'Self-Portrait with Maus Mask', a cover for the 6 June 1989 issue of New York tabloid, The Village Voice.

Art Spiegelman is one of the most celebrated names in contemporary comics, best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning two-part autobiographical graphic novel 'Maus' (1986, 1991), an exploration of his difficult relationship with his father, an Auschwitz survivor. The book is a solemn and deeply moving story, considered by many as a masterpiece and a milestone in the history of comics. Spiegelman was co-editor, creator and cartoonist in the anthology comics 'Arcade" (1975-1976, with Bill Griffith) and Raw (1980-1991), with wife Françoise Mouly, and he produced material for The New Yorker magazine for over a decade. Spiegelman's influential comics and books feature experimentation with content, lay-out and narrative style, and do not shy away from controversial topics, like the 9/11 attacks on NYC, described in 'In the Shadow of No Towers' (Pantheon, 2004). He is a prominent spokesman for the medium of comics, discussing its history in lectures, essays and books. 

Early life
Ihtzak Avraham ben Zeev Spiegelman was born in 1948 in Stockholm, Sweden. His parents left Poland at the end of WWII, first emigrating to Sweden before moving to the United States in 1951. The family initially moved to Norristown, Pennsylvania, then relocated in 1957 to Rego Park in Queens, New York. Spiegelman's father and mother, Vladek and Anja Spiegelman, were Jewish survivors of the Auschwitz death camp, who lost all other relatives in the Holocaust. Tales of the wartime traumas of his parents left a lasting mark on Spiegelman's own psyche. At age 20, he had a nervous breakdown, and spent a few months in a psychiatric institution. After his release, Spiegelman learned that his mother had recently committed suicide. These events shaped the nature and tone of his comic narratives in many later works.

Comic influences 
Throughout Art Spiegelman's life, comics provided escapism. His parents had no affinity with the medium, and allowed young Artie to read whatever he wanted, including the horror and mystery titles published by EC Comics, which were major targets of Dr. Fredric Wertham's mid-1950s highly publicized attacks on comics as a corrupting force on the youth of America. When Spiegelman began drawing gag comics at age 12, he signed his name "Art Spieg", a similarly sounding moniker to 'Little Abner' creator Al Capp. The comic MAD was a profound influence on Spiegelman, particularly when Harvey Kurtzman was chief editor (1952-1956). Spiegelman loved MAD's healthy skepticism of U.S. politics, media, advertising and society, its continual experimentation with covers and lay-out, and its wide-ranging satirical scope. MAD opened Spiegelman's mind to interesting artistic possibilities for comics and comic magazines. Among Spiegelman's other early graphic influences were Carl Barks, Chester Gould, George Herriman, Lyonel Feininger, Winsor McCay, Jack Cole, Bernard Krigstein, Charles M. Schulz, Basil Wolverton, John Stanley, Harry Hershfield, Harold Gray, and Will Eisner.

In the early 1970s, Spiegelman expressed admiration for feminist underground comix artists working in the male-dominated underground milieu: Aline Kominsky and Diane Noomin comic art in 'Wimmen's Comix' (1972-1992) and Mary K. Brown's work in National Lampoon magazine (1972-1982). Three male underground cartoonists, Rory Hayes, Robert Crumb and Justin Green, produced comic art that inspired and encouraged Spiegelman to tell mature stories for adults. Hayes managed to tell compelling stories despite his limited graphic skills, and Robert Crumb and Justin Green's work in the early 1970s, which moved to more personal, psychologically-revealing stories exploring their family background, appealed to Spiegelman. Green's groundbreaking autobiographical comic, 'Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary' (1972) influenced Spiegelman deeply, because it examined Green's Catholic upbringing and sexual guilt. 

Early Spiegelman covers: Left, The East Village Other (2 April 1969), Right, Bijou Funnies #7 (November 1972).

Early comic work 
In 1963, Spiegelman founded his own fanzines, Blasé and Smudge, self-publishing his first cartoons and comics. A year later, he sold his first professional cartoons to The Long Island Post and the United Features Syndicate. Spiegelman made short comics and flyers, such as 'A Flash of Insight' (1965-1966), 'This Is A Sheet Of Paper! Look At It And Touch It' (1967) and 'Yes, Play With Your Cells, and Become Your Own Food' (1967). As a student at Harpur College between 1965 and 1968, he was staff cartoonist and editor for the college newspaper. Later in the 1960s, Spiegelman became involved in the "underground comix" scene, meeting many of the artists who inspired him, including Robert Crumb. Like Crumb, Spiegelman illustrated a few covers of 'The East Village Other' in 1969. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Spiegelman's comics appeared in Wallace Wood's witzend magazine, the all-comics tabloid Gothic Blimp Works and the underground comics Bijou Funnies, Young Lust, Real Pulp and Bizarre Sex.

