Friday, April 10, 2015

Arty Farty Friday ~ Dale Messick and Brenda Starr

I'm not a fan of newspaper comic strips, so not surprised that I'd never heard of Dale Messick or Brenda Starr. Husband loves the "funnies" as he calls them and recalled Brenda Starr at once when I mentioned the name. "Brenda Starr, Reporter" was, apparently, a very popular comic strip, its heroine, born in 1940 from the pen of Dale Messick, and lived in comic strip land for some 43 years until Messick retired. Messick died, aged 98, in 2005. After 70 years on the funny pages, the strip was retired for good by its syndicate, Tribune Media Services, in 2011.

Dale Messick, born 11 April 1906 in South Bend, Indiana, was a pioneering newspaper cartoonist who had fought her way to the top of a predominantly male profession by creating a glamorous red-haired journalist who, like her creator had fought her way to the top, albeit in more fantastic and exciting ways.

Dale was a shortened version of Messick's birth name, Dalia, adjusted to counter the discrimination she had come up against in the cartooning biz. Messick had not been a whiz in academic subjects in school, but was always keen on drawing. Her talent was polished at The Art Institute of Chicago, followed by employment as a greetings card designer. She became her family's sole provider during the early years of the Great Depression.

"Though she had drawn comic strips during her school years, she began creating a comic strip with a woman as the lead in earnest. After learning from the New York Daily News ' award-winning cartoonist C.D. Batchelor that his newspaper was looking for a new comic strip, Messick sent in her comic strip about a female bandit for consideration. It was rejected by the publisher of the New York Daily News , Joseph M. Patterson, who was also the head of the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate. He threw away her work, but his secretary, Mollie Slott, recovered it and encouraged Messick. She told Messick to make a few changes including changing the female bandit into a reporter, and also changing her name from Dalia to Dale. She took Slott's advice, and resubmitted her work to Patterson. He did not give her a daily slot, nor did he allow her strip space in the New York Daily News, but he did run the strip on Sunday in other newspapers. "Brenda Starr, Reporter" debuted in June of 1940."

Brenda Starr's face, figure, legs up to here, and and red hair were inspired by glamorous film star Rita Hayworth. Brenda's exotic exploits were no less fantasy-ridden - kidnapped and escaping, jumping out of planes, talking back to her boss, always the sassy, aggressive, crusading reporter who managed to end up in the middle of some outrageous news story.

"I used to get letters from girl reporters saying that their lives were nowhere near as exciting as Brenda's. I told them that if I made Brenda's life like theirs, nobody would read it."
(Dale Messick)
Messick sometimes hired other artists to draw cars and other mechanical items, or animals and nature scenes, but for decades, it was only she who drew Brenda Starr's face and body; later on when Messick retired other artists took over. Brenda Starr seems to have become more sexy and glamorous later on - possibly in the hands of younger artists with more modern sensibilities.

"Brenda Starr, Reporter," at its peak, was included in 250 newspapers and read by more than 60 million readers. When Starr and her long-time boyfriend, the mysterious Basil St. John, finally married after 36 years in 1976, President Gerald Ford sent a congratulatory telegram. "Brenda Starr" was twice adapted for the screen, first as a 1945 serial with Joan Woodbury, and later as a feature movie starring Brooke Shields. Shot in 1986, released in 1992, to dismal notices. Messick warned everyone she met not to see it.

In the 1990's, Messick developed a new comic character called "Granny Glamour," who appeared in a single-panel cartoon in a publication for the elderly in California. In her 80's, she boasted of juggling three boyfriends simultaneously. "All three wouldn't make one good man," she told an interviewer, "but at my age, you can't be too choosy."

(SOURCES: Notable Biographies; New York Times;


Born in South Bend, Indiana on 11 April 1906. No time of birth known, chart is set for 12 noon.

