Monday, July 28, 2008


Obscurity of the Day: Annie Oakley

In the horse opera mania of the 1950s surprisingly few of the 'classic' wild West characters were revived on the comics pages. The cowboy stars of the silver screen and tube generally seemed more marketable I suppose. One of the exceptions was the LA Mirror syndicate's Annie Oakley entry.

To be fair the Mirror took on the famed distaff sharpshooter only as sloppy seconds. Their Hopalong Cassidy strip, started in 1949, had switched over to King Features and they needed a replacement. I guess they were fresh out of celluloid cowboys at the moment so Annie got the nod, starting on April 2 1951. Doris Schroeder provided the story and Bill Ziegler handled the art chores on the strip. Unlike Hopalong, the replacement strip was only a daily.

Annie Oakley seemed to have a lot going for it. With the whole nation watching westerns in these early days of TV women were probably just as western-centric as their male counterparts, so this strip would seem to have been a welcome counterpoint to all the male-dominated westerns then being offered. The story, at least what I've been able to read of it, is well-handled, and Ziegler's angular and shadowy art lends a lot of atmosphere to the proceedings (although I have to wonder why the syndicate didn't choose an artist who could draw women with a little sex-appeal).

On the other hand I can see newspaper editors looking at their many western strip choices and making safer choices -- Hopalong, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry all had devoted kid audiences presumably ready to devour strips starring their heroes. Annie, on the other hand, wouldn't get the TV treatment until 1954.

Too bad for the strip that it was canceled before the TV show got on the air. It might have breathed a little life into its circulation. Unfortunately it sputtered out well before that. The strip is quite rare throughout its run and I've been able to trace it to at least April 1953. Since it was not listed in the 1953 E&P Syndicate Directory I'm assuming that the official end date was probably in or before August of that year. Can anyone supply a definite end date?


It's a real shame that with the growth in comic strip reprints we haven't seen any reprints of the western strips that were popular in their day. Strips such as the Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, King of the Royal Mounted, and others such as Annie Oakley here have just not seen reprint. Westerns defined their day and western comic strips were a part of that. Publishers, take note, some of these strips are now public domain, so getting rights won't be a problem. But please, lets have reprints of the westerns that were popular in their day.
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