American cartoonist (1880-1944). He was born in New Orleans, but his family moved to Los Angeles when he was just 10 years old. His family was Creole and faced segregation and discrimination in the South. George, however, was very light-skinned and had no trouble passing as white, as long as he wore a hat to cover his kinky black hair. George worked a number of odd jobs as a youth, including barber, house painter, baker, dairy farmer, and sideshow barker.

Herriman married Mabel Lillian Bridge in 1902, and the family had two daughters -- Mabel in 1903 and Barbara in 1909. Not long after the introduction of the first comic strips, Herriman started selling sketches to the Los Angeles Herald. He drew sports and political cartoons and contributed illustrations to the New York News, Life Magazine, and Judge. He graduated to comic strips by the middle of the first decade of the 20th century while working for the New York World -- he drew a ton of strips including titles like "Musical Moose," "Professor Otto and his Auto," "Acrobatic Archie," "Lariat Pete," "Major Ozone's Fresh Air Crusade," "Handy Andy," "Rosy-Posy Mama's Girl," "Baron Mooch," "Butch Smith, the Boy who Does Stunts," "Now Listen, Mabel," and many others.

One of his best known strips was "The Dingbat Family," which was later renamed as "The Family Upstairs." He started drawing a sideshow strip below the main strip that featured a cat and mouse. The sideshow strip eventually developed into "Krazy Kat."

At some point in his early adulthood, Herriman visited the Southwest and developed a deep love for Arizona, particularly Monument Valley and Coconino County. He visited the area almost every year and transplanted the arid desert landscape into "Krazy Kat." The strip followed the denizens of Coconino County, particularly a black cat named Krazy, a white mouse named Ignatz, and a police dog named Officer Pupp. Ignatz hated Krazy and threw bricks at her, but Krazy loved Ignatz and interpreted every brick as an expression of affection. Officer Pupp loved Krazy and spent his time throwing Ignatz in jail. All of this took place in a surreal and ever-changing desert. The strip was moderately popular, but is now considered one of the very best comic strips ever created. Its quirky artwork is enhanced by the surreal landscape, and the humor, poetic dialogue, and characterization of the strip are timeless. However, it lost popularity as time went by, because many readers felt they couldn't understand it. Luckily, Herriman had important people in his corner, including poet E.E. Cummings, critic Gilbert Seldes, author Don Marquis (Herriman illustrated the first collection of "archy and mehitabel"), and most importantly, publisher William Randolph Hearst.

Herriman's wife died in a car accident in 1934, and his daughter Barbara died in 1939. After that, he lived alone in L.A. -- well, alone except for his nine cats and five dogs. Though he was considered a loner, he loved playing poker and gave generously to charities.

As time passed, newspapers started dropping his once-popular strips, and he developed arthritis, which caused a decline in his ability to draw. He died in his sleep in 1944, and his ashes were scattered in Monument Valley. The last of Herriman's strips was published two months after his death -- though newspapers normally decreed that a new cartoonist be brought in to continue strips whose artists had died or quit, Hearst decided that no one would be able to replace Herriman, and the strip was retired.


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