When researching Herriman and Krazy Kat, it is inevitable that the subject of the strip’s popularity comes up. Then any researcher will learn that the strip was at one time extremely popular, but grew too esoteric for the comic strip reading audience, followed by the assertion that by then ‘it had won a place in the heart of one important fan, William Randolph Hearst, who declared that so long as Herriman wanted to work on the strip he would be paid for it.’1 This image of the powerful publisher protecting a small and unpopular strip is found in most, if not all accounts relating to Krazy Kat. Ben Schwartz goes even further, asserting that ‘[f]or decades Hearst had to personally back Herriman, giving him Sunday pages, double-page spreads, and full color printing despite calls from Hearst editors to cut the strip.’2 Indeed, Schwartz’ assertion is cited on the strip’s Wikipedia page, ensuring that even casual readers know this relationship between the publisher and the comic strip. With such empathic statements, there must come a degree of scrutiny, in three steps: Is it possible? Is it credible? And most importantly, is it verifiable?
- Heer, J 2001 Krazy Kat’s Colors. The Shadings of George Herriman’s Black-and-White World. Lingua Franca, 11 (6): 53–58. p. 55 [↩]
- Schwartz, B 2003 The Court Jester. Hearst, Herriman, and the Death of Nonsense. Krazy & Ignatz. 1929-1930 : a mice, a brick, a lovely night. Seattle, Wash, London: Fantagraphics. 8–10. p. 8 [↩]