Jul 27, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - The Weekly Graphic Novel: Week 17 - Little Orphan Annie: The Early Adventures, 2003

I never really saw the allure of the Annie comic strip. I always thought that it was just too far removed from my own experience, socially, historically, to really speak to me. Harold Gray's art is clean and expressive, and the influence of the slapstick on his cartooning is plainly obvious. But what about the narrative?

I picked up a collection of these Pacific Comics Club reprints a few months ago, in an effort to branch out, to understand the history of the medium I love, and not from a solely informational point of view, but an experiential one as well. And, as many things do, these books sat on my shelf for a long while, waiting for me to come to them. I'm glad that I did. I won't say that Annie is a revelation to me. It hasn't touched an imaginative need in me that I never knew previously existed. But it does function rather splendidly to show the kind of stories/situations that were deemed important at the time of its composition. I get a similar feeling from it that I got from The Bull of the Woods, in that there's a lot of social and political context that that I'm not picking up on, but there's moments of humour and pathos that transmit clearly, even across almost 100 years.

This collection compiles 3 months of strips from the beginning of 1925. It's hard to conceive of the difference in culture between then and now. But Annie, fundamentally, presents an image of a human being who is kind and optimistic and outgoing, regardless of the deplorable circumstances within which she exists. As adults reading this serial, we can pick out the parts of her life that fly over her head, the injustices that a grown up would notice, but that an innocent like Annie does not even recognize. She does not allow the social to become the personal. And, regardless of when we exist, it's a template that makes sense.


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