so then Punjab. Who IS Mr. Am, and what is the source of his powers and knowledge?

So, first off we have Annie again on the road after the conclusion of the Jack Boot story from the last volume. She meets up with a nice flower lady, Ginger, in a powerful story. We learn more about Ginger. She used to be rich, but now is poor. Gray uses this story to speak about how some people succeed and others don't, and that in bad areas good people can emerge as well as bad. In this story, she runs afoul of mobsters looking for protection money, and the story takes a tragic end.

In the next story, the gangsters are out on bail. Annie tries to enlist the help of a crusading lawyer named "J. Preston Slime", who is really in league with the gangsters. They go out on another hit on a mysterious rich man, and run afoul of "Daddy" and his new associate, the Asp! Gray uses this story to speak of the law vs. justice.

With "Daddy" back, he is off on another adventure, this time with Annie. He has 2 billion in gems, but is being pursued by the evil Boris Sirob and associates. Sirob is portrayed as a ruthless foreigner. So they leave the country. In another land, they encounter the mysterious Mr. Am. He becomes a new friend, who is able to render a great service with the story with Sirob comes to a conclusion. "Daddy", Annie and Mr. Am return to the States. But now having lost his billions, and down to only a couple of million, "Daddy" must leave. Annie stays with Mr. Am.

But, as usual, the busybodies come out of the woodwork, and drive Mr. Am away, and Annie is put in the charge of the Brittlewits. The husband is a fool, look for easy money, and falls in with a crook named Brabble. But Annie finds a new friend and ally in an old man who lives in a "haunted house", where the ghosts of his extended family apparently reside as well. The matter of Brabble and Bittlewit comes to a nasty conclusion. As with the story of the mobsters who killed Ginger, we again get Gray's view of law and justice.

Rounding out the story is the first of a two-part story that runs thru 1938. In a different way, Annie is removed from her friends and comes into a small town. Here she quickly finds a homeless mother, Rose Chance. Tying to find her help, they wind up moving in with a poor widow and run afoul of the local rich man, Gudge who owns half the town, and has a mortgage on the rest. They win allies in the local trucking company (run by Jack, an orphan himself), and are joined by a new, mysterious stranger, Shanghai Peg. We learn of his connection with the widow. Gudge is after the mortgage, and thru the help of their new working class friends, Annie and friends are able to help. Rose cooks up doughnuts in the kitchen, which Annie sells to the local truckers and others to raise money and earn their keep with the widow.

Gudge then tries to put pressure on the police and later the sheriff, to get rid of the 'bum' Shanghai Peg. But in a pair of dramatic scenes, Shanghai wins both the police and the sheriff to his side. This doesn't stop Gudge, who starts a campaign to shutdown both the trucking company and Annie & friends little enterprise. But thru some smart thinking by Annie, she and her friends triumph over Gudge.

Annie and Shanghai start to look into the matter of the death of widow's husband. He was murdered 20 years ago, and for no reason. The records were all lost in a fire. There seems to be some connection to Gudge, but its not clear. This part of the story closes with the return of Rose's husband, who seems a possible no-good-nick. We will have to wait for the next volume for the conclusion. Does Rose return to her husband, or does happiness come to Jack, who has fallen in love with Rose? Is the mystery of the murdered husband solved? And does Gudge play a part in that? The Rose Chance-Shanghai Pete is considered the BEST LOA story of all time.

I can't wait for the next volume. In addition to the conclusion of the Rose Chance/Shanghai Peg storyline, we have a new storyline with the sinister Axel in it as well.

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