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A Brief History of Comics

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A Brief History of Comics

Comics: In the Beginning The modern comic, as we know it, began in Joseph Pulitzer's New York World on February 17,1895. The comic, drawn by Richard F. Outcault, was based on the life of Mickey Dugan, an Irish immigrant child in the city. Although the strip had no name, people have dubbed it the "Yellow Kid" because the nightshirt worn by Mickey Dugan was the projection for an experiment in yellow ink by the newspaper. Eventually the comic came to be known as "Hogan's Alley." Soon comics were recognized for the selling potential and were published in newspapers all over the world. After the success of the World, a competitor, William Randolph Herst of the New York Journal, hired Outcault to draw Hogan's Alley for Hearst's Journal. The World continued publication of the strip using a new artist, and both papers were featuring the "Yellow kid." This led to people referring to the two papers as the yellow papers. And as the battle between the press lords became more intense, people began calling it yellow journalism which now has come to mean overly sensational journalism. Although Outcault won the battle over the rights of "Yellow kid," the mass marketing began. The cartoon was everywhere. Products were being produced, even cigars, bearing the "yellow kid." Soon the comic revolution began, and strips were published all over. Of these comics, "Katzenjammer Kids" drawn by Rudolph Dirks in 1897, was one of the most popular and first to regularly use voice balloons for dialogue. Outcault also continued drawing, and began a strip called "Buster Brown" which was to be a tie between the comic strip and the comic book. The mass marketing continued, and "Buster Brown" had his own line of shoes (McHam). Until 1907, comic strips ran only on Sundays. In 1907, the first daily strip appeared. "Mutt and Jeff" by Bud Fisher, began being published daily in the San Franciso Chronicle. Following that was "Bringing up Father," in 1912, and soon many others including: "Barney Google"; "Thimble Theater" forerunner to "Popeye"; "Moon Mullins" "Orphan Annie" and "Andy Gump" which was the first comic to tell a continuing story. Hearst pushed comics in all of his newspapers and began King Features, a syndication service, to deliver comics to his and other papers. King Features continues syndicating today along with company's such as Universal Press Syndicate in Kansas City, Kansas. Today, a popular comic can run in more than 1,200 newspapers daily. By the Time Buck Rogers started in the 1920's, the comic strip was fully developed. At this time, some of the most popular comics to be were drawn, and continue to this day. "Blondie" started in the 20's is now one of the longest running comic strips. Other comics of that time include: "Dick Tracy"; "Joe Palooka" and "Lil'Abner" which was retired in 1977. These comics led into others continuing today, such as "Peanuts" in 1950, and Gary Trudeau's "Doonesbury" of 1970. The Comic Book Soon after the turn of the century, comic strips were collected into book form. Comic books were then used for promotion, such as "Buster Brown" Shoes, and breakfast cereals. Comic magazines soon followed, the first to be the Famous Funnies in 1934, and by the late 30's comic books were being produced independently of newspaper strips. Action Comics began in 1938, in which Superman was the main attraction, and was in his first appearance. Detective Comics (DC Comics) started a chain reaction in 1938 by devoting each issue to a certain comic or subject, which continues into the modern day comic books. Comic books spread like wildfire, and estimation show that they outsold all magazines combined during World War II. A nation survey conducted by Fawcett Publications in 1943 showed outstanding results. The survey showed 95 percent of all males and 91 percent of all females between 6 and 11 read comic books regularly. They were read by 87 percent of all males and 80 percent of all females from ages 12-17, and by 41 percent of all males and 28 percent of all females ages 18-30 (McHam). Soon comic books attracted national advertising. In the top years of comic book marketing, in the 1950's, the industries income was estimated at $150 million, and combined circulation achieved 90 million. The criticism of these comic also reached a height at about the same time. Much as the television censorship of today, comics then were considered a bad influence on children. Parents and educators were concerned about the content. This issue was taken so far, that the Canadian Parliament outlawed crime in comics in 1949! Individual cities also passed ordinances against the crime and violence in these book. They also tried to curb the sales of these books

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