This is my personal tip of the hat to George Herriman (he always wore a hat, possibly to deflect racist invective). He was the creator of Krazy Kat, a newspaper strip that ran roughly for 31 years from 1913 to 1944. I say roughly, because two of the main characters ran in other strips before 1913. My first encounter with Krazy Kat was when I perused the first edition of The Penguin Book of Comics and I loved it immediately. The world the characters inhabited and the language they used was completely different from any other cartoon I had seen. The writing was often purely phonetic which often meant that the strip needed to be interpreted inside the reader's head. For some reason, this deeply appealed to me.
The characters in my cartoon are, from left to right, Officer Pupp, Ignatz Mouse, Krazy Kat and Bix Beiderbecke. I shall explain all presently.
The three Herriman figures are NOT cut and pasted from any digital source. They were painstakingly copied using eye/hand co-ordination from a printed source. There were times when I had to use a magnifying glass, that's how dedicated I can be. The source poses for Officer Pupp and Ignatz came from the daily strip published on 18th November 1939. Krazy's came from 15th November 1939. Originally all three characters were wearing tutus, but I decided not to draw those. I wanted to draw them as they usually appear.
The title of this piece is Krazy Kat (Tone Poem in Slow Rhythm) which is also the title of a piece of jazz by Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra. If you click on the link you will notice that Bix Beiderbecke plays a nifty bit of cornet in the proceedings, hence his inclusion in my drawing. But, that's not the only reason for his inclusion.My step-father was a good man, but there wasn't much common ground between us. He was an Islington boy and a firm follower of Arsenal. I never had a strong interest in football. He didn't read a great deal of fiction, whereas I fervently devoured it. I loved comics and cartooning, whereas he was completely indifferent to them.
In the late seventies there was a programme on telly called Jazz 625. This sparked a mild interest in me and dad and I used to watch it together. Then, a few years later there was a documentary series about the history of jazz that really opened my eyes (and ears). A couple of years before he died, dad took me to see Chris Barber and his band at the Gordon Craig theatre in Stevenage. As Chris Barber was a Welwyn lad, you could almost say he was playing on home turf. The evening's programme of music was a mix of different jazz styles (Dad liked it trad.), but part of the evening was devoted to Blues played by John Slaughter. This was dad's first real introduction to the Blues and he said he enjoyed it. Where am I going with this?
After dad died and my mother went into a nursing home, it was left to us, the children, to clear out and sell our parent's house. Mum hated jazz which meant dad had to listen to his music through headphones. Over the years he had collected a number of jazz CDs and I hated the thought of throwing them out or selling them on, so I bagsied them.
I have to add here that there was a series on telly starring James Bolam called The Beiderbecke Affair. I hadn't a clue who Bix Beiderbecke was, but dad was very insistent about watching it, so watch it we did. One of the CDs dad left behind was in the Naxos Jazz Legends series. It was Bix Beiderbecke Riverboat Shuffle: original 1924-1929 Recordings. Track six is, guess what? All this time dad had been harbouring a love for a cartoon character he knew next to nothing about and pretty much passed it on to me. Life can sound some very odd echoes from time to time.
I didn't get any points whatsoever in this week's Caption Competition. Am I down-hearted? |Do I want to slash my wrists? Not a bit of it. I really, really really enjoyed drawing this cartoon and it made me laugh inside. I had to draw it incredibly quickly, because I only had a half hour window; although I had made some prepatory pencils the night before.
From the very start I wanted to keep things as loose and spontaneous as possible. To this end I only wanted the gist of the two main characters. I wasn't going to do a detailed, closely studied caricature of Edward Woodward or Christopher Lee, just a vague approximation and, to my eye, it pretty well came off. I also played around a bit with brush sizes which was pretty daring for me, considering the time constraint and how very quickly it could have gone horribly wrong.
So, on the whole, I'm very pleased with this effort. It is by no means the best cartoon I have ever drawn, but the lightness of touch is most definitely the general direction I want to follow.
For the uninitiated I ought to explain that this is my riff on The Wicker Man. The thought of Lord Summerisle whistling nonchalantly to Howie's question still amuses me. It never happened in the film, but it is essentially what the film is about.