Saturday, 11 September 2010
KATS, MICE, PUPPS, TIGERS AND OTHER ASSORTED KREATURES
In the long history of the newspaper comic, few strips have been lauded as much as George Herriman's surreal 'Krazy Kat'. Launched in 1913, the strip ran thirty-one years, only ending with Herriman's death in 1944.
The eponymous Kat, along with Ignatz Mouse, Officer Bull Pupp and sundry other anthropomorphic characters existed in the ever changing landscape of Coconino County, a bizarre, almost Daliesque, universe where the backdrops melt and shift around. Unique in both its surreal visuals and bizarre wordplay, the strip was feted by such illuminaries as newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, art critic Gilbert Seldes and poet e.e. Cummings. It's even said that Pablo Picasso followed the strip avidly. In later years the strip's influence would be seen in the works of comics artists such as Robert Crumb and Chris Ware.
The main thrust of the strip was the three way relationship between the aforementioned Kat, Mouse and Dog. Krazy is a carefree, almost simple-minded, cat whose gender is ambigious, being referred to both as "he" and "she". He/she loves Ignatz Mouse, however this love is unrequited - in fact Ignatz despises Krazy and continually tries to throw bricks at the feline's head. Krazy however misinterprets these bricks as 'love taps'. Meanwhile Offissa Pupp, Coconino's local police officer, who harbours a crush for Krazy, attempts to thwart Ignatz's plans and incarcerate the mouse in his jailhouse.
Extended narratives were unheard of in 'Krazy Kat' but in 1936, twenty-three years on from it's inception, Herriman started the storyline which has now become known as 'Tiger Tea'. It is that tale that has recently been collected by Craig Yoe as part of his Yoe Books series for IDW Publishing.
'Tiger Tea' starts with the collapse of Katnip Konsolidated, leaving Coconino County's wealthiest citizen Mr. Meeyowl pennyless. Krazy takes it upon himself to help him regain his fortune and thus embarks on a quest, following his nose hither and thither and arrives in a land where "things are tiger bad". From this strange land comes the titular Tiger Tea. And that's when things get very odd indeed...
There have been many discussions over the years as to whether Herriman was using 'Tiger Tea' as a euphemism for marijuana. I'll not add to those debates, but instead leave you, the reader, to decide for yourself. However Craig Yoe's insightful introduction does go into some detail of both sides of the argument.
The collection is a beautifully designed hardcover, printed supposedly on hemp paper. Priced at a mere $12.99 (about £9.99 here in the UK), this is a collection no Herriman fan should be without. Available from all good comic shops, or from Amazon - see the link below, or click The Strip Search Store link at the top right of the page for details.
Editor Craig Yoe is also responsible for the forthcoming book "Krazy Kat And The Art Of George Herriman" being published, not by IDW, but by Abrams. I look forward to seeing it. It's available for preorder from your local comic shop, or you can use the link below to preorder from Amazon now.
I'll see you soon with more reviews, and maybe some surprises. Until then, take care.