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Little Orphan Annie is a comic strip created by Harold Gray in 1924. The original version ran through 1974 (with everything after Gray's death in 1968 done by other authors), then went into reruns for several years; Leonard Starr resurrected it in 1979 with the title shortened to Annie, following the success of the Broadway musical (see below).In the strip, plucky redheaded orphan Annie is taken in by self-made millionaire "Daddy" Warbucks, the world's richest bald person. Since there's only so many ways of doing "Thieves try to steal the Warbucks millions" and "Kidnappers try to steal Annie so they can get their hands on the Warbucks millions", Annie would often be separated from her protector for months at a time, living on the streets again and bringing sunshine into the lives of struggling small-businessmen, honest laborers, and little old ladies with evil bank-managers.The strip spun off two films: one in 1932 by RKO, starring Mitzi Green as Annie, and the other in 1938 by Paramount, starring Ann Gillis. Both flopped big time at the box office.A radio show titled Adventure Time with Little Orphan Annie also was spun off from the comic strip. From 1930 to 1943, children were able to join Annie's secret society and encouraged to drink their Ovaltine (even in their Secret Society Decoder Pins!). Shirley Bell did the voice of the popular orphan for most of the show's run, until Janice Gilbert took over the role in the last year or two of the radio shows run.In 1972, Martin Charnin bought the rights to the comic strip. With Thomas Meehan and Charles Strouse, he created the Broadway musical Annie in 1977. The musical has itself been adapted as a 1982 film and a 1999 TV movie.In 1995, Annie: A Royal Adventure!, a Made-for-TV Movie starring Ashley Johnson, aired on ABC.The strip ended its 86-year run in June 2010. However, Dick Tracywill end up solving this cliffhanger!(When quoting the strip, we've changed the punctuation to conform with today's standards. In the original strip, there was no dot after the sentences. Instead, there was a hyphen between sentences. That doesn't look good on the web, so we're using standard punctuation here.)
Provides Examples Of:
AB Negative: When he's shot, a gambler by the moniker of "Bindle Al" needs a blood tranfusion badly. Unfortunately, his blood group is really rare. Luckily, Jack's got the same blood group despite the odds.
Action Girl: Annie can fight as well as any boy. April 7, 1936, she decks the toughest kid in school with one punch.
Anti-Villain: In late February, 1936, a robber seeing Annie walking along the road makes her get into his car. The reason he gives is that he wants to give her a ride, but it's really in order to use her as protection. If the police sees him they won't shoot at him if there's a risk of killing an innocent girl. He's impressed by the way Annie won't accept the stolen money he tries to give her, and says that he "could have been that way once, maybe... But it's too late now..." In the end, he tells her to leave him even though he knows that it will vastly increase the risk that the police kills him.
The robber: I'm not going to take any more chances o' letting you get hurt. I'm not that bad. I'm still man enough to meet my finish alone.
Art Evolution: The reason why Annie no longer sports an afro and Sandy no longer looks like Snowy.
Artifact Title: She was an orphan at first, but she met her good old "Daddy" Warbucks after less than two months. Time spent as an orphan: Less than sixty strips. Time spent not being an orphan: Thousands of strips.
Artistic License – Biology: Mr. Am tells Annie about how, millions of years ago, humans had to watch out for pterodactyls that wanted to eat them. And a lot of other things he says are factually inaccurate too, according to both the scientific knowledge of the time when it was published and today. This is justified — the entire point is that Mr. Am was around back then and knows the truth about what it was like, unlike modern science.
Artistic License – Law: Warbucks uses a hidden camera to film Phil O. Bluster, Busard and their cronies when they're discussing their evil doings. Then, he presents this as evidence against them during their trial. This wouldn't really work in real life, (mostly because Warbucks would either have to admit that he filmed people secretly and without their permission, or present the movie as faked,) but later Warbucks admits that it won't work as evidence — the real purpose of the footage is to turn people against Bluster & c:o, which will increae the odds that they'll be convicted. In other words, this is asubversion.
