Brenda Starr, Reporter
Brenda Starr, Reporter
In 1940, newspaper readers were introduced to Brenda Starr, a strikingly beautiful newswoman who traveled the world in search of exciting stories and romance. Created by cartoonist Dalia (Dale) Messick (1906–), the Brenda Starr, Reporter comic strip depicted an independent career woman at a time when such portrayals were uncommon in American popular culture. The strip's success allowed Messick to be one of the few women of her era to produce her own comic-strip feature.
Both Dale Messick and Brenda Starr were pioneers in the field of comic strips. During the 1930s and 1940s, all the people who created, drew, syndicated, and owned comics were men. After years of struggling to enter the comics profession, the Chicago Tribune gave Messick the opportunity to create her own strip. She originally wanted to make Brenda a female bandit but was told the public would find such a figure unacceptable. Instead, she made Brenda a prominent reporter whose assignments constantly took her on thrilling adventures in exotic locales.
Despite Brenda's status as a career woman, her romantic life dominated many of the strip's episodes. Mobsters, industrialists, and various members of royalty constantly pursued her. However, none could compete with the mysterious Basil St. John, a handsome and mysterious millionaire who wore a black patch over one eye. Although their meetings were intense, Basil was often forced to leave Brenda so he could cultivate a rare black orchid that served as the only cure for his "secret disease." The Brenda Starr strip was also known for its emphasis on high fashion. Brenda was consistently shown in elegant gowns and with perfectly styled red hair.
Although soap opera (see entry under 1930s—TV and Radio in volume 2) conventions dominated much of the strip, Brenda was always seen as a good role model for young girls because of her sense of independence, her take-charge attitude, and her dedication to her profession. Messick retired from the strip in the 1980s, but Brenda's adventures have continued with new writers and artists. Author Maurice Horn in 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics wrote, "Brenda Starr remains a rarity among the more aseptic soap-opera strips of the newspaper page."
For More Information
Horn, Maurice, ed. 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics. New York: Gramercy Books, 1996.
Messick, Dale. Red-Headed Bombshell. Newbury Park, CA: Malibu Graphics, 1989.
Robinson, Jerry. The Comics. New York: Berkley Publishing Corporation, 1974.