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Forschung

Eine Entdeckung

Recherchen zur Entstehung der Bildergeschichten eröffneten vor einigen Jahren in den biographischen Notizen verschiedener Enzyklopädien über Comic-Zeichner die Spur zu Rudolph Dirks, der, wie es hieß, 1877 im schleswig-holsteinischen Heide geboren worden und mit seinen Eltern und Geschwistern als Siebenjähriger nach USA ausgewandert sei.

In den Zeitungen, die harte Konkurrenzkämpfe um neue Leser ausfochten, erschienen in den Wochenendausgaben bereits seit Beginn der 1890er Jahre kolorierte, ganzseitige Cartoons, in denen kurze Sätze und Wörter eingefügt waren. Rudolph Dirks hatte bereits frühzeitig künstlerische Fähigkeiten mit Karikaturen bewiesen, und als er mit zwanzig Jahren von Chicago nach New York ging, um sich als Zeichner Arbeit zu suchen, bekam er von einem Verleger den Auftrag, eine Bildergeschichte »somehow like Max and Moritz« zu schaffen. So erschienen 1897 zum ersten mal die »Katzenjammer Kids« von Rudolph Dirks, die deutlich in Stil und Geschichten Bezug auf Max und Moritz von Wilhelm Busch nahmen.

Dirks tat damit einen entscheidenden Schritt zur Entwicklung des modernen Comic Strips, seine Geschichten wurden in einzelnen, fortlaufenden Bildern erzählt und sprachliche Aussagen der Figuren wurden als erste regelmäßige Sprechblasen direkt in die Bilder eingefügt. Und Bewegungen der Figuren unterstrich Dirks mit sogenannten »speed lines«. Entscheidend war, dass Dirks diese Elemente dauerhaft einsetzte und sie somit zu Strukturelementen des Mediums Comics herausbildete, die bis heute trotz vieler Variationen der Gestaltung die Typik von Comics bestimmen.

Nach einem Rechtsstreit zwischen Verlegern musste Rudolph Dirks 1912 Verlag und Zeitung wechseln. Die Rechte am Titel blieben beim bisherigen Verlag Pulitzer, Dirks verblieben die Figurenrechte, und deshalb wurde seine Serie in »Hans and Fritz«, einige Jahre später wegen der Gegnerschaft der Deutschen im 1. Weltkrieg in »The Captain and the Kids« umbenannt, eine Serie, die Jahrzehnte weiter lief und seit Beginn der 1960er Jahre von Dirks Sohn John weitergezeichnet wurde. »The Katzenjammer Kids« jedoch wurden mit wechselnden Zeichnern Jahrzehnte weitergeführt.

Auch als Maler von Landschaften und Porträts wurde Rudolf Dirks an der amerikanischen Ostküste bekannt, und er wurde zum Mitbegründer einer Künstler-Kolonie im Seeort Ogunquit im Staat Maine, wo heute noch ein kleines, aber bekanntes Kunstmuseum für amerikanische Kunst seine Werke verwahrt.

So lassen sich zwei Spuren von Deutschland aus zu den »Katzenjammer Kids« legen. Die Geschichten von »Max und Moritz«, von Wilhelm Busch im niedersächsischen Wiedensahl erfunden und gezeichnet, wurden zum Impulsgeber für die frühen Comics des gebürtigen Schleswig-Holsteiners Rudolph Dirks und damit für die Entstehung des Mediums überhaupt.

Weitere Informationen

  1. Allgemeine Einführung zu diesem Projekt
  2. Ein Medium wird geboren – Busch, Dirks, die frühen Comics
  3. Eine Entdeckung
  4. Die Vorbereitungsphase
  5. Die Inhalte
  6. Die Ziele

© 2004-2021 Prof. Dr. Eckhart Bauer, HBK Braunschweig