Krazy Kat is an American newspaper comic strip by cartoonist George Herriman (1880–1944), which ran from 1913 to 1944. It first appeared in the New York Evening Journal, whose owner, William Randolph Hearst, was a major booster for the strip throughout its run. The characters had been introduced previously in a side strip with Herriman’s earlier creation, The Dingbat Family. The phrase “Krazy Kat” originated there, said by the mouse by way of describing the cat. Set in a dreamlike portrayal of Herriman’s vacation home of Coconino County, Arizona, Krazy Kat???’??s mixture of offbeat surrealism, innocent playfulness and poetic, idiosyncratic language has made it a favorite of comics aficionados and art critics for more than 80 years.
The strip focuses on the curious relationship between a guileless, carefree, simple-minded cat named Krazy of indeterminate gender (referred to as both “he” and “she”) and a grumpy mouse named Ignatz. Krazy nurses an unrequited love for the mouse. However, Ignatz despises Krazy and constantly schemes to throw bricks at Krazy’s head, which Krazy interprets as a sign of affection, uttering grateful replies such as “Li’l dollink, allus f’etful”, or “Li’l ainjil”. A third principal character, Offisa Bull Pupp, often appears and tries to “protect” Krazy by thwarting Ignatz’ attempts and imprisoning him. Later on, Offisa Pupp fell in love with Krazy.
Despite the slapstick simplicity of the general premise, the detailed characterization, combined with Herriman’s visual and verbal creativity, made Krazy Kat one of the first comics to be widely praised by intellectuals and treated as “serious” art. Art critic Gilbert Seldes wrote a lengthy panegyric to the strip in 1924, calling it “the most amusing and fantastic and satisfactory work of art produced in America today.” Poet E. E. Cummings, another Herriman admirer, wrote the introduction to the first collection of the strip in book form. Though Krazy Kat was only a modest success during its initial run, in more recent years, many modern cartoonists have cited the strip as a major influence.
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