Catchphrase: "Leapin' lizards!" is Annie's, and Sandy's is "Arf!"
Cerebus Syndrome: The strip got noticeably more serious after a while. Let's put it this way: in the March 4 strip 1925, Annie went to a store with Mrs. Silo. In the March 4 strip 1938, Shanghai Peg throws an an axe straight into a bandit's head. So yeah, things got darker. Other factors in the Cerebus Syndrome is the way characters started getting Killed Off for Real, Warbucks found himself bankrupted in the depression and unable to get a job, and overall the problems Annie faced got both more relatable and serious.
Characterization Marches On: Warbucks started out as an uncouth down-to-earth sort, but later he became much more sophisticated (while remaining down-to-earth).
The Chessmaster: Annie has some traits of this when she wants to, coming up with some pretty good plans to catch the bad guys.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Subverted with Trixie Tinkle. When Warbucks returns from his and Trixie's boat trip without Trixie, nobody mentions her. But after a while, a rich couple asks Warbucks what happened to her, and he doesn't bother to answer them.
Clear My Name: When Edgar Filch frames Annie, she tries to prove that she didn't steal the money that she's accused of taking.
Comic-Book Time: Eighty years on, she's still little. And not in a Miniature Senior Citizens way either. To her credit, she seems to have made it into the late teen years. There is actually a canon explanation for this: Annie was born on leap year day, so she only ages one year for every four years that pass. Though that would still make her at least thirty.
Conveniently an Orphan: Subverted. She gets adopted fairly quickly. Sure, she might have no idea where her biological parents are, but she's no more an orphan than any other adopted child.
Cowardly Lion: The Sheriff from the Rose Chance arc from 1938 is pretty darn yellow, but he won't let that stop him when it really counts.
Curb-Stomp Battle: When a robber tries to steal Annie's jewelry February 8, 1931, she kicks his keister.
Denied Food as Punishment: Mrs. Bottle, who Annie lived with and worked for for a while, sent Annie to her room without dinner once. "You're not worth your salt" is all the explanation she gives.
Denser and Wackier: It goes from being completely realistic story-wise to including obviously unrealistic things like Mr. Am.
Deserted Island: Annie and Spike Marlin are stuck on one for a number of weeks.
Diabolus Ex Machina: Pretty much every story line ends with a sudden negative twist that prevents Annie from settling down to live happily ever after, and sets up the next arc: an old stand-by is that Annie is reunited with Warbucks after being kidnapped, but Warbucks loses all his money in the process. The next arc would then deal with him getting his fortune back. One of Harold Gray's mandates to his successors was that no storyline should ever end happily.
The comic strip ends with Annie, having survived being fed to sharks by drug dealers, being taken in by a war criminal on the run from The Hague. He tells her that her "new life" with him will consist of hiding from the authorities in a South American slum. Her beloved "Daddy" Warbucks meanwhile, has had a Heroic BSOD upon learning of Annie's apparent demise with it implied that he truly believes that she's dead. Ultimately subverted with the Fully Absorbed Finale in Dick Tracy, where Tracy reunites her with Warbucks (presumably for good).
The eonite arc can't be said to end all that happily either, although it could have been worse.
Mr. Pinchpenny, who has his sights set on the Futiles.
Mr. Gudge, who wants to make Mrs. Alden homeless.
Executive Meddling: A recurring plot in the strip is Annie getting away from Warbucks somehow, subsequently finding somebody poor to live with, and eventually getting back to Warbucks. The reason that things usually went this way was that while Gray wanted to let Annie keep being Warbucks' daughter, Gray's boss Captain Patterson thought she'd be more interesting if she stayed poor. They compromised, and Annie lived with poor people half the time and with Warbucks the other half.
Fall Guy: When Z.Z. Hare steals Warbucks' money that was going to be used to pay off Warbucks' debts, people assume that Warbucks had Hare hide the money, even though poor old Warbucks is really the Fall Guy chosen by Hare's partner in crime, who knew Warbucks would be blamed.
