kat diffikulties

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Most people who know me know of my moony-eyed love for George Herriman's 1915-1944 comic strip Krazy Kat. I adore it, to the point where I have a tattoo (my only one) of a very small image of the brick that's its main prop.

So it's strange that I've been sitting on the newest Krazy Kat book, a collection of the 1933-34 strips called Necromancy by the Blue Bean Bush, for a couple of months now, without having read it. That's partly because I always need to take a while to slide into Herriman-reading mode--it resists my eyes for a while, and I have to reacclimate myself to his phonetic dialogue. Most cartoonists, even very early strip cartoonists? No problem. Herriman? I have to get on his particular track, or I am lost.

I think the real problem, though, is that I'm afraid on some not-quite-surface level that this volume's not going to be very good. I loved the last one, and from all the evidence I have, Herriman got progressively funnier and better over time. But that's what I know in my brain; I'm reacting to what my eyes are seeing on the page when I flip through the book, which is a mess. Not the editors' fault, and probably not even Herriman's. It turns out that a lot of these strips were probably never even printed in the full-page format Herriman drew them in, and had to be reconstructed from microfilm (oof) of somebody else's half-butchered reformatting (double-oof). And then, midway through 1934, it just stops, abruptly--there are apparently no full-page Krazy strips from then until mid-1935, when it started to appear in color.

[For years, I thought I remembered reading somewhere that William Randolph Hearst (a big fan of Herriman's) couldn't find any papers that were willing to carry it any more, but continued to commission Herriman to draw a Krazy Kat Sunday strip every week for his own personal entertainment, until he convinced papers to carry it again. But I can't find documentation of that story anywhere, and it's probably too good a story to be anything but apocryphal.]

Fuzzy, out-of-focus, grainy, reconstructed, salvaged from the brink of being totally lost: I love music that works like that. How can I train my eyes to work the same way as my ears?

My friend Amie Strong once quoted me, from memory, a Krazy strip I've been trying to locate ever since (and will probably misquote badly here): someone asks Krazy "why don't you call yourself Mrs.?" "Ain't got no husband." "So why don't you call yourself Mr.?" "Ain't got no wife." "When are you going to make up your mind, then? "When I's wed."

2 Comments

Casuistry said:

I believe I've heard that story before as well, about Hearst commissioning strips. Was it in that KK single-volume anthology?

noggin68 said:

One of my very favorite Krazy Kat moments ( and my favorite pun ever) featured the usual set up with the punch line, after Offisa Pup's inquiry, being "He came, he saw,he [ellipse]" with the implied pun of "konked her". Brilliant.

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas published on February 25, 2005 1:08 AM.

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