Archive for Art Spiegelman

Holiday Gift Bag: Maus

Only a few shopping days left before Santa’s Birthday, so let’s get one more gift recommendation out of the way so you’ll have time to make it out to the mall.

Today, let’s talk about Art Spiegelman’s Maus (available in two volumes). Although most of the characters are either mice or cats, it’s not a kids’ comic. It’s a no-punches-pulled biography of Spiegelman’s father, Vladek, with emphasis on his experiences as a Polish Jew during the Holocaust. At times, it’s a funny work — Spiegelman has a good eye for satire and the madness of everyday life. Sometimes, it’s a frustrating work — Spiegelman spends much of the story writing about his interviews with his father, and Vladek often comes across as a vastly infuriating man.

But on the whole, it’s a story about the Holocaust, and so it’s a very human and very sad horror story. The brilliance here is that Spiegelman draws you in with a seemingly simple story of Jewish mice and Nazi cats, and then all of a sudden, you’re neck-deep in Nazi oppression, in hidden bunkers, in Aushwitz. Vladek makes hair’s-breadth escapes from death squads, repeatedly buys his way to freedom only to get recaptured, gets betrayed by people he thought he could trust, and loses vast numbers of friends and loved ones. It’s a harrowing story, and it’s completely engrossing, and you should read it.

A lot of y’all are probably already familiar with this one — it’s one of the most famous graphic novels out there, and it even won Pulitzer Prize Special Award in 1992. A lot of comics fans haven’t read this one, partly because it’s got a reputation for being a really depressing story, so ask the comics fans in your life if they’ve read it before you buy it for them. In fact, you might also consider it for the history buffs you know — it’s an extremely accessible story, with lots of historical details, and anyone interested in WWII history should enjoy it. Even more than Alan Moore’s Watchmen, this comic is just about the best proof out there for comics and sequential art is literature, not mere throwaway reading.

This probably isn’t the merriest gift you could get someone. It doesn’t come decked out in candy canes and pine garlands and festive songfests. But the people you get it for will thank you for it.

Maus by Art Spiegelman. Go pick it up.

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High Art meets Wacky Art

This is a story I just couldn’t resist.

Some of y’all (hopefully a lot of y’all — I don’t think I’m that much older than the rest of you) may remember a product of the 1970s called “Wacky Packages” — bubble gum trading cards and stickers that featured gross parodies of well-known consumer products. I used to love these when I was a kid — I’m sure they’ve all been thrown away long ago, but they were (to my high-toned grade-school mind) extremely funny and fun to stick on your bike or your notebook or your school desk.

And it turns out that one of the original “Wacky Packages” creators was Art Spiegelman, the guy who wrote and drew the Pulitzer-Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus”.

Not that Topps, or more specifically illustrator Art Spiegelman and writer Jay Lynch — goaded by Topps’ Woody Gelman and Len Brown — knew the import of the work. In the preface to the new book “Wacky Packages” (Abrams), a collection of the first seven series of the Topps cards, Spiegelman — yes, the same Art Spiegelman who won a Pulitzer Prize for “Maus” — remembers the creation of Wackies as being “a dream job,” but something that would probably be forgotten.

“It was all done as Part of a Day’s Work, much like the way early comic books were made: they certainly weren’t made as art, they weren’t sold as art, and they weren’t thought of as art,” he says in the book’s introduction. “Wacky Packages just formed an island of subversive underground culture in the surrounding sea of junk.”

It’s amazing that these are considered collectable now. I think if I had a package of these now… well, I’d probably just go stick ’em on my desk at work. Can’t go wrong with the classics…

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Comics Creators Turn Yellow

Alan Moore (creator of “Watchmen” and many others), Art Spiegelman (creator of “Maus”), and Daniel Clowes (creator of “Eightball” and “Ghost World”) will play themselves on an episode of “The Simpsons” in October.

More info here.

As expected, it’ll be an episode focusing on Jeff Albertson, the Comic Book Guy, with Jack Black stepping in to voice the hipster owner of a new rival comic shop across town.

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