David Claypool Johnston

Thomas Nast

Richard Fenton Outcault

John T. McCutcheon

Clarence Daniel Batchelor

Carey Orr

Franklin Osborne Alexander

Roy Braxton Justus

Arthur B. Poinier

Ted Key

Boris Drucker

Gene Basset

Paul Conrad

Read the Article from the Syracuse Record


Richard Fenton Outcault (1863-1928)

Often credited with being the creator of the first comic strip character, Richard Fenton Outcault can be described more precisely as the originator of the first commercially viable comic character. A bald kid with big ears and a gap-toothed grin, Mickey Dugan appeared regularly in a loosely connected series of cartoons named "Hogan's Alley" for its New York tenement locale. The Yellow Kid, as he later came to be known for his bright yellow nightshirt, became, with his 17 February 1895 debut in Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, the first comic character to serve as a marketing tool for the sale of newspapers. The use of this cartoon figure in both the Pulitzer and William Randolf Hearst newspapers gave rise to the designation of "'the Yellow Kid journals,' or 'the yellow journals,' and the kind of sensation-mongering journalism the warring newspapers practiced was thereafter dubbed 'yellow journalism'" (Robert C. Harvey, Children of the Yellow Kid: The Evolution of the American Comic Strip [Seattle: Frye Art Museum, 1998]).

Click on image to enlargeIn 1992, eleven original pen-and-ink drawings by Outcault were discovered among the archival records of Street and Smith housed in the Special Collections Research Center. A major publisher of its era, Street and Smith had acquired Howard, Ainslee and Company, a firm that, capitalizing on the success of the comic strip, issued a short-lived children's periodical, the Yellow Kid, for which Outcault supplied the cover illustrations.

In contrast to the street-smart Yellow Kid, Outcault also brought to life the comparatively wholesome Buster Brown and his dog, Tige:

The author wishes to say in presenting Buster Brown that Buster is not a bad or naughty boy as the thousands of parents of Buster know. He is an industrious person, full of energy and ingenuity.

If all the energy of the vast army of Busters around us could be directed into some useful channel and brought to bear upon some practical work it would accomplish wonders. Buster is a kind little chap and his faithful dog finds in him a gentle but busy companion. He is not an invention; these pictures of his pranks are simply records of the usual everyday happenings in any healthy household (Buster Brown and His Resolutions [New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1903]).

Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge
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This exhibition has been generously supported by the
College of Arts and Sciences and the Photo and Imaging Center

Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Library
Syracuse, NY 13244
Last modified: June 09, 2012 12:35 PM
URL: /digital/exhibits/c/cartoonists/outcault.htm