The Yellow Kid on the Paper Stage
Introduction Origins of the Kid Class Warfare on the Urban Stage Race and Ethnicity Selling the Kid The Death of the Kid
"Yellow Kid? Ach, No! It's Only the Katzenjammer Kid—"
"R.F.Outcault Humorous Lectures."
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Viva Cuba Libre: Yellow Journalism and the Death of the Kid

Hully Gee! The Death of the Kid

Some have suggested that the targeting of yellow journals drove Outcault away from the Hearst's paper, but he left to rejoin the New York World; its reputation was no better. Ian Gordon suggests Outcault's reason for leaving the Kid behind lay more with his commercial interests: "When Outcault realized he could not retain exclusive control of the Yellow Kid, he abandoned the character and Hearst but not comic strip characters."1

After quitting McFadden's Flats, Outcault became editor of the comics page for Hearst's New York Evening Journal, where he experimented with different series, including Casey's Corner and The Huckleberry Volunteers, which prominently featured racist portrayals of black children. The Kid would pop up in both series as the leader of the new gang.2 He finally found a character to profit from with Buster Brown, the child of wealthy parents who also couldn't help getting in trouble; the Yellow Kid would make several cameo appearances with Buster in the comic and even on Buster Brown postcards. He licensed the character while working for the New York Herald in 1902.3 Several competing comic strips had sprung up in the meantime, including the Katzenjammer Kids (1897), and artist Frederick Burr Opper more thoroughly developed word balloons with Happy Hooligan from 1900-01.4

Outcault himself seemingly was seduced by making money from his characters. Buster Brown was notably a rich child, although he showed the same mischievous air as the younger Kid. As Outcault embraced the commercial possibilities of a character whose influence he could control, the appearance of a social critique from newspaper comic strips seemed less likely. Newspapers made most of their money from ad revenue; perhaps comic strips that critiqued consumerism and class divisions—the characteristics of capitalism itself—would be not only contradictory but perhaps repugnant to editors. Because of its unique position as one of the first popular comics, at a period when the future of capitalism and labor was in question by a broad swath of society, the Yellow Kid could unite its divergent audiences and make fun of it all, offering each a glimpse of what he or she wanted to find funny in the newsprint images.

1 Gordon 33.

2 Blackbeard, Bill. Introduction. R. F. Outcault's The Yellow Kid: A Centennial Celebration of the Kid Who Started the Comics. Northampton, MA: Kitchen Sink Press, 1995. 116-119.

3 Gordon, Ian. Comic Strips and Consumer Culture, 1890-1945. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998. 37.

4 Gordon 35.