Spiegelman, Art 1948-
SPIEGELMAN, Art 1948-
Born February 14, 1948, in Stockholm, Sweden; immigrated to United States, 1951; naturalized citizen; son of Vladek (a salesperson and businessman) and Anja (Zylberberg) Spiegelman; married Françoise Mouly (a publisher and writer), July 12, 1977; children: Nadja Rachel, Dashiell Alan. Education: Attended Harpur College (now State University of New York at Binghamton), 1965-68.
Home— New York, NY. Agent— c/o Deborah Karl, 52 West Clinton Ave., Irvington, NY 10533.
Freelance artist and writer, 1965—; Topps Chewing Gum, Inc., Brooklyn, NY, creative consultant, artist, designer, editor, and writer for novelty packaging and bubble gum cards and stickers, including "Wacky Packages" and "Garbage Pail Kids," 1966-89; artist and contributing editor, New Yorker magazine, 1991-2003. Instructor in studio class on comics, San Francisco Academy of Art, 1974-75; instructor in history and aesthetics of comics at New York School of Visual Arts, 1979-87. Advisory board member, Swann Foundation. Exhibitions: Artwork exhibited in numerous gallery and museum shows in the United States and abroad, including Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, 1991; "The Road to Maus," at Galerie St. Etienne, New York, NY, 1992; New York Cultural Center; Institute of Contemporary Art, London, England; and Seibu Gallery, Tokyo, Japan.
Playboy Editorial Award for best comic strip, and Yellow Kid Award (Italy) for best comic strip author, both 1982; regional design award, Print magazine, 1983, 1984, and 1985; Joel M. Cavior Award for Jewish Writing, and National Book Critics Circle nomination, both 1986, both for Maus: A Survivor's Tale, My Father Bleeds History; Inkpot Award, San Diego Comics Convention, and Stripschappenning Award (Netherlands) for best foreign comics album, both 1987; Special Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle award, Los Angeles Times book prize, and Before Columbus Foundation Award, all 1992, all for Maus: A Survivor's Tale II, and Here My Troubles Began; Guggenheim fellowship; New York Times Book Review Notable Book designation, 2004, for In the Shadow of No Towers; named chevalier, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France), 2005.
I'm a Dog, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.
(Editor, with wife, Françoise Mouly) Little Lit: Folklore and Fairy Tale Funnies, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
(Editor, with Françoise Mouly) Little Lit 2: Strange Stories for Strange Kids, Joanna Cotler Books (New York, NY), 2001.
(Editor, with Françoise Mouly) It Was a Dark and Silly Night . . . , HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.
The Complete Mr. Infinity, S. F. Book Co., 1970.
The Viper Vicar of Vice, Villainy, and Vickedness, privately printed, 1972.
Zip-a-Tune and More Melodies, S. F. Book Co., 1972.
(Compiling editor with Bob Schneider) Whole Grains: A Book of Quotations, D. Links, 1972.
Ace Hole, Midget Detective, Apex Novelties, 1974.
Language of Comics, State University of New York at Binghamton, 1974.
Breakdowns: From Maus to Now, an Anthology of Strips, Belier Press, 1977.
Work and Turn, Raw Books, 1979.
Every Day Has Its Dog, Raw Books, 1979.
Two-fisted Painters Action Adventure, Raw Books, 1980.
Maus: A Survivor's Tale, My Father Bleeds History, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1986.
(Editor with Françoise Mouly, and contributor) Read Yourself Raw: Comix Anthology for Damned Intellectuals, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1987.
(With Françoise Mouly) Jimbo: Adventures in Paradise, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1988.
Maus: A Survivor's Tale II, and Here My Troubles Began, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1991.
Comics included in anthologies, such as Don Donahue and Susan Goodrich, editors, The Apex Treasury of Underground Comics, D. Links, 1974; and Nicole Hollander, Skip Morrow, and Ron Wolin, editors, Drawn Together: Relationships Lampooned, Harpooned, and Cartooned, Crown, 1983.
(Editor, with Françoise Mouly and R. Sikoryak) Warts and All: Drew Friedman and Josh Alan Friedman, Penguin (New York, NY), 1990.
(Illustrator) Joseph Moncura March, The Wild Party: The Lost Classic, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1994.
(Author of introduction) Bob Adelman, editor, Tijuana Bibles: Art and Wit in America's Forbidden Funnies, 1930s-1950s, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Chip Kidd) Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2001.
In the Shadow of No Towers, Pantheon (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to numerous underground comics. Editor of Douglas Comix, 1972; editor, with Bill Griffith, and contributor, Arcade, the Comics Revue, 1975-76; founding editor, with Mouly, and contributor, Raw, beginning 1980.
Maus has been translated into eighteen languages, including Japanese, Korean, and Hungarian.
Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and author Art Spiegelman is best noted for his two-volume graphic novel series "Maus," whilch Dale Luciano described in the Comics Journal as "among the remarkable achievements in comics." An epic parable of the Holocaust that substitutes mice and cats for human Jews and Nazis, the work stands in contrast to much of Spiegelman's works, which have ranged from designing chewinggum cards to editing comic-book anthologies that include the "Little Lit" series for younger readers. Prior to creating "Maus" he was most well known in underground comics circles as publisher of the comix anthology Raw, which he produced with his wife, Françoise Mouly, beginning in the early 1980s. However, he has been a significant presence in graphic art since his teen years, when he wrote, printed, and distributed his own comics magazine. During his affiliation with the Topps Chewing Gum company Spiegelman also inspired the misguided enthusiasm of a generation of American children through his creation of the popular "Garbage Pail Kids" collectible cards.
Spiegelman was born in Stockholm, Sweden, to Vladek and Anja, two survivors of the Holocaust, Nazi Germany's massacre of six million Jews during World War II. As a young child, the Spiegelman family moved to the United States, where Art grew up in Rego Park, New York. "I think . . . that I learned to read from looking at comics," Spiegelman told Joey Cavalieri in Comics Journal, citing early exposure to the likes of Mad magazine and various superhero books. By the age of twelve, Spiegelman was drawing his own cartoons, and, as he told Cavalieri, "it became an obsession very quickly." By age thirteen, Spiegelman was illustrating for his school newspaper, and by age fourteen he had already made his first professional sale, a cover for the Long Island Post, for which he was paid fifteen dollars.
With his talent for art in evidence, Spiegelman entered New York City's High School of Art and Design where, as part of a cartoon course assignment, he wrote and illustrated a comic strip that attracted the interest of a New York publishing syndicate. The experience made Spiegelman aware that the parameters for conventional comics were too narrowly defined for his ideas. He sought and found a creative outlet with the burgeoning underground comics scene, including printing and distributing his own magazine, Blase —the title is French for 'apathetic' or 'world-weary.' While his actions appeared unusually enterprising for a teen, Spiegelman admitted to Cavalieri that he was still unsure what direction his talent would take him: "I just knew I wanted to do lines on paper and write at the same time."
