Brenda Starr, Reporter
|Brenda Starr, Reporter|
|Launch date||June 30, 1940|
|End date||January 2, 2011|
|Syndicate(s)||Chicago Tribune Syndicate|
Although set in Chicago, Brenda Starr, Reporter initially was the only Chicago Tribune Syndicate strip not to appear in the Chicago Tribune newspaper. When the strip debuted June 30, 1940, it was relegated to a comic book supplement that was included with the Sunday Chicago Tribune. Soon the strip appeared in the Sunday paper and a daily strip was added in 1945. During the 1950s, at the height of its popularity, the strip appeared in 250 newspapers. In 2010, the strip appeared in 65 newspapers with 36 being international papers.
Following Messick's retirement as Brenda Starr's artist in 1980, the strip was continued by different female writer and illustrator teams. From 1980 through 1982, Messick continued scripting, and the strip was illustrated by Ramona Fradon. In 1982, Linda Sutter took over writing. Mary Schmich began scripting the strip in 1985, with Fradon continuing as the illustrator until her 1995 retirement. From 1995 onward, June Brigman illustrated Schmich's scripts. The final strip was published on January 2, 2011.
A greeting card illustrator for the Chicago Tribune Syndicate, Messick created Brenda Starr, Reporter following the rejection of a female pirate-based comic strip that she had previously submitted. The character name, Brenda Starr, was based on Brenda Frazier, a debutante of the 1930s, while her appearance was based on the movie actress Rita Hayworth. The strip initially encountered resistance from Tribune editor Joseph Medill Patterson because its creator was a woman. After the strip was established, other instances of resistance were reported. "Whenever Ms. Messick drew in cleavage or a navel, the syndicate would erase it. She was once banned in Boston after showing Brenda smoking a polka-dot cigar."
Characters and final storylines
Brenda has always been a modern woman, noted for her exotic adventures and steamy romances. Dale Messick and later artists concentrated on keeping Brenda contemporary in clothing and hairstyles. Before Messick retired, Brenda finally married the mysterious Basil St. John, whose eye patch and black orchid serum have been a regular plot element. Shortly thereafter, Brenda had Basil's baby, a girl named Starr Twinkle St. John. Brenda and Basil divorced, and sparks flew when they met again. During one of Basil's reappearances, Brenda discovered Basil had a son named Sage with the talk show host Wanda Fonda. That marriage also ended in divorce. Brenda and Wanda became good friends. Eventually, Brenda was promoted from reporter to editor.
2009: Romance in Paris
However, Basil's mysterious assistant, a handsome Kazooki code-named "Ringo," persuaded Sage and Brenda to travel instead to Paris, France. Sage was thrilled by the idea of traveling by an undersea tunnel. Brenda admitted that she "could never say no to Paris." In the French capital, Ringo revealed two secrets to Brenda: 1) Basil was financing and training teachers to educate the Kazooki people (which would put Basil on a death list if found out by the repressive government of Kazookistan); and 2) Ringo was in love with Brenda. When he says the latter, Brenda either does not hear him—or pretends not to. But the second time, she clearly hears him—and feels as if she is drowning. She recovers, and says: "Thanks for the gift." Then the two continue exploring Paris and explaining their feelings to each other. They drink an entire bottle of champagne and Ringo recites mystic Sufi love poetry to Brenda. When the bottle is empty, Ringo places a love poem by Hafez inside it, and casts it into the Seine, calculating that one day it will reach American shores. They bid a sad bittersweet farewell. Ringo returns to Kazookistan. Brenda returns Sage to his mother Wanda in the US.
2009: Move to India
Bottomline, Brenda's boss, orders her to take a furlough—an unpaid leave. Starr instead accepts a job offer from her old friend Pug—who is now working for a newspaper in India. Brenda and Pug very early have a major disagreement, concerning a street child. Brenda is ready to adopt the hungry little girl, but Pug warns her against falling for the wiles of the slumpuppies. Starr also finds herself instantly attracted to a dark and handsome fellow reporter, Salman Mistry. Salman shows some hostility towards Brenda, mostly because she is an American. The street urchin, named Carina, turns out to be actually the rich heiress of the wealthy Khan family. The other members of the family—Taj, Raj, Caressa—are suspects in a major and complex conspiracy, including the assassination of journalists and a plot for brutal slum clearance.
