THE YELLOW KID Biography - Fictional, Iconical & Mythological characters


Biography » fictional iconical mythological characters » the yellow kid


Name: The Yellow Kid                                                                 
The Yellow Kid emerged as the lead character in Hogan's Alley drawn by Richard F.   
Outcault, which became one of the first Sunday supplement comic strips in an         
American newspaper although its graphical layout had already been thoroughly         
established in political and other entertainment cartoons. The Yellow Kid was       
a bald, snaggle-toothed child with a goofy grin in a yellow nightshirt who hung     
around in a ghetto alley filled with equally odd characters, mostly other           
children. The kid wontedly spoke in a ragged, peculiar ghetto argot printed on       
his shirt, a device meant to lampoon advertising billboards.                         
Richard F Outcault's last Hogan's Alley cartoon for Truth magazine, Fourth Ward     
Brownies, was published on 9 February 1895 and reprinted in the New York World       
newspaper on the 17th of that month, beginning one of the first comic strips in     
an American newspaper. The character later known as the Yellow Kid had minor         
supporting roles in the strip's early panels. This one refers to The Brownies       
characters popularized in books and magazines by artist Palmer Cox.                 
A year and a half later Outcault was drawing the Yellow Kid for Hearst's New         
York Journal American in a full page colour Sunday supplement as McFadden's Row     
of Flats. In this 15 November 1896 Sunday panel word balloons have appeared, the     
action is openly violent and the drawing has become mixed and chaotic.               
Outcault drew four black and white, highly detailed single panel Hogan's Alley       
cartoons for Truth magazine in 1894 and 1895. The character which would later       
become the Yellow Kid had a minor supporting role in these panels. The fourth       
cartoon, Fourth Ward Brownies, was reprinted on 17 February 1895 in Joseph           
Pulitzer's New York World where Outcault worked as a technical drawing artist.       
The World published a new Hogan's Alley cartoon less than a month later and this     
was followed by the strip's first color printing on 5 May 1895. Hogan's Alley       
gradually became a full page Sunday colour cartoon with the Yellow Kid as its       
lead character, which was also appearing several times a week. The strip has         
been described as "...a turn-of-the-century theater of the city, in which class     
and racial tensions of the new urban, consumerist environment were acted out by     
a mischievous group of New York City kids from the wrong side of the tracks."       
The Yellow Kid's head was drawn wholly shaved as if having been recently ridden     
of lice, a common sight among children in New York's tenement ghettos at the         
time. His nightshirt, a hand-me-down from an older sister, was white or pale         
blue in the first colour strips. The Yellow Kid's image was an early example         
of lucrative merchandizing and appeared on mass market retail objects in the         
greater New York City area such as "billboards, buttons, cigarette packs, cigars,   
cracker tins, ladies fans, matchbooks, postcards, chewing gum cards, toys,           
whiskey and many other products."                                                   
In 1896 Outcault was hired away at a much higher salary to William Randolph         
Hearst's New York Journal American where he drew the Yellow Kid in a new full       
page colour strip which was significantly violent and even vulgar compared to       
his first panels for Truth magazine. Pulitzer, who had retained the copyright to     
Hogan's Alley, hired George Luks to continue drawing the original (and now less     
popular) version of the strip for the World and hence the Yellow Kid appeared       
simultaneously in two competing papers for about a year. Outcault's new Yellow       
Kid strip at the Journal American had three names, each lasting no more than         
four months:                                                                         
McFadden's Row of Flats (18 October 1896 - 10 January 1897)                         
Around the World with the Yellow Kid (17 January - 30 May 1897)                     
Ryan's Arcade (28 September 1897 - 23 January 1898).                                 
With the Yellow Kid's merchandizing success as an advertising icon the strip         
came to represent the crass commercial world it had originally lampooned and         
publication of both versions stopped abruptly after only three years in early       
1898, as circulation wars between the rival papers dwindled. Moreover, Outcault     
may have lost interest in the character when he realized he couldn't retain         
exclusive commercial control over it. The Yellow Kid's last appearance is           
most often noted as 23 January 1898 in a strip about hair tonic. On 1 May 1898       
the character was featured in a rather satirical cartoon called Casey Corner         
Kids Dime Museum but he was drawn ironically, as a bearded, balding old man         
wearing a green nightshirt which bore the words, Gosh I've growed old in making     
dis collection.                                                                     
The two newspapers which ran the Yellow Kid, Pulitzer's World and Hearst's           
Journal American, quickly became known as the yellow kid papers. This was           
contracted to the yellow papers and the term yellow kid journalism was at last       
shortened to yellow journalism, describing the two newspapers' editorial             
practices of taking (sometimes even fictionalized) sensationalism and profit as     
priorities in journalism.                                                           
In a 1902 interview Outcault remarked, "The Yellow Kid was not an individual but     
a type. When I used to go about the slums on newspaper assignments I would           
encounter him often, wandering out of doorways or sitting down on dirty             
doorsteps. I always loved the Kid. He had a sweet character and a sunny             
disposition, and was generous to a fault. Malice, envy or selfishness were not       
traits of his, and he never lost his temper."                                       
The Yellow Kid appeared now and then in Outcault's later cartoon strips, most       
notably Buster Brown.