Thursday, August 05, 2010

Herriman's Animals

George Herriman is known almost exclusively for a single comic strip series, Krazy Kat. Yet he worked as an editorial cartoonist and sports cartoonist in addition to his comic strip work. And even as a comic strip artist, much of his work isn’t remembered. The number of comic strip series he authored is safely in the double digits, including Alexander the Cat, Baron Mooch, The Family Upstairs, Baron Bean, Now Listen Mabel, and Stumble Inn. They didn’t have the longevity and appeal of Krazy Kat, but they were works of a master cartoonist so they shouldn’t be ignored, either.

It probably comes as no surprise that the author of Krazy Kat would have an affinity towards animals, but you wouldn’t say that just because his most well-known character is a talking cat, would you? Did Floyd Gottfredson really like mice when he worked on the Mickey Mouse comic strip? Did Carl Barks have a unique appreciation of ducks when he drew Donald Duck’s adventures?

I think this affinity is actually more obvious when you see how Herriman treated non- or less-anthropomorphic animals in his comic strips with human characters. In a very early cartoon that was published in the humor magazine Judge in 1903, a goat comes out as the victor. And twenty years later in “Stumble Inn” we see again where his true sympathies lay.


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