The Yellow Kid was an American comic strip, starring the first real comic character in U.S. newspapers. The series, also known as Hogan’s Alley, was drawn by Richard F. Outcault.
The Yellow Kid was set into the ghetto of turn of the century New York City. The titular “Kid” was an unnamed bald, snaggle-toothed child who wore an oversize yellow nightshirt and interacted with various other quirky characters. The series was popular for taking conventions that had previously been used in stand alone political cartoons and adapting them to a storytelling format.
Among those conventions was the word bubble. Similar graphics had been used for speech as early as the 1700s, which were in turn based on “word scrolls” that emerged from the subjects of medieval portraits. Yellow Kid, however, modified their appearances. Before, speech bubbles generally trailed off as long as needed or possible, and the bubble itself came from the character’s mouth without a definitive tail. Yellow Kid made the bubbles rounder and less elongated and introduced clear tails. This form proved very influential. (Ironically, the Yellow Kid himself did not use word bubbles; instead his dialogue appeared on his shirt, possibly as a parody of advertising billboards.)
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