Dale Messick

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Dale Messick
Messick, shown working on Brenda Starr in 1953.
Born Dalia Messick
(1906-04-11)April 11, 1906
South Bend, Indiana
Died April 5, 2005(2005-04-05) (aged 98)
Sonoma County, California
Nationality American
Area(s) Cartoonist, Writer, Artist
Notable works
Brenda Starr
Awards National Cartoonists Society's Story Comic Book Award, 1975
Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award, 1997

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.

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 attended Hobart High School in Hobart, Indiana[2] and 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[3] 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."[3][4]

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.[3] She created a variety of comic strips (Weegee, Mimi the Mermaid, Peg and Pudy, the Struglettes, Streamline Babies), but none were selected for publication.[citation needed]

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:

Her break came when she came to the attention of another woman, Mollie Slott,[1] who worked as a "girl Friday" (à la His Girl Friday) for New York Daily News publisher (and syndicate head) Joseph Medill Patterson. Patterson, reputedly biased against female cartoonists, wouldn't sign her up for daily publication in the News,[1] but he accepted Brenda Starr, Reporter for syndication as a 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. By 1945, the strip was syndicated nationally and published daily.

Messick stopped drawing the strip in 1980 and ended her role writing the script two years later. Ramona Fradon (artist) and Linda Sutter (writer) took over production of the strip. Mary Schmich took over as writer in 1985, and June Brigman as artist in 1995. The final strip was published on January 2, 2011.[6] Messick wasn't 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.".[4]

Other endeavors[edit]

Messick worked on 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.[7]

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.[4] It ended after she had a stroke in 1998 and couldn't draw any more.[citation needed]


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.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e Gaura, Maria Alicia. "Dale Messick—cartoonist who drew Brenda Starr," San Francisco Chronicle (April 8, 2005).
  2. ^ LakeNet - Dale Messick Hobart Connection
  3. ^ a b c d Sullivan, Patricia. "Cartoonist Dale Messick Dies; Creator of Brenda Starr Strip," Washington Post (April 8, 2005), p. B06.
  4. ^ a b c Howell, Daedalus. "Brenda Starr's Dale Messick is a firecracker," Sonoma County Independent (February 19, 1998).
  5. ^ Obituary, Editor & Publisher
  6. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (December 9, 2010). "Stop the Presses: 'Brenda Starr, Reporter' Comic Is Ending". The New York Times. . Retrieved 8 November 2011
  7. ^ What's My Line? - Rosemary Clooney (Apr 24, 1955)

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