Krazy: The Black and White World of George Herriman

Author(s): Michael Tisserand


Description: In the tradition of Schulz and Peanuts, an epic and revelatory biography of Krazy Kat creator George Herriman that explores the turbulent time and place from which he emerged-and the deep secret he explored through his art. The creator of the greatest comic strip in history finally gets his due-in an eye-opening biography that lays bare the truth about his art, his heritage, and his life on America's color line. A native of nineteenth-century New Orleans, George Herriman came of age as an illustrator, journalist, and cartoonist in the boomtown of Los Angeles and the wild metropolis of New York. Appearing in the biggest newspapers of the early twentieth century-including those owned by William Randolph Hearst-Herriman's Krazy Kat cartoons quickly propelled him to fame. Although fitfully popular with readers of the period, his work has been widely credited with elevating cartoons from daily amusements to anarchic art. Herriman used his work to explore the human condition, creating a modernist fantasia that was inspired by the landscapes he discovered in his travels-from chaotic urban life to the Beckett-like desert vistas of the Southwest. Yet underlying his own life-and often emerging from the contours of his very public art-was a very private secret: known as "the Greek" for his swarthy complexion and curly hair, Herriman was actually African American, born to a prominent Creole family that hid its racial identity in the dangerous days of Reconstruction. Drawing on exhaustive original research into Herriman's family history, interviews with surviving friends and family, and deep analysis of the artist's work and surviving written records, Michael Tisserand brings this little-understood figure to vivid life, paying homage to a visionary artist who helped shape modern culture.

Review: "A visionary strip. Who drew it, and wherefrom? Tisserand's robust research illuminates, without diminishing, the mystery." -- Roy Blount Jr.. "Michael Tisserand's lovingly baked brick of a biography is essential for every comics and art lover's library. Krazy Kat was highly acclaimed as a work of art generations before almost anyone-Herriman included!-thought of putting 'comics' and 'art' meaningfully into the same sentence. But beyond this book's obvious urgency for comics lovers, Tisserand conscientiously explores the enigmatic traces of a great artist's life hidden in plain sight. He follows the diffident and elusive Herriman's journey through thickly crosshatched surrealist mesas right into the heart of America's darkness-the color line that shaped and looped through all of Krazy Kat's other lines to intersect with so much of America's culture. Zip! Pow!" -- Art Spiegelman "An athletic feat of scholarship and an effort of love-like one of Ignatz's bricks to the head. Tisserand's immaculately researched and super-readable biography captures the madcap modernist Herriman and the weird America of surreal racial realities and publishing superpowers that shaped his revolutionary art." -- Hillary Chute "A remarkable work documenting how one of the most singular achievements in twentieth-century popular culture came to be. Michael Tisserand has dug deep in the archives and examined George Herriman's work with ingenuity and insight, emerging with a riveting narrative that wears its impressive scholarship with lightness and grace. Especially revelatory is Tisserand's probing account of how Herriman negotiated-through Krazy Kat and his other work-the contentiousness and contradictions of race in America." -- Ben Yagoda "Krazy is crazy good-a powerful and endlessly entertaining treatment of one of our most original artists. Michael Tisserand has given us a book as bold, brilliant, and beautiful as Herriman's own body of work. This will surely stand as the definitive biography, one that will be read for generations to come." -- Jonathan Eig "George Herriman was a poet in a new visual language. As a man, he was an enigma to match his greatest creation, the sublime Krazy Kat. Michael Tisserand has done a masterful job of illuminating this life lived in the shadowy borderlands of racial identity; along the way he also gives a brilliant overview of the golden years of American cartooning. Krazy is a monumental work of biography about a true American genius." -- Tom Piazza "For decades I've been hoping for a new, experimental African-American voice to emerge in the language of comics, but Michael Tisserand's Krazy draws back the curtain on the one who's been with us all along. A true archeological dig through the details of George Herriman's Creole origins and the racial bigotry his family faced in Louisiana before reinventing themselves in California as white, Krazy reconnects the leads of the greatest comic strip ever to its tragic source, illuminating not only its poetic complexities, but also allowing it to burn as brightly as all of the great art of the twentieth century. Tisserand's irresistible, rollicking re-creation of the insane world of early newspapering, the unsettled West, and especially our unsettling country proves George Herriman's individual lyrical voice-an equal, I think, of Baldwin's, Ellison's, and Angelou's-was really asking the saddest single question of all: Why do they hate us so much?" -- Chris Ware "This is a gripping read at the intersection of pop culture and American history." -- Publisher's Weekly "Essential reading for comics fans and history buffs, Krazy is a roaring success, providing an indispensable new perspective on turn-of-the-century America." -- Kirkus (starred) "Tisserand presents a well-researched, engaging biography of George Herriman (1880-1944), creator of the comic strip Krazy Kat...At every step, this work brilliantly re-creates the milieu of its subject's life by shading in the historical context. A significant book for comics scholars and those interesterd in tracing Herriman's development from novice to master of the medium." -- Paul Steins, Library Journal "A fine new biography." -- Wall Street Journal "An absorbing study of a genius with a secret." -- New Orleans Times-Picayune "Rich in original research, New Orleans writer Tisserand's encyclopedia biography of Krazy Kat artist George Herriman is also an enlightening history of modern comics strips." -- Shelf Awareness



Author Biography: Michael Tisserand is the author of The Kingdom of Zydeco, which won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for music writing, and the Hurricane Katrina memoir Sugarcane Academy. He served as editor of Gambit Weekly, New Orleans' alternative newsweekly. He lives in New Orleans, Louisiana.


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Product Information

General Fields

  • : 9780061732997
  • : Harper
  • : Harper
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Michael Tisserand
  • : Hardback