The Violence and Villains of Little Orphan Annie
But is it Right?
The 1920's were the training grounds for Harold Gray, for it was in the 1930's
when he really began to shine. Not only do both his storytelling and artwork
reach their zenith during this decade, but his characterizations peak as well.
He adopts, during this time, Nathaniel Hawthorne's satiric use of descriptive
names which helps to define a character's being. Nowhere was this more true
than in the 1932-33 sequence which takes place in Cosmic City. The Futile's,
Annie's surrogate patrents for this story, have led a life of futility and toil
before Annie's arrival. Peter Pincher is the local constable. Mr. Bitter is
the school principal who always looks for ways to nail Annie; while Miss Sweet
is the teacher who sees Annie clearly and defends her. Tom Take is a
kleptomaniac who is looked at good-naturedly because he's "sort of a child
mentally." Mr. Forge is, yep, a blacksmith, while Mr. Shoppe is a local
shopkeeper. The villain of the "Cosmic City" sequence is Phineas Pinchpenny,
a wealthy and miserly individual, who, as in past and future Harold Gray stories,
is looked upon with great dignity by the admiring townsfolk.
The "Cosmic City" sequence is one of Gray's longest stories, running from
August 26, 1932 to July 8, 1933. During the span of the story, Gray is able
to pursue the different characters as they change and grow; allowing their
true selves to be seen.
We are introduced to the villain of this story upon Annie and Sandy's arrival
into Cosmic City. As she finds from her first encounter, things are not always
what they seem on the surface. Gray leaves little doubt as to the type of
character Pinchpenny is.