Preview: The History of Bricks

Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse, and Offisa Pup, by George Herriman

George Herriman and his beloved characters.

My favorite comic strip characters are Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse, by George Herriman. Cat and mouse became fixtures in the everyday lives of Americans, as their antics played out in Hearst newspapers all over the country for four decades. Behind me, hangs one of the strips in a frame on the wall in our living room. It is a page from a 1916 issue of the Boston American and this strip is one of our utmost favorites. As well, several books of his strips are sitting on our bookshelves. Set in Monument Valley, Arizona, Herriman’s scenes have famous geographic features like The Mittens inked into the background and his pages are filled with icons of Southwest Indian art. Herriman, a Creole from New Orleans, lived in Los Angeles, but he loved this area in Arizona and often visited there. One of the main undercurrents in the strip is the relationship between Krazy and Ignatz. Krazy is dreamy, sweet-tempered, imaginative, and romantic. Many assume that Krazy Kat is female,

Antique bricks with manufacturers stamps.

but Krazy is actually androgynous. Ignatz, by virtue of his name, is male, and his character is that of a cunning little imp, scrappy, with a short fuse. Much of the plot revolves around Krazy’s love for Ignatz and the mouse plotting to hit Krazy with a brick. Offisa Pup is usually in the background, ready to haul Ignatz to an adobe-styled jail. When mouse does bean cat with said brick, the cat’s reaction is one of love, that bricks are “stuffed with moom-bins.” It’s best to not analyze the relationship too deeply, but to just enjoy the flow and banter, save noting that they play opposite roles, the cat is the prey of the mouse. If I’ve sparked your interest, here is an archives of Herriman’s work. The brick Ignatz hurls does reign paramount; however, and that leads me to my current blog topic, which I am still researching, “The History of the Brick.” I started wondering when the first brick was made and this led me to  Mesopotamians and the mud brick, still a primary building material in the Middle East, one that has been used for 10,000 years. The mud brick evolved to the modern version, which is, of course, fired. One of the things we’ll look at is stamps used by manufacturers. Ignatz used generic bricks, but stamped bricks tell an intriguing story of their own. (Ignatz, in defense of his actions, says, “It was not a brick, it was a DRAWING of a brick!”)

Herrimans tribute to Monument Valley, circa 1925.

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About Jan

I have a background in ceramics, graphic design and journalism.
This entry was posted in Articles and Interviews, Featured Artists, Fun and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Preview: The History of Bricks

  1. Pauline Doyle says:

    Oh Jan, this is so charming! Thank you so much for your blog. It is really wonderful. You help us all to grow. What a gift. Let’s do coffee soon! and not just a drawing of a coffee!

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