The Violence and Villains of Little Orphan Annie
Setting the Stage
Harold Gray was a better writer before he was a better artist. Yet
it took him a number of years to work out the subtleties of
characterization. In early adventures, Annie was surrounded by
villains who were fairly one-dimensional. There left little doubt
to the reader as to their villainous bent, but there always seemed
to be at least one character who was taken in by their phoniness.
This is a ploy which Gray would exploit to a much greater extent in
the years to come: How easily swayed the general public is.
Through the first years of the strip, Annie deals with a number of
villains; ranging from Miss Asthma, the orphanage director, to
foreign spies, a circus strongman, and an elephant tamer. These are
the simplistic villains who barely rise above the lackey stage. In
1927, however, Gray introduces Mr. Mack, the first of a number of
complex villains who are so rotten, they exude a stench of evility.