Comic Strip

Scholars typically will encounter two persistent points of contention when approaching the term comic strip: (1) when precisely comic strips began and, relatedly, (2) the comic strip’s most accurate definition. As a medium that sustains multiple origins, the comic strip continually exceeds its own boundaries and concerted efforts to fix authorial ownership, reception practices, and definitions. Some accounts source comics’ beginning as far back as the cave paintings of Altamira and Lascaux, the Egyptian bas-reliefs, the Pompeii murals, Trajan’s column in Rome, or the Queen Mathilde tapestry in Bayeux. More frequently, comics historians trace the birth of the modern comic strip to US newspapers and the first appearance of R. F. Outcault’s Yellow Kid in the New York World in 1895. In many respects, scholars are correct in identifying US origins. The advent of photoengraving in 1873 made possible relatively inexpensive newspaper illustrations, which allowed for the mass production of comic strips in US daily newspapers. Moreover, the circulation wars between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer and the competing versions of Outcault’s original The Yellow Kid and Outcault’s replacement at The New York World with George Luks’s The Yellow Kid contributed to an origin story that aptly hinges on...

This essay may be found on page 55 of the printed volume.

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