My first exposure to Harold Gray's LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE--the classic newspaper strip whose imminent retirement was announced today--was probably when we started buying the Sunday edition of THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS in the late sixties. The color comics printed a week early for some reason but that's another story.
LOA was never a real favorite of mine although I did enjoy the still present at that time top strip, MAW GREEN. Thus when the big reprint volume in the early seventies came out, I stayed away from it. I did enjoy the various MAD lampoons of Annie and her cast and later, as I discovered them, the POGO parodies also. When the seventies musical play was made into a film, I did--in spite of the horrible choice of John Huston as director--enjoy the soundtrack!
I liked what I saw of Leonard Starr's version of the strip after Harold Gray passed but it was intermittent as ANNIE was still never carried locally. I also liked Alan Kupperberg's version although he doesn't exactly speak very highly of the circumstances in which it was created. Quite frankly, I haven't seen anyone's version in years now.
What I have discovered, though, only within the past year, were some reprints of the 1930's and 1940's LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE sequences and they are true gems of comic strip storytelling! Gray at his best was a master of suspense and characterization and, unlike today's continually shrinking strips, he was given enough space in which to create his worlds. At times as violent as DICK TRACY, the strip could be very dark and genuinely dramatically affecting! Annie, herself, however, remained an eternal optimist in hard times of war and depression but generally without the cloying characterization that could have easily become.
The owners of LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE, echoing that optimism, indicate a certainty that we haven't seen the last of Annie and Sandy (ARF!). Looks like the newspapers have, though.