Thursday, July 31st, 2014...10:36 am

Komic Kats

Jump to Comments

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the newly acquired Santo Domingo collection.

Krazy Kat


The comic strip Krazy Kat by George Herriman ran for 31 years in the New York Evening Journal and follows a cast of animal characters set in a highly stylized Arizona home.  Although not popular among the general public, due to its more highbrow and surreal content, it is considered one of the best comic strips of the 20th century and had a large intellectual following.  Although the drawing looks like simple pen sketching, the content and self-referential nature of the strip cements Krazy Kat’s place in the art world.  A critical, if not popular, success, Herriman’s comic strip inspired generations of cartoonists.Krazy Kat

Krazy Kat, a gender ambiguous cat, is a happy and mindless character, showing his innocent views of the world in his interactions with Ignazt Mouse.  Many of the storylines involve Ignazt Mouse hitting Krazy Kat with bricks, who in turn misinterprets this action as one of affection.   Offissa Pupp tries to save Krazy Kat from attack, but often makes mistakes in figuring out the effective way to address the problem.  Another major aspect of Krazy Kat is the unusual format of the strips that Herriman experimented with.  Since Herriman was well supported by William Randolph Hearst, the owner of the New York Evening Journal, he had plenty of space to experiment with different formats of his comic stories.   Instead of following the row of boxes that many strips do, he might place boxes inside of each other or at askew angles.  Herriman, born in New Orleans to creole speaking parents, also wrote in vernacular and used idiosyncratic spelling, infusing different cultures into his comic strips.Krazy Kat


This compilation of comic strips has an introduction by e.e. cummings, in which he describes the characters affectionately as “a cynical brick-throwing mouse and a sentimental policeman-dog.  The third protagonist – whose ambiguous gender doesn’t disguise the good news that here comes our heroine – may be described as a humbly poetic, gently clown like, supremely innocent, and illimitably affectionate creature (slightly resembling a child’s drawing of a cat, but gifted with the secret grace and obvious clumsiness of a penguin on terra firma) who is never so happy as when egoist-mouse, thwarting altruistic dog, hits her in the head with a brick.”  Written to accompany the first compilation printed of Krazy Kat strips in 1946, cummings explicates the political, societal and moral implications of the comics, and is all the better for is poetic prose.

This book, Krazy Kat/ by Herriman ; with an introd. by E. E. Cummings ; [edited by Joseph Greene and Rex Chessman] :  New York : Grosset & Dunlap, 1977, c1969 is available in Widener Library collection.   Houghton Library has a copy of the original 1946 compilation, Krazy Kat / by George Herriman, with an introduction by E.E. Cummings : New York : Holt, 1946.

Thanks to Emma Clement, Santo Domingo Library Assistant, for contributing this post.


Comments are closed.