It was inspired by Max Und Moritz, famous German children's stories of the 1860s. The Katzenjammer Kids featured Hans and Fritz, twins who rebelled against authority, particularly in the form of their mother, Mama; der Captain, a shipwrecked sailor who acted as a surrogate father; and der Inspector, an official from the school system. Several of the characters spoke in stereotypical German-accented English.
It was so popular that it became two competing comic strips and the subject of a lawsuit. This happened because Dirks wanted to take a break after about 15 years but the Hearst newspaper syndicate wouldn't allow it. Dirks left anyway and the strip was taken over by Harold Knerr. Dirks sued, and after a long legal battle the Herst papers were allowed to continue The Katzenjammer Kids and Dirks was allowed to syndicate an almost identical strip, called The Captain and the Kids, for the rival Pulizer newspapers. Both strips ran in competing newspapers for half a century, and fans still debate which was better.
As of 2003, The Katzenjammer Kids is drawn by Hy Eisman and distributed by King Features.