Rudolph Dirks, pioneering cartoonist and creator of the long-running comic strip The Katzenjammer Kids, was born on this date in 1877 in Heide, Germany. Dirks launched his strip in the American Humorist, a supplement of the New York Journal, on December 12, 1897 and was the first to employ word balloons for his character’s dialogue. In 1914, following a series of legal wranglings with his employers at the Hearst organization, Dirks created the strip Hans und Fritz (later titled The Captain and the Kids), which was nearly identical to The Katzenjammer Kids that Hearst had subsequently assigned to cartoonist Harold Knerr. Dirks died in New York city in 1968 at age 91.
The antics of twins Hans and Fritz proved to be so popular that less than a year after their debut the American Mutoscope Company’s released The Katzenjammer Kids in School, one of the first live-action films based on comics. In 1912, the Selig Polyscope Company produced a handful of Katzenjammer Kids shorts starring Guy Mohler as Hans and Emil Nuchberg as Fritz.
(Image: 1995 U.S. postage stamp featuring the Katzenjammer Kids)