When I was looking around to see what to read for The 1924 Club I soon thought of reading some Krazy Kat Komics. I knew I had the Eclipse reprint collections (which included a whole year of the Sunday strips in each volume) from the late ’80s/early ’90s somewhere so I just had to dig them out. I then discovered that my editions ended with the year 1923. Looking online I found that a 1924 edition was published just before Eclipse went bust—a lot of indie comic publishers went bust around this time and I have subsequently found that I missed out on many last editions of various series from this period—it was also at a time when I was reading fewer comics. Anyway, no problem, I thought, I’d buy a copy. It was difficult finding a copy and they were quite expensive but I thought I’d do it anyway as it would complete my series. After two weeks I still hadn’t received it so I thought I’d have to abandon reading it for The 1924 Club. Although I’d received no card from the postman I visited my local sorting office today and asked if they had a parcel waiting for me and there it was! It had been languishing at the sorting office for over two weeks!
For those who don’t know anything about Krazy Kat this is what you need to know: it was a weekly newspaper comic strip created by George Herriman, it ran from 1916 to 1944, the year of Herriman’s death. The main characters are Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse and Officer Pup. Ignatz likes nothing better than to throw a brick at Krazy Kat’s noodle, in fact, it’s more of a compulsion. Krazy Kat takes the brick-throwing as a sign of Ignatz’s love and yearns to be bonked on the head by a brick. Officer Pup respects Krazy Kat and constantly tries to thwart Ignatz’s attempts—sometimes he’s successful and sometimes he’s not. This all happens in the slightly surreal semi-desert-like area of Coconino County (or Kokonino Kounty – in Krazy Kat Komiks we often have to replce ‘c’ with ‘k’) which is based on the real place in Arizona. Krazy Kat’s gender is a bit ambiguous as sometimes he’s a ‘he’ and sometimes a ‘she’; I’m not sure if it was intentional but I think that Herriman just enjoyed leaving it ambiguous. There are many more characters besides the main three such as Don Kiyoti, Kolin Kelly, Walter Cephus Austridge, Dr Y Zowl etc.The simple set-up of ‘Kat loves mouse/mouse hates Kat/Dog hates mouse but loves kat’ is played out again and again. Very often the stories are pretty simple but they are imbued with Herriman’s surreal landscapes, his playful wordplay, phonetic dialogue and experiments with the structure of the comic strip. Herriman loved alliteration and poetic narrative; here are some examples:
Krazy, stunned and bewildered by the mystery and marvel of the radio gives vent to a spasm of speculation—which induces a mild attack of cranial vacuity.
And so—ladies and gentmens, Krazy Kat’s first number will be a Katnip Kantanta in the Key of ‘K’
After having trailed a marauder mouse miles and miles over the mauve mystery of Moen Kopi, from Oljeto to Kaibito, Officer Pupp admits himself baffled.
I’ve often wondered what readers thought of ‘Krazy Kat’ at the time as it seems to be quite an intellectual comic strip and certainly not one we’d expect to see in a newspaper today. Wikipedia states that the public reaction was quite mixed but that the publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst loved Krazy Kat and so it continued to appear in his newspapers.
Krazy Kat is a joy to read and if you’ve never read any before then they’re definitely worth giving them a go. You may be able to find the odd reprint volume in your local library rather than paying for a personal copy, especially as there have been quite a lot of reprint volumes over the years. In fact, Fantagraphics have finished off reprinting all the remaining Krazy Kat material.
♫ ♪ ♫ There is a heppy land fur fur awaay! ♫ ♪ ♫