Spiegelman was influenced by a number of artists working in the comics field, among them Mad magazine creator Harvey Kurtzman, Mad artist John Severin, and Jack Davis, who drew baseball cards for Topps Chewing Gum. Eager to get his hands on cards with original Davis art on them, Spiegelman sent a copy of Blase to Topps, hoping that they would send him some cards in return. The company responded by complimenting his work and inviting him out to Topps headquarters for lunch. Spiegelman visited the production studios and returned home with a handful of Jack Davis originals. A few years later, during his first year at Harpur College, Spiegelman received a phone call from Topps asking if he would consider taking a summer job with the company. Accepting their offer, he soon became "resident tinkerer" at Topps, creating various novelty items. He also streamlined Topps's production process from an inefficient circuit between conception and realization to a smooth idea-to-artist procedure. "I sort of created a job that hadn't been there before because I was able to both write a bit and draw a bit," Spiegelman told Cavalieri. By the summer's end Spiegelman was an integral part of Topps's production, and the company asked him to continue working with them. He maintained his affiliation with the company for twenty-five years.
Spiegelman's employment with Topps included writing and drawing various card series and other humorous items. His biggest contribution, however, came about in response to another product that the company was planning. An executive at Topps was interested in issuing a series of cards featuring the miniaturized labels of supermarket products. Spiegelman, seeing little curiosity value in commercial artwork that was not antiquated enough to be charming, decided to poke fun at the project. He drew up a parody version of a company's package art. Spiegelman's loopy version of the product label was a hit with Topps, and "Wacky Packages" were born. Marketed with a stick of gum like baseball cards, "Wacky Packages" soon became a fixture of the 1970s alongside such items as the lava lamp, the hula-hoop, and black-light posters.
"Wacky Packages" offered a humorous alternative to the ever increasing onslaught of advertised products. The small sticker-cards depicted such skewed and vaguely familiar products as "Fright Guard" deodorant, "Bustedfinger" candy bars, and "Koduck" film—"for ducks." Some adults found "Wacky Packages" crude and remotely offensive. Children, however, were delighted with a product that appealed to their sense of humor, and they gleefully displayed the stickers on their bedroom doors, lunchboxes, and school books. In the 1980s Spiegelman mounted a second wave of humorous stickers parodying the popular Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. His "Garbage Pail Kids" sticker cards featured drawings of slovenly children accompanied by information that cited each child's more unsavory attributes.
While Spiegelman was devoting time to Topps, he never lost touch with the comics scene. In 1975 he joined fellow artist Bill Griffith to form Arcade, a comics anthology that highlighted the work of some of the best underground artists and writers, including Kim Deitch, Robert Crumb, and Spiegelman himself. He continued with the periodical for only a short time, however, because he felt that the pressure of deadlines was at odds with his creative work habits. While compilations of his own comics, such as Breakdowns and Two-fisted Painters Action Adventure, were published, Spiegelman then joined his wife and partner Mouly in producing the first issue of Raw. Designed to have less-frequent deadlines than Arcade —once or twice a year—Raw also featured adult comics from around the world. The material in Raw often centers on the confusion and pathos of modern life; whereas underground comics had been associated with more graphic and often sexual humor, Raw used the medium of graphic art to make readers think.
Public demand prompted Spiegelman and Mouly to compile the first three issues of Raw in book form as Read Yourself Raw. The magazine's success reinforced Spiegelman's belief that comics could do more than merely entertain, and also allowed him a medium for his own artistic output. Beginning with the second issue of Raw, Spiegelman began serializing "Maus," the work that would change both his and the comics world's perception of graphic art. As he told Cavalieri: "All of a sudden, I found my own voice, my own needs, things that I wanted to do in comics."
Although work on "Maus" began in earnest in the 1980s, the comic actually had its genesis as a three-page strip begun in 1972. Creating a strip for a compilation titled Funny Aminals (sic), Spiegelman was inspired while watching old cartoons featuring cats and mice. As he told Cavalieri, "this cat and mouse thing was just a metaphor for some kind of oppression." Drawing from his family background, he decided to explore his mother and father's experience in, and survival of, a Nazi concentration camp.
"Maus" starts with Spiegelman, representing himself as a anthropomorphized mouse, going to his father, Vladek, for information about the Holocaust. As Vladek's tale begins, he and his wife, Anja, are living in Poland with their young child, Richieu, at the outset of World War II. The Nazis, as cats, have overrun much of Eastern Europe, and their oppression is felt by everyone, especially the Jews/mice. The story recalls Vladek's service in the Polish army and subsequent incarceration in a German war prison. As he returns to Anja and his home, the Nazi "Final Solution"—to exterminate the entire Jewish race—is well under way. There is much talk of Jews being rounded up and shipped off to the camps, where they are either put to strenuous work or put to death. Vladek and Anja's attempt to flee is thwarted and they are sent to Auschwitz, Poland, site of one of the most notorious camps. As the first book of "Maus" concludes, Richieu has been taken from his parents by the Nazis, never to be seen again, and Vladek and Anja are separated and put in crowded train cars for shipment to Auschwitz.
As the second volume, And Here My Troubles Began, opens, Spiegelman and and his wife are visiting Vladek at his summer home in the Catskills. During the visit son and father resume their discussion. Vladek recounts how he and Anja were put in separate camps, he at Auschwitz and she at neighboring Birkenau. The horrors and inhumanity of concentration-camp life are related in graphic detail. Vladek recalls the discomfort of cramming three or four men into a bunk that is only a few feet wide and the ignominy of scrounging for any scrap of food to sate his unending hunger. His existence at Auschwitz is marked by agonizing physical labor, severe abuse from the Nazis, and the ever present fear that he—or Anja—may be among the next sent to the gas chambers. Despite these overwhelming incentives to abandon hope, Vladek is bolstered by his clandestine meetings with Anja and the discovery of supportive allies among his fellow prisoners. He manages to hold on until the war ends, then joins several other prisoners in making his way to safety. He eventually finds Anja and their reunion marks a happy point in Vladek's tale. After a fruitless search for Richieu, they move to Sweden where Spiegelman is born, and then travel to America. The horrors of the war scar Anja permanently however, and in 1968 she commits suicide. The book concludes with Art visiting Vladek just before his death in 1982.
When "Maus" first appeared in Funny Aminals, Spiegelman made no mention of Jews or Nazis. The protagonists were mice, persecuted because they were "Maus." Likewise, the antagonists were cats, or "Die Katzen," and they chased the mice, although "chasing" the mice meant rounding them up in camps for work, torture, and extermination. The closest the strip comes to an outright identification with the Holocaust is in the name of the concentration camp, "Mauschwitz." As Spiegelman began the expanded version however, he found that he had to write in terms of Jews and Nazis, but continued to retain his animal characters. As he explained to Cavalieri, "To use these ciphers, the cats and mice, is actually a way to allow you past the cipher at the people who are experiencing it. So it's really a much more direct way of dealing with the material." As Lawrence Weschler described "Maus" in Rolling Stone: "Spiegelman's . . . characterizations are charming and disarming—the imagery leads us on, invitingly, reassuringly, until suddenly the horrible story has us gripped and pinioned. Midway through, we hardly notice how strange it is for us to be having such strong reactions to these animal doings." Dale Luciano noted in the Comics Journal: "By making the characters cats and mice, the result is that the characters' human qualities are highlighted all the more, to an inexplicably poignant effect."