Fancy Dinner: When she's new at the Warbucks home, Annie gets to attend some, neither knowing proper manners nor caring in the slightest.
Felony Misdemeanor: When Annie and an Italian-American immigrant friend of hers named Tony are watching a parade, Tony asks a man next to him to take his hat off when the American flag is passing by. The man in the hat refuses, so Tony hits him in the head. For wearing a hat.
Funetik Aksent: Angus Flint speaks with one, as well as several policemen and lots of gangsters. In short, it's a very common trope.
Genre Shift: At one point the plot is about "Daddy" Warbucks and Annie trying to make ends meet during the depression. At a later point, it's about a million-year-old man who uses a magic box to turn gangsters into monkeys. So... yeah.
In a September 1937 strip, where Annie tells her foster parents, the Brittlewits, about three criminals who tried to kidnap her and two of her classmates. What makes it extra funny is the way Mr. Brittlewit seems to know what it sounds like to the readers.
Annie: It was a snatch, all right. They tried to grab us all.
Mr. Brittlewit: What language! Is that what you learn in school?
And here's what Arunah Blade has to say about money:
Arunah: This money is, shall we say, a charm or fetish — an evil fetish for evil men.
Hoist by His Own Petard: In the Sunday page for December 13, 1936, a couple of criminals called "Slugger" Jake and "Bomber" Mike have sent a mail bomb to kill Annie and her friend Ginger. When Annie sees the package she understands that there's a bomb inside. She throws it out the window, almost straight at Jake and Mike.
How the Mighty Have Fallen: Warbucks loses his fortune (and goes on to earn a new one) several times. At one point, he's reduced to a blind beggar.
Idle Rich: Mrs. Warbucks doesn't need to go to work in the morning. Or ever.
Impossibly Delicious Food: All the people who try Rose Chance's donuts agree that they're the best donuts they've ever tasted.
Informed Ability: Z.Z. Hare's reliability. He betrays people in the strip several times, but never shows any signs of being reliable. And we're told that he's stood by Warbucks in good times and bad, but we've seen Warbucks be in a lot of trouble over the years, and Hare was nowhere to be seen.
Inspirationally Disabled: Averted with Flophouse Bill. Even though he's a little person, Gray never uses him for some sort of "heartwarming lesson" about how we're all basically the same. He's just another character, who happens to be shorter than the average person.
Insurance Fraud: Mr. Brittlewit takes out life insurance on Annie so that he can kill her and get the money.
I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Jack is prepared to give up a chance at true happiness in order to keep Rose Chance happy. When her husband, Ace Chance, shoots a man called "Bindle Al," it looks like Al is going to die from the gunshot wound, which will make Ace a murderer and most likely get him the chair. But since that would be bad for Rose, Jack gives blood to enable a transfusion that saves the life of "Bindle Al." This makes sure that Ace at least doesn't get the chair. And then, he pays for a lawyer and puts up the bond for Ace, so that Ace is released.
Jerkass: The comic has featured several, but Miss Asthma stands out. Partly because she's a reoccurring one, which is very uncommon in this comic, but also because she's such a jerk.
Karma Houdini: Mrs. Warbucks takes the glory for foiling the plans of a bunch of burglars who were trying to steal valuables from her home. There's even an article about her in the newspaper. The person who really took care of the burglars is Annie, but she never gets any article about her, and the public never learns that Mrs. Warbucks lied to the newspaper.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: The only way you can read most of the Leonard Starr strips. One book of them was published over twenty years ago, but it only contained two arcs (less than a year's worth of strips) from the very beginning. And good luck finding the Sunday pages from the first years; IDW didn't collect them in their books since they usually didn't have any important connection to the story.
Keep the Reward: Shanghai Peg doesn't need any reward money for saving the Sheriff's daughter from being hit by a bus.
Shanghai Peg: Who wants pay for doing what any decent man would try to do?
Annie in her red dress. Lampshaded in a strip in which Annie, in direct address to the readers, informs them that she wears that dress because she likes red, that she has a lot of dresses, and they're all red.
