A Centennial Celebration!
Finally, KRAZY KAT as it was meant to be seen:
135 full-size Sunday pages from 1916-1944
Plus dozens more early comics from George Herriman

It's the eternal triangle of the comics - Kat, Mouse, and Pupp, along with the catalytic brick. Here are their glorious, poignant, and hilarious stories from the genius of George Herriman, reprinted for the first time in their original size and colors. Included in the 14 x 17-inch collection is a sampling of all Herriman's creations for the Sunday newspaper comics from 1901-1906: Professor Otto, The Two Jackies, Major Ozone, and more, many of which have never been reprinted before.

Now, 100 years after Ignatz tossed his first brick, step back in time to delight in the timeless tales of America's great comic strip artist and his greatest creation, Krazy Kat.






From the Introduction by Patrick McDonnell

The further in years (and now a century!) that we get away from the early newspaper comics, the more they look like fine art prints. Like Hiroshige with his woodblocks, and Toulouse-Lautrec with his lithographs, these early cartoonists were masters of their craft. In this Krazy Kat collection, we can truly see the beauty of Herriman's penline, the mastery of his drawing, the powerful impact of his design, and his brave use of color.

The Sunday comic page is where the daily strip artist gets to play. Herriman used this additional space as a place to improvise and explore. The early Herriman Sundays are in black and white and are filled with intricate details, more elaborate penwork, and long, involved stories. In 1935, color was introduced. In response, Herriman surprised us with art that became bolder, more sculptural, and with big open spaces.   The blacks became heavier, the layouts more graphic, and the stories sparser (going from sonnets to haikus).   Each decade of Krazy Kats has its own feeling and look, and is impressive in its own way. Collected here are, in my opinion, the best of the best.

From George Herriman's biography by Michael Tisserand

Herriman was at work on The Dingbat Family, a new domestic strip. On July 26, 1910, he added a grace note along the bottom of the panels: a white mouse tossing what appears to be a pebble at the head of a black cat. Herriman had been drawing cats in his work since his teenage years at the Los Angeles Herald, and had even based a couple short-lived strips around them. This new cat and mouse, however, were barely hieroglyphs, a few scratchy lines at best. Herriman later credited Willie Carey, an office boy at the newspaper, for keeping the joke going. "Willie came to work and said that was a funny picture," he recalled. "So I made him another one. And every day Willie would supply me with an idea." 

Six months later, Hearst's managing editor, S.S. Carvalho, called Herriman into his office. He informed the cartoonist that the newspaper had plans to let him go. But, Carvalho told him, his young daughters like the cat and mouse. Herriman would remain with the Hearst newspapers for the rest of his career. In time, the mouse acquired the name "Ignatz," based on a Coney Island character who was a running joke in the newsroom. Ignatz called his nemesis "Krazy Kat." The pair ascended into their own strip, and were joined by a menagerie of furred and feathered characters, some of whom migrated in from previous Herriman works. At first located in a rolling countryside dotted with rooftops, the action moved to Herriman's fanciful interpretation of Coconino County, Arizona. Set amid the buttes and spires of Monument Valley was a plot as old as Genesis: a love triangle. Krazy is brick-struck by Ignatz. Tiny hearts of undying love emanate from Krazy, who blissfully sings of a "Heppy land fur away." Meanwhile, Offisa Pupp, the unbending law of the land, harbors his own love for the Kat, and lives only to toss Ignatz in jail. 

In Krazy Kat, Herriman created arguably the most innovative strip in comic history. Under a potato-chip moon, the landscape shifts constantly, as if a bumbling stagehand is randomly raising and lowering sets. In Krazy's language can be heard New Orleans Creole, Yiddish, Spanish and Elizabethan English -- sometimes in the same sentence. The look and the language perplexed many readers, but devotees would include poets T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings and Carl Sandburg, and artists such as Willem de Kooning. . .

Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, Herriman didn't enjoy the great wealth of cartoonists like Bringing Up Father's George McManus, but his work found a devoted readership. Movie theaters filled with animated versions of Krazy Kat, although they bore scant resemblance to the original. A Krazy Kat ballet in New York fared better, with Herriman's help. He was also heralded for his illustrations in Don Marquis' 1931 book archy and mehitabel. The critic Gilbert Seldes championed him alongside Charlie Chaplin and other artists in his book The Seven Lively Arts.

From George Herriman's Fresh Air Crusade by Daniel Meyerowitz

Commentators have spent the better part of a century trying to explain the singular appeal of Krazy Kat , and the metaphor they most often reach for is jazz. But in these earlier comics, a more apt comparison might be punk. Herriman's head is absolutely bursting with music, so whether or not he can play an instrument, he's going to bash his songs out anyway.

