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Katzenjammer Kids on U.S Postage Stamp

Katzenjammer Kids on U.S Postage Stamp

The American comics are celebrating their 100th birthday with a series of stamps. One of these depicts two boys, gleefully watching, as a goat munches on a book. While two adults storm into the room, one boy says to the other with a slight German accent: "A good book should be vell digested!" The text on the back of the stamp reads "The Katzenjammer Kids--Rudolph Dirks (1877-1968). The oldest comic strip still being produced, this comic stars the mischievous antics of Hans and Fritz. The Katzenjammer Kids was one of the first comics to use regular characters, sequential drawings, and cartoon symbols. The strip started in 1897."

The mischievous boy has a long tradition in comic art and litera- ture. In the introduction to the 1974 Dover Edition of the Katzenjammer Kids August Derleth writes, "Indeed, in a very real sense many early American comic strips and pages may be said to have had their inception in this tradition which stemmed ... from a humorous book of maxims and pictures titled Max und Moritz, by the German artist Wilhelm Busch (1832-1908), published in Germany well before the turn of the century; this book served as prototype for Rudolph Dirks's The Katzenjammer Kids" ("Katzenjammer" hangover; but literally "cats" yowling).

Comics pioneer Rudolph Dirks was born in 1877 in the small German town of Heinde. His family moved to America in 1884, and at the age of 17, he sold his first caricatures to Life magazine.

On a trip to Europe, William Randolph Hearst, had taken a liking to the Fliegende Blaetter and the drawings of Wilhelm Busch. On Dec. 12, 1897 the strip appeared in a supplement, the American Humorist, of Hearst's New York Journal. It was born with three kids, but these were quickly reduced to two. The ambiguous household would soon include--besides the kids and Mama--the Captain, the Inspector and, occasionally, Mama's brother Heinie.

Dirk's early style was not unlike that of Wilhelm Busch's illustrations in Max und Moritz which had been published in the U.S. in 1870. These and similar comics, including Charles Schulz's "Peanut Gang," are sometimes rather less comic than pegs on which to hang moral and cultural issues.

Much of this information came to us from a niece of Dirks. It was fun to meet her and have her tell about her two talented uncles.

Eberhard and Ruth Reichmann

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