The Katzenjammer Kids is a classic Newspaper Comic created by German-American cartoonist Rudolph Dirks. It holds the distinction of being the longest-running newspaper comic in history, having run uninterrupted since 1897, when it debuted as a Sunday panel in William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal. Dirks was inspired by the German illustrated children's book Max and Moritz.
In 1914, following a series of nasty legal battles, Dirks quit the Hearst organization (later King Features Syndicate) and started a new version of his comic, featuring his same characters but renamed The Captain and the Kids for the rival Pulitzer chain, eventually distributed by the United Feature Syndicate. Dirks would continue to draw The Captain and the Kids through the 1950s, after which his son John took over until that strip ended in 1979. Meanwhile, the original Katzenjammer Kids strip continued under the pen of Harold H. Knerr until 1949 and a succession of artists afterwards. Hy Eisman drew the strip until 2006, being run weekly in reprints to this day.
The Sunday "topper" for Dirks was Hawkshaw the Detective (drawn by Gus Mager), a parody of Sherlock Holmes with monkeys while the Knerr strip had Dinglehoofer Und His Dog Adolph. Adolph was replaced by "Schnappsy" because of some guy down in Germany. The Katzes themselves were briefly renamed to The Shenanigan Kids (Hans and Fritz became two Dutch boys named "Mike" and "Aleck") because of anti-German sentiment during World War I.
- Alternate Continuity: One of the most bizarre examples in comic history; while The Katzenjammer Kids and The Captain and the Kids featured the same main cast of characters, they were technically considered separate series from each other and were actually competing with each other (under separate artists and syndication deals) for 60+ years. Both series would eventually introduce new characters distinct to their own series.
- Animated Adaptation: There were at least three made:
- There were at least 39 silent cartoons produced starring the Katzenjammer characters. Five of them were renamed The Shenanigan Kids to briefly coincide with the comics' own brief change to that name.
- The second was a series of MGM cartoons adapting The Captain and the Kids, which ran for 15 shorts. It notably featured direction by greats such as Friz Freleng and Bill Hanna, and the voice talents of Mel Blanc and Billy Bletcher. These cartoons tended to focus mostly on the Captain, with the kids taking on a secondary role.
- The third was produced by Filmation as part of Archie's TV Funnies.
- Bratty Half-Pint: Hans and Fritz, the two leading characters next to Der Captain.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Hans and Fritz's third brother, retroactively named Kurt, was only in the very earliest strips and then vanished without a trace. Their old father stuck around for a bit longer, but never got a large role in the strip and was dropped early on.
- Crossover: In the strip's early years, characters from other comic strips would often make guest appearances. The most prominent of these was Happy Hooligan, who was a recurring character in the strip for some years.
- The Ditz: Mama usually plays this role, especially in the Knerr version of the strip. She's extremely gullible and sometimes shows near-Cloudcuckoolander levels of disconnect from reality... though she does have her moments of savvyness and will occasionally show that she does in fact have a brain.
- The Dividual: Hans and Fritz are almost always seen together and have the exact same personality.
- Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off: The earlier strips would frequently end with Hans and Fritz getting spanked for the pranks that they pulled.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The first years of the strip were drawn in a completely different art style than the more cartoony approach that the strip would settle into. The Captain was also absent for the first five years (with an unnamed father figure being in his stead, and even he abruptly vanished from the comic before the Captain's introduction) and there were three Katzenjammer Kids instead of two.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The series' main lead, the shipwrecked sailor and surrogate father to Hans and Fritz, is just called Der Captain.
- Karmic Trickster: Over the years, Hans and Fritz developed a very strong streak of this. While they remained mischief-makers who would prank, trick and mock just about everyone just because they thought it was funny, more and more it became clear that their worst pranks (and the ones they most often got away with) were against unreasonable authority figures, and often done as revenge for earlier unfair treatment.
- Print Long-Runners: To date, it is the longest-running newspaper comic in history—the original strip ran uninterrupted for 109 years (not to mention continuing in reruns)!
- The Captain and the Kids' run from 1914 to 1979 is nothing to snuff at, either.
- Smug Snake: Rollo Rhubarb, the self-proclaimed "boy genius" that was often bested by the Katzes. He is actually pretty smart; in his early appearances he was The Ace who constantly one-upped Hans and Fritz, but after a while he became less invincible and ended up on the losing side more often than not.
- Sunday Strip: The Katzenjammer Kids has been Sunday-only for the majority of its run, although there was a short-lived daily version (called The Katzies and featuring different artists) in the late 1910s. The Captain and the Kids was also one of these, although it too had a brief daily run in the '30s.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: The Captain and the Inspector. They're good buddies who like hanging out together, but they need no excuses to start fighting, pranking and teasing each other.