Diagrams with Friends

For this final entry, I want to say a bit more on the important role re/linkage plays in Deleuze’s work. It’s a fascinating process, and, like the wave that passes through the body without organs, it manifests throughout the whole range of texts that we have encountered in this course. It is as though, for Deleuze, the force of thought is precisely the capacity to link, and to chart these links is the matter of philosophy. It is important to keep in mind, however, that to link is never to merely indicate a pre-existing connection between forms or functions; rather, the process of linking produces a transformation on both ends, a reciprocal difference not only between each node in their spatial relations (were we to visualize it), but between each node and itself in time, before and after being linked. This is why, for instance, diagrammatic relations are relations of force, where force is not merely the exertion of influence from one body on another, but a radically polyvectorial dispersal of influence across both bodies (and others besides them). This is what Deleuze means when he writes that the diagram “makes history by unmaking preceding realities and significations, constituting hundreds of points of emergence or creativity, unexpected conjunctions or improbable continuums” (F 35). To understand force in this way provokes a powerful challenge to ideas of hierarchy and causality; making becomes inseparable from unmaking. Why, then, do we continue to pursue these explanations as sufficient, and how can this knowledge transform the way we live?

Following the historical diagram of Foucault, we might say that hierarchy and causality assert conceptual dominance at the stratigraphic level, the level of “bands of visibility and fields of readability.” As the abstract machine that is the diagram passes through each stratum, its polyvectorial force is distributed in different ways according to the available forms, just as the uniform light of the sun enables different shadows to be produced based on the structures it encounters. At the same time, it’s only through light’s encounter with an object that we recognize it as such (even if that object is only our eyes). In these particular distributions of force, certain organizations are produced while others are unrealized—certain vectors of force are ‘caught’ while others, no less active, remain informal.

As I write this, I’m aware of the risk that we discussed in Monday’s session, of drawing a too-simple parallel between the macro-level diagrams of Foucault and the micro-diagrams Deleuze writes of in the Logic of Sensation. Chalk it up, I suppose, to the desire to map and link that Deleuze catalyzes in his readers. Looking over what I’ve written above, it’s clear that I’ve unintentionally echoed a series of metaphors that Deleuze himself invokes in his writings on Bacon: light, waves, the eye, and so on. I want, perhaps mistakenly, to see a correspondence between the work of painting and Foucault’s archeology; after all, both are concerned, in Deleuze’s reading, with the effect of forces upon the body. Indeed, Deleuze represents the diagram of painting as a tremendous scaling-down from the macro to the micro: “it is as if a Sahara,” he writes, “were suddenly inserted into the head,” as if “the unit of measure were changed, and micrometric, or even cosmic, units were substituted for the figurative unit” (LS 100). Like the abstract machine, the diagram of the painting operates as “asignifying and nonrepresentative” “possibilities of fact” (ibid.). The diagram as pure informal relations of force or as latent possibility of fact; in both cases, they exist in a virtual state, unrepresentable until they collide with bodies and matter. Even then, they seem to be unknowable as themselves, as discrete units of force, and it is only through a nonpersonal relinkage on the order of the percept, affect, and concept that their relations can be rendered legible.

Affects and percepts are the names given to virtual linkages, patterns of relationality in time that can be grasped only in the way they organize the material world. These organizations of landscapes and bodies are what Deleuze calls sensation. “Force is closely related to sensation,” Deleuze writes. “For a sensation to exist, a force must be exerted on a body, on a point of the wave. But if force is a condition of sensation, it is nonetheless not the force that is sensed, since the sensation ‘gives’ something completely different from the forces that condition it” (LS 56). This difference, of course, is a difference in time, a change—as I’ve said—of both the composing figure and the Figure composed. This is what Deleuze means, I believe, by “becoming other” (WiP 177).  Further, this is what makes painting (and, in different ways, literature and cinema), so significant to Deleuze: it is a monument to becoming-other. It is the only way that a relinkage can be rendered visible, “time itself being painted” (LS 48). Significantly, this is not done through representation, but rather by mobilizing an array of irreducible codes that each react differently to force, like “the faces of a dice of sensation” (WiP 187). To sense the forces that act upon the body, and to recognize these actions in time, seems to offer the capacity to act, and to perhaps be otherwise. “It is within visibility that the body actively struggles, affirming the possibility of triumphing, which was beyond its reach as long as these powers remained invisible,” Deleuze writes (LS 62). The forces themselves, the links, are invisible, but in the act of relinkage through art, we draw new vectors of force, new ways to move and be within the world.

