GEORGE JOSEPH HERRIMAN (August 22, 1880 – April 25, 1944) was an
American cartoonist best known for the comic strip Krazy Kat
(1913–1944). More influential than popular,
Krazy Kat had an
appreciative audience among those in the arts.
Gilbert Seldes '
Krazy Kat Who Walks by Himself" was the earliest example
of a critic from the high arts giving serious attention to a comic
The Comics Journal
Herriman was born in
Herriman lived most of his life in Los Angeles, but made frequent
trips to the Navajo deserts in the southwestern U.S. He was drawn to
the landscapes of
* 1 Personal history
* 1.1 1880–1900: Early life * 1.2 1900–1905: Early career in New York * 1.3 1905–1910: Return to California * 1.4 1910–1922: New York again, and Krazy Kat * 1.5 1922–1944: California again, later career and death
* 2 Personal life * 3 Race and identity * 4 Reception and legacy
* 5 Work
* 5.1 Style * 5.2 Collections * 5.3 List of comic strips
* 6 Notes
* 7 References
* 7.1 Works cited
* 7.1.1 Books * 7.1.2 Journals and magazines * 7.1.3 Newspapers * 7.1.4 Web
* 8 Further reading * 9 External links
1880–1900: EARLY LIFE
The Herrimans attended St. Augustine Catholic Church in Tremé
George Joseph Herriman was born at 348 Villere Street in New Orleans
on August 22, 1880. He came from a line of French-speaking Louisiana
Creole mulattoes who were considered free people of color , and
were reportedly active in the early abolitionist movement . His
When he was ten, Herriman and his family moved to Los Angeles, where
he grew up south of downtown near Main Street and Washington Boulevard
. His father worked there as a tailor. Herriman attended the Catholic
boys' school St. Vincent's College (now Loyola High School ). Soon
after graduating in 1897, he sold a sketch of the Hotel Petrolia in
Santa Paula to the
1900–1905: EARLY CAREER IN NEW YORK
Herriman's earliest published work was humor and editorial cartoons. (September 7, 1906)
When he was 20, Herriman sneaked aboard a freight train bound for New
York City, hoping his chances as an artist would be better there. He
was unsuccessful at first, and survived by working as a barker and
billboard painter at
His success with these syndicated strips convinced Herriman to give
up on magazine submissions. For the Pulitzer papers on February 16,
1902, he began his first strip that had a continuing character,
Musical Mose. The strip featured an African-American musician who
impersonated other ethnicities, only to suffer the consequences when
discovered by his audience. Professor Otto and his Auto, about a
terrifyingly dangerous driver, followed in March, and Acrobatic
Archie, a "kid strip" with a child protagonist, first appeared in
April. With his future as a cartoonist seemingly assured, Herriman
traveled back to
In the November 1902 issue of the literary magazine The Bookman Herriman wrote of his profession self-deprecatingly, while poet La Touche Hancock, in an article in that issue titled "The American Comic and Caricature Art", wrote, "Art and poetry is the characteristic of George Herriman. Were his drawings not so well known one would think he had mistaken his vocation." Herriman's work was increasing in popularity, and he occasionally had front-page, full-color strips for the Pulitzer supplements, such as Two Jolly Jackies about two unemployed sailors, which began in January 1903. He began drawing the cowboy strip Lariat Pete in September for the McClure syndicate after Two Jolly Jackies was ended. The comic strip Major Ozone's Fresh Air Crusade (1904–1906) was an early success for Herriman. (April 21, 1906)
In June, Herriman was employed by the
New York World
Rudolph Block hired Herriman for the Hearst papers with "a salary
commensurate with his talents", starting April 22 at the New York
American , which ran no daily comic strips at the time. Herriman
drew sports cartoons in an office alongside
Frederick Burr Opper ,
James Swinnerton , and
Tad Dorgan , who was popularly known as "Tad"
and was considered a star at another Hearst paper, the New York
Evening Journal . Tad and Herriman were often assigned to cover the
same sporting events and became close friends. In 1924, Tad called
Herriman "one of the best sporting artists in the world" and regretted
that Herriman no longer did that kind of work. Herriman continued
