Rudolph Dirks (* February 26th 1877 in Heide, Germany; † April 20th in New York, USA) was a German-American comic pioneer. By creating “The Katzenjammer Kids” Dirks established one of the first and oldest comic-strips in the world that is still published today.
Dirks family emigrated to the US in 1884. They settled down near Chicago. In 1897 Rudolph Dirks published his first strips in the Chicago satire magazine “The Cricket”. Shortly after he moved to New York. When he started to work for Rudolph Hearst’s “New York Journal”, he was asked to design a comic strip able to compete with the “Yellow Kid” in Joseph Pulitzer’s “New York World”. Dirks drew inspiration from “Max und Moritz” by Wilhelm Busch. However, he soon developed a very different way of storytelling and illustrating and as a result invented some comic elements that where truly innovative in his time. Amongst other things Dirks is said to be the first to use sound words and motion lines.
Rudolph Dirks also made history by being the first comic artist to fight for his author’s rights after creating his comic strips for Hearst for over 15 years. In the end Hearst kept the rights for the name “The Katzenjammer Kids”, but Dirks was allowed to continue to use his characters under the new title “The Captain and the Kids”.
Due to his carrier as a comic artist and his achievements in this art form and the author’s rights for artists, Dirks is one of the true pioneers of graphic literature, as we still know and love it today.
Further literature: Tim Eckhorst: Rudolph Dirks – Katzenjammer, Kids & Kauderwelsch. Deisch Verlag, Wewelsfleth 2012.
Each winner receives the highly popular Rudolph Dirks Award statue – a self portrait of Rudolph Dirks as a comic artist.
The award is deliberately kept black-and-white and two dimensional as a homage to the classic instruments of graphic literature: an idea, a piece of paper and a couple of pencils. The statue weighs about half a kilo (1,1 pound) and has a height of almost 25 cm (9,8 inches).
The Rudolph Dirks Award honors the best publications and artists in graphic literature and are presented at the end of each year during GERMAN COMIC CON Dortmund.
Overall the Rudolph Dirks Award involves 30 main categories and two special categories. The 30 main categories are devised into two blocks: the first block honors the best publications and the second block the best artists.
Best publications (by genre)
The first block honoring the best publications of graphic literature (i.e. comic/manga/graphic novel) consists of 18 categories:
1. Funny / Comedy
2. Super Hero
3. SciFi / Alternate History
5. Supernatural / Mythology
6. Horror / Gore
7. Crime / Thriller / Spy
8. Action / Adventure
9. Youth Drama / Coming of Age
10. Social Drama / Slice of Life
11. Historical Drama
13. Documentary / Scientific
14. Experimental / Alternative
15. Romance / Love Story
16. Mature / Erotic
17. Literary Adaption
Best artists (by origin)
In contrast to serial publications or single titles the second block awards artists who got at least one recent German publication. The categories are arranged by continents. In each region the best illustrator as well as the best scenarist will be awarded. There are six regions and twelve award winners in total.
1. North America: Best Scenario / Best Artwork
2. South America: Best Scenario / Best Artwork
3. Asia: Best Scenario / Best Artwork
4. Africa & Oceania: Best Scenario / Best Artwork
5. Europe: Best Scenario / Best Artwork
6. Germany: Best Scenario / Best Artwork
The Rudolph Dirks Award is an industry/jury award, not an audience award – meaning the award winners will be chosen by a selected short-list-jury as well as a body of experts (i.a. staff members of comic book publishers and associated sectors, journalists, cultural managers and comic creators) consisting of at least 100 members.