Another Redheaded Ending Part 2 of 2

Posted by on December 28th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

RAMONA FRADON WAS THE FIRST ARTIST to succeed Messick. “She decided she didn’t want to draw any more,” Fradon told Katherine Keller at Sequential Tart in 2000. “She wrote it for a year [maybe two or three] and then they sort of got rid of her,” Fradon sighed. “It was not a very pretty thing, the way they did it. They hired another writer. I continued to draw it for 15 years.”

All the while she was drawing it, she was paying Messick’s pension. “The syndicate  insisted that half of her pension come out of my paycheck. For the 15 years that I was there, I was paying for half of Dale’s pension. I figured it amounted to something like $95,000 over those years. And Dale was so angry at the syndicate that she vowed to live forever so that she could keep collecting that pension, and she’s still doing it. She’s 94 now,” Fradon laughed.

The writer the syndicate hired to replace Messick was Mary Schmich. It never occurred to anyone that even though Schmich could write a newspaper column, she might not be able to write fiction in daily installments; but, as it turned out, she could. And did for the next 25 years. After Fradon retired in 1995, the drawing fell briefly to Linda Sutter, then June Brigman took over. “June is a great artist,” said Schmich.

Schmich brought her own experience as a newspaperwoman to bear on Brenda’s adventures, reducing preoccupation with the redhead’s love life. “How many romances can a woman have without beginning to look trampy?” she asked rhetorically during an interview published in Editor & Publisher, April 2005.

At the time of Messick’s death that same month, Schmick and Brigman had just completed a sequence highly critical of the news media’s celebrity journalists, whose egos, in the strip, drive their careers, not their news sense. Written before the pundit-payola scandals that surfaced with Armstrong Williams’ getting money from the government for promoting the Bush League agenda, the sequence, which ran in February and March, understandably attracted more attention than Brenda usually does in the 20 or so newspapers that were then running it.

And this was not the first time Brenda had been critical of the news media, but this time, thanks to the publicity attending the pundit-payola scams, the strip earned two pages in the April issue of Editor & Publisher. Said Schmich: “It’s always interesting to me that the way to get noticed by the media is to write about the media.” Interesting — even indicting.

With the expiration of Brenda Starr, Tribune Media Services, the lineal descendant of the powerhouse syndicate that Joe Patterson built with a sure instinct for the comics readers wanted, offers only Dick Tracy and Gasoline Alley of the storied line-up that had included Terry and the Pirates, Moon Mullins, Smilin’ Jack, Harold Teen, Winnie Winkle and Smitty. And late-comer Gil Thorpe and newcomer Brewster Rockit: Space Guy are the only other storytelling strips left on the roster. Jim Scancarelli’s solo enterprise, Gasoline Alley, remains one of the best drawn and most imaginatively written of the lot — of any syndicate’s lot, I ween.

Most of TMS’s remaining 10 comics features, except Russell Myers’ Broomhilda, are fairly routine gag strips or panel cartoons — another exception being the wildly popular albeit insanely saccharine panel, Love Is … But looking over the crop, it’s hard to believe that TMS wants very badly to be in the business of syndicating comics. I don’t think they’ve added a new comic strip in 10 years.

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3 Responses to “Another Redheaded Ending Part 2 of 2”

  1. WLLilly says:

    …Though you don’t say it yourself , your listing of all the post-Messick creators on BSR back up what I recall reading , that Trib had consiously decided to keep the strip done by extra-X chronosome hands after its creator was ” pushed out “…That is , female ones .
    Even though that may have been a good idea , it may , I suppose , have contributed to Trib’s discontinuation of it at this time after Schmich and Brigman’s decision ( BTW , I have only seen Schmisch quoted as deciding to leave , though I suppose Brigman , sidterhood-is-powerful-like , may have chosen to go along with her . I recall a relatively recent HOGAN’S ALLEY afticle where Brigman was ethusiastic about he lot – ) , given the smaller amount , in general , of proven ” better half ” comics professionals , especially in the now-limited continuity strip gnre , is that’s…

  2. WLLilly says:

    …( continuing…)in the now-limited continuity strip genre ( If ” genre ” , indeed , is the correct phrase…) presuming that Trib didn’t wish to be accused of breaking tradition at this point…
    Oh , and where I wrote ” better half ” above , I really meant to write ” distaff ” , but couldn’t remember the ( No doubt you’re perhaps the last TCJ regular who’d accept the use of the phras ! ) term at that moment…
    BTW , Brenda , when the strip began , worked for the GLOBE , not the FLASH – When did the – merger ? – transpire ?
    In the 1970s the New York City-based rock band Blondie , featuring Deborah Harry , sang ” She looks like the Sunday comics/She thinks she’s Brenda Starr ” or similar in their song ” Rip Her To Shreds ” and I , as a teenager in that area , read the still-full-page tabloid BSR in the Sunday New York News then , and I remember a Sunday which consisted entirely of a strip-long long-shot to close-up , opening in the first panel with a shot of our entire solar system , drawing close to the ( then- ) nine planets , Earth from above , Earth past the cloud cover and so forth , into the Flash’s nesroom , where someone was speaking , and finally not even a close-up of an eye , but an iris/cornea !!!!!!!!!
    Or at least that’s the way I remember it………..