Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Reader's Diary #1697- Rudolph Dirks and Harold H. Knerr: Katzenjammer A Selection of Comics

The Katzenjammer Kids are one of the first funny page standouts and one of the longest running comic strips of all time. At least in some form. Rudolph Dirks created the strip for the New York Journal in 1897 but when he left the organization in 1914, he was not allowed to take the title with him according to the courts and this created an odd arrangement. Harold H. Knerr took over writing and drawing the Katzenjammer Kids while Dirks drew the exact same characters for the Pulitzer newspapers but first under the name Hans and Fritz and then shortly after as The Captain and The Kids. Both the Knerr and Dirks forms lasted for a long time and left a huge legacy. Some credit Dirks with being the first to employ the use of speech balloons but I've also heard that attributed to Robert F. Outcault in The Yellow Kid comics.

This collection by Coachwhip contains both Katzenjammer Kids comics and The Captain and the Kids comics. The artwork is nearly identical, but as for the writing, I'd be hard-pressed to decide who was better.

On the one hand, Knerr's plots are much more formulaic. They mainly involve two boys pranking a man or being foiled by a third boy. They almost always wind up being spanked. Despite the familiar gags however, they are admittedly most often funny. Dirks on the other hand are not as formulaic but the stories are more hit or miss. They are both dated (with the spanking, some questionable racial stuff) and the main characters speak in such a strong German pronunciation that it's a challenge at times to understand.

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