Remember waking up on Sunday morning and running to get the Funny Pages out of the newspaper? From the pages of The Encyclopedia Britannica, David M. Kunzle, Professor of Art History, University of California, Los Angeles shares the history of comic strips with us. Here are some excerpts: 

The newspaper strip and comic book have become arguably the largest and most influential iconographic field in history, with literally millions, perhaps billions, of discrete pictures produced since 1900.

In the early period there were two principal forms: a series of small images printed on a single piece of paper (narrative strip proper) and a series composed of several sheets of paper, with one image per page, which when displayed on the wall of a house formed a narrative frieze or picture story.

From the outset two basic groups of themes emerged: political morality and private morality. The earliest strips concerning private morality are German and recount atrocious forms of murder and their public punishment. It was the introduction into the broadsheet of the essentially comic mechanism of caricature that established the “comic strip” as basically comic in both form and content.

The modern newspaper strip was born in the heat of rivalry between giants of the American press. In January 1894 a comic strip filled for the first time a full-colour page of Joseph Pulitzer’s newspaper the New York World; in October 1896 the publisher William Randolph Hearst announced in his rival paper, the Morning Journal, the first regular weekly full-colour comic supplement.

In 1897 Rudolph Dirks, at the instigation of Hearst, who as a child had enjoyed the work of Busch, worked up a strip based on Max and Moritz, called the Katzenjammer Kids. The spread of comics to other newspapers was rapid and was aided by the development of newspaper syndication. 

The Old School: Classic Strips That Continue To Shape Comics – based on an NPR’s Readers’ Poll on Comics and Graphic Novels. 

Test your knowledge:

Create Your Own Comic:

The Funny Pages – Top 10 Long-Running Comic Strips

  • B.C.
  • Dennis the Menace 
  • Beetle Bailey 
  • Little Orphan Annie 
  • The Katzenjammer Kids 

Is your favorite one that’s listed in the top ten?

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