Dalia Messick (April 11, 1906 – April 5, 2005) was an American comic strip artist who used the pseudonym Dale Messick. She was the creator of Brenda Starr, which at its peak during the 1950s ran in 250 newspapers.

Life & CareerEdit

She was born in South Bend, Indiana,[1] to a seamstress and commercial artist. She had an interest in writing and drawing since childhood. She studied briefly at the Ray Commercial Art School in Chicago but left to begin a career as a professional artist.

Greeting cards Edit

She began working for a Chicago greeting card company[2] and was successful but quit when her boss lowered her pay during the Great Depression. In 1933, she moved to New York City where she found work with another greeting card company at a higher salary, $50 a week, sending nearly half of it back to her family in Indiana. She recalled, "I had $30 a week to live it up. You could walk down 42nd Street and have bacon and eggs and toast and coffee and hash brown potatoes and orange juice—the works—for 25 cents."[2][3]

Comic Strips Edit

She began assembling a portfolio of comic strip samples. Messick was not the first female comic strip creator; Nell Brinkley, Gladys Parker and Edwina Dumm had all achieved success in the field, but there was still a bias against women. Messick decided to change her first name to Dale so her work would be seen by editors.[2] She created a variety of comic strips (Weegee, Mimi the Mermaid, Peg and Pudy, the Struglettes, Streamline Babies), but none were selected for publication.

Brenda Starr Edit

Messick created the character of Brenda Starr in 1940, naming it after a debutante from the 1930s and basing her appearance on Rita Hayworth.[1] Messick wanted to produce a strip with a female protagonist; she decided a career as a reporter would allow her character to travel and have adventures, adventures more glamorous than those actually experienced by most reporters. She later commented on this in a 1986 article in the San Francisco Chronicle:

"I used to get letters from girl reporters saying that their lives were nowhere near as exciting as Brenda's. I told them that if I made Brenda's life like theirs, nobody would read it."[4]

Her break came when she came to the attention of another woman, Mollie Slott,[1] who worked as a "Girl_Friday" (à la the film His Girl Friday) for New York Daily News publisher (and syndicate head) Joseph Medill Patterson. Patterson, reputedly biased against women cartoonists, wouldn't sign her up for daily publication in the News,[1] but he accepted Brenda Starr, Reporter for syndication as a Sunday strip|Sunday comic, and it made its debut on June 30, 1940. The strip was an immediate success, since the mix of adventure and romance was popular with both male and female readers.

Other Strips Edit

Messick went on to create a number of other comic strips, but none achieved the success of Brenda Starr. The only other strip which she worked on which is generally remembered was Perry Mason, which she illustrated.

On April 24, 1955, she appeared on What's My Line? After the panel correctly identified her as a comic strip artist, they were given a full description of her real name, professional name and job as "illustrator" of Brenda Starr.

Messick retired from producing Brenda Starr in 1980. Ramona Fradon (artist) and Linda Sutter (writer) took over the strip from 1980 to 1995. June Brigman (artist) and Mary Schmich (writer) have done the strip from 1995 to the present. Messick wasn't as impressed with her successors' versions of Starr, according to a 1998 quote in the Sonoma County Independent: "Now it doesn't look like Brenda at all. She looks more like she works at a bank. No glamour, no curves, no fashion — but it's still going pretty good."[3]

Following her retirement from Brenda Starr, Messick moved to Oakmont, California, to be near her daughter and grandchildren.[1] She continued to work and created a new strip, Granny Glamour, which ran in Oakmont Gardens Magazine, a local weekly magazine.[3] It ended after she had a stroke in 1998 and couldn't draw any more.

Awards and LegacyEdit

From January to May 1992, the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco exhibited a "Spotlight on Dale Messick", concurrently with the "Broad Humor" exhibit, which Messick also featured in. In 1995, Brenda Starr was one of 20 comic strips honored by a series of United States postage stamps; Messick was the only living creator. She received the National Cartoonists Society's Story Comic Book Award for 1975 and their Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997 for her work on Brenda Starr.[2]

In 2011, her granddaughter, Laura Rohrman wrote a play called Reporter Girl about Messick and the evolution of Brenda Starr. It was directed by Erica Gould and ran during the Comic Book Theater Festival at the Brick Theater in Brooklyn.[5]

Gallery Edit

External LinksEdit

Sources Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Gaura, Maria Alicia. "Dale Messick—cartoonist who drew Brenda Starr," San Francisco Chronicle (April 8, 2005).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Sullivan, Patricia. "Cartoonist Dale Messick Dies; Creator of Brenda Starr Strip," Washington Post (April 8, 2005), p. B06.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Howell, Daedalus. "Brenda Starr's Dale Messick is a firecracker," Sonoma County Independent (February 19, 1998).
  4. Obituary, Editor & Publisher
  5. The Comic Book Theater Festival Brick Theater
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