Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman (Anglais) Broché – 1 septembre 2004
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Herriman found some modicum of fame in his lifetime. William Randolph Hearst (the newspaper magnate) loved Herriman's work and rewarded him with a lifetime contract (according to the biography in the book, Hearst once read a "Krazy Kat" Sunday page and immediately demanded a raise for the artist). Herriman's success didn't come quickly, however. His first big break came in 1897 with the sale of a sketch to the Los Angeles Herald. Around 1901 he landed his first job as a "Staff Cartoonist" (a person who literally reported to the office every day and rattled off strip after strip; very different from today's cartoonists). Between 1901 and 1916 Herriman penned numerous strips (the book includes samples of many of these strips - many in color), including: "Musical Mose" (this strip's overt racial humor would not fly today), "Professor Otto and His Auto", "Acrobatic Archie", "Two Jolly Jackies", "Major Ozone's Fresh Air Crusade", "Home Sweet Home", "Baron Mooch", "Mary's Home From College", "Gooseberry Sprig" (considered to be a direct forerunner to "Krazy Kat"), "Alexander the Cat", "Daniel and Pansy", and finally, in 1910, "The Dingbat Family" (which changed its name briefly to "The Family Upstairs"; it was Herriman's first hit). It was in a "Dingbat Family" strip in 1910 that a mouse first "beaned" a "Kat" with a projectile (in the "running boards" of the strip). Eventually the Kat and mouse sideshow surpassed the main strip's popularity, and "Krazy Kat" debuted as a daily in October 1913 (the famous Sunday pages began in 1916). Herriman kept experimenting with other strips through 1923 when he finally placed his focus squarely on "Krazy Kat".
From roughly 1913 to 1944 (when Herriman passed away leaving a week's worth of unfinished Krazy Kat's on his drawing table) "Krazy Kat" developed from a "Kat" and mouse game (filled with puns, misunderstandings, and musings on the imperfections of language) into a complex love triangle between Krazy (the "Kat"), Ignatz (the mouse) and Offisa Pupp (the dog). Ignatz's entire being revolves around "beaning" the "Kat" with a brick, and Krazy interprets this as an act of love (unbeknownst to Ignatz). Offisa Pupp loves Krazy (in a fatherly sort of way) and his obsession revolves around catching Ignatz in the act and jailing him. Three obsessions collide in an almost jazz-style derivation of themes. Herriman developed this theme brilliantly over 30 years of strips. But overall it defies analysis: the strip can only speak for itself.
Sadly, though "Krazy Kat" counted such dignatiries as e.e. cummings, George Gershwin, Gilbert Seldes, James Joyce, and other literati, as fans, its popularity waned dramatically throughout the 1930s (as it became more surreal, esoteric and unabashedly uncommercial). It was kept in print by Hearst himself. The book does not cover the frustration of Hearst editors at the inclusion of the strip in their papers. They rebelled against it in some cases. Many simply tried to remove it from circulation only to find Hearst himself yelling "keep it in!" So we have, of all people, the controversial William Randolph Hearst to thank for the continuation of "Krazy Kat". By the end of its run "Krazy Kat" only appeared in some 30 papers.
The main focus of this book lies in its numerous incredible strips. The book includes daily strips (most dating from 1938 to 1944) and Sunday pages (dating from 1916 to 1944 with some in color; it also includes both the first and last Sunday pages). If one reason exists to purchase this book, here it is. The strips retain their amazing character even after decades of aging. And the artwork remains astounding. Not only that, the book includes samples of hand colored drawings of Herriman's, and photos of Herriman and his family. All in all, this book opens the door on one of the comic strip medium's most celebrated strips. Those that get hooked should continue thier obsessions (in the true spirit of Krazy, Ignatz, and Offisa Pupp) with the Fantagraphics' series of Sunday pages, and the Pacific Comics club's reprints of daily strips. Someday every Krazy Kat strip Herriman drew will finally appear in printed form. We can hope, at least.
