Windsor McCay was one of the first superstars of the American comics strip, a pioneer in both cartooning and animation, massively prolific. All of his work is in the public domain, but where to start? Over at Robot 6, Chris Mautner provides the lowdown in the first installment of a new series of Comics College, "a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work". [more inside]
George Herriman's Krazy Kat (previously, previouslier) has been animated several times: in 1916 under the aegis of William Randolph Hearst a series of at least ten shorts was made, including "Krazy Kat Goes A-Wooing," "Krazy Kat Bugologist," and "Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse at the Circus." By 1930, under the control of Charles B. Mintz Krazy Kat had lost much of the Kat's own look, and had become, in films like "Alaskan Knights," a knockoff of Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse. In the 1960s, Gene Deitch's Krazy Kat series got back to the original look of the Kat, but animation quality was poor, and the Kat was—GASP!—made explicitly female. In 1996, director Derek Mogford gave Krazy the stop motion treatment in a well-made short that's meant to be an introduction to Herriman's kooky love triangle of Kat, Mouse, and Pup.
Crumbling Paper is a collection of old comics. And I mean old, some from the early years of the 20th Century. There are strips from artists such as George Herriman, Rube Goldberg, Basil Wolverton and Gustave Verbeek. It has such strips as Katzenjammer Kids, Little Orphan Annie and Count Screwloose. Warning: Some of these comics feature racial caricatures, as was the unfortunate norm when the strips were drawn. Here is the collector, Steven Stwalley, on Race and Ethnicity in the Early Comics. [via Eddie Campbell]
Archy and mehitabel. Written by Don Marquis, illustrated by George Herriman. Aside from being a cockroach, Archy was also the reincarnation of a vers libre (free verse) poet. He made himself known to Marquis by jumping up and down on the keyboard all night, so the columnist would find his work the following morning. Once portrayed by Carol Channing. Recently annotated.
Nancy, the best comic strip ever? Close but no cigar. Pogo? Peanuts? Calvin? Good choices all, but still wrong. Krazy Kat you say? Again I shake my head sadly, friend. For Mr. Dave Astor has finally stepped forward to settle this debate once and for all. The greatest comic strip ever appearing on newsprint? Why, it's For Better or For Worse of course. Let the debate begin.
Windsor McKay (of "Little Nemo in Slumberland" fame) and George Herriman (of "Krazy Kat" and "Archie & Mehitabel") weren't just innovative, influential cartoonists; they were also pioneering animators. The Library of Congress' Origins of American Animation project has downloadable short films by McKay (including his celebrated Gertie the Dinosaur) and Herriman as well as others from the early, early days of animated film.