Newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst saw the potential of comic strips as early as 1896 when he acquired "The Yellow Kid" comic strip. He took an active hand in cultivating and even creating comic strips which he syndicated to newspapers across the country. His array of strips grew and on November 16, 1915, King Features Syndicate was created by Hearst to manage his syndication business.
One hundred years later it’s time to celebrate the illustrious legacy of King Features with a wonderful new book aptly titled King of the Comics: One Hundred Years of King Features Syndicate edited by Dean Mullaney, Bruce Canwell, and Brian Walker and published by Idea & Design Work’s The Library of American Comics imprint.
This amazing book manages to squeeze 100 years of King Features history into 310 pages. It is broken up into chapters highlighting the origins of the comic strip and Hearst’s forming of King Features. The book spans the roaring '20s when many iconic strips were launched and refined into masterworks, the '30s which saw the rise of the serialized adventure comics, the war years of the '40s when even the cartoon characters joined the fight, the '50s with its domestic life comedies and Cold War adventures, the '60s and '70s when King Features expanded their comics to television, and on through the '80s and up to present times when King Features joined the digital revolution.
The editors wisely keep the text, written by knowledgeable experts, brief and informative, leaving more room to showcase the gorgeous art. Besides reprinting lots of great strips, the editors include photos of many of these great comic strip artists, a number of whom became celebrities because of their creations. The book also includes advertising and marketing art that rarely, if ever, has been reprinted.
King Features Syndicate was instrumental in making comic characters not only important for newspaper circulation and product merchandising, but also in helping to produce artistic treasures that have become an enduring part our cultural identity.
Here’s a (very) short list of the comic strips King Features brought to us:
The Katzenjammer Kids
Barney Google and Snuffy Smith
Bringing up Father
Polly and Her Pals
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not
Mandrake the Magician
Dennis the Menace
Hi & Lois
Hagar the Horrible
It's a list guaranteed to provoke smiles and fond memories of lazy Sunday mornings.
IDW’s The Library of American Comics imprint continues its own growing legacy of classic comic collections, books that are an important part of our country’s historic culture. The care and affection they put into this book (and the other books in their line) is evident. They have restored these works of art, many wrongly forgotten, and placed them in handsome, high quality hardcover books. Today's readers may have missed the heyday of many of these comic characters but thankfully we have these books to remind us. More please!
P.S. To help celebrate its centennial, this Sunday, November 15, King Features has created a special newspaper supplement. Featuring samples of its amazing array of comic strips, the King Features 100th Anniversary supplement will be 16 full-color broadsheet pages.