Monument Valley is a real place. It straddles the borderlands between Utah and Arizona in the American Southwest. I spent summers working for an archaeological project on the nearby Navajo Reservation during the 1980s. On weekends, a few other misfits would pile into a pickup truck and explore the hidden canyons and mesas. Ancient Anasazi potsherds mixed with broken beer bottle shards littered the sandy shoulders of the highways. I remember nearby place names: Kayenta, Tuba City, Tsegi, Shonto, Moenkopi, Navajo Mountain, and the Hopi Mesas: Walpi, the old village at the very end of First Mesa.
There were trips to the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Bandolier, Betatakin and Chaco Canyon. By Sunday evening we'd be back up on Black Mesa ready for another week of archaeological field work. I helped run a survey crew way out in the hinterlands of the mesa. I analyzed pottery and stone tools and tin cans. I photographed artifacts and excavations. I drew maps of stone dwellings, middens and haunted hogans.
All this was brought back to mind a few days ago as I finished reading Michael Tisserand's detailed biography of George Herriman, the creator of "Krazy Kat": "Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White." Here's a review from the NY Times.
Herriman and Krazy found their true selves in Monument Valley. The stark and surreal landscape of the desert was revealed as another character in the timeless and unpredictable dramas between Krazy, Ignatz Mouse, Offisa Pup and the wider cast of the comic. There is so much to say. Herriman is one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.