Monday, April 4, 2022

Krazy Kat -- A Very Absorbing Tale -- April 4, 2022

Washington Times, 17-April-1922

I love George Herriman's Krazy Kat.

Minneapolis Star, 29-April-1922

Krazy Kat Art;
Comics in Ballet


Let those who rail at the comic strips beware. No less an organ of the intelligentsia than Vanity Fair has gone on record -- and solemnly, too -- that not only are the comics art, but that they are native American art at its best.

The article was inspired by the recent production of the "Krazy Kat Ballet" in New York. Gilbert Seldes, the write, in his analysis of the comic strips, says that "Krazy Kat" is the greatest of them all.

"Between 1910 and 1916 nearly all the good comics were made into bad burlesque shows," says Mr. Seldes. "In 1922 the greatest of them was made into a ballet, scenario and music by John Alden Carpenter choreography by Adolph Bohm; costumes and settings after designs by George Herriman."

Critics gave "Krazy Kat" unstinted praise when this quaint little figure appeared in the ballet, however, as he did in giving a psycho-analytic interpretation, so to speak, of the motives behind Mr. Kat and his friend, Ignatz Mouse, says Mr. Seldes.

"The plot, in general, is that Krazy Kat (androgynous, but, according to his creator, willing to be either sex) is in love with Ignatz Mouse, who is married and whose one object in life is to crown Krazy with a brick from Colin Kelly's brickyard. The fatuous Kat, for reasons presently to be explained, takes the brick to be a symbol of love and cannot therefore appreciate the efforts of Offiser Pupp to entrammel the activities of Ignatz Mouse. That is the framework of the action and it is important to know it, so that no confusion may arise; the brick of Ignatz Mouse has nothing on earth to do with the violence of other comic strips. Indeed it is often only the beginning, not the end of an action. Frequently it does not arrive. It is a symbol. I may say that it is the only symbol in modern art which I fully understand.

"Mr. Carpenter has pointed out, in his brilliant little foreword to his ballet, that Krazy Kat is a combination of Parsifal and Don Quixote; Igntaz is Sancho Panza and Cesar Borgia; he loathes the sentimental excursions of Krazy, he interrupts with his brick the romantic excesses of his companion; he is hard and sees things as they are. But Mr. Herriman, who is a great ironist, understands pity, and often at the end it is the sentimentalist, the victim of acute Bovaryisme, who triumphs, for Krazy dies daily in full possession of his illusion.

"It is Ignatz, stupidly hurling his brick, unable to withstand the destiny which orders that he shall not know Krazy's mind, who fosters the illusion and keeps Krazy happy. Not always, for Herriman is no slave to his formula. The brick, one has gathered from an ancient Sunday strip in the Hearst papers, was, when the pyramids were building a love letter -- among those very Egyptians who held the Kat sacred. And sometimes the letter fails to arrive.

"Last week one beheld Krazy smoking an elegant Havanna cigar and sighing for Ignatz; a smoke screen hid him from view when Ignatz passed and before the Mouse could turn back Krazy had given the cigar to Offiser Pupp and departed, saying, "Looking at 'Offisa Pupp' smoke himself up like a chimly is werra werra intrisking, but it is more wital that I find 'Ignatz.'" Wherefore Ignatz considering the smoke screen a ruse, hurls his brick and blacking Offiser Pupp's eyes, is promptly chased. Up to that point you have the usual technique of the comic strip, as old as Shakespeare.

"But note the final picture of Krazy, beholding the chase, himself disconsolate and alone, muttering, "Ah there him is -- playing tag with 'Offissa Pupp' -- just like the boom companions wot they is!" Or again the irony plays about the silly pup who disguises himself to outwit Ignatz and directs himself to outwit Ignatz and directs Ignatz, also disguised, directly to Krazy.

"Here the brick arrives, but again Mr. Herriman goes on to a cosmic conclusion. For Krazy, laid out by the brick, sleeps and dreams of Ignatz while the pup walks by saying, 'Slumber sweetly, proud creature, slumber sweetly, for I have made this day safe for you.' It is impossible to re-tell these pictures and it is not for their high humor that I repeat the words. I am trying to give the impression of Herriman's incredible irony, of his understanding of the tragedy, the santa simplicitas, the innocent loveliness in the heart of a creature more like Pan than any creation of our time."
Washington Times, 30-June-1918

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