WOOY!! After decades of attempts to publish all of George Herriman's full-page Sunday Krazy Kat comics, Fantagraphics, the Seattle comics publisher, has done it. In 13 volumes, we get all the Krazy Kat comics, dating from April 23, 1916 (when they began) to June 25, 1944 (when Herriman died), plus some pre-Krazy strips thrown in for good measure. HOOROO!!
At last, every Krazy Sunday page is between covers: from the first, where the Kat steals away from a picnic to bring ice cream to some "poor li'l orphan 'kitties'" in a coal chute, to the last, where a worried-looking Krazy floats to who-knows-where clutching a paper sail. And what covers, and spines, they are! The quirky volumes, designed by cartoonist Chris Ware and edited by Bill Blackbeard (with Derya Ataker, Jeet Heer, and Kim Thompson), are a shelf to behold.
It has been a long haul. The first book of selected Krazy Kat comics was published in 1946, just two years after Herriman's death, with an introduction by e.e. cummings. It was followed, forty years later, by an excellent book, the volume that got me hooked: Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman edited by Patrick McDonnell, Karen O'Connell, and Georgia Riley de Havenon. And that was followed in 2010 by Sunday Press's grand, oversized book, George Herriman's Krazy Kat: A Celebration of Sundays, edited by McDonnell and Peter Maresca. But all these were selections, not the full monty.
The idea of publishing the strip's entire life was hatched in the late 1980s. By the early nineties, a couple volumes of The Komplete Kolor Krazy Kat, edited by Rick Marschall, had been published by Kitchen Sink Press, and "a consortium of comics lovers comprising Eclipse Comics, Turtle Island Press, and Bill Blackbeard" — as Kim Thompson, one of the publishers of Fantagraphics, remembers it — had begun publishing a 29-volume set of the Sunday Krazys. The main supplier of these comics was Blackbeard himself, one of the editors of The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics and, more recently, a hero of Nicholson Baker's book Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper. He had row upon row of old newspaper comics piled high in his garage and basement, which he called the "San Francisco Academy of Comic Art." (I went to the "academy" myself in the eighties and bought a few black-and-white Krazys.) Alas, though, after only nine volumes (1916-1924) the project was ditched when, says Thompson, "intractable (and non-Kat-related) business problems sank the good ship Eclipse in 1992."
Ten years passed. Finally, in 2002, Blackbeard joined with Fantagraphics to finish the job, picking up where the consortium left off, pushing on to the end of Herriman's career, and then wrapping back to repeat the material already published. They finished up the series this year, just after Blackbeard died, but only in the middle part of Herriman's career.
That was one Krazy plan, but it worked. As for the 32 years of daily Krazy Kat strips, they are, as Derya Ataker points out in the introduction to The Kat Who Walked in Beauty: The Panoramic Dailies of 1920, a more "elusive catch." But that's another story.
The completion of Fantagraphics's Krazy Sunday series also means, quite possibly, the end of Krazy Kritic...read more