Chicago Spanking Review

Katzenjammer Kids #1

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Surely one of the truly great comic strips has to be Rudolph Dirk's The Katzenjammer Kids, a/k/a The Captain and the Kids for reasons we'll explain shortly. It's also one of the oldest strips, going back all the way to 1897, if not the oldest, since some comics historians consider its use of sequential panels and word balloons give it primacy over The Yellow Kid, which had appeared earlier (1895). It's never been discussed in the pages of CSR before because all the spankings in it we knew about were either the Captain spanking the Kids, Hans and Fritz, which happened routinely, or the kids taking a paddle to the Captain, neither of which was of much interest. But then Sweetspot found this one from 1938, so it is now incumbent upon us to talk a little about the strip.

The Katzenjammer Kids is basically about the ongoing contest between the twins, Hans and Fritz, and the overmatched adults, Mama, The Captain, and The Inspector, a truant officer. The kids and the Inspector do not appear in the strips below, which are set in the mythical Cannibal Islands during one of the times the characters visited them. The caption in the first panel tells us pretty much all we need to know: "Little Boola from Pygmy Island is trying to make Bloodshot and the Inspector jealous! She is playing up to the old Captain! Now Mama has found out..."

So Boola is asking for it - and she gets it!

captain and the kids comic strip from 05/03/1938

The Captain and the Kids, May 3, 1938. Scan by Sweetspot. © United Feature Syndicate (click to increase in size)

captain and the kids comic strip from 05/05/1938

The Captain and the Kids, May 5, 1938. Scan by Sweetspot. © United Feature Syndicate (click to increase in size)

Sweetspot included a second strip from two days later that confirms the actual spanking did take place. (Since it's off-panel we haven't put it in the Comics Spanking Data Base, but it certainly happened and we do have the all-important OTK positioning). It must have been a good one, too, since Boola is still shedding a tear or two and rubbing her behind after rowing back to Pygmy Island. No surprise, since Mama used a long-handled hairbrush.

mama spanks chief's daughter

The spanking panel - it's "boo-hoo" for Boola as Mama raises the hairbrush! Scan by Sweetspot. © United Feature Syndicate. Posted by the Web-Ed on 10/27/2017 (click to increase in size).

Let's return to the spanking panel. The OTK positioning is good in that Boola is nicely bent over, although bent over what exactly is hard to say: Mama is pretty fat and Boola isn't over her lap. It's very effective humor cartooning, however, and Dirks' talent is undeniable. And that brings us to the question of why this strip is titled The Captain and the Kids.

Dirks had created The Katzenjammer Kids for the Hearst syndicate, but when he returned from a leave of absence Hearst refused to let him continue with it. Dirks sued, and the court upheld Hearst's right to retain control of the strip but also ruled that Dirks could continue to use the characters he'd created for it as long as he came up with a new name for what would be a new strip. That's how The Captain and the Kids came to be, and in fact the two strips ran simultaneously for many years, with the latter spanning the period from 1914 - 1979. As for the original The Katzenjammer Kids, it's still running today!

To us, the court's decision seems very strange by the standards of modern copyright law, for characters can be copyrighted but not titles, essentially the reverse of what the court did in this case by assigning the title "Katzenjammer Kids" to Hearst. It was, however, following a precedent set by an earlier comic strip (the afore-mentioned Yellow Kid). Still, because we believe creators should own their characters, we're happy for Dirks, who fared much better than later creators would, for example Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster with Superman.

Finally, the eternal question: any more spankings? With the two strips running so many decades, another F/F or even M/F spanking is possible, but we suspect any new spankings will probably be of the Kids - that's just the way the feature is set up.

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