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The Friday Morning Flashback: Brenda Starr

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 10, 2010 4:45PM

2010_12_10_brenda_Starr.jpg News broke yesterday that "Brenda Starr," the comic strip about a plucky, resourceful, empowered and impossibly glamorous reporter, would run its last strip on Jan. 3. As Tribune media columnist Phil Rosenthal noted, Brenda Starr, like Little Orphan Annie six months ago, would go the way of the teletype.

Or the Tribune's former broadsheet size. (Just sayin'.)

The character was created by artist Dale Messick for the Chicago Tribune Syndicate, the strip encountered resistance from Tribune publisher Joseph Medill Patterson because its creator was a woman. Brenda Starr's debut in June 1940 was relegated to a supplement, then moved later to the Sunday funnies before eventually becoming a daily strip in 1945.

Brenda Starr was a Harlequin romance adventure brought to evocative, lush two-dimensional life. Her adventures took her to exotic locales and she never lacked for suitors and lovers, the most successful being the eyepatch-wearing Basil St. John. Messick married the two before she retired from the strip in 1980.

Messick's successors were women, including Tribune columnist Mary Schmich, who's been penning Brenda's exploits for the past quarter-century. At the strip's peak, Brenda Starr appeared in 250 newspapers, a far cry from the 36 papers in which it currently runs, including the Tribune. We can't remember the last time we actually read a Brenda Starr comic, unfortunately. But then, we still haven't gotten over the demise of "Bloom County."

The trib has a nice account of Brenda Starr's history here. Any account of Brenda Starr wouldn't be complete without mentioning the execrable 1989 movie starring Brooke Shields in the title role.