Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Volume eleven of the collected Krazy Kat Sunday strips by George Herriman, Krazy & Ignatz 1939-1940: “A Brick Stuffed with Moom-bims” includes all Sunday strips from the end of 1938 to 1940, now all in colour. Jeet Heer’s introduction discusses Herriman’s evolution of his drawing style to deal with the use of colour: bolder shapes, less crosshatching and simpler staging. Colour was an important selling point for publisher William Randolph Hearst, who trumpeted his comics pages as “iridescent polychromous effulgence that makes the rainbow look like a lead pipe.”
Herriman’s colours are relatively restrained for all that, using a basic palette to highlight the important parts of a panel and brighten up the backgrounds generally, but occasionally he’ll bust out with an intricate sunset or contrast a black panel with a blast of red or yellow. The wit and zingy production of the strips in this volume is boosted even further by the little extra jokes Herriman adds in the small horizontal panel at the bottom of each page, a new layout idea demanded by Hearst to allow for ads to be placed right on the Sunday pages. According to the ‘Debaffler’ at the end of this volume, this position was not taken up by advertisers very often (we can see those ads reprinted here, for Baby Ruth and Jolly Jack candy), so the bonus of an extra gag was a accidental gift to readers from the publisher, despite the original intention.
The level of wit and invention in this volume is as high as ever, with scores of hilarious, laugh-out-loud jokes as Herriman continues to somehow wring more permutations from his basic brick/mouse/kat/kop premise. Most of the strips appearing here have not been seen since their original appearance in Hearst newspapers more than eighty years ago, which may be why this is the most difficult of all the Krazy & Ignatz volumes to find, with copies going for frankly insane prices on eBay and elsewhere. If the colour strips in particular interest you then there is no need to spend big money to complete your collection of this series when you can buy George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat”. The Complete Color Sundays 1935–1944 which reprints all of these strips at their original broadsheet size.