Katzenjammers mark golden anniversary

It may be hard to believe, but the Katzenjammer Kids celebrate their 100th birthday this month. The comic that was a favourite of several generations in Canada, the U.S. and around the world even has its own website today. Created and drawn by Rudolph Dirks, the Kids first appeared in the “American Humorist” section of William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal in December, 1897. The comic strip is still appearing 100 years later, in a very small number of newspapers around the world.

The Katzenjammer Kids are based on “Max und Moritz,” similarly mischievous young boys created by artist Wilhelm Busch in Germany. Max und Moritz had been popular in their homeland for more than 30 years before the Americanized version first appeared in press lord Hearst’s New York Journal Sunday supplement.

The popular comic was even the subject of a lawsuit. After drawing a weekly Katzenjammer Kids page for 15 years or so, cartoonist Rudolph Dirks wanted to take a break. Hearst didn’t think this was a good idea. Dirks quit, his comic strip was assigned to other artists, and he sued for the rights to The Katzenjammer Kids. In the end, the Katzenjammer Kids were continued for the Heat papers by Harold H. Knerr, and the court awarded Dirks the right to continue drawing his characters, as long as he used a different name. For more than half a century after, competing (and very similar) strips ran in the Hearst and Pulitzer newspapers. The comic strip was honoured with a special stamp by the U.S. Postal Service in 1996, along with other comics.