Loads and Loads of Characters: There's Annie, "Daddy" Warbucks, Sandy, Mrs. Warbucks, Miss Asthma, "Uncle" Dan, Flophouse Bill, Wun Wey, Mr. Kolossal, Janey Spangles, Trixie Tinkle, Charles C. Chizzler, Mr. Slugg, Claude Claptrap, Ginger, Eli Eon, Mr. Blabble, Punjab, the Ghost Gang, Jack Boot, Hunterdon Halk, Doc Lens, Jake, Pee Wee the elephant, Mr. and Mrs. Silo, Tony, Spike Marlin, Ma Green, Pat, Fred Free, George Chiselopolis, Z.Z. Hare, Abigail Alden, Phineas Pinchpenny, Jack Pepper, Tom Take, Libby and Boris Bleek, "Blinkie," Tootsie Snoots, The Asp, Mr. Am, "Gold Brick" Jack, Mr. Updown, Arunah Blade, Tim Silverfish, Obadiah Ritt, Cuthbert Jones, Henry Morgan, Phil O. Bluster, Mr. and Mrs. Futile, George Gamble.... Should we go on? Because we've only just begun.
Loophole Abuse: George Gamble, who's working on a movie in Hollywood in which Annie plays a native princess (using the pseudonym "Inkey"), decides to make Annie the star of the movie instead of the intended star, Tootsie Snoots. Tootsie's parents complain that Tootsie's name is in smaller letters than "Inkey's", and that they'll sue Gamble for what he's done.
Gamble: Keep your shirt on, little man. Read your contract again. Your lawyer wrote it. He knows what's in it. Tootsie was paid what the contract calls for. She appeared in the picture in the part you insisted she play. As to billing — her name is in exactly the size letters the contract calls for, on the screen and out front. If you don't believe me, go and measure 'em. There's nothing in your contract that says "Inkey" can't be in bigger letters, or any clause that can keep a kid with real ability from being a bigger star than Tootsie. Think that over.
Manipulative Bastard: When Warbucks offers the Bleeks a Big Fancy House where they can raise Annie, they reply that something humbler would be much more fitting. Warbucks takes this as a sign that they're not just trying to take his money by claiming to be Annie's parents, which is of course exactly how they wanted him to react.
"Daddy" Warbucks, who's got bucks earned in the war.
Mr. Futile, who considers effort pointless since you're sure to fail anyway.
The stingy Mr. Pinchpenny.
Miss Treat, who does that to all the children in the reformatory where she works.
Chizzler, who cheats Annie and Dan of their earnings.
Mr. Am has no other name than the word "Am." If you've read The Bible, you'll know of an immortal guy whose name is something along those lines.
Miles Gloriosus: When Annie scares off a burglar from the Warbucks home, Mrs. Warbucks makes sure that she, and not Annie, gets all the glory.
Million-to-One Chance: When Warbucks considers getting surgery to regain his lost eyesight, Doc Lens tells him that the odds that the surgery will fail are a hundred to one, and that if it fails Warbucks won't even survive. Warbucks decides to go through with it anyway. Guess if it works. Go on, guess.
Mr. Trance, who ruins what would have been Annie's big movie and break-through as an actress, is based on David O. Selznick, a director who Gray felt ruined the RKO Little Orphan Annie movie. And to be fair, it was Selznick who slashed the movie's budget.
Claude Claptrap, the orator and rabble-rouser from the eonite arc, was based on George Norris, a senator who often worked with the Roosevelt administration.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Jack Chance picks up a hitchhiker and takes him to Abigail Alden's house to treat him to some coffee and doughnuts. Turns out, the hitchhiker in question is Rose Chance's long-lost husband. In other words, Jack just reunited his beloved Rose with his rival for her affections.
Not Now, Kiddo: Annie tries to tell Mrs. Warbucks something, but is shushed so that Mrs. Warbucks can continue lecturing Annie about her behavior. Once she's done, she lets Annie talk, just in time for Annie to inform her that her dress has caught fire.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Annie's way of keeping Mr. Bleek from the fact that she knows that he's the leader of the Ghost Gang.
