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(LAl (LAllltX )NS‘S ANl) COMICS OUIMBY THE MOUSE Chris Ware (Fantagraphics) COO.
KRAZY & IGNATZ: VOLUME III 1929-30 George Herriman (Fantagraphics) 0.0
THE CAT ON A HOT THIN GROOVE Gene Deitch (Fantagraphics) COCO
hen it comes to cartoon and comic strip characters, w cats and mice have historically been best used and
abused by animators and artists. Think of Tom and Jerry’s horrendously violent slapstick antics: no blade too sharp, no fire too hot, no falling piano too heavy. And cats and mice are still going strong — think, too of vicious Itchy and Scratchy from The Simpsons.
Chris Ware, creator of the Guardian First Book Award- winning graphic novel, Jimmy Corrigan, brings his own brand of sardonic nostalgia to bear on rodent and feline with Ouimby the Mouse, a collection of strips also featuring Sparky the Cat. With his matchstick body and peanut-shaped head, Ouimby looks like an early rendition of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse. But Ware’s little fella is a mean sonofabitch. Unlike the eternally optimistic Mickey, Ouimby is bitterly cynical: ‘She farted on me once, she rubbed my face in it, lousy bitch,’ he thinks to himself.
Sparky, meanwhile, is merely a depressed and disembodied head. emotionally and physically abused by Ouimby.
Ware‘s new book, a beautifully designed large format hardback, collects all the Ouimby strips (originally published in the University of Texas student paper and later reprinted in Ware‘s occasional comic, The ACME Novelty Library), plus a few new ones. As with Ware's other books. Ouimby the Mouse is packed with convoluted strips, nonsense text and parodies of adverts, all of which makes for a read so dense as to defy clarity while severely testing the reader's patience (an ongoing Ware joke).
In his introduction to the book, Ware helpfully points out he produced the Ouimby strips while visiting his grandmother who was dying. But if family was an inspiration for Ware, so too was George Herriman, whose strip Krazy Kat first appeared in newspaper funnies in 1912, commissioned by no less a luminary than magnate William Randolph Hearst.
Herriman’s strips, currently being reprinted in book form as Krazy & Igntaz lovingly repackaged by Ware), weren‘t always popular with the public. Though admired (in certain circles) for its violent depiction of the slapstick antics of Krazy the philanthropic puss and lgnatz the misanthrope mouse (and Officer Pupp, the mediating canine cop). The strip’s irony often baffled and bewildered an unprepared public. Many of the strips revolve around lgnatz throwing a brick at Krazy's head, and in retrospect the violence seems to have 3
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frustratingly oblique meaning. Does it stand for society's ills or is it a representation of suppressed love? Who cares - me | just love da violence.
Finally, from Krazy Cat to cool cat, sort of. The Cat on a Hot Thin Groove, another handsomely-produced coffee table book (this in landscape format), collects the highly stylised artwork of Gene Deitch. He went on to become an Oscar-winning animator, produced a series of cartoons (titled The Cat) between 1945—51, and covers for the scholarly jazz magazine The Record Changer. The Cat, a chin-stroking muso, was, in fact, based on Deitch himself, who was a jazz fanatic. Nice. (Miles Fielder) I All tit/0:; (m2 (“xvi/(ink) for from [tar/(irrmvd Distribution in":
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‘She farted on me once,she rubbed my face in it, lousy bitch’