Summarizing the importance of "Maus" for younger readers, School Library Journal contributor Rita G. Keeler called the first volume, A Survivor's Tale, "a complex book" that "relates events which young adults, as the future architects of society, must confront, and their interest is sure to be caught by the skillful graphics and suspenseful unfolding of the story." Patty Campbell, writing in the Wilson Library Bulletin, commented that the book is "supremely important and appropriate for young adults. Not only because teenagers have always found the comic strip congenial, not only because it is a story of the pain of parent-child conflict, not only because it is a superbly original piece of literature, but also because it is a stunning evocation of the terror of the Holocaust—and we dare not let the new generation forget."
In the wake of "Maus" Spiegelman continued to create adult-themed comics, and also joined the staff of the New Yorker magazine for several years. He enjoyed the magazine's creative atmosphere until the events of September 11, 2001, changed the climate of the nation. It also changed Spiegelman, who created the first post-9/11 cover for the New Yorker and reflects on his feelings following 9/11 in In the Shadow of No Towers. He witnesses the destruction of the World Trade Center first-hand, living only blocks away, and also experienced fear for his children, who were at a nearby school at the time.
As a father, as well as an American and a pacifist, Spiegelman's feelings on the issue were enormously strong, and were also deeply critical of the government's reaction to the terrorism and the subsequent war with Iraq. Featuring cardboard pages the size of oldfashioned comics broadsheets, In the Shadow of No Towers was described by Newsweek reviewer Malcolm Jones as "deeply funny, subversive, silly and profound.... Mark Twain and Thomas Nast would recognize that old incendiary American cocktail of humor and rage."
In a lighter vein, Spiegelman has also produced several book specifically with a younger readership in mind, although containing his characteristic subversive humor. His picture book I'm a Dog! is a puppy-sized book with an attached leash that proclaims itself a dog under the spell of a wizard's curse. "It's a winning conceit, with ingenuous tongue-in-cheek illustrations," noted a Kirkus Reviews commentator. Deborah Stevenson, writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, noted that the author's "original approach and dorky humor will make many kids eager to get their paws on" the book.
In 2000 Spiegelman joined collaborator Mouly in beginning the "Little Lit" comic anthology series, collecting works by such noted cartoonists and illustrators of children's books as Ian Falconer, Jules Feiffer, Walt Kelly, Barbara McClintock, and Maurice Sendak. Folklore and Fairy Tale Funnies, the first book in the series, begins with Spiegelman's story of "Prince Rooster." Also included in this volume are renditions of the classic stories "Princess and the Pea" and "Jack and the Beanstalk" as well as the Japanese folktale "The Fisherman and the Sea Princess." The collection is rounded out by brainteasers and games created by noted graphic artists Bruce McCall, Charles Burns, and Chris Ware.
Strange Stories for Strange Kids features works by Sendak and Feiffer, among others, and also features jokes and activity pages. The second "Little Lit" collection also contains a 1942 episode of the classic comic strip "Barnaby," created by the late Crockett Johnson. The third volume of "Little Lit," It Was a Dark and Silly Night, features the results of fifteen contributors—including Lemony Snicket, Patrick McDonnell, William Joyce, Neil Gaiman, and Gahan Wilson—assigned by Spiegelman and Mouly with the task of beginning a story with the words "It was a dark and silly night...." Grace Oliff, writing in School Library Journal, praised the second "Little Lit" collection for its "sharp intelligence and unique imagination," while in a Horn Book review, Roger Sutton found the assembled cartoons and stories "purposeful . . . even when absurd." Reviewing the third volme for School Library Journal, Nancy Palmer wrote that "the variety of art and text, from the bizarre to the benign, offers a cast of cuckoos for just about every taste." Booklist contributor Gillian Engberg felt that Strange Stories for Strange Kids will excite readers of many ages," while a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that It Was a Dark and Silly Night is an "alternately cute and creepy volume." Commenting on the series as a whole, Andrew D. Arnold wrote in Time: "Thanks to the intelligence of editors Spiegelman and Mouly, you can't be too old to appreciate Little Lit. "
The "Little Lit" books have raised the controversy characteristic of much of Spiegelman's work. Appraising Folklore and Fairy Tale Funnies, a Horn Book review stated that "Many of the stories are illustrated with an affectionately retro flair," while according to Claude Lalumiere in January Online, the work is "a pretentious collection of misplaced nostalgia" geared more for adults than for children. "Spiegelman and Mouly's sophisticated collection . . . lingers at the crossroad between kids and adults, classics and parodies," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor, reflecting the opinion of several reviewers. In fact, creating a work that could be read on several levels was the ultimate aim of "Little Lit"'s editors. Talking with Booksense interviewer Christopher Monte Smith, Spiegelman explained why he and Mouly decided to focus on fairy tales: "The tales are kinetic, filled with transformations. There's a lot to draw and see. Fairy tales and folklore . . . offer archetypal themes and memorable situations. We wanted to do a book for all ages, that could hold the interest of very young children and grown-ups."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, December 15, 2001, Gillian Engberg, review of Little Lit: Strange Stories for Strange Kids, p. 726; October 1, 2004, Gordon Flagg, review of In the Shadow of No Towers, p. 320.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 1997, Deborah Stevenson, review of I'm a Dog!, p. 28; January, 2002, review of Little Lit, p. 185.
Christian Century, December 14, 2004, review of In the Shadow of No Towers, p. 20.
Comics Journal, August, 1981, Joey Cavalieri, "An Interview with Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly," pp. 98-125; December, 1986, Dale Luciano, "Trapped by Life," pp. 43-45; April, 1989, Michael Dooley, "Art for Art's Sake," pp. 110-117.
Entertainment Weekly, November 2, 2001, review of Little Lit, p. 70.
Five Owls, March-April, 1988, p. 61.
Horn Book, September, 2000, Roger Sutton, review of Little Lit, p. 590; January-February, 2002, Roger Sutton, review of Little Lit 2, p. 73.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1997, review of I'm a Dog!, p. 880; July 1, 2003, review of Little Lit: It Was a Dark and Silly Night, p. 915.
Newsweek, August 30, 2004, Malcolm Jones, "High Art," p. 51.
New York Times Book Review, November 3, 1991, pp. 1, 35-36; December 21, 1997, p. 18; January 20, 2002, review of Little Lit 2, p. 14.
Publishers Weekly, April 26, 1991; October 10, 1994, p. 61, September 4, 2000, review of Little Lit, p. 106; September 3, 2001, review of Jack Cole and Plastic Man, p. 67; November 19, 2001, review of Little Lit 2, p. 66; August 4, 2003, review of Little Lit: It Was a Dark and Silly Night, p. 80.
Reform Judaism, spring, 1987, Aron Hirt-Manheimer, "The Art of Art Spiegelman," pp. 22-23, 32.
Rolling Stone, November 20, 1986, Lawrence Weschler, "Mighty 'Maus,'" pp. 103-106, 146-148.
