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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 Iíve found myself particularly interested in old newspaper comic strips lately, and Iím 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 Herrimanís drawings with Wareís own unique sensibilities to create the seriesí 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 yearís 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 Maryís Home From College strip featuring early appearances of Krazy Kat, as well as some daily Krazy Kat strips directly addressing the subject of Krazyís always ambiguous gender. Needless to say, this is must-have material for the serious Kat collector.

The top-notch presentation of this material wouldnít mean much if the comics themselves werenít also excellent, of course, but as Herrimanís 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 Herrimanís masterpiece is actually a bit intimidating. I donít 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 Herrimanís 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 stripís premise allows it to dip and weave into and around crevices of the human condition only grasped at by more ďliterateĒ works of art. Or something.

Hell, I donít know why Krazy Kat is one of the greatest comic strips of all time, but Iím certain that it is. Please do yourself a favor and pick up this or any of the preceding Fantagraphics volumes and see if you donít agree.

-- Pat Markfort



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