George Herriman and the Southwest


A piece that George Herriman drew for his friends the Wetherills with that incredible Southwestern background.

I’m enjoying the George Herriman biography. It’s draggy in parts but quite good. He had an interesting life and was right at the height of cartooning when newspapers were basically the only source of news and read by everyone daily. He was a humble man and a rich one. He made a lot of money producing Krazy Kat.

I enjoy the parts where he visits Arizona, which is often. That landscape became such a big part of the Krazy Kat comic strip as he played with the vistas and the light in each comic. He loved it there, even though he lived in New York and Los Angeles for most of his life. He was born in New Orleans.


George Herriman

There was a couple near Flagstaff, Arizona, the Wetherills, John and Louisa, who hosted George and friends in the real Coconino County. They sort of ran a guest house, something like that. George enjoyed visiting them and spending long dinners at a long table at their house with fellow cartoonists who traveled with him including Rudolph Dirks, originator of the Katzenjammer Kids, and cartoonist and artist Jimmy Swinnerton, who moved to Arizona with his wife in 1906 for health reasons.

George Herriman would do a few Krazy Kat comics and submit them and then take the train to Arizona. He would also draw there between day trips around Arizona with the others and mail in the strips to King Features Syndicate. He visited New Mexico and Utah, too.

I like so much of his lifestyle. I enjoy the aspect of traveling and cartooning along the way, that’s one reason I gave up my Wacom Cintiq for a Surface Pro, so that I could draw on my travels.

Oddly enough, I’ve always been drawn to the Southwest even though I have never been. I like the idea of being in Arizona and New Mexico and when I was a child I used to pretend that my bedroom was a trailer out in the desert somewhere. I don’t know why, but that always intrigued me. I used to like the tv show “Alice” because it took place in Phoenix and I got hooked on “Breaking Bad” right away when I saw the trailer out in the desert for the first time. Did I live there in another life? Who knows, but I like that I have that in common with George Herriman.

One thought on “George Herriman and the Southwest

  1. Interesting read, especially your point on the widespread readership of the newspapers. In some ways, things were a little easier when we all lived in the same reality I think. It made disagreements more manageable. As for the Surface, I draw on one for the same reason. 🙂 I love being able to work directly with the medium instead of the disconnect I felt with a Wacom. I just hate keeping track of my stylus.


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