For those of you that don’t know – Krazy Kat is an a newspaper comic strip by George Herriman that ran in American newspapers from 1913 to 1944. It’s old school cool has contributed to the inspiration for the cats we see in comic strips like Mutts and Calvin and Hobbes. Linked below is an essay I wrote in my Intro to Comic Studies class about the language in Krazy Kat!
One of the reasons that I think Krazy Kat is a work of art is the way Herriman uses language in the strip. My essay looks closer at two different Sunday strips of Krazy Kat in the later years that it was being published, specifically looking at how, through language, the strip became so much more than it’s simple plot of a strange love triangle involving Krazy the cat, who loves Ignatz mouse unconditionally, Ignatz, who hates Krazy and tries to hit her with brick, and Offissa Pupp, the dog who loves Krazy and tries to protect her from Ignatz. This peculiar, quirky comic strip addressed large themes and ideas such as gender and racial identity, extending beyond the simple life of the kat, dog, mouse, and other characters of Coconino County. One of the ways it is able to do this is with George Herriman’s manipulation of English and other languages to point out the multiplicity/flexibility of meaning in language. As you’ll read in the essay, (because you’re going to read it now right?) Herriman manipulates language into what seems to almost be gibberish, but when read slowly (especially out loud), Krazy’s misunderstanding of proper English opens the door for a plethora of metaphor, meaning, and ideas to be presented.
I think this essay is important because it reveals that Krazy Kat is more than “just a comic strip” – its poetry.
And, um, poetry is cool y’all.
Don’t want to read it? Let me read it to you! I presented this essay in the Northwest Undergraduate Conference of Literature at the University of Portland this year. Despite the fact that I was nervous and awkward, it was a good experience!
If you want a brief history of Krazy Kat, I dare you to jump down the rabbit hole of Wikipedia to get started. Also, if you wanted to read a professional’s essay on the Language in Krazy Kat, check out Jeet Heer’s essay in Krazy & Ignatz: A Ragout of Raspberries (1941-1942).