As I’ve mentioned previously, my favorite cartoonist of all time is George Herriman, best known for the wonderful comic strip Krazy Kat (which thankfully been the subject of a lot of wonderful reprint books).
I was excited recently to purchase an old Sunday comic strip that includes what could be an early example of the Kat. It wouldn’t be the earliest proto-Kat… according to The Komplete Kat Komics Volume 1, that would be in Herriman’s 1903 strip Lariat Pete.
It’s an early (1906) strip from a largely forgotten Herriman series called Rosy Posy, a comic strip about a precocious little girl in the Buster Brown mold. This example of it includes a proto-Kat, red bow and all, who even has something to say in the last panel. You can view the entire strip by clicking the link… note that if racial caricatures offend you, you may not want to view it, as it includes a very stereotypical depiction of a black servant circa 1906.
That all said, this strip isn’t signed (or the signature has crumbled off), and although Rosy Posy is a Herriman strip according to the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art collection, I really don’t think he drew this one. It doesn’t look at all like his style to me… it is much stiffer than the other Herriman strips I’ve seen from that period, and the characters look different than in the other examples I’ve seen. Heck, Rosy’s a brunette here, and a blonde in the other examples.
There is a Rosy Posy reference image in the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art collection that can be viewed here. You can see another 3 panel example of Rosy Posy (complete with another Kat example) on the Coconino County strip gallery here… however that example was also reprinted in The Komplete Kat Komics Volume 1, and this version is missing the last 3 panels.
There were a couple other strips of interest I purchased at the same time as the above. Here is a strip called Mrs. Timekiller by L.A. Searl. Note that there is a familiar Kat in the first panel of this strip as well!
Finally, (on the back of Mrs. Timekiller) here’s a delightful Thanksgiving-themed strip called Pinkie Prim Entertains ‘the Funny Folk,’ which, although not drawn by Herriman, contains three of his characters, Rosy Posy (again, a brunette), Major Ozone and Bud Smith. Also included in the festivities are Mooney Miggles, Uncle Ned (another tasteless racial depiction, so avoid viewing this if this sort of thing offends you), and of course, Pinkie Prim. This strip is drawn by the unfortunately-named Dick Wood.