When I started looking into the portrayal of journalists in popular culture, I never thought I’d wind up writing about paper dolls.
But that’s what my “Newspaper Films” post about the 1989 “Brenda Starr” movie led to… a discovery that long before blogs, readers had a unique way of interacting with their Sunday newspapers.
A Web search inadvertently turned up the fact that both “Brenda Star, Reporter” and the even earlier “Jane Arden” comic strips included a reader-participation gimmick: Fans were invited to send in suggestions for the reporters’ wardrobes, and the designs were published as cut-out paper doll costumes with the Sunday color comics, sometimes reprinted as separate comic books or paper-doll books.
A Chicago teenager — male — was reported to have designed 1,500 dresses for Brenda Star, according to a retrospective in the Chicago Tribune when the strip was cancelled — after 70 years.
I can’t help but wonder whether Brenda and Jane inspired more future journalists, or more future fashion designers (or cartoonists).