2010: Family corruption
Back in the US, Brenda is shocked to discover that The Flash has become a free newspaper and has taken on a blogger, the callow Jason. She is disappointed too when her old friend Harry Rumples seems to have sold out to the politicians. When the new mayor, charismatic Sterling Golden, is implicated in a murder, Brenda flies off to Belize in Central America, in search of the missing green campaigner Verde. Golden's manipulative mother turns out to be behind the murder and other dark doings. Brenda next investigates eccentric district attorney Tap Fitzpatrick in relation to the death of her fellow reporter Felicity Fox, and discovers that Tap's father is plotting against him while faking senility.
At the newspaper holiday party, Brenda announces her retirement. In the final strip (published Sunday, January 2, 2011), she says good-bye to everyone and walks away with tears in her eyes. As she leaves the party she receives a box containing a black orchid, and a card with the initials BSJ.
Brenda Starr, Reporter was published as a comic book series by four different publishing houses. The first was Four Star Publications in 1947 followed by Superior Publishing from 1948 through 1949. In 1955 Charlton Comics carried the series as well as Dell Publishing in 1963. Among the several comic book runs the 1948 Superior series featured art by Jack Kamen in issues #2, #4 and #14. Brenda Starr is currently being reprinted by Hermes Press.
Films and TV
Through the years there have been four film and television movies based on the comic strip. The first was Brenda Starr, Reporter, a 1945 serial with Joan Woodbury in the title role. A Brenda Starr movie, produced for television, that starred Jill St. John in the lead role was released in 1976. An unsold television pilot movie starring Sherry Jackson was produced in 1979. The last film produced to date was Brenda Starr with Brooke Shields and Timothy Dalton. Although produced in 1986 the movie was not released in the United States until 1992 due to lengthy litigation over distribution rights. The movie was panned by critics and is considered to be a notorious critical and commercial failure. In 2006, Tribune Media Services and actress Jenna Mattison were looking for producers to create a TV movie or series based on Brenda Starr.
Merchandising and tie-ins
- In 1964 the Madame Alexander Doll Company introduced a Barbie-like fashion doll named after and depicting Brenda Starr. The doll was a commercial failure and for 1965 Madame Alexander chose to no longer pay the royalties to use the Brenda Starr name. The same doll was renamed Yolanda for 1965 and failed again and by 1966 the doll was discontinued.
- Brenda Starr, Reporter was one of 20 comic strips honored as Comic Strip Classics in a special release of commemorative postage stamps in 1995.,
- In 2003, the Effanbee Doll Company introduced a 16" Brenda Starr collectible fashion doll, with glamorous 1940s fashions inspired by the comic strip. The collection was extended in 2004 to include a doll of Brenda's apprentice Daphne Dimples and in 2005 a Basil St. John doll debuted with an extensive wardrobe. By 2007, the Brenda Starr line had been retired
- In 2006, the Society of Professional Journalists sold posters and other merchandise with Brenda Starr proclaiming that, "Freedom of the press means freedom for everyone." 
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- "End of Story for Brenda Starr Comic Strip" (Press release). Tribune Media Services. December 9, 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
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- Sullivan, Patricia (April 8, 2005). "Cartoonist Dale Messick Dies; Creator of 'Brenda Starr' Strip". The Washington Post. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
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- Deep Dish
- "Brenda Starr, Reporter (1945)". The Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
- "Brenda Starr (1976) (TV)". The Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
- "Sherry Jackson (I)". The Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
- Gleiberman, Owen (1 May 1992). "Brenda Starr (1992)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
- "Seeing Starrs?". SPJ Leads 10/26/2006. Society of Professional Journalists. 2006-10-26. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
- "Brenda Starr Dolls have been Retired by Effanbee Dolls". Brenda Starr Dolls Dolls, Clothes, Shoes and Accessories. FashionDollClothes.com. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
- "Brenda Starr Filing Her Last Story After 70 Years on Comics Pages" by Tom Henderson, ParentDish, Dec. 13, 2010 http://www.parentdish.com/2010/12/13/brenda-starr-filing-her-last-story-after-70-years-on-comics-page/