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George Herriman, KRAZY AND IGNATZ: 1925–1926

In 1999, the Comics Journal named Herriman's Krazy Kat the greatest comic strip of the 20th century. It's never been too well known (in the course of its 30-year run, it often survived only because of William Randolph Hearst's support), but cartoonists more or less agree it's a masterpiece. The premise couldn't be simpler: Krazy Kat loves Ignatz Mouse, who rejects the Kat's affections by throwing a brick at—him? her? Krazy is both and neither—whereupon Offisa Pupp arrests Ignatz. This was the plot of nearly every episode, but the beauty was in the variations Herriman could work on it and in his delirious sense of style. The primal comedy played out in thousands of ways, drawn with an incomparable design sense against a gorgeously stylized backdrop of the American Southwest and delivered with Herriman's hilarious dialogue—half invented, half quasi-Joycean wordplay ("Ooy-yooy-yooy wot a goldish oak finish—like a swell mihoginny piyenna—l'il dusky dahlink!!!"). This first in a new series of reprints (designed by Chris Ware and edited by Bill Blackbeard) picks up where the series published by Eclipse Books left off 10 years ago; it'll cover two years in each volume. This 1925–1926 collection shows how Herriman began to stretch out, opening up his layouts and experimenting with storytelling technique and the basic conventions of the comic strip itself. (May)