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"The Origins of the Comics in the United States (1897 - 1902) under the Influence of Wilhelm Busch: The Comics of Rudolph Dirks."

"The Origins of the Comics in the United States (1897 - 1902) under the Influence of Wilhelm Busch: The Comics of Rudolph Dirks."

The exhibition on the "Origins of Comics" opened on August 3 in the Eutin County Library and closed on August 28. It was prepared for Lawrence's Sister City at the Max Kade Center by Professor Frank Baron with the assistance of Laura Palucha, KU student and intern in Eutin. Dr. Wolfgang Griep supplemented material for the exhibition in Eutin with additional information and images. Erika Hofmann, Pam Le Row, and Adan Lau provided technical assistance.(Click to view articles and pictures from Eutin)

Rudolph Dirks (1877–1968), born in Heide, Schleswig-Holstein, emigrated to the United States at the age of seven. As a young artist in New York Dirks experimented with various satirical cartoon forms for local journals and gradually developed a standard for short narratives, reminiscent of the mean pranks against adults by Max and Moritz, from the earlier illustrated narratives of Wilhelm Busch. Max and Moritz became Dirk's "Katzenjammer Kids" (Hans and Fritz) in a comic series that became a constant presence in American popular culture for an entire century. The pioneering comic strip with the Katzenjammer family first appeared in William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal on December 12, 1897. Subsequently, Dirks became a pioneer also in adapting speech balloons into comics. His characters were recent German immigrants who had not yet learned proper English and mixed bad English with remnants of poor German. Although the kids could easily fool naïve adults with their pranks, in the end the boys were consistently spanked for their bad behavior. (For the career of Rudolph Dirks click here.)


Wilhelm Busch, Max and Moritz, 1865.
Foreword

 

Oh, how full the Sunday papers
Are of naughty children´s capers,
Like the tricks the ill-reputed
Max and Moritz executed.



These two, good advice pooh-poohing,
Would not stop their evil-doing;
No, not they, as rules they flouted,
They would even laugh about it!
Yes, on crime and misdemeanour
No-one could be any keener!
Teasing people, hurting bunnies,
Stealing plums and dinner moneys,
sure, such things are more relaxing,
And, indeed, not half as taxing
As to sit and hear the teacher
Or the sermon of the preacher.
But oh dear, oh dear, impending
Looms, I fear, a sticky ending.
God! it was a bad affair,
That befell the naughty pair.
Hence the tricks they perpetrated
Are set down and illustrated. 


Translated by Percy Reynolds (Stuttgart, 2008). 
 

 


Wilhelm Busch, Max and Moritz, 1865.
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Rudolph Dirks, Katzenjammer Kids, 1995.
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2
Rudolph Dirks, Jan. 5, 1897.
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3
Rudolph Dirks, Katzenjammer Kids, Dec. 12, 1897.
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6
Rudolph Dirks, Katzenjammer Kids, Dec. 19, 1897.
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5
Rudolph Dirks, Katzenjammer Kids, May 22, 1898.
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Rudolph Dirks, Katzenjammer Kids, Jan. 21, 1899.
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4
Rudolph Dirks, Katzenjammer Kids, Jan. 21, 1900.
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Rudolph Dirks, Katzenjammer Kids, April 14, 1901.
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Rudolph Dirks, Katzenjammer Kids, April 21, 1901.
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Rudolph Dirks, Katzenjammer Kids, May 26, 1901.
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In 1905, a German journal gets permission from the Hearst Company to rename the Katzenjammer Kids and tell their story as that of Max and Moritz. This attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the American comic strip, though unsuccessful, reflects the influence and legacy of the original Wilmelm Busch's story of the two bad boys.
 

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