The artistic and linguistic acrobatics of Krazy Kat The Daily Cartoonist
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The artistic and linguistic acrobatics of Krazy Kat
EE Cummings was one of Katthe biggest fans. In 1922, he wrote from Paris to request press clippings from friends in America. (“Thank you by the way for a Kat of indescribable beauty! he wrote to an obliging friend.) In his 1946 introduction to the first edition of the Collected Strips, Cummings wrote that the brick unleashed joy in the “ultra-progressive game” of the real world, with its pre-established rules, which it most flouted. sacred: “YOU SHALL NOT PLAY”. (Winnicott defines to play as “continuous proof of creativity, meaning liveliness”.) Herriman gives pleasure without the instant gratification of a punch line, undermining the expected gag trajectory. The brick rushing down the page doesn’t end the joke; the games end, but the game is endless. There is no winner, and if there is, it is Krazy who, for private reasons, interprets the brick as love.
Amber Medland, at The Paris Review, joins the Krazy Kat Kult.
The Kat had a cult following among modernists. For Joyce, Fitzgerald, Stein and Picasso, all of whose work fed on playful energies similar to those unleashed in comics, it had a dual appeal, being commercially unviable and carrying the whiff of authenticity. seeming to belong to the mass culture.
Comics Kingdom offers Krazy Kat strips daily.
The Comic Book Library offers public domain Sunday Kats.
And Amber approves of these online recreations:
Ironically, digitizing the Herriman strips has improved the experience of reading them. We read differently on screens; we’re used to tabs, pop-ups, watching movies, switching. As I discovered during lockdown, after hijacking the massive monitor my buddy’s company sent him, these digital versions of Herriman’s strips retain their weird logic; the technology does not interfere with the artist’s control of time but allows us to read both vertically and horizontally. Watching them on screen made me realize why Cummings felt such a kinship with Herriman, whom he called a “poet-painter,” a title he otherwise reserved for himself.
Although reading Krazy Kat’s entire page without having to scroll up and down and back and forth,
say through the George Herriman library of Fantagraphics, is more satisfying IMHO.
© King Features Syndicate