School Library Journal, May, 1987, Rita G. Keeler, review of Maus: A Survivor's Tale, p. 124; March, 2002, Grace Oliff, review of Little Lit 2, p. 221; September, 2003, Nancy Palmer, review of Little Lit: It Was a Dark and Silly Night, p. 208.
Voice, June 6, 1989, Art Spiegelman, "Maus and Man," pp. 21-22.
Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 1992, p. 133; October, 2001, review of Little Lit, p. 271.
Wilson Library Bulletin, February, 1987, Patty Campbell, "The Young Adult Perplex," pp. 50-51, 80.
Booksense.com, http://www.booksense.com/ (March 7, 2005), Christopher Monte Smith, interview with Spiegelman.
DC Comics Web site, http://www.dccomics.com/ (January 2, 2004), review of Jack Cole and Plastic Man.
January, http://www.januarymagazine.com/ (June 2, 2003), Claud Lalumiere, review of Little Lit.
Little Lit Web site, http://www.little-lit.com/ (March 7, 2005).
"Spiegelman, Art 1948-." Something About the Author. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/scholarly-magazines/spiegelman-art-1948
"Spiegelman, Art 1948-." Something About the Author. . Retrieved October 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/scholarly-magazines/spiegelman-art-1948
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Pulitzer Prize–winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman (born 1948) is recognized as an influential player in the world of underground comics and graphic arts. His graphic novel series Maus ushered in a period of both change and commendation for the comics genre with its brilliant, in–depth treatment of the Holocaust.
Art Spiegelman was born February 15, 1948, in Stockholm, Sweden. While in Poland, his father Vladek Spiegelman and mother Anja (Zylberberg) were detained in the Polish ghettos reserved for Jews, and later taken to concentration camps. They both survived, but not without sustaining permanent mental and emotional damage. Spiegelman's mother struggled with debilitating depression for the remainder of her life, while his father became frugal to the point of it being an obsession and difficult to deal with. In an 1986 interview with People, Spiegelman admitted that it was only after leaving home that he realized "that not everybody had parents who woke up screaming in the night." A second son—Spiegelman's older brother, Richieu—never made it out of Poland. Separated from his parents, the Spiegelman's first born was the victim of a mercy killing carried out by an aunt before Nazi soldiers could take him away—poisoned along with herself and two cousins.
What was left of the Spiegelman family immigrated to the United States in 1951, when Art was three. They settled in the Rego Park neighborhood of Queens, New York. As a boy, Spiegelman took refuge in the light–hearted world of comics. In a 1989 interview with the Progressive's Claudia Dreyfus, Spiegelman remembers his mother playing a drawing game with him. "She would make a scribble and ask me to turn it into something . . . that made me realize I could do something with a pencil and a paper." He remembered realizing that comics were created by actual people, and from an early age, eschewed all other aspirations to become a cartoonist.
Spiegelman began by emulating his favorite graphic artists, like the cartoonists for Mad Magazine. He even started his own parody publication in the 1960s, which he titled Blasé, as well as contributing comics to his Junior High school newspaper. By the time he was 14, he was selling his work to the Long Island Post and hoping to attend an art school that would allow him to pursue his ambition to become a professional cartoonist. His parents wanted him to invest in Dentistry school, but the young Spiegelman was not to be cowed. While attending the High School of Art and Design in New York City, Spiegelman's talent was solicited by a scout from United Features Syndicate to produce a syndicated comic strip. Spiegelman knew that he would find the grind of working under constant deadlines dull and taxing, and turned the offer down.
In 1965, Spiegelman enrolled at Harpur College (now the State University of New York) in Binghamton, New York. While there he studied art and philosophy, all the while building a presence among the artistic circles of the underground comic scene. This underground graphic art was defined by the October, 2000 issue of Publishers Weekly as "idiosyncratic, introspective . . . [and] self–consciously intended to be received as art." Spiegelman worked as a creative consultant, artist, designer, editor, and writer for the Topps Chewing Gum corporation in Brooklyn from 1966 to 1988. He functioned as a jack–of–all–trades, designing Bazooka comics, baseball cards, and other novelty items—most notably "Wacky Packages" stickers and "Garbage Pail Kids" paraphernalia.
While at Harpur, Spiegelman contributed comics to his college newspaper and published work in other magazines like the East Village Other. Intoxicated by the freedom that he experienced in the college atmosphere in comparison to his sheltered and stressful home–life, the young artist shocked everyone around him by saying and doing whatever came to mind. Severe sleep deprivation and malnutrition eventually led to a mental and physical breakdown. Spiegelman finished school in 1968, at the age of 22, and checked himself into a psychiatric hospital in upstate New York. While there for a month he horded various material, which he later realized was a common behavior for a child of a holocaust survivor—imitating the parent's experience in the camps in an unconscious effort to understand the damaged individual's perspective. Soon after he returned home from the hospital, his mother, whose brother had recently died, took her own life.
Life as a Graphic Artist
Spiegelman dealt with his mother's death by throwing himself into his work. He moved to San Francisco and established a name for himself among the underground cartoonists that held court there. Beginning in 1972, he submitted comics under the pseudonyms Skeeter Grant, Al Flooglebuckle, and Joe Cutrate to publications like Real Pulp and Bizarre Sex. He also edited for Douglas Comix and published some graphic novels, among them Ace Hole, Midget Detective (1974) and Two–Fisted Painters Action Adventure (1980). In 1972, Spiegelman was asked to provide a piece for a collection called Funny Aminals. He had heard in a college lecture that African Americans used to be protrayed as mice in early animation, and translated the concept into the idea of representing Jewish characters as mice — "vermin" that the Germans wanted to "exterminate." He drew and authored a three–page comic for the collection that featured a Jewish mouse who listens to his father's account of living under the terror and tyranny of German Nazi cats in pre–WWII Poland, only to be taken to a camp named "Mauschwitz."
That same year (1972), he published a cartoon about his mother's suicide called Prisoner on the Hell Planet, then took a position as an instructor at the San Francisco Academy of Art from 1974 to 1975. Spiegelman returned to New York in 1975 to act as a contributing editor for Arcade: The Comics Revue through 1976. On July 12, 1977, Spiegelman married Françoise Mouly, a French architecture student with a penchant for the sophisticated work of French comic artists. They had two children, a daughter named Nadja Rachel, and a son named Dashiell Alan.
In 1978, when Spiegelman was 30, he began to research and work on an autobiographical comic strip based on the piece he had contributed to Funny Aminals. He hoped, as the 1999 St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers put it, "to tell his father's story, his own story, and a universal story of the Holocaust." He moved back to New York City and conducted an extensive series of interviews with his father to learn about the Holocaust experiences that his parents had endured. He has cited personal reasons for pursuing the strip, specifically a desire to find a way to connect with his thorny father after the death of his mother. He taped over 30 hours of material during their father/son interviews and traveled to his parents' home in Sosnowiec, Poland in 1978, and to Auschwitz and Birkenau in 1986 to see the sites for himself and view art created by survivors.
