Thursday, May 13, 2010

Annie A Conservative Icon?

Little Orphan Annie’s creator, cartoonist Harold Gray sounds like a typical neo-con of today:
Jeet Heer, in volume 1’s extensive biographical piece, sees Gray as a progressive Republican, celebrating individualism, grit, and racial, ethnic, and religious diversity. He loathed con men, hypocrites, and snobs, especially those posing as moral reformers. “I hate professional do-gooders with other people’s money,” he once wrote. In 1932, the Depression brought to power one of the world’s great professional do-gooders, FDR. Roosevelt’s aggressive new liberalism transformed Gray into the new breed of Republican: a pro-business, small-government tax cutter. Feeling that the New Deal destroyed rugged individualism with its programs designed to uplift, Gray spoke out. He never named FDR in Annie. But in 1934, when prosecutor Phil O. Bluster jailed Warbucks on phony tax charges, readers knew why. Inspired by fugitive Chicago millionaire Samuel Insull, then in Europe evading the IRS, Gray torched the New Dealers he saw as hounding businessmen for their success.
Gray ran this as FDR signed the Wagner Act on July 5, 1935, giving unions the right to organize and represent workers. In August, Gray’s union rioted. In September, the New Republic denounced Annie as “fascism in the funnies.” In Huntington, West Virginia, Lewis’s coal-mining power base, the Herald-Dispatch dropped Annie as “alarmingly vindictive propaganda.” The Tribune quickly ordered Gray to “stop editorializing.” Gray was no fascist. He hated big government, right or left. Ten months before Pearl Harbor, he undercut the isolationist Tribune. Warbucks, an antifascist sympathizer, escapes from a foreign concentration camp and returns home, eager to arm America. Predictably, the right protested, also demanding Gray keep his politics out of the funnies. Gray felt muzzled by such dictates, but he and the other Trib cartoonists who followed Sidney Smith’s realist style had made a mark.

No comments: