The library is a great place for readers to discover comics, and it’s a great place for comics readers to check out things that they want to try without spending their hard-earned cash. I’m looking at comics that I find in the New York Public Library system.
First, my apologies of the feature’s absence in recent weeks. The book I was reading is an absolute brick, and it took some time to get through it all. So here we go:
Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie is one of the most recognized names in pop culture, and this brick of a book that IDW and the Library of American Comics published collects the origins of that iconic kid. The saga begins with Annie living at the “home,” accepting heaps of disrespect and scorn from the nasty headmistress, Miss Asthma. However, she’s taken in as a charity case by Mrs. Warbucks, who only sees helping Annie as a social maneuver, and then Annie’s life becomes one unending adventure.
Annie finds herself in the care of “Daddy” Warbucks, a two-fisted tycoon (who apparently made his money as a weapons manufacturer during World War I and frequently hires a cast of suspicious thugs when he needs extra muscle to get Annie out of trouble!) for some time, before Mrs. Warbucks ships her back to the “home.” She’s farmed out as hired help, escapes to live on a farm for a short while, joins a circus, spends time as a hobo, and helps a small town banker thwart a band of thieves. Through it all, Annie’s upbeat nature inspires friends and her relentless curiosity and determination thwarts criminals and wrong-doers.
The strip is very well drawn, with big open eyes that draw readers in, and a lively line that pushes the excitable manner of its protagonist. The stories occasionally seem half-considered (see the random conclusion of Annie’s circus life), but are mostly solidly plotted and come to reasonable and satisfying denouements. If the strips do occasionally bog down in repetition, you’ll rarely find it in the perils Annie faces. It’s during the good times that readers are likely to find their attention wandering, as Annie or “Daddy” wool-gather about each other’s many wonderful attributes or how keeping your chin up will carry you through life’s hardships.
Little Orphan Annie is one of the most popular newspaper strips in comics history, and Harold Gray deserves nearly every plaudit awarded to him. The strip is fast and fun, adventurous and full of heart. It’s well drawn and only occasionally too saccharine. And best of all, you can find these historically and creatively important comics in your local library.