To end on a somewhat cheesy note, I’d like to return to one of our first readings, where Deleuze asks a series of questions that have stayed with me throughout the course:

“However one sees it, we’re on the plane of immanence; but should we go around erecting vertical axes and trying to stand up straight or, rather, stretch out, run out along the horizon, keep pushing the plane further out? And what sort of verticality do we want, one that gives us something to contemplate or one that makes us reflect or communicate? Or should we just get rid of all verticality as transcendent and lie down hugging the earth, without looking, without reflecting, cut off from communication? And then, have we got a friend with us, or are we all alone, Me = Me, or are we lovers, or something else again, and what are the risks of betraying oneself, being betrayed, or betraying someone else? Doesn’t there come a time to distrust even one’s friend? How should we understand the philos in philosophy?”

When I first read this passage, I found it, frankly, disturbing and unanswerable. It reaches something like the uncomfortable core of post-structural anti-humanism: in the absence of the monadic individual, what are we, what are we to one another, and what ought we to do about it? As I wrote in my first journal entry:

“Deleuze says, ‘it’s multiplicities that fill the field of immanence, rather as tribes fill the desert without it ceasing to be a desert’ (Negotiations 146), but are these to be nomadic tribes, constantly scrounging for a meager subsistence, always on the move and without any permanent shelter, any way to organize their own existence? If so, it’s a bleak proposition, though perhaps this fear and disorientation I feel at such an idea says more about my own image of thought than it does about Deleuze’s.”

Change is constant, but consistency allows for deep communal attachments, and offers the hope of protection from the eternal throw of the dice. The image of a person stretched out against a desert landscape, all concept of the self forgotten, is still a frightening thought. Now, however, I think it’s possible to see the work of philosophy not as the dissolution of bonds, but as a steadfast dedication to them. Friendship, after all, is a bond—a link—and Deleuze’s work is profoundly concerned with building links over and across even ‘irrational cuts.’ It is important to keep in mind however, that such links are never simply progressive or sequential, but always transformative. To identify as a friend is to always stand in a differential relation to the self: n-1 instead of Me=Me. Accordingly, the relation itself changes, a kind of productive feedback loop of mutation. With each mutation, however, the friend reaches out again, though the one I reach out to will not be the same, and the pathways travelled will be radically different—new risks, new loves, new betrayals. This is, I think, the philos of philosophy.

Of Hooks and Unhookings

Throughout much of the time we have spent reading about the time image, its workings have appeared as a particular kind of break—to the sensory-motor schema, to the relation between the image and the Whole, and to the re/presentation of time, to name a few of the points of impact. What has been difficult, at times, to imagine, is what may come of such a break. There have been moments when it seems that, were it not for Deleuze’s assertion of the presence of pure time, there would be nothing at all in the fold of the time image, that it would be pure absence or aporia. Of course, one bears in mind the constant unthought of the virtual, the unceasing multiplication of becomings and mutations, but to phrase it rather pedantically: so what? What impact does this have on the way we, Deleuze’s readers, move through the world? If I’ve asked a non-philosophical question here, it’s only because I was emboldened by the fact that Deleuze, in the later chapters of Cinema 2, in Foucault, and in A Thousand Plateaus, gives his readers something of an answer as to what the ethical stakes of such a shift are. Of the many political and ethical implications Deleuze lays out, it is worth mentioning at least a few: the speech act that refuses a distinction between public and private, addressing a people who are missing and are thus yet to come; the interstice as the site of radical potential for thought in excess of a particular diagram of power; and the rhizome as the shape and action of such thought, as an act of cartography. In this blog, I hope to address as many of these as possible.

