The Yellow Kid, 1896

The Yellow Kid, 1896

The Yellow Kid is widely recognized as the first modern comic strip.

Date(s)
1895
Creator
Richard F. Outcault
While there were plenty of earlier illustrations and editorial cartoons published in newspapers, The Yellow Kid is widely recognized as the first American comic strip. It is particularly noted for its early use of text bubbles and recurring characters. Originally published in the New York World, Richard F. Outcault eventually moved The Yellow Kid to the New York Journal, where it was printed until 1898. Its commercial success led to other comics, such as The Katzenjammer Kids

Thierry Smolderen, a Belgian comic strip theorist, links the development and use of the text bubble with the popularization of the phonograph. For the first time, according to Smolderen, synthetic characters, which existed only on paper, were able to speak. The balloon became "a pure 'sound image'" (Lefevre 2000), that immediately opened up creative niches for early cartoonists. Smolderen also uses the metaphor of a circle to explore the interconnectedness of communication technologies. Just as the phonograph influenced the development of the text bubble and comics, comics went on to influence the film and entertainment industries. See The Yellow Kid and His Phonograph for an example of early speech bubbles.
Sources
A History of the Comic Strip. Eileen B. Hennessy, trans. New York: Crown Publishers,
Inc., 1968.
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