Review by Woodrow Phoenix
This seventh volume of the complete Krazy Kat Sunday pages by George Herriman opens with another of editor Bill Blackbeard’s essays. This covers a little more of Herriman’s past as an editorial cartoonist, with some background on the changes in newspapers that led to daily comic strips becoming part of the regular content. Herriman was one of the first with his Baron Mooch, which began in the L.A. Examiner in 1909. It caught the eye of publisher William Randolph Hearst, who commissioned Herriman to come up with a strip for national distribution in every one of Hearst’s papers.
The Sunday pages in this volume from February 1931 to December 1932 are prime material from the middle period of Krazy Kat, a continuous run of variety in settings, characterisations, jokes and poetic interludes, with a gorgeous array of shifting backgrounds and designs. Added to this marvellous display of virtuosity from Herriman is a batch of daily strips – sixty of them, from 1931. These four-panel dailies are reproduced at the actual size they would have been printed in newspapers, and are huge by comparison with the Sundays seen here. The drawing is fantastic at this size, and the jokes are punchier and punnier to match the rhythms of a shorter daily blast of humour.
Given the nature of a narrative style that constantly shuffles the same elements in brilliantly inventive ways, almost any of these reprint volumes is a good place to start reading Herriman’s Krazy Kat, but this is a particularly rich collection to dive into. Chris Ware’s lovely design for the cover riffs off the title to show the characters on a roll of sheet music. The “Ignatz Mouse Debaffler Page” has more questions than answers this time around, but notes the appearance of a new relative of Krazy’s, Uncle Tomm Kat, who goes on to be a continuing guest in the daily strip. This is another great collection of the work of one of the comic strip medium’s true masters.