Each of the above elements of Deleuze’s thought depends particularly on the operation of relinkage, the perilous passage between incommensurable, irrational cuts or interstices. This is true of the cinematic time image most explicitly: there is, Deleuze writes, “no longer association through metaphor or metonymy, but relinkage on the literal image; there is no longer linkage of associated images, but only relinkages of independent images” (C2 214). It is also true of the relation between forms and forces, the visible and the articulable: “the problem is that of the coadaptation of the two forms or two sorts of conditions, which differ in nature […] determinable visibilities and determining statements” that are, in the end, irreducible to one another, and thus disjunctive (F 52). Finally, it is true of the rhizome in the oscillation between territorialization and deterritorialization: “there is neither imitation nor resemblance, only an exploding of two heterogeneous series on the line of flight composed by a common rhizome that can no longer be attributed to or subjugated by anything signifying” (ATP 10). Indeed, we can see echoes of this concern throughout Deleuze’s work, back to “Proust and Signs” and Difference and Repetition, where the act of relinking reveals the terminal point of each faculty, the farthest extension of its ability and the domain that is unique to it: “between sensibility and imagination, between imagination and memory, between memory and thought – when each disjointed faculty communicates to another the violence which carries it to its own limit, every time it is a free form of difference which awakens the faculty, and awakens it as the different within that difference” (D&R 145). To summarize, it is the mode of connection between irreducible, heterogeneous forms/forces/images/faculties that is of the utmost importance to Deleuze. It is here that power, as the relations between forces, exerts its pull, but also here that the potential for new, radical connections exists. This process of linking occurs all the time, it is continuous; but, it seems, it is rare that thought participates in this process. Instead it is habit, repetition, resemblance, representation, and all those tools we use to mitigate the risks we face as we leap across the interstice. “A concept’s power,” says Deleuze, “comes from the way it’s repeated, as one area links up with another. And this linkage is an essential, ceaseless activity: the world as a patch­ work” (Negotiations 147). The task is to not shut ourselves off from mutation, change, and difference during this leap, but to hold fast to them, and see where they may lead.

One of the most fascinating threads that can be followed in this leap is Deleuze’s assertion that, in the case of modern political cinema, “the people no longer exist, or not yet… the people are missing” (C2 216). Deleuze claims that this knowledge is borne of third world cinema, where colonization both imposes the myths of the colonizer and abstracts and repurposes the myths of the colonized. The result is that such cinema cannot ‘return to the well’ of a private, mythic past that might point toward a revolutionary future, because the sense of continuity and unity that might enable such a gesture is always already unavailable: “the death-knell for becoming conscious was precisely the consciousness that there were no people, but always several peoples, an infinity of peoples, who remained to be united, or should not be united, in order for the problem to change” (C2 220). In black American cinema, Deleuze writes, this results in “shattered states of emotions or drives, expressible in pure images and sounds…” (C2 220). It is this state, however, that enables a confrontation with the fractured I that Deleuze writes of in Difference and Repetition, and the now-shattered ground of a pure or immemorial past. Thrown up into this space of indeterminacy, it is only the utterance that relinks the shattered states, a pre-personal utterance (because I-less and groundless), “which are already collective, which are like the seeds of the people to come, and whose political impact is immediate and inescapable” (C2 221).

To explore this a bit, I want to return to the Kanye West song I referenced in class, “Blood on the Leaves,” from the 2013 album Yeezus. Of course, here we’re talking about a song instead of cinema, but the incommensurable relation between sonsigns, as opposed to sonsigns and opsigns, still performs the same function, and just as effectively. There is a tripartite layering of sounds in West’s song wherein the mode of relinkage is as problematic, and as evocative of the virtual, as the pure optical and sound image in cinema. In class, I mentioned that “Blood on the Leaves” contains a sample of Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit,” recorded in 1965. The song, most famously sung by Billie Holiday in 1939, was written as a response to a 1930 lynching in Indiana. Its use in a 2013 hip-hop track, then, might be seen as drawing parallels between the Black American experience in the late 30s, mid 60s, and 21st century. And typically, when rap songs contain traces of work by politically motivated singers of the civil rights era, it’s done with a reverence and sense of continuity with the past, as a lament that so much of the same work seems left to be performed, or as a contrite analysis of violence in the black community. West, however, offers none of these, but rather a song/rap that is almost horrifying in its disjunction from Simone’s lyrics: a story of a failed, unfaithful relationship, and unwanted pregnancy, and the high cost of alimony and child support. The song is iconoclastic in the literal sense, smashing the icons of civil rights-era culture and the history of black America without even an acknowledgment of its impropriety. The listener hears Simone sing, “black bodies, swinging in the summer breeze,” as West raps about the social and emotional fallout of a break up, saying, “Now you sittin’ courtside, wifey on the other side/Gotta keep ‘em separated, I call that apartheid.” At the same time, West layers in a blasting horn section lifted from the 1999 C-Murder and Snoop Dogg song “Down 4 my N****,” an uninspired track celebrating male loyalty and violence from the very tail end of the gangsta rap decade. While the horn layer works with the overall production of the song, the subject matter it alludes to is as alien to the circumstances West describes as that of “Strange Fruit.” The horror of “Blood on the Leaves” is not the heretical misappropriation of “Strange Fruit,” but the fragmentation of ‘sheets of the past’—60s civil rights song, 90s gangsta rap song, 2010s lost love pop song—that are coexistent yet incommensurable parts of (for West) the black American cultural experience. Each of these three sheets—sound images, I would call them—attempts to speak for and of a people, but there is an irrational cut between them. The irony, given West’s reputation in the press as an egomaniac, is that there is no I in the song, no “beautiful interiority” that unites these sheets, but instead a non-personal relinkage on the order of the sound itself.

