Anyone who has ever read George Herriman’s comic strip Krazy Kat knows its principle scenario: Offisa Pupp loves Krazy Kat who loves Ignatz Mouse who throws bricks at Krazy who sees them as tokens of love, though not Offisa Pupp who throws Ignatz in jail for throwing them. It’s a mad dance that defines each of the characters. Ignatz is obsessed with throwing bricks at Krazy, upset when he is thwarted; Krazy seems melancholy and distracted if a day should pass without a brick; and Pupp sinks into paranoia if he doesn’t actually catch Ignatz committing his crime, certain that the mouse is merely hiding his malfeasance (which, to Pupp’s credit, he usually is).
Without one of its components, this circuit of illicit desire would short, losing its erotic charge, as is made clear in an onanistic strip from May 5, 1940. At its beginning, Krazy awakens beneath a tree, the sun just peeping over the horizon, and declares in her own inimitable fashion, “Comes the ‘darn’—an’ none around to claim the day the stork of time has brung—but me.” If the “darn” is the dawn, it is also a mild oath cursing the stork’s gift, the fruit of love that purports to elide love’s act, a mundane immaculate conception.
So here Krazy is being forced to face a new day in solitude. Rather than reject the day, though, she owns it, playing out a solo version of the act that is being denied her. Espying a brick handily lying nearby, she declares, “My ‘darn.’” As opposed to the dawn that arrives at the beginning of the strip, this is a personal dawn, the arousal of desire, her “darn,” not a curse this time but a mending of the hole her love’s absence creates.
In the clear light of her desire’s morning, Krazy takes up her role as object of love and target of brick, throwing the missile against the border of the comics panel, which has a tangible presence at this point because, after all, Krazy appears, as do all others in her ménage à trois, on the stage delimited by the comics panel. It is within that frame of consciousness that their dance is danced, and so it is against that frame that her fantasies must push. The brick ricochets in the shape of a triangle, naturally, figuring the shape of Krazy’s desire, zipping toward Krazy’s head. At the climax of the act, the brick—Pow!—hits Krazy. She falls to the ground, proclaiming, “My ‘noom,”—noon, that is, a time of day representing another kind of climax, Krazy’s pronunciation intimating that what she experiences in the heat of fulfilling her amorous desires is the opposite of the more genteel sensations evoked by the “moon,” the Coconino moon, that hangs like a thick petal in the night sky, under which Krazy can often be found crooning, banjo in hand.
The ecstatic power of her desire’s consummation is expressed in her utterance, “My ‘twi-like,’” a phrase that suggests not only twilight, the period between light and dark that eventually follows the intensity of noon, but a state between “like” and “dislike” that one can imagine Krazy reaches after the the brick hits her head. It points toward a pain awash in pleasure, a pleasure made sharper through pain. But its unruliness is brought to an end as dusk arrives, and Krazy hauls herself off to jail. Krazy’s inflection of dusk, “Dukks,” jumbling the letters of what now descends upon her as if denying it by doing so, while hinting at how, in the eyes of the law, her desire is foul, as is the law from the perspective of her desire.
Still, the law is necessary to whet the sharpness of the trio’s ecstasy—the fouler it is, the more unruly, the more desired, as we see when Krazy, ensconced in a jail cell, is deep in post-coital slumber and beneath her, not knowing where Krazy is, a distraught Ignatz rushes onto the scene, brick in hand, benighted as his forbidden act is denied him, his larger word balloon suggesting he is crying out, not whimpering, “My Night,” a diminutive Stanley Kowalski. The jail looms large in the panel, reminding us of the law’s role in this peculiar love triangle. The relationship of the three characters affirms the truism that forbidden fruit tastes best.
In a culture fueled by the elicitation of desire—sex, drugs, food, money—that then must be policed because of the addictions that often arise along with them, it is a truism that should be heeded. Depriving oneself of what one desires leaves the object of desire intact, promising, even if admittedly not always delivering, its return with undiminished, and often increased, power. In fact, the coda of the strip emphasizes this point as Krazy looks at an apple, that fruit of forbidden knowledge, hanging low, ripe, tempting, Krazy clearly drawn to it while brought up short by the sight of an army of worms waiting for the apple to come closer to the ground, revealing the canker eating at the heart of what one wants so badly but cannot have, enticing one, repelling one, and repelling in the enticement of repelling.