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Krazy and Ignatz 1933-1934: Necromancy by the Blue Bean Bush
By George Herriman
Edited by Bill Blackbeard and Derya Ataker
Published by Fantagraphics Books; $14.95 USD

This handsome volume is the fifth in Fantagraphics series of collected Krazy Kat Sunday pages, and the last to feature black and white comic strips, as George Herriman began using color in 1935. The release of this volume happened at a perfect time for me, as I’ve found myself particularly interested in old newspaper comic strips lately, and I’m grateful to be able to shine some light on Fantagraphics other important archival comic strip project.

This volume, like the preceding four, is designed by the always extraordinary Chris Ware, whose cover incorporates Herriman’s drawings with Ware’s own unique sensibilities to create the series’ loveliest cover yet. Editors Bill Blackbeard and Derya Ataker have done an amazing job of retrieving and restoring these Sunday pages, and while there is not a full year’s worth of the 1934 strips (the editors postulate that the strip began a hiatus during that summer until its return as a color feature in 1935), Blackbeard and Ataker provide some wonderful supplementary material to fill out the book. These extras include samplings of lesser known Herriman efforts, such as the Mary’s Home From College strip featuring early appearances of Krazy Kat, as well as some daily Krazy Kat strips directly addressing the subject of Krazy’s always ambiguous gender. Needless to say, this is must-have material for the serious Kat collector.

The top-notch presentation of this material wouldn’t mean much if the comics themselves weren’t also excellent, of course, but as Herriman’s fans are already well aware, the Krazy Kat Sunday pages more than justify such lavish treatment. Much has been written about the sublime virtues of Krazy Kat by people much smarter than myself (Umberto Eco has a blurb on the back cover to this volume), so critiquing Herriman’s masterpiece is actually a bit intimidating. I don’t know that I can say exactly why these comics work so well, I only know that they do. There is real emotion stored up in the surreal landscapes and sketchy animals that populate Herriman’s world that only a true cartoonist, a true artist, could bring forth. It might seem strange to some to make so much of a comic strip about a mouse (Ignatz) who insists on constantly beaning a cat (Krazy) with a brick in episode after episode, but it seems to me that the simplicity of the strip’s premise allows it to dip and weave into and around crevices of the human condition only grasped at by more “literate” works of art. Or something.

Hell, I don’t know why Krazy Kat is one of the greatest comic strips of all time, but I’m certain that it is. Please do yourself a favor and pick up this or any of the preceding Fantagraphics volumes and see if you don’t agree.

-- Pat Markfort

The ADD Blog by Alan David Doane. Trouble with Comics Reviews of comics and graphic novels. Commentary about the artform and industry of comics. Get back to the main page.

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