Seen here for the first time:
Origins of the Sunday Comics!

This is how it all began!

Mit dese kids, society iss nix! So said The Inspector about the Katzenjammer kids. But he could have been speaking of all comic strips in their formative years at the turn of the last century. From the very first color Sunday supplement, comics were a driving force in newspaper sales, even though their crude and often ofensive content placed them in a whirl of controversey. Sunday comics presented a wild parody of the world and the culture that surrounded them.
Society didn't stand a chance.

These are the origins of the American comic strip, born at a time when there were no set styles or formats, when artistic anarchy helped spawn a new medium. Here are the earliest offerings from known greats like R. F. Outcault, George McManus, Winsor McCay, and George Herriman, along with the creations of more than fifty other superb cartoonists; over 150 Sunday comics dating from 1895 to 1915.
Most reprinted for the first time in over one hundred years!

Digitally restored and printed in the original size —the inspiration for comic artists around the world for a century to come.







From the introduction, Anarchy Rules! by editor Peter Maresca. Other excerpts featured below

The earliest newspaper comics took their lead from cartoons of political and social satire that proliferated during the mid-19th century. But their popularity and importance exploded with the introduction of color and full broadsheet-sized papers—and the modern and rapidly changing society emerged as comics’ first target.

From the very first color Sunday supplement, comics were a driving force in newspaper sales. Within a year of Pulitzer’s introduction of a New York World humor supplement, a war erupted with William Randolph Hearst over publication of the Yellow Kid character. By 1900, major newspapers in nearly every city in the U.S. had recognized the need for a color comic supplement to sell papers. Fierce competition broke out to acquire and host the very best comic talent available to give readers their regular fix of this vibrant new medium. Syndicates were born to offer that talent to smaller markets for their own Sunday papers, sometimes pre-printing entire sections for client newspapers.

The first comic strip artists came from different fields of art and publishing. Some, like F. M. Howarth, Gustave Verbeek, and Frederick Opper, were already making a meager living as cartoonists, drawing comics, sequential art, and panel gags for popular humor magazines like Judge and Life—often as side jobs. Others, like Alfred Frueh and Lyonel Feininger, were trained as fine artists and found their way into comics, at least temporarily. Artists like Dan Smith and T. S. Sullivant were magazine and book illustrators, whose work was not necessarily humorous, but whose talents easily transferred to cartooning. A few even came from sign painting, like Eugene Zimmerman and the grandmaster Winsor McCay, both of whom began their careers in the craft. . .

. . .These pioneers were anarchists of humor, the innovators and iconoclasts who took the new tools and technology and blew the lids off the boxes that held the tiny cartoons of the past. The men who created modern comics

From Comics Before Comics by Thierry Smolderen

When we think of the picture-stories that existed before the advent of the modern comic strip, we instinctively believe them to have been quite naive, archaic, and clumsy. Indeed, many were drawn (and engraved) in a primitive style that evoked the rustic appearance of woodcuts from a distant age, and most lacked the kind of clarity and directness that we generally find in the comic strips of the early 20th century. With the important exception of wordless gags (to which we will return later), 19th century picture-stories were generally captioned by the author, and this, more that anything else, impedes the kind of fluid, easy reading we are used to in modern comic strips, where characters on the page seem to act and speak of their own volition and pursue some clearly delineated goal.

Given these obstacles and the fact that the ‘streamlined,’ modern form of the comic strip would prove to be immensely robust and popular in the 20th century, it is hard for us to look upon the ‘naive, archaic and clumsy’ picture-stories of the 19th century without a touch of condescension. The truth, however, is that they were the product of an international network of very sophisticated comic artists, who relentlessly played with the idea of the picture-story form. If their stories so often seem ‘clumsy’ or difficult to read, it is because the way each one was told (captions included) was often a little experiment in visual and verbal irony. And if they so often appear archaic or naive in tone and design, it is because they were deliberately made to convey that impression in an age that was as infatuated with pseudo-medievalism as it was with technical progress. . .

. . .In the hands of the 19th century comic illustrators, however, the picture-story form was never meant to stabilize and become a conventional vehicle for purely narrative content. The way the story was told was generally more important than the story itself, and readers were constantly reminded of the author’s witty presence. (Indeed, the comic artist would frequently represent himself at the drawing table, battling against visiting bores, trying to work in foggy conditions, or desperately looking for some funny idea.)

