Sunday, November 19, 2006

WHY I LIKE KRAZY KAT

Whatever you do be sure to click to enlarge before you attempt to read this. Herriman's work doesn't read very well when it's reproduced small and that's the only way most people have read it..that is, if they've read it at all.

I confess that I've only recently begun to like Herriman. Like almost everybody else I used to think of it as primitive, plotless and pointless. Moderns aren't the only ones to feel this way, even in it's own day editors only carried it because the big boss, Randolph Hearst, liked it. It had a fan following which included Hemingway, Picasso, T.S. Eliot, Menckon, Stein, and Edmond Wilson but the public was divided about it. Me, nowadays I love it, in fact it's one of the best strips ever in my opinion. Take a look at the Sunday page above, printed originally in 1926.

The drawing of the mesa in panel one is exquisite. Blogger doesn't reproduce fine, cross-hatched lines very well but if you could see the larger print version it would blow you away. It's moody in a way that only graphics can achieve. The mesa lettering reminds me of the title letters Eisner used in The Spirit. Come to think of it, the content of the words throughout the page are funny and full of the love of language. They're also beautiful, even the ones in word balloons: ignorant, horse-hairy kind of letters, the scratchy kind that fleas would make if they could write.

The stork tries to deliver a baby in the town but the closely-packed, glowing, night-time town is empty. Look at the size of the buildings relative to the characters! I love that! I also like the fact that the buildings are larger when they need to be. Why be consistent? How do you like the bird walking down the street with the buildings diminishing behind him in railroad perspective? That street almost animates! In the end the sun, which is bottom shaded like a ball, comes up below the mesa throwing sizzling, frenetic clouds before it. All this in a page displaying a wonderfull and innovative balance of shapes, of blacks and whites, and strangely appealing steel wool-type lines. Wow! What a treat!

Buy this book or you'll regret it later: "Krazy & Ignatz" by George Herriman (covers 1925-1926).

20 comments:

Dave_the_Turnip said...

At comic con 2003, a good friend of mine introduced to Krazy Kat. I really need to get my hands on more. It's so different from almost everything yet it's got this amazing charm to it.

Anonymous said...

what do you think of todays comics page Eddie?

Anonymous said...

Herriman is among my very favorites,and the fantagraphics reprints of his strips, especially with the intros and photos, are awe inspiring. I've tried on several occasions to mimic his style, but it ain't easy.

Anonymous said...

What I like most about Krazy Kat is the way Herriman made the Arizona landscape into a character in the cartoon -- I've never seen a cartoonist give an ecosystem such a personality.

Shawn said...

>>Buy this book or you'll regret it later: "Krazy & Ignatz" by George Herriman (covers 1925-1926). <<

Yes, it's a great book! The books which collect the strips from the 30's are great too, but I think I like the 1920's Krazy Kat cartoons better.

George Herriman also drew an earlier strip (from around 1910) called "The Family Upstairs". The humor, visuals, and use of wordplay in those comics are brilliant!

Here's some samples of The Family Upstairs:

http://ignatz.palmdrive.net/archives/tfu/

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Herriman's drawing style is cool and amazingly influential. I'm happy you posted this. I've always been a big E.C. Segar fan, and he was a Herriman fan.

I like to pursue rivers of creativity to their sources.

Tyler said...

When Fantagraphics began reprinting Krazy Kat, I was so thrilled that I emailed the Cartoonists Northwest mailing list imploring people to pick it up so it didn't fall out of print again. I was thanked graciously by the publisher, who happened to catch wind of the email and ended up sending me a bunch of free swag! So perhaps a small portion of my love for this strip is the result of positive conditioning.

All of the strip's Sunday pages are good, but I would definitely recommend checking out 1935 forward in the volumes, as that was when it began being published in color and the pages are just gorgeous.

Kali Fontecchio said...

I have a Krazy Kat book, but I'm not crazy about it. HA HA HA!

Oh! Happy birthday to you know who today!!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Tyler: I can't wait to get the color pages. I saw a couple at a museum show and they blew me away.

J. J. Hunsecker said...

Hi Eddie,

I already bought that book, a little while ago. Great minds think alike.

Jorge Garrido said...

That comic is great! How does he crate his atmosphere with just pen and ink like that? How about that great alliteration?

>what do you think of todays comics page Eddie?

I bet he doesn't. Ntohing is good enough! Mutts is sort of like Herriman, but everything else sucks.

>George Herriman also drew an earlier strip (from around 1910) called "The Family Upstairs". The humor, visuals, and use of wordplay in those comics are brilliant!

So THAT'S what that Spongebob comic strip was parodying.

allamort said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
allamort said...

Oh, man. Is this commenting on the whole eugenics controversy sparked by the movie "The Black Stork" in 1917? If so, that is awesome and makes me feel so smart. *smugsmug*
Also, Krazy Kat looks like it must have been a huge influence on Chris Ware's stuff...

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Anonymous: Today's comic pages suck! They were better a hundred years ago!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Ape: Good tribute!

Anonymous said...

or at least 15 years ago when at least you had the far side and calvin and hobbes

Anonymous said...

Thanks Eddie!
Have you ever seen The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics? It's enormous and full of amazing old strips. It was edited by Bill Blackbeard who also does the intros in the Fantagraphics Krazy Kat books.

Anonymous said...

they should try to get some krazy kat comics up on that animation archive site

Anonymous said...

I heard herriman was bud fishers assitant mutt and jeff makes sense no

Anonymous said...

I read that herriman was bud fishers assitant on mutt and jeff
post a commet if you think that makes sense