with Hearst until June 1905 when he left the paper, possibly because
of the new sports editor's unsympathetic attitude to cartoonists. He
1905–1910: RETURN TO CALIFORNIA
Daniel and Pansy, Herriman's first all-animal strip (December 4, 1909)
In California, Herriman continued to mail in work to the World Color
Printing Company. He revived Major Ozone and produced Grandma's
Girl—Likewise Bud Smith, which he combined from two earlier strips,
and a two-tiered children's strip, Rosy Posy—Mama's Girl. He began
to work with the
Following the success of Bud Fisher 's daily strip A. Mutt , which debuted in late 1907, Herriman began a similarly sports-themed daily strip that December called Mr. Proones the Plumber. The strip was not as successful as Fisher's, and it ceased to appear after December 26. His next comic strip, Baron Mooch, starring the titular freeloader, debuted in the Examiner on October 12, 1909. Herriman began two more strips in November 1909 with the World Color Printing Company—Alexander the Cat and Daniel and Pansy, which both appeared in color. Daniel and Pansy was Herriman's first strip to feature an all-animal cast. This was followed in the Examiner on December 20 by the short-lived Mary's Home from College, a precursor to the "girl strips" such as Cliff Sterrett 's Polly and Her Pals and John Held Jr.'s Merely Margie, and on December 23 by Gooseberry Sprig, about an aristocratic, cigar-smoking duck who had previously and popularly appeared in Herriman's sports cartoons. The bird-populated fantasy was a precursor to Krazy Kat, and many of its characters reappeared in the later strip.
1910–1922: NEW YORK AGAIN, AND KRAZY KAT
In 1910, the sports editor of the New York Evening Journal called Herriman back to New York to cover for Tad Dorgan who was in San Francisco covering the "Fight of the Century" between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries . Six days after arriving in New York, Herriman began The Dingbat Family (fr), starring E. Pluribus Dingbat and his family. Herriman used typed lettering on the strip on July 26, 1910, but quickly went back to hand-lettering. On August 10, 1910, Herriman retitled the strip The Family Upstairs, "making it perhaps the first comic strip in which the title characters never appeared." The original title return after the strip of November 15, 1911, when the Dingbats' building was demolished to make room for a department store and they and their upstairs nemeses parted paths.
Critics do not regard the strip highly, but it provided the vehicle for a fruitful situation: in the July 26 episode, a mouse threw a brick at the family cat—called "Kat"—which hit the cat on the head. The antics of this mouse and "Kat" continued to appear in the bottom portion of The Dingbat Family (fr). Herriman said he did this "to fill up the waste space". About a month after its first appearance, the "Kat" crept up on the sleeping mouse and kissed it loudly. The mouse awoke saying, "I dreamed an angel kissed me", while the "Kat" crept away and said, "Sweet thing". The cartoon staff at the New York Evening Journal (January 3, 1911) Top, from left: Gus Mager , Charles Wellington, Herriman Bottom, from left: Harry Hershfield , Ike Anderson, Tad Dorgan
The gender of "Kat" was unclear from the start. Herriman experimented with a decision about the character's gender, but it remained ambiguous and he would refer to "Kat" as "he" or "she" as he saw fit. Herriman incorporated unusual details into the mini-strip's backgrounds—cacti, pagodas, fanciful vegetation, or anything else that struck his fancy; this became a signature of the later Krazy Kat strip. The cast grew and soon included the mainstay character Bull Pupp and characters from the Gooseberry Sprigg strip. The strip's characters, relations and situations grew organically during its lifetime, encouraged by Herriman's colleagues.
The cat-and-mouse substrip was gaining in popularity; instead of filling up space in the bottom of The Dingbat Family (fr)'s panels, it began to occupy a tier of panels of its own. In July 1912, while Herriman had the Dingbats on vacation, Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse took over the strip, which was retitled Krazy Kat and I. Mouse for the duration. On October 28, 1913, Krazy Kat debuted as an independent strip on the daily comics page.