If one wants to find a parallel in the 20th century, comic picture-stories before 1900 can be fruitfully compared to Mad Magazine‘s brilliant parodies of TV commercials, newspaper comic strips, and genre movies in the 1950s. For Kurtzman and his colleagues, telling the story efficiently was not the issue; the important thing was to make comical points with the way the story lampooned some specific visual idioms. In the 19th century, comic illustrators worked in a similar spirit: they generally produced short, focused picture-stories whose irony depended on the stylization of recognizable models. The witty allusions to old-fashioned (or exotic) forms of visual storytelling, the playful references to the new ‘ways of seeing’ brought about by technology (microscopy, chronophotography, x-rays, etc.) were often more important than the narratives themselves.

From Secret Origins of the Sunday Funies by Richard Samuel West

Comic strip historians often credit Joseph Pulitzer and his New York World with creating the Sunday comics. While the World did perfect the four-color supplement, creating the format used for the Sunday funnies for over one-hundred years, the acknowledged grandfather of the Sunday comics supplement is H. H. Kohlsaat. Though he was not involved in the launch of the comics section, per se, his brainchild—The Inter Ocean Illustrated Supplement—inspired it. Kohlsaat was in his late forties when he bought a controlling interest in the Chicago-based Inter Ocean newspaper in 1891. The son of German and English immigrants, he had made his money in the bakery trade. As a life-long Republican, he wanted to use his wealth to influence national affairs and, especially, to push the political prospects of William McKinley of Ohio, who had recently lost his House seat but was maneuvering to run for governor of his home state and had his eye on the presidency.

Prior to taking control of The Inter Ocean in Chicago, Kolhsaat had traveled to Europe where he learned that the widely read Paris daily Le Petit Journal was issuing an illustrated weekly supplement in color, something he had never seen before. Sure, he was familiar with Puck and Judge and Chicago’s Light, all of which sported full-color lithographs in each weekly issue, but this newspaper supplement was different—its color was produced mechanically on a perfecting press, a press that prints on both sides of the paper at once—which made it more efficient and less expensive than chromolithography. Kohlsaat was intrigued by the supplement and the printing process. He sought out the inventor of the press, one of the owners of the Journal, Hippolyte Marinoni, and ordered one for the offices of The Inter Ocean.

On Thursday, June 23, 1892, Kohlsaat launched The Inter Ocean Illustrated Supplement, an eight-page tabloid sporting a full-color front and back cover, with news features, fiction, and miscellany filling up the black and white interior. It was the first color newspaper supplement issued in America. . .

. . . The Illustrated Supplement created something of a sensation in the newspaper publishing world. In May of 1893, The World in New York, inspired by Kohlsaat’s innovation, brought out the first color comic supplement, using the same press model Kohlsaat had imported from Europe.. .

The Inter Ocean contributed more than just color to the history of comics. In 1894, Charles Saalburg created the Ting Lings, a band of little people with an oddly Asian appearance, immersed each week in a different aspect of modern American life. They appeared for three months in The Illustrated Supplement, often gracing its cover, and could be considered forerunners to the denizens of Outcault’s Hogan’s Alley.

From Why Cartoons and Comics by R. C. Harvey

Cartoon comes from the Italian cartone, meaning “card.” Italian tapestry designers and fresco painters and the like drew their designs on sheets of cardboard at full scale before transferring those designs to the cloth or walls they were intended for. These designs were called by the name of the material upon which they were drawn—cartones, or cartoons. Later, the word cartoon was applied to any preliminary study for a final work. But none of the artists who used cartoons in those days were called cartoonists. The word cartoonist is associated only with the medium known in modern times as cartoons. . .

. . . Offering comical drawings and amusing short essays and droll verse, these magazines (Puck, Judge and Life, the three most popular) were dubbed “comic weeklies” in common parlance—or, even, “comics.” So when the World launched its imitation “comic weekly” as a supplement to its Sunday edition, it was lumped together in the popular mind as another of the “comics.” And then, once the World had shown the way, papers in other cities began publishing humorous Sunday supplements full of funny drawings in color and risible essays and verse.

From Disrespecitng the Comics by Brian Walker

It did not take long for America’s new art form to find its critics. The funnies were attacked immediately after they were first introduced in Sunday newspaper supplements during the mid-1890s. “The Sunday newspaper is the most potent influence in our midst for the destruction of the Lord’s Day as a day of rest and worship,” claimed a statement by the Sabbath Association in 1894.

A decade later, comics were still under siege for both aesthetic and moral reasons. In June 1906, M. J. Darby, the newly elected president of the National Association of Newspaper Circulation Managers, gave an address to the organization entitled “Is the Comic Supplement a Desirable Feature?” Lamenting a decline in artistic quality, Darby said, “The crude coloring, slap-dash drawing, and very cheap and obvious funniness of the comic supplement cannot fail to debase the taste of readers and render them to a certain extent incapable of appreciating the finer forms of art.”. . .