Similarly, Herriman played with language and dialect, inserting Spanish, phonetically spelled mispronounced words, slang, and odd, alliterative phrases, giving the strip a unique atmosphere. The drawings are scratchy and peculiar, but they provide a beautiful visual context to the equally idiosyncratic writing. Krazy Kat's sparse Arizona landscape, like Pogo's dense Georgia swamp, is more than a backdrop. The land is really a character in the story, and it gives a specific mood and flavor to all the proceedings. The constraint of Krazy Kat's narrow plot seems to have set free every other aspect of the cartoon to become poetry, and the strip is, to my mind, cartooning at its most pure. The wonderful dialects and wordplays of Krazy Kat are as impossible now as the beautiful draftsmanship that characterized that strip and others. Bill Watterson(Creator of "Calvin and Hobbes") " As `Cholly Kokonino' would put it ~ The Whoest of the Whos were There. The Dimless Dames of Coconino, the Merry Wives in Full Galaxy, The Representatives of the "Desierto Pintado's" Social Apex.
Drifting now to a Lower Social Level, We find `Krazy Kat' Propelled by a Great Sense, and urge of Kuriosity on his Way to the Enchanted Mesa, on Whose Topside, `Joe Stork' The Bird of Destiny, Makes his Home."
- George Herriman, April 21, 1918 ... be not harsh with "Krazy" -- He is but a shadow himself, caught in the web of this mortal skein. We call him "cat", We call him "crazy", Yet he is neither. At some time he will ride away to you, people of the twilight. His password will be the echoes of a vesper bell, his coach a zephyr from the West -- Forgive him, for you will understand him no better than we who linger on this side of the pale. George Herriman 1917 BUY THIS GREAT BOOK NOW.
compiled principally by patrick mcdonnell (artist and author of "mutts" -- the finest contemporary comic strip) this is a good introduction to the best comic strip of all time. for some thirty years in the first half of the american century, george herriman created one of the greatest works of american art and literature. based almost entirely on variations on a theme (cat loves mouse, dog loves cat, mouse throws brick, cat deems said abuse [rightly?] as a sign of love), herriman caught the essence of a country barely growing up, as well as love in all its potential manifestations.
"krazy kat" can be appreciated as allegory, or it can be enjoyed simply as damned funny. this volume will allow you to have a bit of both.
but oh dear, when will some brave publisher issue the entire run?
George Herriman is one of those rare individuals who genuinely deserves to be called a genius. That's a word that gets thrown around a little too casually perhaps, but in Herriman's case it is almost an understatement.
He was a brilliantly inventive artist, but his writing is what really sets him apart. A lot of the dialogue is written phonetically in bizarre dialects, a tricky thing to do, but he uses it to great effect.
Whereas space restrictions force cartoonists today to avoid using more words than is necessary, Herriman would often use a lot more, and much of the pleasure of reading 'Krazy Kat' comes from the sheer virtuosity with which Herriman uses language.
That a comic strip could be as funny, as intellectually stimulating, and as beautiful to look at as 'Krazy Kat' seems to me to be some kind of miracle. This book is a great introduction to Herriman and his work. There's a generous helping of 'Krazy Kat' strips, as well as some of Herriman's other work. Anyone who loves comics should have it. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
The Krazy Kat strip is utterly insane, surreal stuff. Here is the premise: Krazy Kat (who is usually female but is sometimes apparently male) is in love with Ignatz Mouse. Ignatz loathes Krazy, and to prove it konstantly kreases that kat's krown with a brick. Incredibly, Krazy sees this as proof of Ignatz's affection, and falls even more deeply in love (many panels show hearts rising from Krazy's heart when she is hit by one of Ignatz's bricks). Officer Pup, the town constable, is in love with Krazy and frequently throws Ignatz into jail for hitting Krazy, which causes Krazy to pine for her would-be lover. This is merely the barest sketch of this weird and wild world. The town of Concocino is populated by a host of equally outrageous characters, though the focus continually comes back to the three principals.
Though even the most recent of these strips are over sixty years old, Krazy Kat has stood up magnificently over the years. Part of the reason surely lies with Herriman's enormous gifts as an illustrator. The Sunday strips in particular are things of great beauty, with the frames arcing around the page in spectacular designs of considerable innovation and complexity. The content of the comics reflects a genuine wit and substantial intelligence, while the bizarre love triangle possesses endless possibilities for both humor and pathos. This truly is one of the most unique comics in the history of the medium, and even those who do not usually respond to the genre are apt to find this enormously entertaining.