Library of American Comics (LOAC) has completed their three-volume series of Geo Harriman’s Baron Bean comic strip from the early 1900s. Harriman is better known for the Krazy Kat comic strip, but Baron Bean is also a great early American comic strip. LOAC has multiple series ongoing, but their Essentials series is different than the rest. The books are smaller, only one strip per page, and cover an entire year of comics. While each volume focuses on a single comic strip, the series skips from one comic strip to another. Other comic strips include Charlie Chan, Krazy Kat, and Tarzan.
Baron Bean is similar to Krazy Kat in that he approaches a lot of the humor from a side angle. No easy visual laughs, but situational humor and making fun of society at the time. Baron Bean may have been heavily influenced by Charlie Chaplin and potentially the highly popular Mutt & Jeff comic strip. But Harriman is his own man, and if Baron Bean was influenced by those sources, he made Bean his own creation.
Baron Bean may not be famous, but for comic fans, particularly Harriman fans, it should be part of their library. These early comic strips provided the foundation of what was built on top of them. Harriman is an essential part of American comics, and many of modern great comic artists look back to him as inspiration. Bill Waterson, the creator of Calvin & Hobbes, said that Krazy Kat “made me more attentive to the use of language, timing, and space—the ‘poetry’ of it all. Krazy Kat is a loving exploration of comic strip form, and the deeper I got into my own work, the more I found in Krazy Kat to inspire me.” Baron Bean was Harriman’s human version of Krazy Kat. Come explore and enjoy it.