Brenda Starr, Reporter (often referred to simply as Brenda Starr) is a comic strip about a glamorous, adventurous reporter. It was created in 1940 by Dale Messick for the 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.”
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.
Collected Dailies and Sundays 1940-1946
9 strips 1943
7 strips 1966