LOAC Essentials Presents King Features Volume 1 (Hardcover)

Krazy Kat 1934

By George Herriman

Library of American Comics, 9781631404085, 328pp.

Publication Date: August 30, 2016

List Price: 29.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Description

Much attention has been paid to Herrriman’s Sunday full-page comics, yet it is in the daily Krazy Kat strips that the cartoonist most frankly illustrates many of his major themes, especially the shifting nature of social identity.

The 1934 strips reprinted in this book fit anyone’s definition of "essential." They show Krazy Kat at top speed, ever-changing, endlessly inventive, with language that sparkles with double meanings, and more, in lines such as "his malady drills me to my sole."

The year includes homages to old jokes and bricks, followed by playful references to sex, drink, and even drugs. The daily Krazy Kat strips are often Herriman’s most personal works and standouts in this year include Krazy Kat’s attempt to write a memoir and the Kat’s quietly waiting for the last leaf of "ottim" to fall (a tender scene that finds echoes in Charles Schulz’s drawing Linus admiring the last autum’s leaf stubborn spirit). It could also be argued that the daily is more accessible to the new reader. Herriman biographer Michael Tisserand provides an insightful introduction.

LOAC Essentials reprints, one year at a time, the daily newspaper strips that are essential to comics history, in a format that preserves, as closely as possible, the original reader experience. By reproducing the strips one per page in an oblong format, it allows us to have the experience of reading the comics one day at a time. Each volume contains seminal strips that are unique creations in their right and also contributed to the advancement of the medium, along with panel-by-panel annotations.


About the Author

The creator of the zenith of comic strip art Krazy KatGeorge Joseph Herriman, was born on August 22, 1880, in New Orleans. When he was still a teenager, George and his family moved to Los Angeles, as many African-American Creole families did, to escape the restrictions of the Jim Crow laws. Herriman never publicly acknowledged his ethnicity, probably fearful of its effects on his reputation. Herriman's death certificate lists him as Caucasian.

Between 1901 and 1910, Herriman produced his first, regular strip, Musical Mose, as well as other features like Acrobatic ArchieProfessor Otto and His AutoMajor Ozone's Fresh Air CrusadeMary's Home from College, and Gooseberry Sprig, for the Pulitzer papers and the prestigious T.C. McClure Syndicate.

In 1910, the artist inaugurated The Dingbat Family, later renamed The Family Upstairs, for The New York Evening Journal, a Hearst paper. The strip featured the adventures of an ordinary family dealing with their annoying upstairs neighbors.

In The Family Upstairs the artist used the bottom part of each panel to narrate the stories of the Dingbats' pet, Krazy Kat, and a mouse named Ignatz, whose adventures were unrelated to those of the Dingbats. On July 29, 1910, Ignatz Mouse threw an object at Krazy Kat's head for the first time. and bonking Krazy's brain with a brick, with all its attendant meanings, became the strip's main motif. In 1913, Krazy Kat and Ignatz finally had a strip on their own, while The Family Upstairs folded in 1916. It was at this time that Herriman began another strip, Baron Bean, which ran until 1919.

Herriman's creative use of language narrates the whimsical adventures of three main characters, Krazy, Ignatz, and Offissa Pupp. The unfortunate feline is in love with Ignatz, who does not reciprocate his feelings (or her? Krazy's gender was never clearly established) and likes to hurl bricks at the cat's head. This violent treatment only seems to throw Krazy more deeply in love. 

The strip's subtleties and surrealism never made it very popular with the public en masse, but it had an enthusiastic following among artistic and intellectual circles. Writer Gilbert Seldes dubbed Herriman "the counterpart of Chaplin in the comic film" in his Seven Lively Arts, in 1924. President Woodrow Wilson never missed reading it, and Picasso was reputedly a fan. But the artist's most ardent supporter was William Randolph Hearst. Hearst owned the King Feature Syndicate and refused to drop Herriman's Krazy Kat even when it was carried by fewer than 50 papers. It was Hearst who ordered the strip to be cancelled in 1944, upon learning of Herriman's passing. In his opinion, no one could replace the artist and Krazy Kat was possibly the first strip to die with his creator.