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'Krazy Kat' was all that


Photo
Image courtesy of KING FEATURES SYNDICATE, INC.
The characters Krazy (the cat) and Ignatz (the mouse) have it out in George Herriman's breakthrough comic strip "Krazy Kat." The cartoonist and his comic will be the topic of discussion at the fourth Hi-Tea at Po' House at the Poetry Center this evening.
By Kylee Dawson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, February 17, 2005
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Before Itchy and Scratchy, before Tom and Jerry, even before Felix the Cat, Krazy and Ignatz graced the pages of Hearst newspapers for more than 30 years in George Herriman's "Krazy Kat."

To pay homage to the artist - and help reintroduce his innovative and poetic comic - poet Monica Youn and local cartoonist Joe Marshall will enlighten audiences at the fourth Hi-Tea at Po' House tonight, organized by creative writing master's student Jason Zuzga.

Possibly because he grew up in big cities most of his life, Herriman remained fascinated by Arizona's landscape, specifically Coconino, where he set the background for his strip, "Krazy Kat."

Born in 1880, Herriman's father moved the family from New Orleans to Los Angeles when he was 10, possibly in an attempt to avoid being classified as slaves because of their Creole background.

Before he began drawing comics, Herriman drew sports and political cartoons for the Herald. After he created "Krazy Kat" in 1913, it ran in the Hearst papers for little more than three decades.

"He had done all sorts of strips," said Marshall, who is also a printmaker and illustrator. "He worked for the Hearst papers a long time and William Randolph Hearst liked him so much that he always kept him on even though he wasn't really a popular comic strip."

Though Herriman would continue to draw "Krazy Kat" in Los Angeles until his death on April 25, 1944, at his request, his ashes were scattered over the desert in Monument Valley.

Though "Krazy Kat" has remained obscure for the latter part of the 20th century, Herriman did later acquire a number of fans, including e.e. cummings, Pablo Picasso, Charlie Chaplin, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway.

More recently, "Krazy Kat" has been honored by poet/lawyer Monica Youn, who has created a series of poems inspired by the comic.

"The kind of verbal inventions he comes up with and the new spellings and combined words are really interesting and are reminiscent of more traditional artist experimentation," Youn said of Herriman.

As an entertainment lawyer, Youn finds the time to write poetry and even released "Barter," a book of poems, in 2003.

"It's hard to distinguish what one would be like without the other because I've never done one without the other," she said. "I don't write directly about law and I don't have anything against it, it's just something I haven't written about."

Marshall, who has been involved with self-publishing and 'zines since about the mid '80s, off and on, enjoys Herriman's comics as "visual poetry."

"I've kinda been into 'Krazy Kat,' kinda a long time," Marshall said. "I like his visual style, especially later on when he went to color. I just like his sort of scratchiness, and his whole word play. It's surreal, but the same thing happens, but he just keeps changing it."

But trying to create comics like Herriman's is extremely hard for Marshall.

"It's so much of who he is that people would totally know you were ripping him off," he said. "He was really funny too, in kind of a dry way."

The Hi-Tea takes place at the Poetry Center, located at 1600 E. First St. (at the corner of First Street and Cherry Avenue), and begins at 6 p.m. Tea and light fare will be served.



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