Dale Messick was definitely a woman of her time - and for her time - born as Uranus and Neptune formed opposition and the world began to transition into 20th century patterns of invention, discovery and struggles related to a variety of social causes. Ms Messick's natal Mercury in Aries linked by square aspect to that Uranus-Neptune opposition in Cancer/Capricorn to form what astrologers call a "T-square". This is, one could say, symbolic of her constant effort to challenge a predominantly male environment in her own career and in the fantasy life of her creation, Brenda Starr. Jupiter in Gemini sextiles Mercury and could be said to indicate the reach and expansive nature of her creativity (250 newspapers, 60 million readers).

Ms Messick's natal Sun in Aries and natal Moon quite likely in Scorpio, both ruled by Mars reflect her pioneering aggressive "can-do" spirit. Mars and Venus both in Venus-ruled Taurus link by helpful sextile to Saturn (planet of work/career) in Pisces and add a certain Earthy stubborn streak to her nature, allied to a lively imagination.


mike said...

"All three wouldn't make one good man...", is a valid quote for most of our politicians, too.

"Brenda Starr" was in a minority of female-lead, protagonist cartoons from those decades. The cartoon strip was too sophisticated and adult for my youth, but I did eventually tune-in upon adulthood, which coincided with the women's movement(s) of the 1960s. Dale Messick was ahead of her time and was a forerunner, concomitant with "Rosie the Riveter".

I thought Messick's inclusion of the character, "Hank O'Hair", was ahead of the time, too. "Hank O'Hair" was portrayed as a tough, sexually ambiguous female (lesbian?). "Hank O'Hair" appeared in the "Dick Tracy" comics on several occasions, too.

Messick's Venus-Mars in Taurus is telling. Mars is in detriment here and Venus is in rulership. Her Venus is the final dispositor of all her planets. Venus-Mars are the classic female-male personal planets. Her "Brenda Starr" strip is reflective of her Venus-female dominated chart, with Sun, Moon, & Mercury being Mars ruled, but disposited by Venus. The character, Basil, was the perfect male muse for Brenda Starr's creator having Mars in Taurus. Messick's natal chart indicates a powerful, liberated woman and I suspect "Brenda Starr" was her fantasy equal...LOL.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Yes, good point (about our politicians)!

I hadn't come across Hank O'Hair in my searches(great name!) but found him on Google Image. LOL! Face reminded me immediately of an episode in "Quantum Leap" we've seen recently on Netflix where Scott Bakula "leaped" to find himself female and had to take part in a "Miss Deep South" beauty contest.
Maybe the Hank character was drawn/inspired by a colleague of Dale Messick's.

Thanks for additional astrology pointers.

mike (again) said...

"Hank O'Hair" is female and appeared in "Dick Tracy" after the demise of "Brenda Starr":

"Hank O'Hair was a female reporter for the "Daily Flash" newspaper. She was contacted by Dick Tracy when Tracy was investigating the dead body found at Abner Kadaver's Halloween attraction.

O'Hair provided some information that she had learned from a case reported on by her colleague, Brenda."

"Yes, that's right, that androgynously dressed lady seen in today's episode of "Tracy" is indeed Hank O'Hair, longtime confidant and pal at Brenda Starr's old newspaper, "The Flash. We're surprised to see ol' Hank - not only because "Brenda Starr" ended its run in January of this year, but because we long figured that newspaper was headed for bankruptcy! And besides, Dick Tracy just told us a few days ago that he no longer reads the comics!"

"Top Definition
a rag o' bone and a hank o' hair
An extremely emaciated individual.

Good lord, she's just a rag o' bone and a hank o' hair - a stiff wind would blow her away!"

Twilight said...

mike (again)~ Oh - my mistake! I originally assumed from your first comment Hank was a female, but then read this:

Hank O’Hair is a character from the Brenda Starr comics who cameos in Dick Tracy when Dick was looking for a man named “Sizzler” Sitzes. Dick called Hank at the Daily Flash where he worked the City Desk. Hank told Tracy that “Sizzler” was the owner of a car connected to the hit and run death of a local weatherman named Charles Addams.

....and decided that Hank must be a he (Hank, the name fits male too).

Good cartoon strip character, I'm sure - whatever! :-)