Obfuscating Insanity: Eli Eon isn't mentally ill, but he doesn't mind it if people assume that he is.
When Annie first went to live with "Daddy" Warbucks, he had a wife, but after a while she was in a boat accident with him. Having woken up alone after the accident he went to search for her, leaving Annie behind, and when he returned to the strip he spent all his energy on finding Annie, and his wife was never mentioned again.
Really 700 Years Old: Mr. Am is millions of years old, but looks like a normal senior citizen, though bigger than most.
Recycled Script: Many lines in the "Uncle" Dan arc were copied almost word-for-word from other strips in the same arc.
Remember the New Guy: After several years with many trials and tribulations for Annie and "Daddy" Warbucks, we're introduced to Z.Z. Hare, who apparently has always stood by Warbucks, in good times and hard. Even though Warbucks had been in a lot of trouble several times by then, and Hare hadn't been around.
Resentful Guardian: Mrs. Crawfish doesn't like having to raise little Ellen, her stepdaughter.
One particularly interesting case is the several times that people who are cheating "Daddy" Warbucks sing "Happy Days Are Here Again," which was FDR's signature song from the 1932 election. It was a subtle jab at the New Deal. Gray was no fan of the New Deal. Take note, reader: good people never sing that song in Little Orphan Annie. When we hear it, it's always somebody evil who's singing.
In one strip, Annie's reading a letter to the editor in a newspaper. It's a complaint about how comic strips should stick to being funny. (There had been real-life complaints about how Little Oprhan Annie was too serious.) Annie comments that there's nothing wrong with a comic that doesn't just try to deliver another stale gag every day.
Tempting Fate: One strip begins by showing us a man on a liner who complains that he's bored and that there's "no slightest spot of excitement." Then, the head of a sea serpent appears from out of the water. (It's actually Mr. Am's submarine, but the man doesn't know that.)
This Is Reality: When Annie is held prisoner by a bunch of gangsters, here's what she says:
Annie: One thing I notice in all these stories. When th' hero is in a tight spot he never gives an inch. He knows justice is going to triumph, just in th' nick o' time... Or at least th' author knows it. It's a cinch for these story book heroes to be brave and bold... But there's no author goin' to rescue me at the last second. This is no fairy tale. This is th' real McCoy.
Edgar: She's different from the rubes in this town. She's class. I can pick 'em. Yeah. She doesn't know it yet, but she's going to be my girl.
Villain with Good Publicity: Hunterdon Halk is a pretty nasty sort, but almost all the people in the town of Butternut, where he lives, consider him to be not only the cat's pajamas but also the bee's knees.
Wall of Text: Early strips had word balloons crammed full of dialogue, but pretty quickly that stopped.
WHAM Line: "Is it kidnaping for a man and wife to speak to their own daughter? from January 17, 1934.
Wicked Stepmother: Mrs. Crawfish is a nasty sort who's stuck with raising her stepdaughter Ellen on her own, and makes no secret of the fact that she doesn't like the girl.
Annie: I've known step-mothers that were swell. It's not just 'cause she's a step-mother makes her like that. She'd be a pain-in-th'-neck no matter what she was.
Mrs. Warbucks was originally this to Annie.
Writer on Board: Gray had strong right-wing political and economic opinions that were frequently visible in the strip. To the point where Annie is happy to stay out of the government-sponsored orphanages and suffer on the streets, so she doesn't "sponge off taxpayer money". Somewhat ironically, the musical is something of a Homage to the New Deal-as-period-set-dressing.
Yellow Peril: Averted with Wun Wey, who's a good friend of Warbucks.
You Just Told Me: Annie wants to find out if Jack Boot is the one who gave the Jones family the money they needed to keep their farm. This is how she does it:
Annie: It sure was nice of you, "Uncle" Jack, helping the Joneses save their farm.
"Uncle" Jack: Eh? Hm-m... Well, they're deserving people. They don't seem to figure the world owes them anything they don't work for.