Now, come on, that would be just too obvious, right? So I have to try something different! Instead, here we have the starter of it all!
The Yellow Kid
The Yellow Kid is, for all intents and purposes, the very first comic star. This is not to say that Richard F. Outcault was the first comic artist, of course he was not, as the political cartoon had been well established before Hogan’s Alley began in 1894, but Outcault’s strip, Hogan’s Alley, with its realistic transient characters, was the first ongoing comic strip in the sense that we think of comics today, and Yellow Kid was the first comic strip star.
As you can see, the Yellow Kid was not some gleaming character – Outcault’s strips, while clever and fun, were still pretty rough.
Still, Hogan’s Alley became a massive success, spawning all sorts of merchandise tie-ins, and eventually leading to William Randolph Hearst hiring Outcault away to do the characters for Heart’s paper. Joe Pulitzer, whose paper Hogan’s Alley began in, owned the copyright to Hogan’s Alley, so while Outcault was doing work for Hearst, Pulitzer hired George Luks to continue the strip without Outcault, so there were actually TWO Yellow Kid comic strips!!
The character was gone by the end of the 1890s, but by then, a foundation had already been established – if you give the public a comic strip they like, they will go for it big time.
And since then, they certainly have!
Outcault, by the by, went on to create Buster Brown…
so he did okay for himself. 😉