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.

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