“Blood on the Leaves,” I would argue, is more effectively imagined as a map that points to the disconnect between certain stratigraphic layers, certain sheets of the past. If the diagram is composed of “the superimposing of coexistent sheets” (C2 121), a particular organization of space-time (F 34), West’s disturbing song is disturbing precisely because of the violent lines it draws through these strata. But a question remains: is there anything rhizomatic in West’s song, any sign of becoming, of territorialization and deterritorialization? Yes, I will (briefly) argue, and strangely enough it takes the form of a tree—the magnolia. The magnolia tree is an almost entirely invisible element of all three sheets in “Blood on the Leaves,” and it is rhizomatic precisely in its radical reach across each sheet. The magnolia tree sends off lines in all directions in the three songs that compose West’s track, but not as any kind of central figure, more as a mobile, a-centered element that reaches out toward the unspoken. At the end of the third verse, West sings “How you gon’ lie to the lawyer?/ It’s like I don’t even know ya/ I gotta bring it back to the ‘Nolia…” To what magnolia is West referring? He does not mention it again in the song, yet it links in certain ways to both “Strange Fruit” and “Down 4 my N*****.” Simone’s song contains the lyric “scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh/ then the sudden smell of burning flesh,” but West’s reference wouldn’t make sense given the context. More likely he is referring to the Magnolia projects in New Orleans, where No Limit Records (Snoop and C-Murder’s record label) was based, and the center of the 90s/00s New Orleans rap boom. But here, another problem emerges: the Magnolia projects were severely flooded during Hurricane Katrina, and were shuttered and razed by the time West’s song was released. As such, the magnolia forms a rhizomatic territory with each sheet of “Blood on the Leaves,” as a sweet smell that disappears amidst the horror of lynched bodies, as a neighborhood and cultural center, and as a depopulated and destroyed part of black history, a place to which West can never really “bring it back.” Why? Because the people are missing.

Reading Deleuze from the Ground Up

In these journals, I would like to continue the work that I began in my initial discussion post dealing with the work of the cartoonist Chris Ware as it pertains to Deleuze’s writing on time, thought, and the image. I do not know, precisely, that I am using Ware to explain Deleuze, or, conversely, that I am using Deleuze to explain Ware. Either method would likely be reductive. Rather, I hope that these journals will generate a new understanding of comics as a medium, its structure and, more importantly, its possibilities, particularly in the modes of the ethical and the political. At the same time, I hope that the application of Deleuzian models of thought will enhance my personal understanding of his work. With these twin goals in mind, I will use Ware’s Building Stories (2011) as my primary testing ground, with occasional recourse to Ware’s other works, like Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (2000), and perhaps older experimental comics such as George Herriman’s Krazy Kat (1913-1944).

The question that concerns me most, in relating Difference and Representation to Cinema 2, is the question of how the Image of Thought (and, necessarily, the Thought without Image) relates to Deleuze’s metaphysics of Time. What is the structure of time, such as it relates to the production of real difference—a difference that also seems to be a repetition that appears, in an illusory form, only as resemblance, identity, analogy, representation, and the negative (Difference and Repetition 265-267)? It is through thought, it seems, that difference is grasped, or sensed, but in a form that exceeds ‘faculties’ like memory, imagination, and intelligence—or, rather, thought is born of the instant when the encounter tears apart any unity between the faculties, and takes each to the edge of its ability. How does this happen? It must, it seems, be related to how time is conceived (or preconceived), because each of the faculties seem to correspond with an attempt to locate the self within time. Memory represents to the self the I of the past, while intelligence is applied to grasp at the present, and imagination produces possible futures. But in all these conceptions, the unity of the self is presupposed, as is the ability of the self to order itself within time. Deleuze, rather, is pursuing something else, a kind of something that does not presume an ordered and unitary self that moves through an ordered and unitary time—whether circular or linear—but that is fragmented, fractured, and only comes into being through its contingent, chaotic encounters throughout space and time.

