Little Annie Rooney, by Ed Verdier
Little Annie Rooney of 25 July 1928

Ed Verdier, who signed with "Verd", was a mid-20th century American comics artist about whom not much is known, other than that he was the first artist to draw the iconic comic strip 'Little Annie Rooney' (1927-1966) and some other features for King Features. He only drew Annie for the first two years, but he still goes down in history as the creator of a long-running newspaper comic which enjoyed quite some notability at the time.

Born on 27 March 1897, Edward Wellington Verdier might never have had anyhing resembling a comics career if it weren't for William Randolph Hearst, owner of King Features Syndicate. Hearst already published quite some popular comics in his newspapers, but felt frustrated that one of them, Harold Gray's 'Little Orphan Annie' (1924), was syndicated by papers he didn't own. To make up for this fact Hearst wanted a similar comic strip in his own papers. On 10 January 1927 Ed Verdier thus created 'Little Annie Rooney'. Just like Gray's counterpart, Rooney was an orphan girl who had a puppy dog, Zero, as her constant companion. She too had a catchphrase, "Gloriosky!" Both led extremely sad and pitiful lives, but at least Annie still had a father figure Daddy Warbucks, who occasionally helped her out. Rooney had nobody other than Zero, although it must be said that her adventures were less melodramatic than Gray's counterpart. Even Annie Rooney's name wasn't original. It was based on the popular 1925 tragicomedy film 'Little Annie Rooney' starring Mary Pickford, which featured a nearly similar character. And even this film took its title from the 1890 song "Little Annie Rooney" by Michael Nolan, even though the title characters had nothing in common. Charles A. Voight made had a very short-lived comic strip with that title in the New York Evening World in August 1902.

Verdier's run on 'Little Annie Rooney' was quite short. After only two years Hearst replaced him with Ben Batsford who in 1930 was succeeded by Darrell McClure. The same year a different writer was introduced as well: Brandon Walsh. In 1934 'Little Annie Rooney' received a Sunday page, illustrated by Nicholas Afonsky. After Afonsky's death in 1943 McClure continued the Sunday edition too. Luckily he had some assistants by his side: Bob Dunn and Fran Matera. All together they continued the blatant rip-off until 16 April 1966.

While 'Little Annie Rooney' ran for nearly 40 years and had quite some merchandising attached to her name, it never quite managed to top 'Little Orphan Annie' in popularity. Most readers couldn't tell the two apart. This also explains why many parodies often spoofed both series, like in Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder's 'Little Annie Fanny'. Though at least 'Little Annie Rooney' had the distinction of being referenced by James Joyce in his experimental novel 'Finnegans Wake' (1939) and being spoofed by Spike Jones and His City Slickers in his hilarious song 'The Funnies' (1946). Likewise both Orphan Annie's catchphrase "Leapin' Lizards" and Annie Rooney's signature line "Gloriosky!" were referenced in the song 'Gee, Officer Krupke!' from the 1957 theatrical musical 'West Side Story' by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.


Swifty

A handful additional comic features by Verdier are known. He was the artist of the gag panel 'Embarrassing Moments' from 30 November 1925 until January 1927. Jack Farr was the original artist of the panel in 1922, after which Gar Dunn, Darrell McClure and Billy DeBeck preceded Verdier. Verdier in turn was succeeded by Paul Fung, George Herriman and Jay Irving until 1932. From 13 October 1930 until 18 July 1931 he made the comic strip 'Swifty' for the Central Press Association. From January until July 1937 Verdier was also one of the cartoonists contributing to the King Features collected gag panel page 'Chirps and Chuckles'.

Poor eyesight forced Verdier to give up his cartooning career, but he continued writing in other media. He penned scripts for the radio serial based on Chester Gould's 'Dick Tracy', for instance.  He later co-wrote several movies, including 'The Bride Wore Crutches' (1941), 'Song of the Open Road' (1944) and 'Delightfully Dangerous' (1945). He also wrote one novel, 'The Sun and the Barrow' (1948). Ed Verdier died in 1976.

Little Annie Rooney in the Toonopedia
Little Annie Rooney on junglefrolics.blogspot.com

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