Little Orphan Annie Gets a Makeover

Monday, June 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — Gone are the red dress and unruly curls. With her platform sneakers, jeans and slicked-back hair, the comic strip version of Little Orphan Annie is now, in the lexicon of her 11-year-old modern peers — mad sick.

Translation: Leapin' Lizards! America's favorite orphan has gotten a makeover and is suddenly cool.

Her new do and duds were introduced last week when artist Andrew Pepoy and writer Jay Maeder officially took over from longtime ``Annie'' cartoonist Leonard Starr, who retired in February.

Pepoy, a freelance cartoonist who has drawn for Mutant X, Sonic the Hedgehog, Scooby-Doo and Archie comics, said both he and Tribune Media Services, the Chicago-based company that syndicates the 75-year-old strip, thought Annie looked dated next to her new friend, the edgy Hispanic aviator Amelia Santiago. A few pencil strokes later, out went Annie's tired old red dress, black Maryjanes and ankle socks; in came jeans, a red T-shirt and platform sneakers.

Her hair is different, too, the mop of red curls sleeked down with gel and adorned with two mismatched barrettes.

But fans of America's favorite blank-eyed youngster — yes, she's still pupil-less — shouldn't worry.

``If there's some kind of feeling out there that Little Orphan Annie is now a typical 11-year-old who goes to rock concerts and has pictures of 'N Sync on her wall, no, this is not happening,'' said writer Maeder. ``In fact, if you ask me what kind of music she'd listen to, I'd say Tommy Dorsey.''

The 53-year-old Maeder, a journalist for the New York Daily News and a comic historian, downplayed the makeover.

``I haven't changed her fundamental character in any way. Anyone who ever loved Little Orphan Annie will not look at this and say this is a totally different person.''

Maeder says he has no plans to turn Annie or any other character into a valley girl. She'll still exclaim, ``Leapin' Lizards,'' and Sandy will still say, ``Arf,'' he says.

Created by Harold Gray, the strip first appeared in the Daily News, Aug. 5, 1924. Annie is said to have been inspired by silent screen star Mary Pickford. During Gray's four-decade reign — he died in 1968 — Annie and her millionaire guardian Daddy Warbucks battled everything from big government during the Depression to Communism in the Cold War.

Starr took over the strip in 1979 — after interest in it was revived by the Broadway musical ``Annie.''

In the updated version, Even Warbucks has a new look. He has lost his perennial penguin suit and will be seen in stylish, tie-less suits, sweaters and (Yikes!) even shorts.

And what will become of Sandy, Annie's shaggy companion?

Not to worry, loyal readers. ``The dog never goes away,'' says Maeder.


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