King Features Syndicate, Inc. is a print syndication company owned by Hearst Communications that distributes about 150 comic strips, newspaper columns, editorial cartoons, puzzles, and games to nearly 5,000 newspapers worldwide. King Features Syndicate is a unit of Hearst Holdings, Inc., which combines the Hearst Corporation’s cable-network partnerships, television programming and distribution activities, and syndication companies. King Features’ affiliate syndicates are North America Syndicate and Cowles Syndicate. Each week, Reed Brennan Media Associates, a unit of Hearst, edits and distributes more than 200 features for King Features.
King Features was founded in 1915 by media tycoon William Randolph Hearst, and has remained a member of the Hearst media conglomerate to the present day. It was named after Moses Koenigsberg (“Koenig” is German for “king”), who oversaw the distribution of Hearst’s features to other papers around the country. Given the relevance of the Hearst empire during the first half of the 20th century, by the 1930s King Features was one of 130 syndicates that distributed 1,600 features to more than 13,700 newspapers in North America, although some of them were syndicated through “second-tier” agencies such as the International Feature Service and the Premier Syndicate.
Many King characters were adapted to animation, both theatrical and television cartoons. Strips from King Features were often reprinted by comic book publishers. In 1967, King Features made an effort to publish comic books of its own by establishing King Comics. This short-lived comic-book line showcased King’s best-known characters in seven titles:
- Beetle Bailey
- Flash Gordon
- Jungle Jim
- Mandrake the Magician
- The Phantom
The comics imprint existed for a year-and-a-half, with titles cover-dated from August 1966 to December 1967. When it ended, the books were picked up and continued by Gold Key Comics, Harvey Comics, and Charlton Comics.
In November 2008, King Features introduced Comics Kingdom, a digital platform that newspapers can embed on their sites. Comics Kingdom splits advertising revenue with newspapers carrying the feature; those papers make local sales, while King handles national sales. During the 30-day period in which strips are made available on the newspaper sites, readers could post comments on local community forums.
Today, Comics Kingdom features comic strips and editorial cartoons which can be accessed and read online. This website also features some interactive puzzles. Comics are updated every single day, plus a one-year archive is available to be viewed for free. Older comics can be accessed by being a Comics Kingdom Royal (a paid member, subscribed to their premium subscription service). Subscribers to Comics Kingdom Royal also get to keep a scrapbook of their favorite cartoons, get daily email updates, and access a huge selection of classic vintage comics. Comics Kingdom also features over 30 of comic strips in Spanish.