“Who was the man behind ‘Krazy Kat’? This fascinating biography and guide to the work of the cartoonist, who passed for white, tells the full story.”
Featured in New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2017.
Krazy finally gives George Herriman the biography he deserves as the man who created what is arguably the best comic strip in the world. It reveals the truth behind the man’s heritage, his art and his life as an African-American during a time when America’s color line was far more divisive than it is today.
Herriman was born in New Orleans in the nineteenth century but matured as a journalist, a cartoonist and an illustrator in the city of Los Angeles which was a boomtown back then, and in New York, a metropolis often called wild. His work appeared in some of the biggest newspaper publications during the early part of the twentieth century, including the ones that William Randolph Hearst owned. His creation, Krazy Kat, brought him vast amounts of fame sporadically. More importantly, it changed the way cartoons were looked upon as a way to amuse oneself daily; they became anarchic art.
Herriman’s work explored the human condition. In doing so, he created a rhapsody that was modernist and took inspiration from the different landscapes that he had traveled to. These landscapes ranged from the chaos that is life in urban centers to panoramic deserts devoid of human life in the Southwest.
However, his biggest secret – a secret that was the bedrock of his life and often peeked out from his art – was that he was not ‘Greek’ as was assumed by many thanks to a swarthy complexion. He was African-American, the son of a notable Creole family that couldn’t acknowledge its racial identity because of the dangers of the time known as Reconstruction.
Michael Tisserand has done detailed and original research, talked to people who knew the artist and analyzed Herriman’s work to shine a light upon this artist who wasn’t understood very well by his peers and contemporaries.