Little Annie Rooney, by Ed Verdier
'Little Annie Rooney', 25 July 1928.

Ed Verdier, who signed with "Verd", was a mid-20th century American comic artist. He was the first artist to draw the iconic comic strip 'Little Annie Rooney' (1927-1966). He only drew Annie for the first two years, but he still goes down in history as the creator of a long-running and famous newspaper comic. Verdier also drew shorter-lived comics, like 'Swifty' (1930-1931), the gag cartoon 'Chirps and Chuckles' (1937), and was one of several artists to continue 'Embarrassing Moments' (1925-1927).

Little Orphan Rooney
Born in 1897, not much is known about Edward Wellington Verdier's life. He might never have had anyhing resembling a comics career if it weren't for William Randolph Hearst, owner of King Features Syndicate. Hearst published several popular newspaper comics, but felt frustrated that one of them, Harold Gray's 'Little Orphan Annie' (1924), was syndicated by papers he didn't own. Since he couldn't buy Gray out, he decided to simply copy the concept. On 10 January 1927 Ed Verdier thus created 'Little Annie Rooney'. Just like Gray's comic, Annie was an orphan girl with a puppy dog. Her pet was named Zero. Much like Little Orphan Annie, Little Orphan Rooney also had a catchphrase, "Gloriosky!". Both comics were sentimental in tone, focusing on Annie's heartbreaking and pitiful life. The main difference between Gray's and Verdier's comic was that Rooney lacked a father figure, like Daddy Warbucks in 'Little Orphan Annie'. The poor girl only had her dog as a friend. Tne name 'Annie Rooney' was based on the film and title character of the Hollywood film 'Little Annie Rooney' (1925), starring Mary Pickford. And even this title was lifted from Michael Nolan's 1890 song 'Little Annie Rooney'. Incidentally, U.S. cartoonist Charles A. Voight drew a short-lived newspaper comic titled 'Little Annie Rooney' (August 1902), which ran in The New York Evening World for about a month. 

Ed Verdier's 'Little Annie Rooney' enjoyed a long run. It ran for nearly 40 years and spawned a lot of merchandising. Nevertheless, Verdier only drew the series for about two years. In 1930 Hearst replaced him with Ben Batsford, succeeded that same year by Darrell McClure. The same year a different writer was introduced as well: Brandon Walsh. In 1934 'Little Annie Rooney' received a Sunday page, drawn 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. The trio continued the series until 16 April 1966.

Blatant copies of a popular original work rarely manage to surpass the original. This was true for 'Little Annie Rooney' as well, which always remained in the shadow of 'Little Orphan Annie'. Part of the problem was that general audiences could barely tell the two apart. Apart from similar characters and themes, the title was almost the same. In hindsight, it's astonishing that Hearst was never sued for plagiarism. Inspired by the title confusion, Harvey Kurtzman parodied both 'Little Orphan Annie' and 'Little Annie Rooney' at the same time in the spoof comic 'Little Orphan Melvin' (issue #9, March 1954), drawn by Wallace Wood and published in Mad Magazine. Nevertheless, 'Little Annie Rooney' did enjoy the honour of being referenced by James Joyce in his experimental novel 'Finnegans Wake' (1939) and ridiculed in Spike Jones' 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'.

Other comics
A handful additional comic features by Ed 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'.

Later life and death
Poor eyesight forced Verdier to give up his cartooning career, but he continued writing for 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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