“We seek the truth only within time, constrained and forced,” Deleuze writes in Proust and Signs (97). But we know time only by presupposing the I that moves through it. In the case of both the Platonic (or Viconian) circular time, and the Kantian linear time, we maintain our stability through representation, analogy, identity, and similarity. These elements form the “ground” that covers over difference and buries it within its own substance. The ground, Deleuze writes in Difference and Repetition, is a tripartite structure formed of Identity, Resemblance, and Simulacra. The same or identical is that which is the only thing that possesses itself: “What it is, and what it possesses, it is and it possesses primarily, in the utmost. What, apart from Courage, would be courageous, or virtuous apart from Virtue?” (272). In other words, courage and virtue are among those things that are identical only to themselves, that are inhabited and can be claimed only by themselves. When a person says, “I am virtuous,” or “I am courageous,” it is an appeal to the second part of the structure, Resemblance. This claim of resemblance “is always a claim or an ‘image’ that requires a ground or appeals to a ground […] Each well-grounded image or claim is called a representation, since the first in the order of claims is still second in itself in relation to the foundation. It is in this sense that Ideas inaugurate or ground the world of representation” (272). Resemblance is thus one step removed from its transcendental ground, the unified idea of courage upon which it stakes its claim, yet it can be claimed only because of that presupposed and inaccessible ground. Finally, there are also Simulacra, “the rebellious images which lack resemblance” (272). These, Deleuze writes, “are eliminated, rejected and denounced as ungrounded, false claimants” (272). It seems, however, that this is precisely the sign of difference, of the ungrounded that destabilizes the image(s) of thought that cannot account for it. This is also why Deleuze says that stupidity, not error, is the enemy of learning; because error is productive, and marks the return of difference. Deleuze rails against a philosophy that finds in the simulacra only the negative, or an antithesis to be incorporated into a Whole, because they encounter difference only as an obstacle to be surmounted, to be subsumed by repetition. Rather, it is not difference in repetition but the repetition of difference that seems to give form to history and time. “It is as if repetition were never the repetition of the ‘same’ but always of the Different as such, and the object of difference in itself were repetition” (256).

Yet the question remains: how does this bear upon time and its image? Deleuze gives the ground a temporal as well as an ideal dimension: To ground is “to represent the present—in other words, to make the present arrive and pass within representation (finite or infinite). The ground then appears as an immemorial Memory or pure past, a past which itself was never present but which causes the present to pass, and in relation to which all the presents coexist in a circle” (273-74). This image is particularly intriguing when one thinks of the work of Chris Ware, but I want to bypass that for now and continue along this line of thought. The point is that such a conception of time still invokes representation, still covers over difference because it proceeds along points, in memory, or in a mythical circling, that precede the encounter itself, and denies the division between the I that has happened and the I that is happening. To grasp hold, somehow, of this fracture, which is not an absence but a site of productive difference, seems to be the location, or the temporality, of the image without thought:

It is this form of time which distributes throughout itself an I fractured by the abstract line, a passive self produced by a groundlessness that it contemplates. It is this which engenders thought within thought, for thought thinks only by means of difference, around this point of ungrounding (276).

For Deleuze, it is not representation that orients us within time but his interpretation of Nietzsche’s eternal return: a repetition that is only the repetition of difference. “Time,” he writes, “must be understood and lived as out of joint” (298). This pure form of time is structured only by the singular intensities and multiplicities that emerge within it; it is the only guarantee of time itself.

