Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Before Lois & Clark there was Krazy Kat & Ignatz Mouse

It has been a while since I have written anything here but a recent post by a certain Christopher Sims, Esquire prompts me to crankily cry "J'ACCUSE!"

Specifically,  his article on Comics Alliance about The Best Romances in Comic Books in which Sims writes,
As much as Superman is the template for the modern super-hero, his relationship with Lois Lane is also the foundation of super-heroic romance.
This is true as far as it goes. My difficulty with it is that Sims is not going deep enough. There is a very real argument to be made here that the foundation of comic book romance is George Herriman's love triangle of Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse and Offissa Bull Pupp. 
The original comic book engine of comedy pursuit and romance
George Harriman's genius was to create a perpetual motion machine of comedy, destruction, romance and pursuit.

Ignatz Mouse throws a brick at Krazy Kat. Kat interprets this as a gesture of physical affection. Ignatz Mouse swears that (s)he feels nothing but contempt for Krazy Kat, hence the brick, but Kat argues that Ignatz's inability not to throw a brick is proof of the mouse's devotion. (And this is a compelling albeit circular argument.) Offisa Bull Pupp is in turn genuinely devoted to Krazy Kat, but the cat ignores the dog's signs of affection. Pupp, not discouraged by Kat's refusal to return his (her?) affections, chases Ignatz Mouse for his (her?) physical cruelty to Kat and frequently jails the mouse.

This cycle of violence and romance and pursuit can be traced as the foundation for:

Tom & Jerry - Love is the Chase
Which in turn leads to:
Itchy & Scratchy - S&M without safe words
And arguably:
Spy vs. Spy - You always hurt the one you love
And the same dynamic is at work in the relationship of TV's first gay couple:

If Ernie = Ignatz Mouse and Bert = Krazy Kat does that mean Rubber Duckie = Offisa Bull Pupp?
Turning back to comic books, the Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse & Offisa Bull Pupp dynamic is most evident here:
Archie = Krazy Kat, Veronica = Ignatz Mouse, Betty = Offisa Bull Pup
 Or the Marvel Comics version of that love triangle:
Peter Parker as Krazy Kat explains a lot actually.

There is an argument that for Batman, the love triangle is Bruce, Batman and whatever woman happens to wander into Bruce's life. And for Superman, the love triangle is Clark, Superman and Lois Lane.

The most surprising thing about Chris Sims' failure to cite Krazy Kat as the source for romantic love in comic books is that his article is filled with examples of relationships built on foundations of romantic cruelty.

Heck, besides being the Interwebs most prominent Batmanologist, Sims is also it's leading expert on the romantic mishaps of one James Bartholomew Olsen frequently trapped in love's chains by a woman (Lucy Lane) who makes Ignatz Mouse look like well... certainly someone much nicer.

See for yourself!

No comments:

Post a Comment