Review by Woodrow Phoenix
This fifth volume of the complete Krazy Kat Sunday pages by George Herriman lacks the ingenious, intricate page designs Herriman is known for. From August 1925 to September 1929, his Sunday pages were confined to a grid to allow for reformatting by some newspapers. This restriction had little effect on the content of Krazy Kat. Herriman’s use of language, the wonderfully abstracted and distinctive background settings, the idiosyncratic characters and the constantly reworked premise of the kat/mouse/dog triangle, all continued to be as inventive and funny as ever. But just on a purely visual level, the standardised three-tier layouts mean this volume isn’t as interesting to look at as the others. So if you haven’t read any Krazy Kat before, you’re not getting the best experience of Herriman’s powers in this collection.
The series editor Bill Blackbeard introduces this volume with samples of early work by Herriman for a variety of newspapers, and a look at some contemporaries influenced by him. The ‘Ignatz Mouse Debafffler pages’ at the end of the book go into some detail about the syndication of the strip and the resulting confusion about dates as some strips were printed twice, some were trimmed or altered by papers and therefore gaps exist in the record of what was printed where. There’s a good example of the kind of revision that Sunday pages were subject to with a page from April 1927 that actually dates from 1924. Another nice bonus at the end of this collection is a great sequence of eleven days of daily strips. These are included here because they are linked to a September 1927 Sunday page, an unusual occurrence for Herriman who generally didn’t have any interplay between Sundays and dailies.
Although slightly subdued, the George Herriman presented in this volume is a tremendously accomplished creator, and there is plenty of brilliant work to absorb your attention. Things move up a gear with volume six and the return of the free-form page layouts.