Watching the SDCC Wander Over Yonder panel from 2014 (mainly to hear everyone Do the Voices, let’s be honest) and Craig just cited Krazy Kat as an influence. I’m so happy, because I’ve had that comic strip flitting in and out of my head this entire time. For many reasons–Krazy Kat is an enigmatic little character (his creator George Herriman described him as a “pixie” rather than a cat) who leads a roving, hoboish existence, offering kindness to everyone he encounters and returning the fury of a violent adversary with utterly sincere endearment.
Plus, look, he plays a banjo!
There are other ways in which the comic strip puts me in mind of the cartoon–especially the roiling desertscapes which seem to predict the atmospheres of many of Wander’s planets–but most essentially I think it’s the notion, so central to the cartoon as an art form, that you can hang the world on a simple concept. Krazy Kat constantly encompasses comedy, poetry, philosophy and language–it counted E.E. Cummings, Frank Capra and Jack Kerouac among its fans–but the core story is always, always about a mouse throwing a brick at a lovesick cat. There’s a similar willful simplicity anchoring Wander, which is most essentially about an entity hellbent on loving the universe until it becomes a thing worth loving. No matter what else it delivers, it never fails to deliver the brick.
A scene from Prohibition: the Krazy Kat Klub: a Bohemian cafe, speakeasy and nightclub operated by Cleon “Throck” Throckmorton ; its name was borrowed from the title character of a comic strip that was popular at the time. July 1921
I’ve been working on this for a little while, and last night I finally finished it up… I noticed some similarities between Wander Over Yonder and George Herriman’s comic strip “Krazy Kat” a little while ago, and the idea of crossing them over tickled me pink. so I made this, to tribute to my most recent favorite TV show, and a comic which I only recently started looking into but which already owns a little piece of my heart.
By the way - I want to find a way to send Craig McCracken the original physical copy of this piece, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to… it never hurts to try, though, right? :)
George Herriman was born in New Orleans, of mixed Creole parentage, in 1880. Like many people of Black ancestry living in the southern part of the US, his family moved to California to escape the oppression of Jim Crow laws.
Herriman began his career as a cartoonist while living in Los Angeles, but he soon moved to New York, where he also painted carnival billboards and sometimes worked as an amusement barker at Coney Island.
His first repeating comic character appeared 1901. Musical Mose focused on the exploits of Mose, a black musician struggling to find work.
Mose dealt with race more explicitly than much of Herriman’s later work, though issues of race, ethnicity, class, and identity were often an undercurrent of his cartoons throughout his career. Even though Herriman kept his racial heritage under wraps (literally, some say, by wearing a hat to cover his hair) during his life, Creole culture and language played an enormous role in his work, and racial identity and experience informed many of the stories he told in comics over the years.
While Mose only ran very briefly, Herriman created a number of comic strips over the years before beginning a series called The Dingbat Family in 1910.
In The Dingbat Family, (which was renamed to The Family Upstairs, and then re-renamed to The Dingbat Family later on), the exploits of their family cat, Krazy, and Ignatz, the mouse who lived in their apartment, could be seen in the lower edge of the comic strip, which Herriman saw as a filler to use up the extra space.
On Tuesday, August 9, 1910, Ignatz threw a brick at Krazy for the first time:
By 1913, Ignatz and Krazy would leave the Dingbats behind for their own strip, which would become one of the most influential and beloved comics of all time, Krazy Kat.
Here’s a series of Krazy Kat comic strips from this week in 1944, 72 years ago. George Herriman would pass away in April of that year, leaving us with one of the richest legacies in comics history.