KRAZY, by Michael Tisserand
George Herriman, A Life in Black and White
Growing up, I always looked forward to reading the Sunday comic strips. Cartoons were a happy window through which we viewed what was happening in the world, whether in sports, politics, fashion or just human nature.
While George Herriman’s work spanned the first half of the 20th century, he is recognized as one of the best, if not the best cartoonist of all time. The book, KRAZY, by Michael Tisserand offers a detailed account of his life and work. Herriman, creator of Krazy Kat, was born in New Orleans but spent most of his adult life primarily in Los Angeles and New York, while he established his career. He was greatly influenced by his trips to Arizona where he developed a passion for the desert and its Native American population. Desert landscape became an integral part of his cartoons.
The great enigma of George Herriman’s life is that it is unclear whether he was of black or white heritage. He lived his life as a white person but there is strong evidence that he was descended from a Creole heritage and on his birth certificate his race is marked, “Colored.” Who knew how this affected his cartooning with regard to all aspects of his life? Perhaps Tisserand’s subtitle “A Life in Black and White” refers not only to Herriman’s creative and artistically nuanced and complex drawings in which layers of commentary are communicated, but also to the life he led.
The pages are filled with Herriman’s drawings that not only add to the reader’s enjoyment, but show through his art the progression of his genius as a cartoonist. "Wotta Woild!"
Review by Barry Novick