We looked at the early development of comics, or sequential art, in Part 1, from cave paintings to Edwardian magazines. Let’s continue.
Stop the Presses!
In 1895 Richard F. Outcault created what is considered the first newspaper comic strip. Called Fourth Ward Brownies it first appeared in the magazine Truth. It then found a home in Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and called Hogan’s Alley. A character that appeared in the background soon became the star, Mickey Dugan aka The Yellow Kid. A bald, bucktoothed, jug-eared child wearing a yellow nightshirt on which his dialogue appeared (unlike word balloons that other characters used).
The strip moved to William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal American for a higher salary. Unfortunately Outcault failed to copyright The Yellow Kid, Pulitzer hired another artist to draw Hogan’s Alley in the New York World. At New York Journal American the strip appeared under three names in three short years: McFadden’s Row of Flats, Around the World with the Yellow Kid, and Ryan’s Arcade.
Dwindling sales and Outcault’s dwindling interest brought the strip to a close. More strips began to appear. Outcault himself went on to create the hugely successful Buster Brown which was the first mega hit and the first strip to have massive amounts of merchandising. Buster Brown Shoes are still being made today (with very few people knowing they’re named after a comic character).
Another strip that can be considered alongside The Yellow Kid as one of the first newspaper strips was the Katzenjammer Kids. Unlike The Yellow Kid Katzenjammer Kids appeared as a series of panels as opposed to the single panel of the Yellow Kid. The strip also introduced familiar comic-strip iconography such as stars for pain, sawing logs for snoring, and thought balloons.
Jimmy Swinnerton drew a cute bear for the weather page of the San Francisco Examiner. It then appeared on other pages as its popularity grew. Eventually a comic strip developed introducing other bears, one of the first strips with recurring characters, The Little Bears.
Comic strips as a medium became solidified over the next decade. Hearst introduced the nation’s first full daily comic page in his New York Evening Journal on January 31, 1912. Many new strips appeared but of particular note were the beautiful Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor MacKay, George Herriman’s poetic Krazy Kat, the delightful proto-deco Polly and her Pals by Cliff Sterrett. Over the next couple decades comics would become a standard in newspapers, even determining their sales and success.
Newspaper comic strips dominated the medium until the creation of comic books.
Meanwhile, In Europe…
Comics appeared all over Europe during the early part of the 20th century. Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, all had their share of popular comics. In Britain, France/Belgium, and Italy comics flourished and gave a glimpse of their upcoming importance.
Oh, I Say!
Britain may have been the first to publish cartoon-style magazines (the success of previously mentioned Comic Cuts and Illustrated Chips, which infamously reprinted British and American material without permission, was able to finance the creation of The Daily Mirror and The Daily Mail newspapers on the profits) and it continued this tradition in the early 20th century.
Et voila! Bandes dessinées
Like elsewhere, comics in France/Belgium appeared in newspapers and magazines. Two of the most popular comics include Bécassine (1905) and Les Pieds Nickelés (1908) both of which exist today. Later in 1925 Zig et Puce was another predominant French comic that is still being published.
Arrivano i fumetti
In Italy fumetto (comics) throughout the 19th century grew out of magazines for children and satirical publications. In 1908 Il Corriere dei Piccoli hit newsstands, the first Italian periodical dedicated to comics. It introduced Bilbolbul the first Italian comic character. It also brought translated American comics to the Italian public.
Next time we move on to the arrival of comic books! Until then read some of our comics on the Stela app.