The Katzenjammer Kids


The Katzenjammer Kids

"The Katzenjammer Kids" is a comic strip created by the German immigrant Rudolph Dirks. It debuted on December 12, 1897 in the "American Humorist", a Sunday supplement of the "New York Journal" owned by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. "The Katzenjammer Kids" is today distributed by King Features Syndicate, making it the oldest comic strip still in syndication. After a series of legal battles between 1912 and 1914, Dirks left the Hearst organization, and began a new strip, first titled "Hans und Fritz" and then "The Captain and the Kids", featuring the same characters as "The Katzenjammer Kids", which was continued by Hearst with other artists. The two separate versions of the strip competed with each other until 1979, when "The Captain and the Kids", by then illustrated by Rudolph Dirks' son John, ended its six-decade run.

History

Creation and early years

"The Katzenjammer Kids" was inspired by "Max and Moritz", a famous children's story of the 1860s by the German Wilhelm Busch. "The Katzenjammer Kids" (three brothers in the first strip, but soon reduced to two) featured Hans and Fritz, twins who rebelled against authority, particularly in the form of their mother, Mama; der Captain, a shipwrecked sailor who acted as a surrogate father; and der Inspector, an official from the school system. Several of the characters spoke in stereotypical German-accented English. "Katzenjammer" translates literally as "the wailing of cats" but is used to mean "contrition after a failed endeavour" or "hangover" in German.

The meaning of katzenjammer for a hangover is used in English as well [–noun1. the discomfort and illness experienced as the aftereffects of excessive drinking; hangover.2. uneasiness; anguish; distress.3. uproar; clamor: His speech produced a public katzenjammer. [Origin: 1840–50; < G, equiv. to Katzen (pl. of Katze cat1) + Jammer discomfort, OHG jāmar (n. and adj.); cf. yammer] Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.] and as such it is occasionally used in crossword puzzles [N.Y. Times Crossword puzzle, June 7, 2008. ]

The comic strip was turned into a stage play in 1903, inspired several animated cartoons, and was one of twenty strips included in the Comic Strip Classics series of commemorative postage stamps.

"The Katzenjammer Kids" versus "The Captain and the Kids"

"The Katzenjammer Kids" was so popular that it became two competing comic strips and the subject of a lawsuit. This happened because Dirks wanted to take a break after about fifteen years, but the Hearst newspaper syndicate would not allow it. Dirks left anyway, and the strip was taken over by Harold Knerr. Dirks sued, and after a long legal battle the Hearst papers were allowed to continue "The Katzenjammer Kids" and Dirks was allowed to syndicate an almost identical strip of his own for the rival Pulitzer newspapers.

Initially named "Hanz und Fritz" after the two naughty protagonist brothers, Dirks' feature was called "The Captain and the Kids" from 1918 on. "The Captain and the Kids" was almost completely similar to "The Katzenjammer Kids" in terms of content and characters, but Dirks had a looser and more verbal style than Knerr, who on the other hand often produced stronger, more direct gags and drawings. "The Captain and the Kids" soon proved to equal the popularity of "The Katzenjammer Kids". It was later distributed by the United Features Syndicate (while Hearst's King Features Syndicate distributed "The Katzenjammer Kids").

The Katzenjammers from the 1950s to the present

While a daily "Captain and the Kids" strip faltered during a short-lived run in the 1930s, the Sunday strip maintained its popularity for several years. From 1946, Dirks' son John Dirks gradually began taking over more and more of the work with "The Captain and the Kids", and he and his father began introducing new characters in the 1950s. In 1958, the Dirkses turned towards science fiction with a storyline running for months about a brilliant inventor and alien invasions. Even as John Dirks took over most of the work, Rudolph Dirks signed the strip until his death in 1968.

Meanwhile, Harold Knerr had continued with "The Katzenjammer Kids" until his death in 1949. Following his passing, the feature was written and drawn by Charles H. Winner from 1949&ndash;1956, and Joe Musial beginning in 1956. After Dirks' passing, the drawing style for "The Captain and the Kids" had shifted slightly towards a more square-formed line, though it maintained the original style more so than Joe Musial's work with "The Katzenjammer Kids".

