Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White

Harper. Dec. 2016. 560p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780061732997. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780062098054. BIOG
Tisserand (The Kingdom of Zydeco) presents a well-researched, engaging biography of George Herriman (1880–1944), creator of the comic strip Krazy Kat. This brilliant but modestly successful strip ran in American newspapers from 1913 to 1944 and influenced luminaries such as Bill Watterson and Charles Schulz. The chronicle begins with the lives of Herriman's great grandparents in New Orleans before detailing Herriman's early years and the family's migration to the Los Angeles area. From there, the author foregrounds Herriman's budding career as a comics writer as he bounced among prominent newspapers and boxing matches, eventually landing in the offices of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, who would later become a great champion of Krazy Kat. Tisserand also weaves in the challenges Herriman faced trying to hide his African American lineage—colleagues often teased him because of his "kinky hair" and for a time dubbed him "George the Greek" because he would not discuss his background. At every step, this work brilliantly re-creates the milieu of its subject's life by shading in the historical context.
VERDICT A significant book for comics scholars and those interested in tracing Herriman's development from novice to master of the medium.
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