Krazy Kat: Cartoony Kid Comic or Art Masterpiece?


I had never once looked at a Krazy Kat strip until taking this course; the only time I had heard of it was when Bill Watterson commented about how he was inspired by it for one of his watercolor backgrounds in his Calvin and Hobbes. After reading a few of the strips and talking about them in class, I can see that Herriman was able to create art with a cartoony element.

Krazy Kat is quite cartoony; it invokes the classic slapstick humor with Ignatz hurling a brick or other heavy object at Krazy’s head as a running gag. There are also some silly chase scenes and other sensational misadventures that the characters get themselves into for the entertainment of the reader. The character’s designs also invoke cartoon animals from old-time cartoons, such as Felix the Cat or Betty Boop. Most people who see this cartoon design would probably label the comic strip for children only, and that there is no intelligent substance to be found in the world of Krazy and friends. And they would be wrong.

I feel that this cartoony design works well for the surrealist plot and situations of the comic. The background settings are one of the highlights: Herriman changes the the backdrop with every panel. Flat plains become sloping hills, there are curious-looking landmarks that appear in the background and the settign could even be a giant ocean! The main area of the desert works for this setting because the desert has always been seen as a mysterious and forbidding place where strange things can occur and people could see mirages.

The cartoony style also works to play up the amture material in the comic. Krazy’s thick dialogue can make for some funny puns that would fly over children’s heads. The gender ambiguity of Krazy Kat could be analyzed by English students into Herriman’s own personal self, and there is dark humor that surrounds Krazy’s love for Ignatz despite the mouse’s abuse towards him/her.

Overall, Krazy Kat is an example that comics strips can be written for older audiences and that it can be classified as a work of art rather than something childish and silly.

  1 comment for “Krazy Kat: Cartoony Kid Comic or Art Masterpiece?

  1. crobert2
    September 6, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    I agree with your assessment of the Krazy Kat comics, being more of a piece of art than a children’s comic. I mostly see it in the writing than with the art style itself. The strip where Ignatz has the black brick and breaks the 4th wall predicting the next box’s color, gives the series a knowledge of the meta. Where as a child would still find the joke to be funny it would have been for the slapstick comedic violence not the joke. Their is another strip where Krazy “breaks up” with Ignatz, that way Joe the stork does not get jealous of Ignatz role in the comic. As if this break up would allow Joe the stork to become more of a prominent character. This comic being as childish as it is has a lot of humor that is more readily available to adults.

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