As Herriman invents new characters, the drawings are pure compressed energy and the stories, pure release. The shipmates of The Two Jolly Jackies are human wrecking balls. Spotting a streetcar, their first instinct is to grab its live power lines. Similar electricity crackles in the backgrounds George draws, packed with everything that fascinates him about his adopted city: immigrants, lightning rods, smoke rings, and street signs. Rather than tidying New York into an architectural ideal, as McCay does in Nemo , Herriman revels in this Babel of dialects and alleyways. He's not editing, but tasting, absorbing - and relentlessly experimenting. . .

Herriman keeps pushing his creativity in New York, hindered by only one thing: the simplistic characters and strips he developed when he first arrived. As his skills increase in 1903, Otto, Archie, and the two Jackies are left behind, becoming nearly interchangeable: appearing in each other's strips and merging into one destructive buffoon. In a very Herriman jailbreak, George conjures that buffoon's exact opposite: a do-gooder, obsessed with helping the rest of humanity. As if fulfilling a New Year's resolution, he introduces Major Ozone's Fresh Air Crusade in the first week of 1904. At first glance, Major Ozone looks like a hasty recycling of Professor Otto: another man, another mania. But the Major is a new breed - the social reformer - moved from the headlines to the comics page. . .

Reading these lyrical comics, it's easy to assume they lead directly to Krazy Kat. They don't. At the hilarious height of Major Ozone's campaign, Herriman is given an opportunity to reinvent himself yet again, and perhaps heal the sting of being fired by Hearst's New York American . He gets an offer from Hearst's Los Angeles Examiner and jumps at it, dropping comic strips almost entirely to devote three years to wildly expressive sports and political cartoons. When a certain kat finally does appear, it's as an aside, an afterthought, a happy accident popping up - as so many of our best ideas do - in the margins of something else. Eventually, Coconino County follows, and with it, a place Herriman can finally call home, a world rich enough to contain even his restless imagination.

Publisher's Notes

Once Mouse began tossing Brick at Kat in 1910, newspaper readers across the U.S. were treated to a quality of humor, art, and poetry that had not been seen before in any medium, much less a comic strip! For this 100th anniversary, Sunday Press celebrates with a collection of magnificent Sunday comics by creator George Herriman. Both black-and-white and color Sunday pages are reprinted in the original size, with the colors and textures (and flaws) that were seen by millions every week in American newspapers. All have been restored to eliminate tears, stains, and other defects caused by time and neglect. Much of the "yellowing" of age has been corrected, but many of the ink smudges, bare spots, and bleed-though lines remain, all part of the original readers' experience.

The early Sundays were printed only in black and white, as they appeared not in the comics section, but on a features page, in a non-color section of the newspaper that included articles or editorial cartoons commenting on art, lifestyle, or news events of the day. This may seem a misplacement, in that Krazy Kat was indeed a comic and, with few exceptions, had little to do with current affairs in news, culture, or society. But in many ways it was correctly positioned outside the comics section; it was marketed as "high art" and, however metaphorically, reflected and commented upon the human condition. In early 1922, Hearst's New York American briefly experimented with a Saturday color comics section that included a full, broadsheet-size Krazy Kat page. Then from 1935 to 1944, the denizens of Coconino County appeared in a tabloid-size comic section in only a handful of American cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and later, Baltimore. These full-color comics were found in a Saturday comics section, or in a second Sunday section supplementing the regular full-size comics.

This Sunday Press collection presents examples of all three iterations of Krazy Kat. The format of the book is laid out to match the unique size of the first, black-and-white pages, while the more standard sized 1922 color pages have been reduced and the 1935-1944 tabloid color pages have been slightly enlarged (about 5%), all to give the book a consistent format. Specific pages appeared on different dates in different cities, and the color tabloid pages were often dated within a panel for the Saturday, not Sunday papers. Thus there may be a discrepancy in some of the dates assigned to the pages. Included here are the first and last Krazy Kat Sunday pages.

Presented here are the favorites of all involved in this project: editors, writers, and our many contributors. Some pages were selected for the innovative layouts, others for the striking artwork. And there's that incredible dialog and narration - a new language combining the dialects of the broad spectrum of American immigrants, seasoned with unique words and phrases born of the characters themselves.

The group of early Sundays at the end of the book offers the most interesting samples of each of the running characters created by Herriman, as well as a few "one-shots." We hope that long-time lovers of Krazy Kat will find their favorites here, while those less familiar with Herriman's work discover a more than worthwhile introduction to these marvelous pages. We trust that enjoying these comics in their 100-year-old format will become a "new" experience for all.-- Peter Maresca