. . .Between 1900 and 1910, approximately nine million immigrants arrived on American shores, and the majority of these newcomers settled in the nation’s largest cities. The early comics were not consciously directed toward a specific target audience, but there is little doubt that the colorful graphics appealed to immigrants, and the content of the Sunday funnies reflected this readership.

Newspaper cartoonists continued many of the traditions of slapstick and ethnic humor that had been established during the nineteenth century in minstrel shows, vaudeville acts, and comic publications. Violence, pratfalls, puns, and stereotypes were the defining characteristics of this homegrown American humor. Both on the stage and in the comics, all non-natives were fair game: Englishmen wore monocles and were uppity; pugnacious Irishmen ate corned beef and cabbage; mustached Frenchmen were overly polite and hopelessly romantic; Germans were overweight and prone to fits of temper; towheaded Swedes were naive and stubborn; and blacks ate watermelon, rolled dice, and were lazy and superstitious. Immigrants responded to these stereotypes, both positively and negatively, and recognized their fellow city dwellers in the graphic melting pot on the funnies pages.

From Tug of War: Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst by Bill Kartalopoulos

The rivalry between the two giants of journalism helped form the modern Sunday Funnies. . .

. . .Pulitzer found his chance, purchasing the failing New York World from notorious railroad tycoon Jay Gould. Exactly the kind of plutocrat Pulitzer castigated in his newspaper, Gould had come to own the World as part of a larger business transaction and was eager enough to halt the ailing paper’s fiscal bleeding. Pulitzer staffed his new operation by hiring away his brother Albert’s senior personnel. Rechristening his new paper, simply, The World, and applying the techniques he’d developed in St. Louis, Pulitzer transformed the moribund daily. He emphasized the sensationalistic and the popular beneath provocative headlines, and employed canny publicity. Circulation skyrocketed under Pulitzer’s stewardship. . .

. . .As Outcault developed The Yellow Kid for Pulitzer’s World, William Randolph Hearst, scion of a wealthy, West Coast mining family, arrived in New York City with publishing ambitions of his own. . .

. . .Suspended from Harvard in his junior year, Hearst went to Washington, D.C., and began to analyze his father’s floundering newspaper. Comparing the Examiner unfavorably to successful papers including Pulitzer’s World, Hearst composed a blistering critique and begged to be given the paper to edit. Among other observations, Hearst noted the value of illustrations: “Illustrations embellish a page; illustrations attract the eye and stimulate the imagination of the masses and materially aid the comprehension of an unaccustomed reader and thus are of particular importance to that class of people which the Examiner claims to address.” He failed to secure the property, but tried again after his eventual expulsion from the university. George Hearst continued to resist, regarding the Examiner as a poisoned chalice and an inadequate profession for his son. So William Randolph Hearst went to New York and took at job at Pulitzer’s World to see how the work was done from the inside. .

. . . Hearst was eager to break into the New York market and to compete directly with Pulitzer’s reigning World. He acquired the Journal in 1895 and immediately set about hiring away valued members of Pulitzer’s organization—as Pulitzer had done to his brother before him. Noting the success of Pulitzer’s Sunday edition, he raided that department in 1896, hiring away the World’s Sunday editor and his staff. Pulitzer, enraged, hired the staff back—and retained them for twenty-four hours. Hearst once again outbid him, so Pulitzer resigned the contest and promoted personnel from within. . .

. . .In addition to hiring away Pulitzer’s managers, Hearst’s organization cherry-picked the World’s contributors, including Outcault and other cartoonists. Hearst purchased his own high-speed, full-color press and heavily promoted the debut of his own Sunday comic supplement, featuring Outcault’s Yellow Kid, now starring in a feature titled McFadden’s Flats—essentially Hogan’s Alley in all but name.

From American Screwball Comics Commenced in the Earliest Sunday Funnies by Paul Tumey

A nutty mule named Maud kicks the bejeezus out of everything with democratic chaos, offering both slapstick laughs and a sly attack on conventional society. Frederick Burr Opper’s 1904-1907 Sunday comic And Her Name Was Maud is just one of the dozens of notable early anarchic comic strips that kick-started a type of comedy called screwball—a form of condensed, surreal, escalating verbal-visual exaggeration that picked up steam in the 1920s and peaked mid-century with the Marx Brothers, Rube Goldberg, W. C. Fields, Milt Gross, Bill Holman, Tex Avery, Jack Cole, Spike Jones, Harvey Kurtzman’s Mad and Ernie Kovacs. . .

