A hundred years ago Krazy Kat was turning the battle between cartoon cats and cartoon mice on its head.
Krazy Kat and Ignatz the mouse came from the fevered imagination of George Herriman and first appeared in the comic strip The Dingbat Family. And, you thought Archie Bunker invented the word?
Krazy Kat jumped to [his? her? it’s never made clear and both sexes are used at times] their own strip in 1913 and lasted until Herriman’s death in 1944. What made this cartoon so unusual is that first, like Little Nemo in Slumberland, Krazy Kat takes place in a dreamscape of surreal imagery and plots. [Unlike Nemo, the art is minimalist.]
Next, Krazy Kat is a love story. Krazy is madly in love with Ignatz. Ignatz hates Krazy with a passion. That’s why Ignatz is always throwing bricks at Krazy’s head. Occasionally, Offisaa Bull Pupp, who is in love with Krazy Kat, prevents this and arrests Ignatz. However, when the brick connects, Krazy misinterprets this as demonstrative love (not unlike some abused women, now that I think about it). That only make Krazy love Ignatz all the more.
The George Joseph Herriman WikiWackyWoo says:
More influential than popular, Krazy Kat had an appreciative audience among those in the arts. Gilbert Seldes‘ article “The Krazy Kat Who Walks by Himself” was the earliest example of a critic from the high arts giving serious attention to a comic strip. The Comics Journal placed the strip first on its list of the greatest comics of the 20th century. Herriman’s work has been a primary influence on cartoonists such as Will Eisner, Charles M. Schulz, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Bill Watterson, and Chris Ware.
According to Comics Alliance:
But what makes Krazy Kat so noteworthy, and what makes a contender for the title of best comic strip ever made, is the way that Herriman worked within the confines of this repeated premise: the way he stretched it out over his beautifully drawn (and constantly shifting) Southwestern landscapes set in a fever dream version of Coconino County, Arizona. Herriman played with language, turning dialect and multilingual puns and malapropisms into a poetry that is purely American in the way that it forms a melting pot of Southern, Creole, Mexican, and Navajo cultures. He employed meta-fiction and self-effacement to create a constant sense of charm and whimsy. There is nothing else like it, though many have tried to replicate its achievements.
I fell in love with Krazy Kat back in my college days when I started researching the history of comic strips. However, I only recently learned that there were animated Krazy Kat cartoons. Enjoy:
View vintage Krazy Kat comic
strips at The Comic Strip Library.