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Spiegelman, Art


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.)]

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