October 22, 2018


Dale Messick, circa 1945.
This edition of notable residents in the enclave features Dale Messick, a cartoonist known for her groundbreaking comic strip, Brenda Starr, Reporter. Her life, in bullet points.

❈  Born 1906. Illustrates greeting cards during the Depression, dreams of creating a comic strip. Sells Brenda Starr, Reporter to the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate in 1940 and becomes the first nationally syndicated female cartoonist.

❈  The strip's intoxicating mix of glamour and adventure is a hit, touching a nerve with women readers. Beautiful, brainy Brenda (her look inspired by Rita Hayworth) is an independent working woman who eschews reporting society news for more exotic assignments ‒ parachuting out of airplanes, being kidnapped by pirates, etc. (In later years, she's hailed as a feminist heroine, alongside Wonder Woman, a comic character launched around the same time.)

❈ At its peak in the mid-fifties, the strip runs in over 250 newspapers. Around this time, Messick takes an apartment in No. 5, no doubt a pied-à-terre chosen for its convenience to her place of business. Like many other cartoonists ‒ Milton Caniff, Stan Lee, Will Eisner, and C.D. Batchelor among them ‒ she's drawn to Tudor City for its convenience to the Daily News and Daily Mirror offices. How long she resides in the colony is unknown.

❈  Messick retires in 1982, passing away in 2005. Brenda Starr, Reporter outlives her, finally succumbing in 2011.

Although Brenda naturally has many suitors, her heart belongs to Basil St. John, a mysterious, dashing millionaire with an eye patch and a baffling illness that can only be cured by a black orchid serum found in the Amazon jungle. They meet cute when he rescues her from a fire at a fashion show. After a 36-year courtship in a number of far-flung locales, they finally marry in 1976.

Over its 71-year run, the strip spawns a variety of commercial tie-ins. Below, a poster for a 1945 movie serial, and a whimsical set of paper dolls.

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Read all our notable resident posts to date here.

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