Winnie Winkle Sunday page of March 6, 1927
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Winnie Winkle was an American comic strip which appeared over a 76-year span (1920–96). Created by Martin Branner, who wrote the strip for over 40 years, Winnie Winkle was one of the first comic strips about working women. It was titled Winnie Winkle the Breadwinner until 1943. The main character, Winnie, was a young woman who had to support her parents and adopted brother, serving as a reflection of the changing role of women in society. It ran in more than 100 newspapers for several decades, and translations of the strip's Sunday pages (focusing on her little brother and his gang) were made available in Europe.
The Chicago Tribune Syndicate launched the comic strip on September 20, 1920. The strip's premise was conceived by Joseph Medill Patterson, but the stories and artwork were by Branner, who had previously created two unsuccessful comic strips.
The eponymous character Winnie Winkle was a young, unmarried woman who had to support her parents, making it the first popular comic strip about working women. It was a reflection of the new role of women in society, as could also be seen in comics like Tillie the Toiler from 1921. Writing for the Associated Press in 1993, Hugh A. Mulligan noted, "After women got the vote and joined the work force, family-centered comics were joined by working-girl strips like Winnie Winkle, Tillie the Toiler, Dixie Dugan, Somebody's Stenog and Brenda Starr, which was drawn by a woman, Dale Messick. Almost from the beginning, politics and a social conscience hovered over the drawing board."
Characters and story
During its first years, the daily Winnie Winkle evolved from simple gags to more complex humorous situations. A new character was introduced in the form of Perry, a little boy from the backstreets, whom the Winkles adopted in 1922. The focus of the Sunday pages then shifted to the adventures of Perry at home, school and on the streets. Although compelled to wear a duffel coat and fancy clothes, he continued to frequent his old neighborhood gang, the Rinkydinks, who, in contrast, still wore torn and patchy clothing and were regarded by Winnie as "loafers." One member of the Rinkydinks was the dunce, Denny Dimwit, who popularized the catch phrase, "Youse is a good boy, Denny."
Other major plot elements were the 1937 marriage of Winnie to engineer Will Wright and the disappearance of Will during World War II, leaving a pregnant Winnie behind. This realistic and unfortunate situation was too risqué for some newspapers: The Baltimore Sun dropped the strip early in 1941 because of the pregnancy of Winnie. The comic strip changed significantly over the years; with Winnie working in the fashion industry after the war, seemingly as a widow until her husband returned after a few decades. She took on various other jobs and endeavors over the years, including a stint in the Peace Corps.
Winnie Winkle ended July 28, 1996, after 76 years, one of the longest runs in American comic strip history. Tribune Media Service, the syndicate that distributed the comic strip, "felt that the Winnie Winkle character was not recognized as a contemporary role model for the '90s." At the time, the strip was carried by only a handful of newspapers.
Branner employed a number of assistants, including Royal King Cole (during the 1930s), Rolf Ahlson, Mike Peppe and Max Van Bibber (1938–1962). Another assistant was the young French author Robert Velter, who on his return to Europe created the famous series Spirou et Fantasio.
From 1941 until 1958, his assistant was John A. Berrill, who later created Gil Thorp. After Branner suffered a stroke in 1962, Van Bibber continued the series until 1980, later followed by students from the Joe Kubert school of cartooning and finally by veteran artist Frank Bolle. Bolle recalled:
- I did Winnie Winkle for 20 years, and when they told me, "You have 90 days to wrap it up," because they were discontinuing it, I felt terrible, but after I finished it, I didn't even miss it. I was depressed because I lost a good job, but I just didn't miss it. Maybe it was the routine of it every week I didn't miss, but I have a lot of good memories of doing that strip.
International spin-offs and translations
In 1923, Winnie's adopted younger brother Perry Winkle and his friends the Rinkydinks became the focus of the Sunday pages. In Europe, only the Sunday pages were translated. The Dutch translated it as Sjors van de Rebellenclub which became very popular in the Netherlands, where it was the predecessor of the long-running series Sjors en Sjimmie by Frans Piët. In France, it was known as Bicot and published by Hachette in 14 albums between 1926 and 1939. In both countries, local artists made new comics about Perry when the number of weekly pages by Branner was no longer sufficient.
The Sunday page of Winnie Winkle was the first American comic published in a Yugoslavian daily newspaper, Jutarnji list from Zagreb. It first appeared on August 5, 1923 and lasted until April, 1941, the beginning of World War II in that country. Perry, the hero, was renamed Ivica (Johnny), and Winnie Suzana. The Rinkydinks were rechristened Rantanplanci, allegedly after a group of kids from a contemporary Hollywood film series. The title was Pustolovni Ivica (Adventurous Johnny). A single Christmas episode taking place in Zagreb was published, the work of unknown local authors. Three albums collected the stories published in the newspaper.