As it turns out, I have left myself without the space or time necessary to include anything but a cursory mention of comics in this journal entry.  Nor have I been able to find the ethical implications of this investigation, so far as it stands. I hope, in future entries, to return to those subjects. They are, I think, integral to my development as a scholar. So, at this point I would like to simply end with a question rather than an assertion. The question I want to end with: Deleuze seeks the ungrounded thought without image, a mode of inquiry that begins with something like the interrogative: is-God rather than God-is or God-being. Deleuze himself describes a thought without image as “solipsistic” and “an essentially amnesiac narcissistic ego.” Yet he also writes of a plane of immanence that is always becoming, always growing with intensities and mutations. But if this is so, if every presupposition must be resisted, how can any structure be built upon, or any seed germinate? Deleuze says, “it’s multiplicities that fill the field of immanence, rather as tribes fill the desert without it ceasing to be a desert” (Negotiations 146), but are these to be nomadic tribes, constantly scrounging for a meager subsistence, always on the move and without any permanent shelter, any way to organize their own existence? If so, it’s a bleak proposition, though perhaps this fear and disorientation I feel at such an idea says more about my own image of thought than it does about Deleuze’s. Or, maybe, it is less a matter of abandoning any permanent structure than it is of historicizing it, of bearing in mind its contingency and the particular forms of deviant simulacra it has denounced in order to appear as it does. If this is the case, it seems to indicate a sort of tactical philosophy, which may indeed be a philosophy of life and affirmation.

The Affective Lives of Kats

“Several times on every page the reader is released–like a trapeze artist–into the open air of imagination… then caught by the outstretched arms of the ever-present next panel!  Caught quickly so as not to let the reader fall into confusion or boredom.  But is it possible that closure can be so managed in some cases–that the reader might learn to fly?”

–Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (1994), 90.


In this entry, I would like to focus most directly on the movement-image and time-image. Specifically, I would like to explore the modes of linkage that at once connect them to and expand the plane of immanence. To do so, I will turn once more to work in the field of comics. To say that the fundamental operation of comics is the representation of time as space is a truism in comics studies. Is there room, however, to assert that it is possible for time itself to enter the picture (or image)? Perhaps, and perhaps this is what McCloud implies (though likely unwittingly) when he suggests that there might be an alternative to the way the reader is “caught” by the outstretched arms of the next successive instant. Can space, and the contents of the image bound on each side by the frame, be managed (or unmanaged) in such a way that the comics panel becomes something other than a discrete moment of chronologized time? I believe so, but first it is necessary to indicate how the movement-image emerges in the comics form.

The movement-image, as montage and sequence, is without doubt (but with qualifications) the classical form of the comic strip as it developed during the proliferation of mass media.[1] In the newspaper strips of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the inevitable repetition of action—often a physical gag at the end of the strip—provided a structure for comics that did not merely mark the conclusion of the narrative, but rather shaped the strip in its entirety. The direction of reading, the iconic arrangement of its parts, and the number and order of its panels found significance through the transcendental power of the final gag. This is true even of highly regarded works that approached the avant-garde in their manipulation of movement and sequence. Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo (1905-1926), for instance, about a boy’s fantastical adventures in the land of dreams, always ends with Nemo waking abruptly in his bed. Likewise, George Herriman’s Krazy Kat (1913-1944) consistently revolves around the moment when Ignatz Mouse launches a brick at the head of his lovelorn admirer, Krazy, who takes each lump as a sign of Ignatz’s devotion. This fact, of course, does not in the least minimize the importance of these works. Deleuze, following Bergson, writes that “through movement the whole is divided up into objects, and objects re-united in the whole, and indeed between the two ‘the whole’ changes” (MI 10). The open whole that changes through the variation of its parts is the indicator of universal variation. How does this process make itself known in comics, even in the early strips that I relate to the movement-image? A brief example is in order.

A single image from Krazy Kat should suffice to make clear the role of the movement-image in comics. My own work is largely focused on the inter-iconic relations between panels—on what I see as the radical potential of the networked page as opposed to the linear sequence—but, for the sake of brevity, and to follow Deleuze in demonstrating the indication of the whole by the set, I will focus on a single panel (Figure 1). Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 7.37.43 PM

