George Herriman’s ‘Krazy Kat’

Considered by many experts and researchers, the greatest comic strip to ever run in the Sunday funnies was "Krazy Kat,” who first appeared in 1913.  The era of its greatness, however, was much later -- from 1935 to 1944. The basic story line told of Krazy's love for a mouse, Ignatz, who did not reciprocate the affection and whose greatest joy in life was to hurl bricks at Krazy.

On the other hand, O'ffissa Bull Pupp, a dog cop, loved Krazy, and did his best to protect her from Ignatz.  The drawing style was simplistic yet fanciful.  The strip was full of surrealistic portrayals of Coconino County's scenery.  The dialogue- spelled out most of the time phonetically - in the speech balloons combined strange dialects, plays-on-words, and all kinds of symbolism.

George Herriman, the son of Greek immigrants, was born in New Orleans in 1880. A few years later, his father, a baker, moved the family to Los Angeles.  As was expected of him, young Herriman helped out at the bakery.  An unhappy and troubled youth he eventually got kicked out of the family after playing several dreadful practical jokes.

Following a series of dead-end jobs, Herriman became a staff artist with the New York World in 1901.  Over the next nine years he worked for several newspapers, drawing an endless number of short-lived comic strips.

Then on June 20, 1910, his "Dingbat Family" (later retitled "The Family Upstairs") debuted.  The comic strip family's animals -- a cat and a dog -- were involved in side story lines all of their own.  A mouse, forever trying to hit the cat with a stone, was also introduced into the lineup.  The public took to the madcap characters.  On August 17 of that year, the animals gained their own tiny comic strip, which accompanied "The Family Upstairs." This novelty format was later used by other comic strips, like "Mutt and Jeff."

The first episode of a totally separate comic strip actually named "Krazy Kat" appeared on October 28, 1913. The first Sunday color page of "Krazy Kat” ran three years later (April 23, 1916). Herriman's genius in telling a great story, along with an unconventional and unique art style, made it a top Hearst Syndicate comic strip. The weird romantic triangle involving Krazy, Offissa Bull Pupp, and Ignatz - and Herriman's depiction of it in the fantasy land where the characters lived became popular.  There were many other characters in the strip, as well, who interplayed with Krazy and his pals, including Ignatz's wife and children, Mock Duck, Joe Stork, and Mr. Meeyowl.

The peak of its popularity was reached in the mid-1930s and slowly ebbed over the next decade and half. Upon Herriman's death in 1944, the cartoon was dropped by the Hearst Syndicate. In 1916 and 1917, a few "Krazy Kat" animated cartoons were made part of the movie industry's earliest pioneering efforts in that field. Collectibles about the "Krazy Kat" comic strips include theatrical memorabilia from the 1922 ballet written by John Carpenter in 1922 - especially the illustrated programs, Saalfield Company's "Krazy Kat and Ignatz" book (1934), a couple of compilation books of the old comic strips published by Henry-Holt in 1946 and Nostalgia Press's in 1969. And, of course, souvenir postcards!

Throughout her long career during the first half of the 20th century, postcards were never published about Krazy Kat as they were for "Happy Hooligan,” "Dick Tracy" and, of course, "Buster Brown."

But in 1996 King Features Syndicate, Inc., successors to the Hearst organization, authorized the small publishing firm of Stewart, Tabori & Chang to print and sell a set of 30 postcards. These continental size, color souvenirs came bound in a small booklet, from which they could easily be detached.  An exciting addition for any collector specializing in the comic strip or cartoon artwork themes, the individual cards are reprints of the old-time newspaper strips.

Individual Sunday funnies multi-panel stories are condensed down to only four, with the first one being the postcard's color illustration.  On the address side will be found three other, tiny, black-and-white panels which complete the story.  Largely featured, though not exclusively, are Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse and Offissa Pupp.  The date of the original strip is listed on the address side above the 1996 King Features Syndicate copyright notice.

Though Krazy and her companions are now gone from the daily and Sunday comic pages, these postcards help to keep the memory of them alive. We have many fine comic strip postcards from most all the decades of the 20th century to collect and treasure. This "Krazy Kat" set is yet another.