Spiegelman took a position teaching the history of comics for the New York School of Visual Arts from 1979 to 1987 and worked with Mouly in 1980 to found Raw, a showcase for international graphic art talent. He began releasing installments of his Funny Aminals piece, titled Maus, in Raw's second issue. By 1985, he had enough material to fill a book, but was repeatedly informed that the idea was unpublishable. Finally, Pantheon decided that it was worth the risk, and in 1986, Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale I: My Father Bleeds History was published. Once released, it quickly garnered both critical and commercial acclaim, making Spiegelman into an intellectual and cultural force to be reckoned with. He became a popular speaker for Jewish groups and college classes, and even found himself at the center of a documentary that was later aired on European television.
Sadly, Spiegelman's father died four years before the book was published, and never got to see the respect that his son's efforts had earned. The first edition of Maus sold over 150,000 copies, and was translated into 18 languages. An autobiographical piece, the graphic novel opens with a quote from Hitler, "The Jews are undoubtedly a race but they are not human." A Jewish mouse listens as his father describes life in Nazi–occupied Poland in strips that illustrate the ethnicity or nationality of the characters by portraying them as different animals—Jewish mice, German cats, Polish pigs, American dogs, British fish, French frogs, Swedish reindeer, and gypsy moths.
When it was released, Maus was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. It thwarted all efforts of categorization, and was listed on both non–fiction and fiction publication lists. In 1992, the Maus series won a special Pulitzer Prize, created specifically for Spiegelman's unique contribution to culture. Despite Spiegelman's statements that the depiction of his father's character in Maus was spurred largely by the author's own personal, pent–up anger, most readers found the Vladek character surprisingly likable. The 2004 Contemporary Authors Online stated that "by making the characters cats and mice . . . Maus and Maus II allow us as readers to go outside ourselves and to look objectively at ourselves and at otherwise unspeakable events." Although critics varied in their response to Maus's outlook, they whole–heartedly agreed that Spiegelman had managed to produce an innovative and stirring work of art.
In 1987, Spiegelman and Mouly released a compilation of comics from their publication, which they titled Read Yourself Raw. Spiegelman continued to create strips in the Maus storyline, and publish them in issues of Raw. In 1991, Maus: A Survivor's Tale II: And Here My Troubles Began was released. It continued the story, touching on the horrors of living in concentration camps. That same year, Spiegelman's work on Maus was showcased in an exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and again at the Galerie St. Etienne (also in New York) in 1992. Spiegelman served as a contributing editor for the New Yorker from 1991 to 2003, often designing controversial cover art. One Valentine's Day cover depicted a Hasidic Jew kissing an African American woman, and another featured a child in Arabic headgear demolishing sand castles on the beach. Mouly joined the New Yorker as its art director in 1993, and remains in that position today.
In 1994, Spiegelman put the complete Maus collection on CD–ROM, and in 1996, HarperCollins released Spiegelman's first children's book—Open Me . . . I'm a Dog!—that tries to convince children that it is not a book, but an actual dog that was turned into a book by a curse. In 2000, HarperCollins published Little Lit: Folklore and Fairy Tale Funnies, a collaborative effort from Spiegelman and Mouly that featured stories by graphic artists and children's illustrators with a decidedly underground flavor. Spiegelman and his family were in their Lower Manhattan home when the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Their daughter was at Stuyvesant High School, located next to the towers, and they spent the day trying to locate her and her brother.
On September 11, 2003, Spiegelman resigned as an illustrator for the New Yorker because he no longer felt in tune with their political agenda. He had spent a few years thinking about 9/11, and living through the aftermath, and decided to put together In the Shadow of No Towers. The large–format graphic novel was rejected by American publishers initially, and released in the German paper Die Zeit. It was later published in the United States on September 7, 2004 by Pantheon. Described by the September 2004 issue of Publisher's Weekly as "an inventive and vividly graphic work of non–fiction," and a "visceral tirade against the Bush administration," In the Shadow of No Towers was also described in the same review as "a 32–page board book, like the ones babies teethe on—only bigger." Spiegelman has said that working on the book saved his sanity. In an interview with Kenneth Terrell for the September 2004 issue of US News and World Report, Spiegelman explains, "when I started off, I wasn't making a book. I was making pages while waiting for the world to end. But it [didn't] . . . So I decided, 'Well, if the world isn't going to end, I guess I can do a book.' "
The vision he witnessed first–hand of the north tower's steel framework glowing from the heat of the plane's impact becomes a central image—representative of a moment when time seemed to stand still. Spiegelman tells Terrell that the image helps focus the theme of "how provisional and ephemeral everything is . . . [that] what's made to last—and should—sometimes doesn't."
Champion of Challenge
Described by a Publishers Weekly reviewer as a "world–class pessimist," and quoted as claiming that "disaster is [his] muse," Spiegelman and his family currently reside in the SoHo district of Manhattan. When asked in the Terrell interview whether or not his chosen medium of "cartoons" still matter, Spiegelman replied that " 'comix' have lost their hold as a genuine mass media, so they're free to become a medium of thought. Print can offer the chance [for] reflection. Comix give you two sockets to plug into, both left and right brain. And they don't move while you're looking at them." Although Spiegelman's images may be technically stationary, his subject matter continues to provoke thought and feeling with its fluidity. In an interview for The New York Times with Esther Fein, he explained that "in reality, comics are far more flexible than theatre, deeper than cinema. It's more efficient and intimate. In fact, it has many properties of what has come to be a respectable medium, but wasn't always; the novel." Spiegelman, along with his wife and partner–in–crime, Mouly, continue to thrive, striving to make the world a better place—one comic at a time.
Almanac of Famous People—Eighth Edition, Gale Group, 2003.
Authors and Artists for Young Adults—Vol. 46, Gale Group, 2002.
Marquis Who's Who, Marquis Who's Who, 2004.
Newsmakers 1998—Issue 3, Gale Group, 1998.
St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers—Second Edition, St. James Press, 1999.
Newsweek August 30, 2004.
Publishers Weekly, October 16, 2000; September 6, 2004.
U.S. News & World Report, September 13, 2004.
"Art Spiegelman," Contemporary Authors Online,http://www.galenet.galegroup.com (December 3, 2004).