In this image, we can see the tripartite elements of perception, affection, and action that make up the movement-image. Indeed, here the elements form an inseparable circuit, a sort of perpetual movement machine. The form of the image is circular: we begin at the top left (following the typical vector of reading), where the violent “POW” that leaps out from the static background suddenly dissolves the calm evening sky. Our eyes could drift down to the impact that caused the sound, the brick hitting Krazy’s head, but to do so would ruin the effectiveness of the strip—the inevitable gag must wait until the end, even though the initial “POW” has already signaled its occurrence. Instead we let our eyes be drawn along the road that seems to begin at the sound itself. We are led, again along the typical vector of reading, to Offissa Pupp, the police officer dog who tries to protect Krazy from harm. The road we’ve followed leads directly into Pupp’s eyes—he is pure perception. “Living beings allow to pass through them,” Deleuze writes, “those external influences which are indifferent to them; the others isolated become ‘perceptions,’ by their very isolation” (MI 62). Pupp isolates the violence of the inevitable brick; for him, it is “Transgression!!!” and nothing else, though, as we will see, the role of the brick is far more complicated than that. In this image, Pupp is frozen at one end of the sensory-motor situation. He, like the reader, is only a witness to the event. However, he also reassures us of the unity and authority of our subjectivity. Because the knowing reader’s perception is different from Pupp’s (it circumscribes his own), our perception of his perception becomes a source of laughter.

Moving on from Pupp, we find Ignatz Mouse’s hand (which has always already launched the brick) blocking the road itself, arresting the movement of the reader’s eye and demanding its subordination to the action of the flying brick. We may think of Ignatz as pure action, arm always outstretched, leg lifted, always having just released his missile. We can no longer simply follow the road that curves through the panel—we must follow the path of the brick itself, indicated with ‘speed lines’ and a dynamic “ZIP.” Finally we reach Krazy Kat, who—in a very simplistic sort of way—marks the image of affection. Krazy’s position here is neither that of action (s/he is being acted upon), nor purely that of perception (it is significant that in the visual medium of comics, Krazy always faces away from the brick). Of course, affect here is not a simple subjective emotion, despite the heart that we see emanating from Krazy. As Deleuze tells us, “there is inevitably a part of external movements that we ‘absorb,’ that we refract, and which does not transform itself into either objects of perception or acts of the subject; rather they mark the coincidence of the subject and the object in a pure quality (MI 65). Here it is the brick itself that is transformed; freed from Ignatz’s hand as an object of aggression, it is re-fashioned mid-flight into a sign of love. The heart on the far left, at the end of the reader’s journey, matches the color and trajectory of the brick exactly, so that it seems to have physically transformed as it passes through Krazy. Here, then, the brick itself seems to occupy the “zone of indetermination” that Deleuze says is the mark of the subject (MI 66). It is overdetermined, divided between perception, affection, and action, cutting through the center of the image and warping the temporality of the scene into a spiral that uncurls in its wake. It is singular and still, yet it is a movement-image.

As I began this close reading, I noted that the image from Krazy Kat forms a sort of circuit, a perpetual movement machine. Indeed, our path through the image leads us finally from the brick back up to the sound it makes, the “POW” that re-initiates the cycle. But if this were wholly true, what chance would there be of a direct image of time in the comics medium (or in any work of art)? There is something in the movement-image that is not equal to itself… some element of excess where the actual and the virtual collide. I propose that this element emerges in the paradoxical and simultaneous co-existence of the heart and the “POW” onomatopoeia.   This is the true “gap” whose presence is diagetically echoed by the brick. For the gag to be truly complete, the reader must read in the direction of the heart (to the left), the sign of Krazy’s joyful acceptance of the brick as a token of love. At the same time, the brick’s physical collision with Krazy must lead upwards, toward the sound that accompanies it. It is true that the eye can take in both these moments at once, but it cannot do so and remain loyal to the vectors of motion that structure the strip. To follow the brick straight to the “POW” means disregarding the heart. Conversely, to follow the brick to the heart means having to reverse the trajectory of reading, to go backwards—violating the ‘time as space’ truism of the comics image—to the brick and then up to the “POW.” This is where recollection, incompossibility, and the co-existence of presents make their presence felt. The sensory-motor flux is troubled, and the heart points outward toward the out-of-field. Herein lies the limitation of the movement-image on the comics page. Herein waits the germ of true difference in the cyclical image.

Once again, I’ve set myself up for a thesis that I did not have space to put forth. The time-image as it may appear on the comics page is a result of the mode of inter-iconic linkages between panels and across pages. This much I’m sure of. I’ll have to prove it to you next time.

[1] Because comics are drawn rather than filmed, they make different claims of indexicality. They are incapable of the “any-instant-whatever” of cinema and are bound to present privileged moments. This is a complication that must be addressed if one wishes to explore comics through the work of Bergson or Deleuze. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to do so at some point.