During the first few years of publication, Krazy Kat's humor changed
from slapstick to a more vaudevillian kind. The shifting backgrounds
became increasingly bizarre, presaging things to come. The strip
expanded to a full-page black-and-white
The Dingbat Family finished in 1916 and was replaced by Baron Bean's
debut the next day. The strip's title character, The Baron, was an
impoverished English nobleman, a tramp inspired by
Krazy Kat gained an appreciative audience in the world of the arts. The character debuted in film in 1916. The first animated films starring a cat were produced by Hearst's International Film Service , though without Herriman's direct involvement. In 1922, Adolph Bolm choreographed a jazz-pantomime Krazy Kat ballet written by John Alden Carpenter . It was first performed in New York in 1922 by Ballet Intime , and Herriman illustrated the libretto and designed the costumes and scenario. While it was not a great success, the critics Deems Taylor , Stark Young and Henrietta Straus wrote favorably about it. The strip itself was the subject of an article by literary critic Gilbert Seldes called "Golla, Golla the Comic Strip's Art", which appeared in the May 1922 issue of Vanity Fair . Seldes expanded this article as part of his book on the popular arts, The Seven Lively Arts (1924), in which Seldes argued against conservative tendencies that excluded artists in the popular arts, such as Herriman and Chaplin, from being considered alongside traditional artists. Krazy Kat was the subject of a chapter entitled "The Krazy Kat That Walks by Himself", which is the most famous piece of writing about the strip and the earliest example of a critic from the world of high art giving legitimacy to the comic strip medium. Vanity Fair inducted Herriman into its Hall of Fame in the April 1923 issue.
1922–1944: CALIFORNIA AGAIN, LATER CAREER AND DEATH
Hearst, an admirer of Krazy Kat, had given Herriman a lifetime
contract with his company
King Features Syndicate
Autumn 1922 saw the first daily installment of Stumble Inn, the first non- Krazy Kat strip Herriman had drawn since 1919. A verbose strip whose Sundays were often overrun with prose, its lead characters were Uriah and Ida Stumble, who rented rooms to an assortment of strange characters. The daily strip was short-lived, but the Sundays edition lasted three years.
From August 1925 until September 1929, King Features required that Herriman design the Krazy Kat Sundays so that they could be run either as a full Sunday page or as two four-panel dailies. Herriman lamented intrusion on his page designs, and the artwork of the period took on a rushed look. He was made to focus on the strip's characterization, and during this period, the Krazy—Ignatz—Offisa Pupp love triangle for which the strip is remembered became fully developed. Pupp pined for Krazy, Krazy loved Ignatz, and Ignatz hated Krazy and pelted the annoying "Kat" with a brick, and Pupp imprisoned Ignatz.
Throughout the late 1920s, Herriman made frequent trips to Kayenta,
Stumble Inn finished in late 1925, and it was replaced with the domestic strip Us Husbands (with Mistakes Will Happen as a "topper " strip), which ran until the end of that year. In 1928, Herriman took over the strip Embarrassing Moments, which had begun in 1922 and had been drawn by several cartoonists. The strip eventually became Bernie Burns, in which embarrassing moments would happen to the title character. The strip appeared in few papers, and after it ended in 1932, Herriman worked only on Krazy Kat, although he provided illustrations for Don Marquis' popular Archy and Mehitabel, a series of books of poetry about a cat and a cockroach.
In 1930, Herriman sold his first Hollywood home to a friend and moved his family to 2217 Maravilla Drive, a Spanish-style mansion atop a hill. It was adorned with paintings of Southwest and Native themes, and had a Mexican-style garden paved with flagstones and decorated with painted pots and tropical plants. Herriman later bought the lot across the street and turned it into a public park.
The 1930s were a period of tragedy for Herriman. On September 29,
1931, his wife Mabel died after an automobile accident, and in 1939,
his youngest daughter Bobbie died unexpectedly at 30. After his wife's
death, Herriman never remarried and lived in
Krazy Kat's popularity fell considerably over the years, and by the
1930s it was running in only thirty-five newspapers, while its
contemporaries such as
Bringing Up Father
Herriman died in his sleep in his home near Hollywood on April 25,
1944, after a long illness. An incompletely inked penciling of a
week's worth of daily strips was found on his drawing board. On his
death certificate, the cause of death was listed as "non-alcoholic
cirrhosis of the liver", and despite his mixed-race heritage, he was
listed as "caucasian". The
New York Journal-American ran a front-page
obituary. His funeral at Little Church of Flowers at Forest Lawn
Memorial Park was attended by few.