"Spiegelman, Art." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/spiegelman-art
"Spiegelman, Art." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved October 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/spiegelman-art
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SPIEGELMAN, ART (1948– ), U.S. cartoonist. Born in Stockholm, Sweden, to parents who survived the Holocaust, Spiegelman grew up in Queens, n.y. In 1968, while attending Harpur College in Binghamton, n.y., he had a nervous breakdown, but he recovered. Shortly after, his mother, a survivor of Auschwitz, committed suicide. Spiegelman later included the tragic and traumatic event in his groundbreaking comic books, Maus i and Maus ii, which tell the story of his parents' wartime ordeal and paint an indelible portrait of the widowed father in old age, an insufferable, maddening survivor, noble despite himself. The first book, Maus: A Survivor's Tale, also known as Maus: My Father Bleeds History, won a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992. It had the distinction of appearing on The New York Times bestseller list as a work of fiction, but after Spiegelman's dignified objection, as nonfiction. The second volume, Maus: And Here My Troubles Began, followed in 1991. Maus, depicting Jews as mice, Nazis as cats and Poles as pigs, attracted an unprecedented amount of critical attention for a work in the form of comics, including an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Before gaining widespread attention with Maus, Spiegelman had illustrated many of the Wacky Packages and Garbage Pail Kids stickers and cards. He founded two significant comics anthology publications, Arcade and raw, the latter with his wife, Francoise Mouly, who later became art editor of The New Yorker. Spiegelman worked for The New Yorker for ten years, producing memorable work, but resigned a few months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Spiegelman's post-September 11 cover for the magazine, inspired by Ad Reinhardt's black-on-black paintings, at first appears to be totally black, but upon close examination reveals the silhouettes of the World Trade Center towers in a slightly darker shade of black. The attack had a profound effect on Spiegelman, who witnessed the victims' frantic last minutes as he left his apartment not far from the site. Spiegelman said his resignation from the magazine was a protest against "the widespread conformism of the mass media in the Bush era." In 2004 he published In the Shadow of No Towers, an attempt to capture the essence of the morning when the terrorists struck. It features a series of ten large-format comic strips that ran in the course of a year in eight weekly publications around the world. It was printed on thick cardboard and had to be held sideways to read each two-page spread. In the back, Spiegelman added reprints of some early comic strips, from Krazy Kat to Little Nemo in Slumberland, that he said gave him comfort after the attacks. Spiegelman was a tireless advocate for the medium of comics. He was quoted as saying that "comic books are to art what Yiddish is to language – a vulgar tongue that incorporates other languages into its mix, a vital and expressive language that talks with its hands. It's a form that's even laid out like a Talmudic text, a form that avoids the injunction against graven images by turning pictures into words, or at least into word-pictures."
[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]
"Spiegelman, Art." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/spiegelman-art
"Spiegelman, Art." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved October 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/spiegelman-art
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Pseudonyms: Joe Cutrate; Skeeter Grant; Al Flooglebuckle. Nationality: American (originally Swedish: immigrated to the United States, 1951). Born: Stockholm, 15 February 1948. Education: New York High School of Art and Design; studied art and philosophy, Harpur College (State University of New York at Binghamton), 1965-68. Family: Married Françoise Mouly in 1977; one daughter and one son. Career: Creative consultant, artist, designer, editor, and writer for novelty packaging and bubble gum cards and stickers, Topps Chewing Gum, Inc., 1966-88; editor, Douglas Comix, 1972; instructor in studio class on comics, San Francisco Academy of Art, 1974-75; editor, with Bill Griffith, and contributor, Arcade, The Comics Revue, 1975-76; instructor in history and aesthetics of comics, New York School of Visual Arts, 1979-87. Since 1980 founding editor, with Françoise Mouly, Raw (graphic magazine), and since 1991 contributing artist and editor, New Yorker.Awards: Playboy editorial award for best comic strip and Yellow Kid award for best comic strip author (Italy), both in 1982; Print magazine regional design award, 1983, 1984, 1985; Joel M. Cavior award for Jewish writing, 1986, for Maus—A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History; San Diego Comics Convention Inkpot award and Stripschappening award for best foreign comics album (Netherlands), both in 1987; Before Columbus Foundation award, Los Angeles Times book prize, National Book Critics Circle award, and Pulitzer prize, all in 1992, for Maus II—A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began; Alpha Art award (Angoulerne, France), 1993; Guggenheim fellowship; Jewish Culture award, 1996. D.H.L.: State University of New York, Binghamton, 1995. Address: Office: Raw Books & Graphics, 27 Greene Street, New York, New York 10013-2537, U.S.A. Agents: Wylie, Aitken & Stone, 250 West 57th Street, Ste. 2106, New York, New York 10107, U.S.A.; Deborah Karl, 52 West Clinton Avenue, Irvington, New York 10533, U.S.A.
The Complete Mr. Infinity. 1970.
The Viper Vicar of Vice, Villainy, and Vickedness. 1972.
Zip-a-Tune and More Melodies. 1972.
Ace Hole, Midge Detective. 1974.
Language of Comics. 1974.
Breakdowns; From Maus to Now: An Anthology of Strips. 1977.
Every Day Has Its Dog. 1979.
Work and Turn. 1979.
Two-Fisted Painters Action Adventure. 1980.
Maus—A Survivor's Tale. 1986; as Maus I—A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History, 1991; with Maus II—A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began, in Maus—A Survivor's Tale, 1997.
Maus II—A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began. 1991; with Maus I—A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History, in Maus—A Survivor's Tale, 1997.
Comix, Essays, Graphics and Scraps: From Maus to Now to Maus to Now (exhibition catalog). 1999.
Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits, with Chip Kidd. 2001.
Open Me, I'm a Dog (for children). 1997.
Editor, with Bob Schneider, Whole Grains: A Book of Quotations. 1972.
Editor, Raw: The Graphic Aspirin for War Fever, by Françoise Mouly. 1986.
Editor, with Françoise Mouly, X, by Sue Coe. 1986.
Editor, with Mouly, Read Yourself Raw: Comix Anthology for Damned Intellectuals (selections from the first three issues of the magazine). 1987.
Editor, with Mouly, Agony, by Mark Beyer. 1987.
Editor, with Mouly, Jimbo: Adventures in Paradise, by Gary Panter. 1988.
Editor, with Mouly, Raw: Open Wounds from the Cutting Edge of Commix, V. 2, No. 1. 1989.
Editor, with Mouly, Raw: Required Reading for the Post-Literate, V. 2, No. 2. 1990.
Editor, with R. Sikoryak and Mouly, Warts and All, by Drew Friedman and Josh Alan Friedman. 1990.
Editor, with Mouly, Raw: High Culture for Low Brows, V. 2, No. 3. 1991.
Editor, with R. Sikoryak, Skin Deep: Tales of Doomed Romance, by Charles Burns. 1992.
Editor, with R. Sikoryak, The Narrative Corpse: A Chain-Story by 69 Artists. 1995.
Editor, with Mouly, Little Lit: Folklore & Fairytale Funnies (for children). 2000.
Editor, with Mouly, Little Lit: Strange Stories for Strange Kids (for children). 2001.*
The Complete Maus, 1994, from Maus I and II.
Comic Books As History: The Narrative Art of Jack Jackson, Art Spiegelman, and Harvey Pekar by Joseph Witek, 1989; "'We Were Talking Jewish': Art Spiegelman's Maus As 'Holocaust' Production" by Michael Rothberg, in Contemporary Literature, 35(4), Winter 1994, pp. 661-87; "The Shoah Goes On and On: Remembrance and Representation in Art Spiegelman's Maus " by Michael E. Staub, in MELUS, 20, Fall 1995, pp. 33-46; "The Language of Survival: English As Metaphor in Spiegelman's Maus " by Alan Rosen, in Prooftexts, 15(3), September 1995, pp. 249-62; "Art Spiegelman's Maus: Graphic Art and the Holocaust" by Thomas Doherty, in American Literature, 68(1), March 1996, pp. 69-84; "The Holocaust As Vicarious Past: Art Spiegelman's Maus and the Afterimages of History" by James E. Young, in Critical Inquiry, 24(3), Spring 1998, pp. 666-99; "The Orphaned Voice in Art Spiegelman's Maus I & II" by Hamida Bosmajian, in Literature and Psychology, 44(1-2), 1998, pp. 1-22; Holocaust Literature: Schulz, Levi, Spiegelman and the Memory of the Offence by Gillian Banner, 2000; "Maus, Holocaust, and History: Redrawing the Frame" by Barry Laga, in Arizona Quarterly, 57(1), Spring 2001, pp. 61-90.* * *
Art Spiegelman, best known as the author of Maus and a regular contributor of cover images to the New Yorker, has been involved in drawing serious comics since the late 1960s. He has described his own artistic development as follows: "Maus … I was doing with the understanding that it would be seen in one way or another. But nevertheless it was something born out of trying to meet two needs at once. One, tell a story. It finally dawned on me after being a cartoonist for a good twenty years or more that what people wanted out of comics was a story, so I had to find a story worth telling, because the kind of comics I'd been working on up to the moment I started Maus were involved in kind of taking narratives apart and messing with them, rather than telling them. So it was fulfilling that need. On the other hand, it also filled the more central need for me of trying to make sense of my own personal past and of history as I intersected with it."
