Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Krazy & Ignatz: He Nods in Quiescent Siesta. A Review

Image from the Fantagraphics website. See more at their site.

Krazy & Ignatz, 1943 to 1944: He Nods in Quiescent Siesta, is the final book in the complete Krazy Kat reprint series from Fantagraphics. From the image above, you can get a hint at the beauty to be found in George Herriman's masterpiece, the eclecticly delightful Krazy Kat. If you are a fan, then this book is a must have, being the last book, and collecting the final two years of the strip.
Along with the strips is what makes each of these books special... extra biographical information about Herriman's life, personal photos, and a reference page explaining some of the words, phrases, and objects that made sense in the early 1900's, but are now forgotten by us here in the future. These historical references are not only useful in explaining the strips, but are pure candy to a history buff like myself. This book contains some fascinating biographical information that explains further some of the strips within.

These strips are all mostly in Herriman's bold colors. His work really speaks to me, and I can get lost staring into his drawings, especially the huge landscapes he created to sit under dark night skies. True beauty that I cannot explain... his pen marks, random squiggles that are actually Native American designs, pure colors in perfect balance, the living landscape itself... I can go on, but you have to see it for yourself. Any student of art is going to learn something from studying Herriman's Krazy Kat.

The only fault I have is in the introduction by Bill Blackbeard. he's a scholar, and we should give him much thanks in his work preserving these strips, but the introduction is really a bit much. Herriman suffered in his personal life, and supposedly had crippling headaches. His work was everything to him, and he continued to work until the end, and his final strips seem very prophetic. I've seen the final strips before, and the last Sunday does show what appears to be Krazy Kat drowning, and Offisa Pup carrying her body away from the water. It's not hard to read into that, and Mr. Blackbeard does just that, going a little overboard in interpreting these final strips. Sure, it makes a dramatic intro, but as a scholar, I believe he loses some objectivity here, and he actually bends the interpretation a bit in his analysis of the strips.

Still, that's my only fault with the book... two little paragraphs that you can easily skip over. The rest of the book is a grand finale to a terrific series. I own most, if not all, of the Krazy Kat books, and this is one of the best on many levels. Many of the final strips I have not seen before, and as Mr.Blackbeard points out in his intro, you can see Herriman's art being to degenerate. The characters become simpler in design, and even their words become simpler. Herriman, the master draftsman with a pen line to kill for, was beginning to lose his art. A tragic ending to a brilliant, and at times controversial, career.

Don't know about that career? Well, I recommend Krazy Kat: the Comic Art of George Herriman. It's my favorite biography ever, full of wonderful art, a look at the early 20th century, and the life of my favorite Cartoonist. The Fantagraphic books then add to this book with the complete strips, and extra biographical notes, and photos and so much more.

I became a Cartoonist because of one image I saw by George Herriman. I learned by studying the rest of them. Any art student can do well by studying this Master. Krazy & Ignatz, 1943 to 1944: He Nods in Quiescent Siesta, is a must have in this regard.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

You can see a very Herrimanesque landscape in this Knight and Day strip of mine... one of many tributes of mine to his art.


Brian Hughes said...

Sounds like a good book. I might hunt down a copy.

John said...

Herriman had a terrific sense of design and color, was wonderfully inventive in his art and use of language, and just knew how to have fun with his cartoons. His life was very interesting as well. This book or the biography I mentioned are both recommended highly.

Sometimes I can get lost in wonder how he can create so much with just a few scratchy pen lines. Remarkably enough, they say his roughs were very loose, and that he often went straight to inking. He must have had awesome visualization skills as well.

Cheers, JOHN :0/