Deadlines, family commitments, and some technical difficulties have delayed our May dip into the LOAC Wheel of Fortune, but it’s not like we forgot or anything, believe me!
Since May is the fifth month of the year,. we opted to look at all our releases to-date that have a “5” in their volume number — that encompasses “Volume 5s,” “Volume 15s,” and in the case of Dick Tracy, even a Volume 25! For the first time, if memory serves, we’re also including a pair of 2019 releases in a Wheel of Fortune population, since both Spider-Man and Donald Duck celebrated their fifth volumes (in Donald’s case, his fifth volume of dailies).
So here’s the population, eleven titles strong:
Looking at the list, I found a few surprises in it — I didn’t realize we finished the Al Williamson run on Corrigan before our seventy-fifth release, or that Bungle Family (which is still fresh in my mind, a testament to the quality of the strip) fell into our first hundred books. Anyway, here it is, loaded into the Wheel and ready for a big spin:
And this month’s featured title is <insert drum roll and dramatic pause here> …
A real pleasure to see the Wheel bring up LOA (as we like to refer to it), since in my opinion this is one of our consistently-best, yet perhaps most-underappreciated series. In one pithy sentence: Harold Gray knew how to tell a story. And he moves to a near-novelistic approach beginning with the tales in this particular volume, which marks the end of Annie‘s first decade and the beginning of its second.
This volume opens with one of LOA‘s most-reprinted continuities: the saga of the blind fiddler, “Uncle Dan.” Annie and Sandy team up with him during one of those periods when gal and dog are on their own, and the trio run afoul of that snake-in-the-grass agent, C.C. Chizzler. (I said Gray knew how to tell a story — I didn’t say he was subtle!) These strips formed the basis of a Cupples and Leon collection, a Big Little Book, and a turn-of-the-21st-Century Pacific Comics Club paperback.
Annie and “Daddy” Warbucks reunite just in time for Christmas, 1933, but happiness doesn’t last long as the continuity we called “Bleek House” unfolds over the next twelve months. Have Annie’s real parents — Boris and Libby Bleek — found their lost daughter at last? Can they separate her from her beloved “Daddy”? Where do the unctuous Phil O. Bluster and Warbucks’s staunch friend, Wun Wey, fit into the picture? How does “Daddy” end up behind bars? And why is he penniless by the time he is once again a free man? It’s a compelling, entertaining read, and our collection includes another excellent Introduction from Gray scholar Jeet Heer, plus information about the Little Orphan Annie radio show and motion picture of the period.
Annie and “Daddy” are both shining examples of qualities we associate closely with America, but which are really universal, and universally admired: the willingness to stand up for the downtrodden who are mistreated by those in power; quick wit and ingenuity; the ability to successfully collaborate with others, or call on a a core of self-reliance that sustains when other, less hearty souls have abandoned the cause. I may not always agree with Harold Gray’s politics or positions, but I greatly admire the way he crafted and grew these two characters, who often remind us of the best to be found in the human condition.
Of course, we have since published many more LOA volumes, carrying Annie, her friends, and family through World War II and into the 1950s. Throughout the years and all their attendant trials, she remains what Dean has dubbed her: America’s Spunkiest Kid. There are many high points in Annie’s long-running narrative, but if you’re interested in sampling one slice of it, you can’t go wrong by picking Little Orphan Annie, Volume 5 — and you may decide to come back for more!
Speaking of that, rejoin me in this space in just a few weeks for our June spin of the LOAC Wheel of Fortune …