Spiegelman's rise from an obscure comics artist drawing for underground publications to a Pulitzer Prize-winning author parallels the increasing seriousness with which comics as a genre have been approached critically. While he had been drawing comics from an early age and had even printed and distributed them in high school, Spiegelman's oeuvre did not find a wider readership until he, together with his wife, Françoise Mouly, began publishing Raw in 1980. Raw, published annually, provided a forum for comics artists to publish serious material that was intended for an adult audience; that it also maintained an ironic edge, however, is evident from the third issue's title, High Culture for Low-Brows.
It was in Raw that Spiegelman's greatest success to that point, Maus, was published serially. In 1986 Pantheon published Maus—A Survivor's Tale in book format; it was later followed by a second part, Maus II—A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began (1991). Reflecting the uncertainty concerning the genre under which to classify a comics novel about the Holocaust, the New York Times initially assigned it to its fiction best-seller list, only to reassign it to nonfiction once Spiegelman wrote a letter of protest. Despite these initial confusions, Maus has been routinely hailed as one of the most brilliant contributions to Holocaust literature and has become a staple of college courses on the Holocaust.
Maus, implicitly or explicitly, addresses issues such as the proper form (if any) of fictional (or semifictional) responses to the Holocaust; the relationship between testimonial literature and fictional text; the role of survivors' children in transmitting knowledge about the horrors of the Holocaust; the production of meaning about a historical event at a generation's remove; the meaning of the commercial success of a book describing and depicting the Holocaust; the possibility of combining personal narrative with historiography; and the question of how to interpret the Shoah after the survivors' generation will have passed away.
In Maus, Spiegelman has written a text that is as much about the quandaries and difficulties associated with producing meaning about the Holocaust as it is about the Holocaust itself. Maus stands as a metonymic reminder of the desire to tell a story and the simultaneous inability to do so due to the problems associated with representing the Holocaust adequately.
Spiegelman (together with Mouly) has begun what appears to be a Little Lit series: Little Lit: Folklore & Fairytale Funnies (2000) combines contributions from a number of renowned comics artists and continues Spiegelman's interest in bringing a serious edge to comics, this time to an audience that too often is patronized by children's books. Little Lit: Strange Stories for Strange Kids (2001) promises more of the trademark Spiegelman strategy of blurring generic boundaries and producing work that elevates comics into the status of work of art.
See the essay on Maus—A Survivor's Tale.
"Spiegelman, Art." Reference Guide to Holocaust Literature. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/spiegelman-art
"Spiegelman, Art." Reference Guide to Holocaust Literature. . Retrieved October 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/spiegelman-art
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Born February 15, 1948 (Stockholm, Sweden)
American author, illustrator, editor
One of the best-known graphic novelists in the world, Art Spiegelman injected new energy into the comics genre with the creation of his intensely personal memoir of the Holocaust, Maus, A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History and Maus II, A Survivor's Tale: Here My Troubles Began. Spiegelman's contribution to comic book art began, however, long before the publication of Maus. As a central part of the underground comics scene since the 1960s and co-editor (with his wife Françoise Mouly) of the groundbreaking comics magazine Raw, Spiegelman has been a major influence in the modern comic book.
"What story do I have that's worth telling? … it seemed obvious to me that it had to be this story I got from my parents–Maus."
Raised on Mad and history
Art Spiegelman's parents were Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, the attempt by German Nazis to destroy Europe's Jewish population during World War II (1939–45). This simple fact would deeply affect their son's life and art. When they regained their freedom after the end of World War II, Vladek and Anja Spiegelman emigrated to Sweden, where they lived for several years before leaving to make a new home in the United States. Their son Art was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on February 15, 1948, and raised in Rego Park in the New York City borough of Queens. He became fascinated with comics at the age of five or six, when he studied Mad magazines and Batman comic books for hours, teaching himself to read the word balloons. Before long he was copying the artists he liked, and creating his own comics.
Maus, A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History (1986).
Maus II, A Survivor's Tale: Here My Troubles Began (1992).
(With Joseph Moncure March) The Wild Party: The Lost Classic by Joseph Moncure March (1999).
In the Shadow of No Towers (2004).
Open Me … I'm a Dog. (1997). (Editor, with Françoise Mouly) Little Lit. 3 vols. (2000–03).
Comic Books and Magazines
Work and Turn (1979).
(Editor, with Françoise Mouly, and contributor) Raw (1980–91).
(With Robert Crumb, Robert Williams, Kim Deitch, and Tony Millionaire) Legal Action Comics 2 vols. (2005).
Though Spiegelman's parents would have preferred that he become a doctor or dentist, young Art chose his career early. He studied cartooning at New York's High School of Art and Design. By the age of fifteen he had taken his first paying job at a weekly newspaper in Queens, and by the age of seventeen he had turned down an offer to draw a comic strip for syndication to various newspapers. He attended Harpur College (now the State University of New York at Binghamton) from 1965 to 1968, where he studied art and philosophy. He earned money to support his comics pursuits by working for the Topps Candy Company. Topps, a maker of baseball-card bubble gum packs and other novelty candies, employed many innovative young comics artists, and Spiegelman enjoyed his work there. Designing the decorative borders for baseball cards and creating the art for other Topps products, like Wacky Packages and Garbage Pail Kids, allowed him to do the kind of work he had admired in Mad Magazine, sly social satire concealed behind silliness.
Spiegelman's comic book art also helped him express the deep emotional pain he often felt. During the 1960s, Spiegelman had a nervous breakdown and spent time in a mental hospital. Shortly afterward, in 1968, his mother, Anja, killed herself, leaving no note or explanation. Her grieving son responded with a powerful comic titled "Prisoner on Hell Planet," which described the tortured pain and anger he felt over his mother's suicide.
