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Strange to relate, the Kid has been described as a casualty of a real as opposed to a press war – the Spanish-American war of 1898. First to be spiked was Pulitzer’s version in his World, followed by his identical twin in Hearst’s Journal. In ‘R.F. Outcault’s the Yellow Kid’, Bill Blackbeard (great name for a chronicler of comics) states that the anti-Spanish feeling, which Hearst himself helped to foster, included a hatred of yellow, one of the colours in the Spanish flag, and that went for the Yellow Kid too. Hearst found a non-yellow replacement in the Journal in the shape of The Katzenjammer Kids, a sparkling new strip by a cartoonist who, like Outcault, walked out and took his strip elsewhere, leaving someone else to carry on with the theme at the original paper. The curse of the doppelgänger had struck again, with the same characters facing each other off in different strips in different papers. Outcault, who had kicked off all these


shenanigans both on and off the page, was now on the New York Herald, creating a radical strip named Pore Li’l Mose, starring a seven-year-old black kid who lived alone with his monkey, bear and cat buddies. The black theme did not work in 1902 New York, so Outcault switched to a new strip about a small, velvet-suited white boy named Buster Brown who, despite being upmarket, was up for violent mischief which endeared him to generations. He too had a doggy pal, as did a 1951 arrival, Dennis the Menace. (Dennis-es, in fact: there were two separate characters with the same name, launched by chance on the same day, one in US papers and the other here in the Beano.)


The Yellow Kid(s) had lasted scarcely four years, a fraction of Buster Brown’s life, but was hailed as ‘the first great newspaper comic character in history’. He blazed a trail followed by Peanuts and a host of comic youngsters, many of them aimed,


like the delinquent boys above, at older readers. The first British newspaper strip, was Teddy Tail, a child-friendly mouse that in 1915 scampered into the Daily Mail. In 1919, the Daily Mirror responded with Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, a dog, a penguin and a rabbit and, in 1959, The Perishers, with a dog and children. The Daily Express brought us Rupert, the famous bear, in 1920.


‘Quite unique and the most brilliant’ is how the Flook strip was described during its time, which was from 1949 to 1984. Lord Rothermere of the Daily Mail wanted ‘a strip cartoon that would amuse parents as well as children’, in the words of my neighbour Wally Fawkes, alias cartoonist Trog, who was told to deliver it. Compton Mackenzie, Humphrey Lyttelton, George Melly plus the Barrys Norman and Took, fed Wally with scripts and plots starring a little boy named Rufus and Flook, a bear-like creature with a small trunk. The pair wandered round 20th century society, sending up everyone from Harold Wilson (‘MrMuckybrass’, the no-nonsense prime minister) to the Royal Yacht Squadron (who bought the original artwork for their clubhouse). Particularly enjoyable for me was the sarky portrayal of my then boss, the brilliant, bullying Jocelyn Stevens of Queen (later Harper’s & Queen). Despite its child-friendly drawings, the themes became, Fawkes recalls, rather more tilted towards adults than youngsters. At one point, the new editor of the Mail had a


clear-out of lefties. David English told Fawkes that he wanted satire but it should be right- wing satire. However, Trog kept trogging along as before. Cartoonists, like the Yellow Kid, don’t necessarily do what they are told.


theJournalist | 17


Looking back to:


1895


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