MARY PERKINS ON STAGEMedium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Chicago Tribune Syndicate
First Appeared: 1957
Creator: Leonard Starr
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postwar style. By the time it made its bow, Rex Morgan, M.D., The Heart of Juliet Jones and several others were already going concerns. But it was one of the few of that genre to win critical acclaim — in 1960, The National Cartoonists' Society gave it a plaque for "Best Story Strip", and in '65 the Society gave the strip's creator, Leonard Starr, its prestigious Reuben Award, naming him Cartoonist of the Year.
Starr had been drawing comic books since the early 1940s, for practically every publisher in America, for example Dr. Thirteen for DC and Cowboy Sahib for ACG, By the '50s he was also doing advertising art, and hoping to achieve steady income on a syndicated newspaper strip. He created no less than seven proposed strips before finally selling one to The Chicago Tribune Syndicate. The curtain went up on Mary Perkins On Stage on February 10, 1957.
On Stage, as the strip is usually called, opened with Mary as a starry-eyed ingenue, just arriving in New York from the Midwest, with her sights set on a Broadway career. Being the star of the strip, naturally, she bucked the odds and succeeded. Subsequent stories concerned her ongoing adventures in the fast-paced world of show biz. A major source of soap opera tension was removed when, in 1959, she married photojournalist Pete Fletcher — but this also paved the way for her to evolve into a mature professional, which in turn enabled the cartoonist to explore his glamorous setting more fully.
On Stage was not such a long-running presence on the comics scene as some others of its genre, such as Judge Parker or Apartment 3-G. But it did get a comic book adaptation, a rare achievement for a soap, when Dell devoted a 1962 issue of Four Color Comics to Mary's escapades. And it did last a respectable two-plus decades, ending on Sept. 9, 1979. Starr, then in his mid-50s, could have taken an early retirement, but instead took over the recently-renamed Annie, becoming the first cartoonist since Harold Gray to achieve notable success with that strip.
Mary Perkins On Stage may not have been the first of the photo-realistic postwar soaps, and it may not have been the longest lasting. But Starr's engaging characters, involving storylines and perfectly gorgeous artwork ensure that it will never be an obscure one.