THE FIRST COMIC STRIP?
Nearly every published history of comic strips indicates that “The Yellow Kid” by Richard Fenton Outcault in 1896 was the first comic strip. The bald-headed boy with the long nightshirt supposedly marked the first appearance of a “multi-panel, sequential strip with word balloons or in-panel dialogue.”
Not the first, wrote Doug Wheeler in Comics Buyers Guide #1525 (Feb. 2003), after detailed research, since many publications in Britain and America had previously featured sequential strips with word balloons, including (pictured in the article)
pages by James Gilray (British) in 1798
pages by William Heath (British) in 1830
art by John McLenan in Harper’s Weekly in 1861
strips in the Canadian magazine Grip in 1881.
Other early word-balloon strips include the British cartoon “Ally Sloper”, developed by Charles Ross and Marie Duval, appearing in a humor magazine beginning in 1867.
“Professor Tigwissel’s Burglar Alarm” showed up in the New York Graphic on Sept. 11, 1875 (ten years before the Kid.)
The “Ting Lings (Kids)” by Charles Saalburg ran for three months in 1894 in the Chicago Inter-Ocean.(two years before the Kid.)
The Yellow Kid was definitely not the first.
Outcault’s creation, however, does deserve historical recognition –as the first feature to put American newspaper strips “on the map” -
a clearly identifiable,
widely read and recognized
comic feature, with dialogue and panels;
was promoted by the publisher,
gave its creator fame,
gave rise to collectible merchandise,
and brought a new term into our language (“yellow journalism.”)
Let’s recognize and publicize the earlier antecedents.
Let’s also hear it for yellow nightshirts.