Dale Messick, 1906 - 2005
- Trina Robbins
By now, anyone who reads newspapers probably knows that the world of women cartoonists lost our oldest member on April 5, when Brenda Starr creator Dale Messick passed away, just five days short of her 99th birthday.
All the newspapers carried similar stories, about how Dalia Messick changed her name to the more unisex moniker of Dale, hoping editors would be more likely to buy her comics if they thought the artist was male, and how at first publisher Joseph Patterson refused to buy Daleís strip -- he knew it was by a woman -- but how her strip was rescued by Pattersonís girl Friday Mollie Slott, who worked with Dale to make the strip so good that Patterson finally grudgingly accepted it.
But hereís something youíll only read here: Dale Messick turned me into a criminal! Thatís right, my need to follow Brenda Starr made me a common newspaper thief. My father refused to buy the New York Daily News, the only newspaper that carried Brenda Starr, and in retrospect I canít blame him. The paper was a rag, aimed at the lowest common denominator, and carrying a bunch of really awful, boring comics -- all but the wonderful,
carrot-topped girl reporter, Brenda Starr. All the girls in my high school followed Brendaís adventures and the talented artists in the school copied the starry-eyed girl reporterís face into their notebooks.
What was I to do?
My landlady, who lived downstairs, subscribed to the Daily News. I woke up early, to go to school. She slept late. It was so easy to tiptoe down the stairs on my little teen girl feet, pick up the News where it lay at our door, bring it back upstairs, read Brenda's fabulous doings with my morning cereal (Would she ever find her missing Mystery Man? Would she
escape the clutches of Pala, the beautiful albino Polynesian Princess who held her captive on a desert island?), carefully re-fold it, and return it to the front door on my way to school!
Yes, your honor, you can blame it all on Dale Messick!