October 16, 2019
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite comic books, comic strips, and graphic novels.
The Krazy Kat that found me — that grabbed me, that knocked me insensible, and made me its possession, the lil angil — was a mere five strips in a history of comics by Jerry Robinson which my mother brought home when I was eight. In 1974.
I read these strips to distraction long before I read the text of the book, which as I think on it, I may never have read. And long before I read any of the other strips in the collection. Krazy Kat (serialized 1914–1944) spoke my language.
Literally, the text was the fractured Span/Yinglish and Franglais/Hays office slang that was becoming my own secret tongue. But, deeper still, its ever-changing landscapes: mad desert plants and hoosegows and mesas like the Chrysler building; clashing crosshatches and skewed lines spoke to directly to the perceptual terrors of my childhood.
In life, plainly, there are eternal verities, and there is constant flux; but which is which? These lines were skewed for me, child of chaos in the heart of the shabby bohème. They didn’t seem to match up right with the experience of any of the other people. They matched with Krazy’s crowquill lines, though.
In George Herriman’s world, Coconino County, only three things are certain. A mouse (Ignatz) seeks, obsessively, to brain a cat (Krazy) with a brick. A sentimental police dog (Offisa Pup) finds this improper. And a cat who will conform to no particular identity, perceives the bricks as love. This made sense to me as a set of verities. Nothing is certain except three things which make no sense.
No single artwork has ever spoken to me in quite the same way; spoken directly to the orthogonal perception in which I stewed. The ground itself changes crosshatching as you walk. But glom ye to these three absurd facts, and they will see you through: A mouse, a dog, and cat, pursuing their nonsensical agenda at rather than with each other, aeterne.
Before last week, I had never read a word of Krazy Kat kultural kriticism, and had no idea that to a one, the experts describe Ignatz’s feeling for Krazy — the hurling of the brick — as a repeated act of loathing. I can’t even imagine what it feels like to perceive the brick this way. They all say it. It must be so. And yet. The brick is love, lil angil. And I will stake my orthogonally crosshatched view of this against all the world. Because it was forged in the krucible of Krazy Kat.
SERIOCOMIC: Mimi Lipson on LITTLE LULU | Sara Ryan on AMPHIGOREY | Gary Panter on THE NUT BROS./THE SQUIRREL CAGE | Gordon Dahlquist on POGO | Robert Wringham on VIZ | Matthew De Abaitua on CAPTAIN BRITAIN | Jessamyn West on FUN HOME | Bradley Peterson on HELLBOY | Stephanie Burt on KITTY PRYDE RETURNS | Jenny Davidson on OOR WULLIE | Luc Sante on MARSUPILAMI | Susan Roe on BLOOM COUNTY | Marilyn Berlin Snell on CHARLES ADDAMS | Deb Chachra on ARKHAM ASYLUM | Judith Zissman on ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | Alexandra Lange on BETTY (ARCHIE) | Catherine Newman on VERONICA (ARCHIE) | Josh Glenn on SPIRE CHRISTIAN COMICS | Adam McGovern on THE CREW | William Nericcio on ERRATA STIGMATA | Chelsey Johnson on DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR | Sherri Wasserman on TANK GIRL | Tom Nealon on MEGATON MAN | Erin M. Routson on THE WEDDING OF SCOTT SUMMERS & JEAN GREY | Douglas Wolk on FRANK IN THE RIVER | Annie Nocenti on DICK TRACY | James Parker on 2000 AD | Adrienne Crew on NUTS | Vanessa Berry on MEAT CAKE | John Holbo on WITZEND | Michael Campochiaro on SPIDER-WOMAN | Miranda Mellis on RED SONJA & BÊLIT | Michael Grasso on THE NEW MUTANTS | Ty Burr on BINKY BROWN | Bishakh Som on AMAR CHITRA KATHA | Mark Kingwell on CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED | Brian Berger on JIMBO | Kenya (Robinson) on AGENT 355 | Seth on THE ETERNALS ANNUAL | Susannah Breslin on SLASHER | Lisa Kahlden on JACK CHICK TRACTS | Mandy Keifetz on KRAZY KAT | Tom Devlin on DUM-DUM POSSE READER | Eric Reynolds on ACTION COMICS #460 | Rick Pinchera on EIGHTBALL #16 | Juan Recondo on DAYTRIPPER | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on ROZ CHAST | J.E. Anckorn on HALO JONES | Deborah Wassertzug on GREAT POP THINGS | Peggy Nelson on MAD MOVIE SATIRES | Holly Interlandi on ANGEL SANCTUARY | Karen Green on THE SMITHSONIAN COLLECTION OF NEWSPAPER COMICS.
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