Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

Home > CR Reviews

The Complete Little Orphan Annie, Vol. 1
posted August 20, 2008


Creator: Harold Gray
Publishing Information: IDW, hardcover, 368 pages, June 2008, $39.99
Ordering Numbers: 1600101402 (ISBN10), 9781600101403 (ISBN13)

There are many comics I admire, several more than that I like, and a few that I think highly of as art. Little Orphan Annie is a comic I love. This is hard to explain to most comics fans, let alone those whose only experience with Harold Gray's creation is the musical. I fell in love with Little Orphan Annie after hearing my mom and her mother one Christmas visit talk about how much incidental but very real comfort they took in its recurring presence in their home, how Annie's embrace of hard work and her unwavering loyalty and frequent kindnesses represented a series of signposts in times where external and internal forces pressed themselves against Mom's post-war generation and Grandma's survivors of World War II and the hard decade that preceded it. Like many of my favorite strips, Annie reveals something about the American character without intending to do so, in its case something that's hopeful yet realistic, something that appeals despite some of the more excessive political constructions on display as the strip grew older.

The Little Orphan Annie shared by my mother and grandmother was different than the one we get here, in this first volume of IDW's reprint projects. Happily, it's not as radically altered as I thought it might be. Gray had yet to perfect the occasionally picaresque background and context that provided spice to Annie's later adventures; there's more domestic comedy at the heart of the early strips than the kind of rollicking travelogue and exquisite melodrama that came later. The cartoonist's awesome, sometimes terrifying employment of space and his unique staging is probably the furthest away of all his virtues in this incarnation, but the strip remains attractively drawn. It wouldn't be too long for Annie to get up to the speed that it enjoyed for its best 10-15 years, and certainly that strip is recognizable in this one. The reprinted dailies are ably supported by several pages of writing festooned with well-chosen art. I always get a little exhausted by the size and scale of these voluminous efforts in their currently fashionable full flowering, but what I've read here and there seemed compelling. Like Daddy Warbucks at various time in the print's run, I'm just sort of glad to welcome the character and her wonderful comic strip vehicle back into my home.


please note: these are my scans, not the book's. the book's are nicer