The Katzenjammer Kids

The Katzenjammer Kids was inspired by Max and Moritz, a children's story of the 1860s by German author Wilhelm Busch. The Katzenjammer Kids (three brothers in the first strip but soon reduced to two) featured Hans and Fritz, twins who rebelled against authority, particularly in the form of their mother, Mama; der Captain, a shipwrecked sailor who acted as a surrogate father; and der Inspector, an official from the school system. Other characters included John Silver, a pirate sea captain and his crew, and King Bongo, a primitive-living but sophisticated-acting black jungle monarch who ruled a tropical island. Several of the characters spoke in stereotypical German-accented English. The main plot of the strip was Hans and Fritz would pull a prank or trick on one of the adults which resulted in their being hunted down and given a spanking in the end panel. Katzenjammer translates literally as the wailing of cats (i.e. "caterwaul") but is used to mean contrition after a failed endeavor or hangover in German (and, in the latter sense, in English too). Whereas Max & Moritz were grotesquely but comically put to death after 7 destructive pranks, the Katzenjammer Kids and the other characters still thrive.

The comic strip was turned into a stage play in 1903. It inspired several animated cartoons and was one of 20 strips included in the Comic Strip Classics series of U.S. commemorative postage stamps.

The Katzenjammer Kids was so popular that it became two competing comic strips and the subject of a lawsuit. This happened because Dirks wanted to take a break after 15 years, but the Hearst newspaper syndicate would not allow it. Dirks left anyway, and the strip was taken over by Harold Knerr. Dirks sued, and after a long legal battle, the Hearst papers were allowed to continue The Katzenjammer Kids, while Dirks was allowed to syndicate an almost identical strip of his own for the rival Pulitzer newspapers.[1]

Knerr's version of the strip introduced several major new characters in the 1930s. Miss Twiddle, a pompous tutor, and her brainy niece Lena came to stay permanently with the Katzenjammers in early 1936. Later in the year Twiddle's ex-pupil, "boy prodigy" Rollo Rhubarb joined them. The ever-smug Rollo is always trying to outwit Hans and Fritz, but his cunning plans often backfire.

Initially named Hans und Fritz after the two naughty protagonist brothers, Dirks' feature was called The Captain and the Kids from 1918 on. The Captain and the Kids was very similar to The Katzenjammer Kids in terms of content and characters, but Dirks had a looser and more verbal style than Knerr, who on the other hand often produced stronger, more direct gags and drawings. The Captain and the Kids soon proved to equal the popularity of The Katzenjammer Kids. It was later distributed by the United Feature Syndicate (while Hearst's King Features distributed The Katzenjammer Kids).[1]

The Captain and the Kids also introduced some new characters. Ginga Dun is a snooty Indian trader who can outsmart almost anyone and only talks in verse. Captain Bloodshot is a pint-sized pirate rival of John Silver's.

The Katzenjammer Kids (primeramente tres hermanos y luego sólo dos) presentaban las travesuras de los gemelos Hans y Fritz, que hacían enojar a los mayores. La Mamá encarga al Capitán la educación de los niños, junto con el Inspector, o hacer distintos recados. Ambos meten la pata, o los niños les gastan bromas que les hacen quedar en ridículo. Varios de los personajes hablaban inglés con marcado acento alemán. En historias más recientes las relaciones entre chicos y grandes son menos hostiles. Los personajes de la isla (africanos o polinesios) también son objetos de burla, bien por los niños o por el propio guionista. La Reina compite con la Mamá en elegancia.

La tira ha inspirado en sus inicios algunas caricaturas y filmes de imagen real mudos. También se hicieron algunos dibujos animados sonoros (por Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, aunque sin éxito). Posteriormente aparecieron algunos dibujos para la televisión, a manera de segmentos independientes titulado "The Captain and the Kids" (en Hispanoamérica El Capitán y los Pilluelos) dentro de la serie "Archie's TV Funnies" (en Hispanoamérica Las Historietas de Archie), producida por Filmation. En la década de 1990 se publicó dentro del libro anual de monitos en Noruega.