From 1926 to 1928, ten Winnie Winkle the Breadwinner movies were produced, written by Branner and starring Ethelyn Gibson as Winnie, with Billy West as director. Winnie Winkle was reprinted in Dell Comics, and for a time her face appeared on a cigar box lid.
Due to its originality and longevity, Winnie Winkle became a household name and an icon, inspiring even the Pop Art artist Roy Lichtenstein. It ran in more than 140 newspapers in 1939, and by 1970, it still ran in more than 150 newspapers. In retrospect, it is seen as one of the comic strips heralding a new, more independent role for American women after World War I.
Syrcause University houses the Martin Branner Cartoons collection of 300 original daily cartoons from Winnie Winkle (1920–1957). There is a complete week from each year represented, with additional random cartoons from each year. There are no holdings for 1946–47. The daily cartoons display traces of graphite, blue pencil, Zip-A-Tone, brush, pen and ink on illustration board measuring approximately 7 ¼ x 22 ½ inches.
- Drowne, Kathleen Morgan; Huber, Patrick (2004). The 1920s. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 280. ISBN 978-0-313-32013-2. "And Martin Branner's Winnie Winkle [...] marked the advent of a number of strips featuring modern wage-earning women"
- Ian Gordon (1998). "Comic Strips of the 1920s". Retrieved February 23, 2007. "Until 1943 it carried the subtitle "The Breadwinner."
- Time (July 3, 1939). "1,848,320 of Them". Retrieved February 22, 2007. "[Joe Patterson] thought up The Gumps (his mother coined the word), Winnie Winkle the Breadwinner, Dick Tracy"
- Ian Gordon (1998). "Comic Strips of the 1920s". Retrieved February 23, 2007. ""Winnie Winkle" was the first of a genre of "working girl" comic strips."
- Library of Congress (June 25, 1995). "Featuring the Funnies". Retrieved February 22, 2007. "Women entering the workplace inspired such strips as "Winnie Winkle the Breadwinner," "Tillie the Toiler" and "Somebody's Stenog," albeit in subservient roles."
- The Seattle Times (August 15, 1993). "Comic Strips Bring Readers A Century Of Humor, Adventure And Controversy". Retrieved February 23, 2007. "After women got the vote and joined the work force, family-centered comics were joined by working-girl strips like Winnie Winkle, Tillie the Toiler, Dixie Dugan, Somebody's Stenog and Brenda Starr[...]"
- Cartoonacy: Denny Dimwit
- Time (February 24, 1941). "Racketeers of Childhood". Retrieved February 22, 2007. "[...] few newspapers carry innocence in funnies so far as did the Baltimore Sun last week: It dropped Winnie Winkle because she is going to have a baby."
- Time (April 9, 1965). "Good Grief". Retrieved February 22, 2007.
- Hinckley, David (July 26, 1996). "Ms. Winkle out at 75 time passes Winnie by". New York: Daily News. p. 4. Retrieved March 17, 2009.
- Griffith, Bill. Zippy the Pinhead, December 19, 2005.
- Bédétheque. "Rob-Vel" (in French). Retrieved February 22, 2007.
- New York Times (March 16, 1996). "John A. Berrill, Cartoonist, 72". The New York Times. Retrieved February 22, 2007.
- Kees Kousemaker. "Max Van Bibber". Comiclopedia. Retrieved February 22, 2007.
- Kees Kousemaker. "Joe Kubert". Comiclopedia. Retrieved February 23, 2007.
- Petrilak, Joe. Frank Bolle Interview
- Kees Kousemaker. "Martin Branner". Comiclopedia. Retrieved February 22, 2007.
- Kees Kousemaker. "Sjors van de Rebellenclub" (in Dutch). Comiclopedia. Retrieved February 22, 2007.
- Béra, Michel; Denni, Michel; Mellot, Philippe (2002). Trésors de la Bande Dessinée 2003–2004 (in French). Paris: Les éditions de l'amateur. pp. 97–98. ISBN 2-85917-357-9.
- "Glénat BD: Bicot" (in French). Glénat. Retrieved February 22, 2007.
- Don Markstein. "Winnie Winkle". Toonopedia. Retrieved March 17, 2009.
- Cigar Label Junkie
- New York Times (October 8, 1993). "On Top With Pop: A Virtuoso Of Irony". The New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2007.
- Time (February 20, 1939). "Winnie on a Bus". Retrieved February 22, 2007.
- Time (June 1, 1970). "Martin Branner obituary". Retrieved February 22, 2007.
- The Seattle Times (April 7, 1996). "New Women Stride In". Retrieved February 23, 2007. "By mid-decade, "Betty" and "Winnie Winkle, The Breadwinner" joined these old stand-bys, celebrating the fun and independence of single young women."
- Reubens.org. "NCS Awards". Retrieved February 22, 2007.
- Syracuse University Special Collections: Martin Branner Cartoons