krazy kat as a fundamental source of screen theory

krazy and the horizon
origins of krazy kat
krazy kat and the 'sinthom'

In the late 1980s, Marco Frascari, the architecture critic and teacher, introduced to architecture audiences the art of George Herriman, the long-lived cartoonist famous for 'Krazy Kat', syndicated cartoon for the Hearst newspapers. A comprehensive study of Herriman had just been published by Patrick McDonell, Karen O'Connell, and Georgia Riley de Havenon (Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1986) — cover shown below, book in print. Vivid color reproductions of nearly fifty years of production revealed that Herriman was a witty genius whose 'symptomatic' animal characters created the perfect 'Möbius strip', no pun intended. Krazy Kat, of indeterminate gender and age, was, because of a 'racial memory' of a foiled love affair in ancient Egypt between a noble cat and a slave mouse, perpetually fascinated by her contemporary mouse, Ignatz. In Egypt, the dog-guards had punished the mouse for attempting to woo the sacred cat. The slave-mouse had written a love letter, wrapped it around a brick to make it possible to throw up to the pedestal where the cat reposed. Mistakenly, the brick hit the Kat on the head, but the effect was identical to a 'coup d'amour', and the Kat recognized at once this act of true love. The guard dogs seized the mouse, but Krazy forbade them to harm him.

In the present day of the strip, this racial memory permeates the trio, converting the natural order that places dog, cat, and mouse in a perfectly 'transitive' power relationship into an 'intransitive' order (the dog loves the Kat, who loves the mouse, who now hates the Kat) held in place by what Deleuze would call a 'demark' — a sign of something that has resisted or escaped the natural order. This is the brick, which the mouse Ignatz continually throws to hit the Kat's head. Thinking that he is revenging the ancestors who have been persecuted by cats throughout the ages, he is unconsciously repeating the original act of his ancestor's 'demarkian' love. The brick, when it hits its mark (or de-mark) has the correct effect, however. The Kat interprets the violent act as a token of the mouse's love. The dog, descendent of the guard-dogs of ancient Egypt, is now the sherrif of the generic south-western U.S. landscape. He is as incapable of understanding the subtlety of the mouse-Kat romance now as his ancesters were then, and the conclusion of many Krazy Kat comic strips was a frame showing an incarcerated mouse.


See also:

web postings by Elizabeth Crocker, University of Virginia:

"'To he, I am for Evva True'": Krazy Kat's Indeterminate Gender, Postmodern Culture 4, 2 (January 1994).

essay, 'Some Say It with a brick': George Herriman's Krazy Kat

Coconino County general reference