Experiments in comix
The 1960s and 1970s were periods of radical social change and experimentation in the arts. Comic art was no exception, and a dynamic underground "comix" movement began to push the limits of acceptable content and style in comics. These new comix reflected the radical politics, outrageous behavior, and blatant sexuality that characterized the 1960s counterculture movement. Influenced by such underground artists as Robert Crumb (author of Mr. Natural and Fritz the Cat), Spiegelman began to draw for radical comix Real Pulp, Young Lust, and Bizarre Sex. He sometimes published using a pen name, like Joe Cutrate, Al Flooglebuckle, or Skeeter Grant. During the mid-1970s, he joined forces with friend and fellow comics artist Bill Griffith (Zippy the Pinhead) to produce a comic magazine titled Arcade: The Comix Revue.
In 1977, Spiegelman married Françoise Mouly, a French artist who had quit architecture school in Paris to come to New York and find a radical creative community. In 1979, Spiegelman began to teach history and the aesthetics of comics at New York's School for Visual Arts and, in 1980, he and Mouly began to edit their own avant-garde comic magazine, titled Raw: Open Wounds from the Cutting Edge of Commix. Printed in a large, Life magazine-sized format, Raw highlighted the work of important young comic book artists from all over the world. Its first edition of 4,500 copies sold out immediately.
It was in Raw that Spiegelman first published a comic strip that told the story of his parents' experiences during the Holocaust. In true comics style, he told his story through animal characters that dressed and walked like humans. Titled Maus, Spiegelman's strip depicted Jews as mice, Nazis as cats, Poles as pigs, and Americans as dogs. Other than having animal heads, however, the characters display a deep range of human emotion and behavior in a period of tremendous upheaval and tragedy.
Spiegelman had begun to draw Maus in 1978, and it took thirteen years to complete. The story is told from the point of view of his father, and Spiegelman taped hours of conversations with Vladek, who died in 1982. The completed work was published as a graphic novel in two parts: Maus, a Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History (1986) and Maus II, a Survivor's Tale: Here My Troubles Began (1992).
Mad: Inspiration from the Usual Gang of Idiots
The humor magazine that sparked Art Spiegelman's interest in cartooning has been an inspiration to generations of other comics artists as well. Founded in 1952 by publisher Bill Gaines, Mad has provided social and political satire and outright goofiness to its readers for more than half acentury.
Bill Gaines was the owner of EC Comics, publisher of a line of comic books that included Tales of the Crypt, Weird Science and Shock SuspenStories. The EC books were admired by readers and critics alike for the high quality of their writing and art and their unusual subject matter, which included a focus on controversial social issues such as racism. In 1952, with editor/cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman, Gaines added a humor comic to his catalog. This comic, titled Tales Calculated to Drive You…Mad, was filled with social and political satire; parodies of popular movies, radio, and television shows; and some of the best comics artwork around.
The work of cartoonists like Wally Wood, Will Elder, Jack Davis, Don Martin, and Dave Berg became regular features of the comic, which changed to a slick magazine format with its twenty-fourth issue in 1955. During the politically repressive 1950s and early 1960s, Mad was one of the few publications that offered readers a delightfully irreverent critical look at government policies. Though the magazine has a clear liberal slant, Mad skewers every part of popular culture with equal glee.
Through the decades, Mad has attracted a loyal reader base that revels in the publication's long-standing "in-jokes." These include the Mad mascot, a gap-toothed, grinning character named Alfred E. Neuman, whose motto, "What—me worry?" is found in every issue.
One of the most powerful modern literary works of any genre, Maus not only describes the events of the Nazi attack on Jewish people in a deeply personal way, but also describes the profound
[Image not available for copyright reasons]
effect that these events have had on future generations. While most of the story is told from Vladek's point of view, Spiegelman also explores his own complex feelings about his parents' terrible experiences. "I know this is insane," the "Art" character says to his wife, Françoise, "but I somehow wish I had been in Auschwitz with my parents so I could really know what they lived through! … I guess it's some kind of guilt about having had an easier life than they did."
Though not a comic in the "funny papers" sense of the word, Maus uses comic book techniques to give depth and complexity to the story. In his contributions to Raw, Spiegelman experimented with various styles of art and narrative, and he uses everything he has learned in the creation of Maus. The completed work is as visual as a film or stage play and as multi-layered as a novel. It is an intimate and detailed examination of a terrible period in history and its effect on the individuals who lived through it and their children who did not. No easy solutions or simple morals are given. Vladek is portrayed as both resourceful and petty, brave and bigoted, a survivor and a damaged soul. His son both longs for connection with his father and condemns his meanness. He feels both privileged not to have lived through what his parents have and deprived because he has parents who have been so negatively affected by the experience.
Critics and readers received Maus with a respect and admiration rarely given to a comic book. Along with dozens of comics awards, it won a special citation 1992 Pulitzer Prize, becoming the first comic book to win that prestigious award.
Life after Maus
In 1993, Spiegelman joined the staff of the New Yorker magazine as a regular artist and writer. His cover art, comics, and commentary fit well with the magazine's forward-thinking intellectual image, though they were often controversial. In 1997, he wrote and illustrated a children's book called Open Me … I'm a Dog, and he and Mouly began to edit a comics series for children called Little Lit, "trying to show," as he said in an interview with Christopher Monte Smith on BookSense.com, "that comics are not just for grown-ups anymore." Like much of his work for adults, Spiegelman's children's books are characterized by a combination of silliness and disturbing weirdness.
On September 11, 2001, Spiegelman was living with Mouly and their two children on the lower end of Manhattan when Islamic terrorists forced two commercial airliners to fly into the towers of the World Trade Center, New York's highest buildings. He watched in horror as the huge towers collapsed, then ran to find his children, one of whom attended school near the destroyed buildings. Like most New Yorkers, Spiegelman was devastated by the sudden attack on the city, and, like other political leftists, he was almost equally appalled by the U.S. government's response, which he saw as weakening civil liberties and rushing to war. When Spiegelman drew the cover for that week's New Yorker, he expressed the inexpressible pain of many by simply drawing the silhouettes of the two towers in varying shades of deep gray and black. That cover would become the cover of his next book.
Spiegelman found release for his complex mixture of feelings by starting work on his next graphic novel, In the Shadow of No Towers. Unlike Maus, which had been a traditional narrative, In the Shadow of No Towers was more like "a fragment of a diary," as Spiegelman called it in an interview with Nina Siegel in The Progressive. In the book, which begins with the line "Synopsis: In our last episode, as you might remember, the world ended," the artist uses a variety of drawing styles to explore his shattered state of mind. He even uses old characters from classic comics to portray various aspects of himself: sometimes the narrator is the Jewish mouse Art from Maus, sometimes he is a character from classic strips Happy Hooligan or Bringing Up Father. Though some critics find the work too unfocused, many feel it is a powerful depiction of what it is like to live through a devastating moment in history.
Spiegelman left his job with the New Yorker in 2003. He remained in New York City and continued to work on expanding the boundaries of the comic book. One of his latest projects was a comics opera, titled Drawn to Death: A Three-Panel Opera.
For More Information
Forget, Thomas. Art Spiegelman. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 2004.
Witek, Joseph. Comic Books as History: The Narrative Art of Jack Jackson, Art Spiegelman, and Harvey Pekar. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1990.
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"Spiegelman, Art." UXL Graphic Novelists. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/spiegelman-art
"Spiegelman, Art." UXL Graphic Novelists. . Retrieved October 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/spiegelman-art