Growing up, did you read the funny papers? I did.
|Dale Messick, the creator of Brenda Starr, Star Reporter Chicago Tribune photo|
Brenda Starr may have been my first role model. She was the main comic strip character of "Brenda Starr, Star Reporter." She was a woman journalist, who was assertive and adventurous, and the creation of Dalia Messick.
My first hero really should have been Dalia Messick, but I didn't know her story back then. Messick started her career drawing greeting cards (one of my ambitions). In her spare time, she created several comic strip ideas; but to get them published, she needed to change her name to Dale Messick. She submitted her work to her boss, Joseph Medill Patterson, the Chicago Tribune editor in 1940, who agreed reluctantly to print her strip. It didn't appear in the comic pages, but was relegated to a special advertising section. The strip became so popular anyway that it eventually was syndicated nationally.
Messick named Brenda Starr after a debutante, styled her to look like Rita Hayward, and patterned her after real-life Nelly Bly. Starr became the role model for many women who aspired to be journalists, but she also was a product of her time, mainly mid-twentieth century.
In the strip, she ventured out to exotic locations, used her feminine wiles to attract handsome millionaires who either came to her aid or entrapped her, and returned with a fantastic story to print. Like Nancy Drew, she was a hero to young girls, but needed a man to rescue her in difficult situations. At least Starr got a byline.
According to Suzi Parker, a current journalist, Brenda is "Perpetually torn between the demands of her career and her romantic proclivities. Her life has proved a long litany of frustrations. Romance, usually doomed, has dogged Brenda's footsteps throughout her long career."
I liked Brenda Starr's adventurous spirit and her confidence in getting her stories published. My young self incorporated some of her spirit into my own. After I stopped reading the funny pages, Brenda Starr continued with a very modern day version of life. She married, had children, divorced, and became an editor at her paper. Dalia Messick continued to draw the strip into the 1980s when it was taken over by different female teams of writers and illustrators.
Looking back on the comic strip now, I know that Dalia Messick was the true hero She stood up to people who thought that women artists didn't belong on the funny pages and laid the path for many others to follow.
To read more about Dalia Messick: