Bruce Canwell Interview: Little Orphan Annie

(WoW DEC 07)

 height=Bruce Canwell is the Associate Editor of The Library of American Comics line, which started with Terry & The Pirates which is published by IDW. Their latest book is the Complete Little Orphan Annie, also from IDW. Westfield's Roger Ash recently contacted Canwell to learn more about this series.

To link to this interview, use this link (right click and copy)

Westfield: For those who've never read Little Orphan Annie, can you tell us a bit about the strip and why you think they should give it a look?

Bruce Canwell: I suspect even if you have never read Little Orphan Annie, you KNOW her - because you saw the movie, or because your daughter or kid sister starred as America's Spunkiest Kid in her school play. But of course, Little Orphan Annie got her start in the comics, and this is your chance to see the way it all began.

Though she doesn't have his superpowers, Annie is in Superman's class as a pure American icon. She befriends the friendless and defends the defenseless, using her wits and toughness to give the scoundrels and rats their just desserts. Annie is the original kid with a heart of gold and a quick left hook, and we at The Library of American Comics are delighted to reintroduce her to the comics audience where she got her start.

Westfield: What can you tell us about this new collection?

 height=Canwell: We're serving up 368 pages containing the initial three years of Little Orphan Annie daily comics, beginning with the very first Annie strip from August, 1924. Several of these strips have never been reprinted, so this book offers a unique opportunity for modern readers to see the full story of how Annie escapes the orphanage, joins the circus, meets "Daddy" Warbucks, saves Sandy from being tortured by a gang of street thugs, and . . . well, let's just say Annie's creator, Harold Gray, packs plenty of excitement into these first three years!

 height=If you've seen our Terry and the Pirates releases, you know The Library of American Comics is dedicated to producing quality hardcovers for discriminating collectors, which is why our first volume of Terry got a favorable mention in the November 26, 2007 issue of The New Yorker. We are working closely with the Gotlieb Archival Research Society at Boston University, where Harold Gray bequeathed all his papers. That means we're using original art wherever possible in our Little Orphan Annie series. We will also be featuring rare artwork and photos, plus biographical essays by the preeminent comic strip scholar of our day, Jeet Heer.

Westfield: How many volumes are in the set?

Canwell: Annie remains a comic strip fixture to this day, with familiar names such as Andrew Pepoy and Ted Slampyak lending their talents to everybody's favorite orphan. We have a long way to go before we reprint their contributions to Little Orphan Annie, but if people will support the series, we'd love to present the entire run, from 1924 straight into the 21st Century.

Westfield: This is your first release after Terry and the Pirates. Do you have plans for other strip collections?

Canwell: When asked that question during The Great American Comic Strips panel at 2007's Comic-Con International in San Diego, I said, "The Library of American Comics is working on a number of projects we think will surprise and delight readers, and we'll announce them as soon as all the legalities and logistics are worked out."

 height=Today, I can discuss a new project that will be our first one-shot volume: Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles. It will be available in the summer of 2008. Every Scorchy Smith comic strip will be collected between two covers for the very first time. In addition, we'll offer readers literally scores of the stunning illustrations produced by Scorchy's writer/artist, Noel Sickles, in a career spanning more than thirty years. Editor Dean Mullaney  height=and I were at Ohio State's superb Cartoon Research Library shortly after Thanksgiving, gathering material for Scorchy. We're very excited to be doing this book, and we will have announcements on other projects throughout 2008 - as soon as all the legalities and logistics are worked out!

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Canwell: We are in the midst of the golden age of comic strip reprints, with many excellent series available in wonderful permanent editions. The strips themselves reflect the heyday of comics in America, presenting timeless characters in stories that are exciting, funny, and almost always beautifully drawn. I hope comics fans of all ages will sample at least one of these strip reprint books. The stuffed shirts will tell you how they expand your knowledge and appreciation of the comics artform. Me, I'll tell you they're a whole heckuva lot of fun!