. . .Another scribbling engineer of early comics in search of the outer limits of visual humor is Rube Goldberg, who flooded the weekday pages with nonstop invention, but who also produced a few early color Sunday features, as well. His first big hit, a daily panel called Foolish Questions became a massive hit, spawning a color Sunday page (1909-1910), a novelty song, merchandise lines, and several imitators. Rube called his version of the early screwball style grotesque, and this is surely evident in his endless parade of odd characters. His Mike and Ike–They Look Alike (1912-13) sets sights on the social order. One of the interlocking identical twins is a Jew (Ike, for Isaac) and the other an Irishman (Mike, for Michael).

In addition to Rube’s comics, numerous early American comics are built around grotesque, eccentric characters, an approach that traces all the way back to the form’s invention by Rodolphe Töpffer in the 1840s. Comic genius George Herriman adopted this formula many times, as with his Major Ozone’s Fresh Air Crusade (1904-1906), in which a self-inflated health fiend goes to comic lengths to get a breath of unsullied oxygen, an escalation based on the appearance of air pollution in early 20th century American cities. The lesser-known Ed Carey created Simon Simple (1902-1909), a pointy-hatted prankster who could be Zippy the Pinhead’s great grandfather

From A History—Dot's Der Cheese! A Katzenjammer Appreciation by David Gerstein

“Mit dose kids, society iss nix!” ran the Inspector’s catchphrase. Yet the Katzenjammer kids—and their family, friends, and fiends—actually had quite an extensive society around them, one that grew weighty and fascinating during the strip’s golden age. Or is that “strips’ golden age?” For Hans, Fritz and Der Cap did the comics impossible for fifty years: they held down two successful newspaper pages for two rival syndicates. And both were classics.

The Katzenjammer Kids story began in December 1897, when the strip made its debut in William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. But the Katzenjammer chronicle actually starts with the characters’ prehistory. The mid-1860s found Wilhelm Busch (1832-1908) a rising star cartoonist in Munich, Germany, thanks in large part to Max und Moritz (1865), a bestselling proto-comic album starring two very naughty boys. Over seven chapters, Max und Moritz slaughtered Widow Bolte’s hens, filled Uncle Fritz’s bed with bugs, and blew up their teacher with a pipe full of gunpowder.
Some have stated that Hearst read Max und Moritz, either in childhood or on an adult trip to Germany, then asked the German-born Rudolph Dirks (1877-1968)—one of his staff cartoonists—to imitate it. Comics scholar Martin Sheridan instead attributes the request to Rudolph Block, Hearst’s comic strip editor. Sheridan also credits Block with titling the feature The Katzenjammer Kids. . .

. . .The ever-restive Dirks was also a traveler. In 1913, when Dirks planned an extended leave of absence from Hearst, the parties fell out over the terms of the liaison. Before long, Dirks and Hearst were in court, and the extended legal wrangle resulted in a landmark decision. Dirks departed Hearst for good, but kept chronicling the Katzies in a new strip for Pulitzer, starting in June of 1914. Initially, the new strip was untitled; all the better to trick readers into confusing it with the original. Eventually, it became Hans und Fritz and then The Captain and the Kids. Hearst, meanwhile, carried on The Katzenjammer Kids under new management, first with a short string of fill-in artists, and then with Harold Hering Knerr.

From A Rude and Crude: Bad Boys of the Comics by Alfredo Castelli


From the earliest published comic drawings, cartoonists have aimed their pens at the powerful, big and small, to the delight of their readers and the chagrin of leaders and members of “proper” society.
During the Restoration, Louis Philippe, King of France, had tolerated dozens of violent anti-monarchy pamphlets. But when, in 1830, the satirical magazine La Caricature began to portray his face as a pear, he immediately reacted by having the author of the drawing, Charles Philipon, put on trial. In 1846, English poet William Wordsworth wrote the sonnet Illustrated Book and Newspapers, contrasting the written text, “Man’s noblest attribute,” with the vulgarity of the images in the press, which he called “a vile abuse of the pictured page.” One would think the appearance of the Sunday comics supplement had him rolling in his grave. . .

. . .The most dangerous characters among all the anarchists of the anarchical comic supplement were, of course, the bad boys (or “too smart boys,” as they were called then). On May 13, 1904, the New York Herald published a letter from Reverend Charles Henry Parkhurst, an influential figure who had fought “against the moral degradation of the city.” In his message, titled by the Herald, "Buster Brown A Family Wrecker," the Reverend related how his son Robert “born of poor parents but Baptists” had frightened the waitress with a joke inspired by the reading of Buster Brown. He stated Outcault’s stories brought offense to the day of the Sabbath. . .

. . .In the end, the popularity of the “bad boys” pushed back the critics, and the antics created by Outcault, Dirks, Swinnerton, and so many others continued to shock, surprise, and most of all, entertain.