Preamble to the Yellow Kid

Familiar to all comic strip mavens, the massive Yellow Kid newspaper pages were stunning tableaux of late 19th Century urban immigrant life. But R.F. Outcault was himself inspired by predecessors. Bill Blackbeard, the dean of comic strip history and preservation, begins his great 1995 celebration of the Yellow Kid reminding us how Outcault was echoing Michael Angelo Woolf’s (1837-1899) well-regarded panels for Life, Truth and other magazines of the day. Woolf was a pioneer illustrator of Irish emigres, labeled in his obituary a “tenement artist.” He pioneered the light comic take on alleyway waifs, riffing on their childhood renditions of adult behavior. Just as Outcault depicted his Hogan’s Alley population preparing for political conventions, hosting beauty pageants and mimicking “The Greatest Show on Earth,” Woolf depicted his children having discussions of fashion, hosting union meetings and free balls.

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