On June 25, 1944, two months after Herriman's death, the last of his completed Krazy Kat strips, a full-page Sunday, was printed. At the time, Hearst usually engaged new cartoonists when the artists of popular strips quit or died, but he made an exception for Herriman, as he felt that no one could take his place.
Herriman was described as self-deprecatingly modest, and he disliked being photographed. The New York Journal-American's obituary described him as a devoted husband and father, of slight build, mild-mannered and an anonymous contributor to charities. He was generous to his friends, and sold his first Hollywood house, which he had bought for $50,000, to a friend for $40,000. Though a private person, he was said to be an entertaining host to his friends. He would sometimes stay silent during social occasions and would often leave the room to wash dishes, which he said he enjoyed as it gave him the opportunity to think. His favorite game was poker, which he particularly enjoyed playing with his fellow cartoonists.
Herriman had a great love of animals, and had a large number of dogs
and cats; he had five dogs and thirteen cats in 1934. He usually
kept to a vegetarian diet, except when it made him feel too weak, and
he refused to ride horses. He so admired
Herriman married his childhood sweetheart Mabel Lillian Bridge in Los Angeles on July 7, 1902. They had two daughters: Mabel, nicknamed "Toodles", later "Toots") and Barbara, nicknamed "Bobbie", who had epilepsy .
RACE AND IDENTITY
Though Herriman had mixed ethnicity, he partook in the ethnic humor that was typical at the time. (Musical Mose, February 16, 1902) Herriman, who had mulatto heritage, kept his "kinky hair " under a hat (1902).
Herriman was born to mixed-race parents, and his birth certificate
lists Herriman as "colored". In the post-
Plessy v. Ferguson
Herriman's ethnic heritage was unknown to his colleagues. Fellow
Tad Dorgan nicknamed him "the Greek", a label which stuck
and was taken up by his biographers and the press, who called him the
son of a Greek baker. At other times, he was identified as French,
Irish, and Turkish. He told a friend that he was Creole, and
speculated that he may have "Negro blood" in him, as he had "kinky
hair ". The friend said that Herriman wore a hat to hide his hair,
which may have been an attempt to pass as white . Herriman said that
he dreamed of being reborn a Navajo. On his death certificate, he was
listed as "Caucasian", and his daughter Mabel had his father's
birthplace listed as
Arthur Asa Berger
RECEPTION AND LEGACY
E. E. Cummings
Krazy Kat was popular with intellectuals, artists and critics, and
in the 1920s Herriman's modernist touches received praise. In 1921,
composer John Alden Carpenter, who had long been an admirer of
Herriman's work, approached him to collaborate on a
Krazy Kat ballet.
E. B. White
Critics found Herriman's work difficult to classify and
E. E. Cummings
The strip has had a lasting influence on a large number of
Krazy Kat was a primary influence on other cartoonists such as
Charles M. Schulz
Since 1997, the Small Press Expo has held the annual Ignatz Awards in honor of Herriman's mouse from Krazy Kat. It recognizes talent in independent comics publishing. Krazy Kat was ranked first on The Comics Journal's list of the greatest comics of the twentieth century. The Society of Illustrators inducted Herriman into its Hall of Fame in 2013.
Within the seeming strictures of the strip—the recurring characters, the Krazy–Ignatz–Offisa Pupp love triangle—Herriman improvised freely with the story, the shifting backgrounds, and the sex of the Krazy Kat's title character. Among the multicultural influences Herriman mixed in his work were those of the Navajo and Mexican. He made creative use of language with a poetical sense, employing multilingual puns in a fanciful mix of dialects from different ethnic backgrounds. Herriman used metafictional techniques associated with postmodernism ; his characters were self-aware, he frequently drew attention to himself and his drawings as drawings in his strips, and he emphasized the subjectivity of language and experience.
Links: ------ /wiki/Krazy_Kat /wiki/Gilbert_Seldes