Entertainment & Arts

Sun sets on Little Orphan Annie comic strip

The first Little Orphan Annie comic strip
Image caption The first Little Orphan Annie comic strip was published in August 1924

The Little Orphan Annie comic strip has appeared in US newspapers for the last time after 86 years in print.

Tribune Media Services, the company behind the syndicated strip, has pulled the plug on Annie, her dog Sandy, and wealthy benefactor Daddy Warbucks.

But the well-loved character, who inspired a musical and film, still has a future in the digital age.

"Annie is not dying, she's moving into new channels," said Steve Tippie, of Tribune Media.

He added that there was a "huge awareness" of Annie among the public, and future plans included graphic novels, film, TV, games - maybe even a home on a mobile phone.

"Annie is one of those iconic characters in American culture," Tippie said. "If you stop 10 people on the street, nine of them will drop down on one knee and start singing Tomorrow."

The strip was the brainchild of cartoonist Harold Gray who created the nine-year-old orphan with an unruly crop of red hair.

Annie bounced from one adventure to another, battling greedy bankers, ruthless gangsters or Nazis, depending on the era.

Gray had two rules for his character. Annie could never reach a "happy ending" and she could never grow up.

War criminal

The Annie franchise grew to include a 1930s syndicated radio show, a 1977 Broadway musical - which gave the world songs such as It's The Hard-Knock Life and Tomorrow - a 1982 movie, and a 1995 commemorative stamp.

Image caption Annie's popularity has waned in recent years

Hundreds of US newspapers carried the comic strip at the height of its popularity, but fewer than 20 carried Sunday's final strip, which saw Annie left in the clutches of a Balkans war criminal.

"The appeal of Annie is simply that she doesn't give up," said Ted Slampyak, the strip's artist for the last six years.

"She always ends up in one scrape after another. She doesn't have a lot of resources but she has a lot of spirit, a lot of pluck. She's got a lot of fight in her."

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