Dale Messick, the cartoonist who created the long-running, syndicated comic strip “Brenda Starr, Reporter,” died on April 5. Cause of death was not released. She was 98.
The Indiana native didn’t graduate from high school until she was 21, but found her life’s purpose in writing and drawing. In her 20s, Messick spent her days designing greeting cards for Chicago and New York City publishing companies, and her nights drawing comic strips.
At a time when women rarely worked outside of the home, Messick changed her name from the feminine “Dalia” to the more gender-neutral “Dale,” and launched a career in comics. Her first submission, “Streamline Babies,” was rejected by McNaught Syndicate. In 1940, however, Messick created the feisty reporter, Brenda Starr.
Based on actress Rita Hayworth, the curvy, redheaded cartoon journalist enjoyed thousands of thrilling adventures in her printed soap opera. During World War II, Starr became a foreign correspondent, one who chased down spies and sold war bonds. She traveled the world, searched for an elusive black orchid, fought off numerous wild animals and still managed to turn in her stories on deadline. When she wed her handsome and mysterious boyfriend, Basil St. John, in 1976, President Gerald Ford sent the character a telegram bearing his congratulations.
At its peak in the 1950s, “Brenda Starr, Reporter” appeared in 250 newspapers. The strip and its spunky heroine served as the inspiration for three movies and a TV show; Starr also appeared on a U.S. postage stamp.
Messick drew more than 15,000 strips before retiring in 1985. Today, “Brenda Starr, Reporter” is written by Mary Schmich, drawn by June Brigman and syndicated in newspapers around the country by Tribune Media Services. In 1997, Messick won the National Cartoonist Society’s Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award.
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