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Mary Worth’s Family

Five years ago this week, cartoonist June Brigman took over the iconic newspaper comic strip “Mary Worth,” continuing a popular feature whose roots some say are tied to a Depression-era strip with a lead character of the same name but much different circumstances.

Brigman is a veteran illustrator, working on comic books including “Supergirl” (DC) and “Power Pack” (Marvel), plus “Star Wars” titles and the “Brenda Starr” strip.

We were looking forward to an updated June Brigman profile, but it was a bait and switch. Columnist Bill Knight after those two opening sentences digresses into the history of Mary Worth.

“Mary Worth” syndicator King Features disputes a connection to “Apple Mary,” an oft-forgotten strip by Martha Orr about a plucky woman hit hard by economic misfortune, making ends meet by selling apples on the street, and dispensing advice.

“ ‘Mary Worth’ is not a continuation of the Depression Era favorite ‘Apple Mary’,” the company says. “The strip was created as a replacement. The only thing the new title character had in common with her predecessor was a first name.”

Say it ain’t so. Surely King Features has come to their senses and acknowledged that Apple Mary and Mary Worth are one and the same. But there it is on the current KFS Mary Worth page:

Contrary to popular belief, Mary Worth is not a continuation of the Depression Era favorite Apple Mary.

Bill does redeem himself by giving a very nice history of Apple Mary, the working poor.

[Martha] Orr was one of the first women comic-strip artists, and “Apple Mary” was credited as the first “soap opera” strip.

Also an early strip to use current events in its plots, its inspiration came from newspaperman Damon Runyon’s short story “Madame la Gimp” – which also inspired the character Apple Annie in the films “Lady for A Day” and “Pocketful of Miracles.”

As for the rejection of any connection of the two Marys, it kind of hard to deny when reading the comic strips of the time. The story continues uninterrupted, and the papers list both as title and subtitle. And while the dailies may have been in error the Sunday pages from December 17, 1939 to March 17, 1940 make the connection indisputable.


Mary Worth is © North America Syndicate; Apple Mary is © ??????

Community Comments

#1 Ignatz
May/11/2021
@ 5:16 am

What I’ve never understood is: WHY does King Features deny a connection between Apple Mary and Mary Worth? One is OBVIOUSLY a continuation of the other.

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