Regardless of the fact that "The Captain and the Kids" was the work of the characters' originator and his son, "The Katzenjammer Kids" proved to be the more profitable and long-running, and "The Captain and the Kids" ended its run in 1979. Musial was replaced on "The Katzenjammer Kids" by Mike Senisch from 1976&ndash;1981, and Angelo DeCesare took over the feature from 1981&ndash;1986. The feature is currently drawn by Hy Eisman and distributed to about 50 newspapers and magazines around the world. Notable features of the modern version include a more constructive relationship between the Captain and the Boys - sometimes they have friendly conversations instead of fights - and the fact that the King and his people are now Polynesian rather than African. Also, Eisman has reused a lot of old gags and stories in recent years of the strip.

Appearances in other media

The "Katzenjammer Kids" characters first appeared outside of comics in a handful of live-action silent films, the first produced in 1898. Seventeen "Katzenjammer Kids" silent cartoon shorts were produced between 1917 and 1918.

In 1938, "The Captain and the Kids" became the subject of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's first self-produced series of theatrical cartoon short subjects, with William Hanna, Bob Allen, and Friz Freleng serving as the directors. However, the series proved to be unsuccessful, and ended after one year and fifteen cartoons (following the series's cancellation, Freleng returned to Warner Bros., where he had earlier been directing cartoons). A later series of "Captain and the Kids" cartoons were produced for television, as a back-up segment for Filmation's "Archie's TV Funnies".

In 2007, the "Katzenjammer Kids" were mentioned as a joke in the "Black Mystery Month" episode of "American Dad".

Effect on popular culture

*Art Clokey, the creator of Gumby, has claimed that "The Katzenjammer Kids" inspired the creation of Gumby's nemeses, The Block-heads. [Cite web|last=gumbyworld.com|title=The Blockheads|url=http://www.gumbyworld.com/memorylane/histblkhd.htm]

*A deathrock band in France, Katzenjammer Kabarett, is named in honour of the comic strip.
*Cafe Katzenjammer, a German dining establishment located in the West Point Grey neighborhood of Vancouver, British Columbia, is named after the comic strip.
*The American musical group, The World/Inferno Friendship Society, reference "The Katzenjammer Kids" in their song, "Zen and the Art of Breaking Everything in this Room".
* Playboy magazine frequently featured in its late 1970s-early 1980s Playboy Funnies pages a spoof of the Katzenjammer Kids called "The Krautzenbummer Kids" with adult style gags.
* An early issue of Mad Magazine carried a satire titled "The Katchandhammer Kids!", in which "Hands and Feetz" grow up to be gangsters.
* An animated television commercial for Pepto-Bismol featured the characters; Hans and Fritz steal a pie and get sick eating so much; the Captain and the Inspector seek to punish them, but Mama gives the boys what they need--a dose of Pepto-Bismol.The Captain and the Kids has been published as an annual comic book in Norway since the 1990’s. When no more reproducible material was available in 2001 the editor of the Danish comic strip agency PIB, Per Sanderhage, negotiated a deal where Ferd’nand cartoonist Henrik Rehr would redraw 32 pages loosely based on old magazine clippings for the annual.

References

External links

* [http://www.kingfeatures.com/features/comics/katzkids/about.htm King Features]
* [http://www.toonopedia.com/katzen.htm The Katzenjammer Kids] at Toonopedia
* [http://www.toonopedia.com/cap_kids.htm The Captain and the Kids] at Toonopedia
* [http://www.yodaslair.com/dumboozle/katzies/katzdex.html Fan site]
* [http://scoop.diamondgalleries.com/public/default.asp?t=1&m=1&c=34&s=264&ai=65827&ssd=1%2F24%2F2008&sp=katzenjammer%20kids&sd=1/18/08&arch=y Timelining the Katzenjammer Kids]


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