Art Spiegelman’s Maus (1980 – 1991)
Comic book writer-illustrator Art Spiegelman was known for his transgressive, acid-tinged experimental comics in the 1970’s, and for his gleefully crude, commercially successful “Garbage Pail Kids” series of parody trading cards in the 1980’s, but his real contribution to world culture came when he released Maus, an emotional portrait of his parent’s lives during the Holocaust, as realized in the form of a graphic novel. A dramatic departure in tone and content from both his own prior work and from other graphic novels of the time, Maus paved the way for a host of successors that tackled serious and realistic content in a form most often associated with super-hero fables and humor.
Nod to Artifice: Spiegelman appears as a character in Maus‘s two volumes and comments on his own troubles and decision-making processes in creating it.
Classic Structure: Unlike most prior graphic novels, Maus deals with a true story, told with gritty realism, and in a relatively straightforward fashion.
Transcontextual and Iconic Elements: Cartooning is by nature an iconic art, and Spiegelman makes defiantly non-ironic use of its many conventions, including the use of (symbolically coded) anthropomorphic animals to portray the story’s characters.
Moments of Genuine Emotion or Significance: Few were able to read Maus without being moved by the starkness of the book’s tragedies, and the humane qualities of its narrative.
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