on August 14, 2010
Perhaps George Herriman always intended for his creation, Krazy Kat, to be intriguing. That would be in keeping with the preternatural mystique of his imagined Coconino County. However, until a handful of monumental collections came to the rescue in the 1980s, the "Krazy Kat" strips could only be enjoyed through a haze of scratchy, faded, and sporadic reprints, too often accompanied by analyses that further clouded the reader's comprehension. The recent completion of collected Sunday strips (begun by Eclipse/Turtle Island and finished by Fantagraphics) was reason to celebrate. This new collection from Sunday Press is reason to break out the katnip and revel for months of Sundays.
The dimensions of this book, a whopping 14 X 16.5, prohibit anything more than a carefully selected retrospective of Herriman's Sunday strips, from 1916 to 1944. But seeing these strips in the size they were drawn for (slight reduction and magnification have been employed, for consistency's sake, for the color pages), is almost to see Krazy's mileu from a new, wide-eyed perspective. The early black and white strips dance with slapstick comedy and a large supporting cast. The later color strips close-in on Krazy and a reduced cast, where color and layout take up the zaniness of old. Make of it what you will (or want to); as art spiegelman reminds us in his introduction, it's still all about a kat getting beaned by a brick-throwing mouse, who is in turn pursued by a dog (Offiser Pup), who loves the kat.
Several examples of Herriman's pre-Kat strips are reproduced in a postscript section. A few of these have charms of their own, but they all have the appearance of something borrowed. These are the strips with which Herriman taught himself to become the artist who chronicled the endless cycle of unrequited love in "Krazy Kat." Though the occasional period detail or reference intrudes, the strip itself is timeless, and as this collection demonstrates, its art is boundless.
on March 8, 2013
I've been reading Herriman and Krazy Kat for decades, but only in reprints that presented the work in sizes significantly smaller than the original publications. If you believe (like I do) that Herriman was an artist as much as any painter whose work you'll find in a museum, then you might stop to consider that this master of the comics medium designed his work for a very specific size. Which brings me to this Sunday Press book. I didn't think reading the Krazy Kat Sundays in their original size would make much difference -- but wow, was I wrong about that! It's not so much that you see more detail (altho I could get lost admiring Herriman's hatching and pen strokes), but that the pages feel different -- they make more sense.
If you really want to feel the full impact of Herriman's work, you have two choices: dig up some original pages on ebay and pay $50 to $100 per page... or buy this book, which gives you a generous informed selection for a much lesser cost. Plus, in the book format, you don't have to worry about the old, valuable Sunday pages crumbling to dust as you read them. Peter Maresca and his team have done an admirable job restoring the pages while letting them breathe and be authentic. The essays, particularly the piece by Herriman's biographer, are top-notch and a pleasure to read. The binding is sound and the book is beautifully made -- a work of art in itself. As I write this, the book is available on Amazon for $65 new. That's a great deal. SO... let me ask you: would you rather look at a postcard of a Van Gogh painting, or a life-size, carefully crafted reproduction?
- Paul Tumey
on October 14, 2010
I love George Herriman and Peter Maresca. Mr. Herriman created Krazy Kat and Mr. Maresca has brought him to me in his original size, shape and format.
A hundred years ago life was very different, and most people looked forward to their Sunday newspapers, and the people I would have liked back then made straight for the comics pages. I discovered Little Nemo in the 80's when I went to a lecture about the strip, and bought an over-size book on his adventures, and I thought "I know Nemo." Then I discovered the first of the two full-sized Nemo books produced by Mr. Maresca and his Sunday Press Books. It was only when I found "So Many Splendid Sundays" that I understood the art, the wonder and the magic of Little Nemo. That "over-sized" book I'd bought long ago wasn't big enough to do what Sunday Press' full-sized strips did, and now I really knew Nemo.
So I started buying Sunday Press' yearly output, and although Sammy Sneeze interested me as a footnote and Gustave Verbeek only slightly, the Gasoline Alley book was another revelation. The love, the tenderness with which Walt brought up Skeezix should be a lesson in parenting today, and I would never have known the joys of their adventures without Sunday Press Books.
But another surprise awaited me when I bought "Krazy Kat." I'd heard of them, I'd seen them referred to as influential, but... I had no idea! It was my trust in Maresca that made me buy it at this year's Comic Con, where he had a booth and I was able to speak with him and tell him how much I admired his dedication to an important, if almost forgotten, part of American history.
In "Krazy Kat," there is a richness to the panels that filled out and filled in as I entered their world. The kind of travel I like best is the trip I take when I am immersed in a book like Krazy Kat. Did I say "a book like Krazy Kat?" Okay, there is only this one book in the category. Thanks to the panels being in the size originally intended by Mr. Herriman, I am able to live again in the mindset of one hundred years ago, and experience the newness, the innovation, the surreal quality of the panels. Not to mention the humor. I was surprised at how funny a Mouse, a Kat and a brick can be. Ever laugh at Lucy pulling the football away from an eternally trusting Charlie Brown? Wonder where that came from? Can you say... "Ignatz?" I had already reached the Ignatz/Peanuts connection when I read in the text that Shultz had been influenced by Herriman and made the stripe on Charlie Brown's shirt an homage to him. Didn't know that, didja? Neither did I.
I like that stuff, so I especially value that Mr. Maresca also includes experts who provide the backdrop, the history, the stories behind the strip, and the cultural settings behind it all.
The more you know, the more you know, and these delightful excursions into such an exotic, (literally) funny history is a valuable contribution to understanding our history, and a fabulous way to spend a rainy afternoon lost in another world.
I love this stuff! Can't wait to see what Mr. Maresca has up next.