'Pop Goes the Poppa -or- the Vengeance of Dr. Speck' (Real Pulp Comics #1, 1971).

Spiegelman at Topps: Wacky Packages & Garbage Pail Kids
While in college, Spiegelman met Woody Gelman, art director of Topps Chewing Gum, who invited him to join his company as a freelance illustrator. In 1966, Spiegelman became a creative consultant, and was part of the team that developed 'Wacky Packages' (1967), a series of collectible trading cards with removable stickers, parodying well-known commercial products and logos. Spiegelman thought up gags and did rough sketches for the final art, most of which were painted by Norman Saunders. Adding to the stable of Topps' artists George Evans, Bhob Stewart and Tom Sutton, Spiegelman brought in underground comix colleagues Kim Deitch, Bill Griffith and Jay Lynch to work on writing and art for the series. 'Wacky Packages' parody products looked so similar to their commercial counterparts that the company lawyers were concerned about potential libel lawsuits. Topps kept individual trading cards in circulation only for a short while, in hopes that by the time a company sent a letter of complaint, that specific card would be already off the market. The 'Wacky Packages' franchise inspired posters, T-shirts, books, erasers, binders, and five issues of a comic book, with artwork by Jay Lynch, Joe Simko, Neil Camera and Brent Engstrom. Topps provided Spiegelman and other freelancing comic artists a steady supplement to their underground cartooning income.

Two 'Wacky Packages' stickers, painted by Norman Saunders based on Spiegelman lay-outs (1973).

In 1985, Spiegelman teamed up with Stan Hart to create 'Garbage Pail Kids', a series of Topps trading cards satirizing the popular children's toy 'Cabbage Patch Kids'. The cards featured children with punny or rhyming names ("Adam Bomb," "Slobby Robbie") doing a variety of disgusting activities. Some cards in the series were illustrated by comic artists Tom Bunk, John Pound and Carole Sobocinski. The card series was a hit among schoolchildren and its success spawned a 1988 live-action film adaptation, 'The Garbage Pail Kids Movie'. The movie was a box office flop and critically regarded as one of the worst films of all time (Metacritic gave it a rating of 1 out of 100, with a user score of 0.7). In 1989, Spiegelman broke off his partnership with Topps in a dispute over legal ownership. 

Panels from the original, three-page 'Maus' story, appearing in 'Funny Animals' (1972).

The first version of 'Maus'
In 1971, Spiegelman moved from New York City to San Francisco, taking over the apartment of his friend and fellow underground comic artist, Justin Green. A year later, when Green asked Spiegelman to contribute to his one-shot underground comic book 'Funny Animals' (1972), Spiegelman made his first attempt at an autobiographical comic. It was a three-page story entitled 'Maus', in which a Jewish father tells his son a bedtime story about his war experiences. The father's story used a cat-and-mouse metaphor: Jews were depicted as mice, and Germans as cats. Using animals as stand-ins for humans has a long tradition in storytelling. But Spiegelman also selected mice to represent Jews because Nazi propaganda often compared Jews to vermin. While this brief embryonic comic contains the basic concept of 'Maus', it looked vastly different from the final book version. The drawing style is cartoony, and direct references to Spiegelman himself, a feature of later versions, were absent in this comic, as the father calls the little boy Mickey, not Artie. After publication, Spiegelman moved on to other projects, but the 1972 'Maus' story was reprinted three years later in 'Comix Book', an underground anthology published by Marvel.

'Maus' was a comic that was revised and expanded multiple times by Spiegelman over the years. After its initial 1972 appearance in 'Funny Animals', 'Maus' was redrawn, revised and expanded into chapter installments, appearing in issues of Raw during the 1980s. Finally, Pantheon Press collected and published the RAW chapters as a two-volume book: 'Maus I: A Survivor's Tale' (1986) and 'Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began' (1991). Additional deluxe versions, including extra material and CD-ROMs, were published by Pantheon in 1994 and 2011.

Panels from 'Prisoner on the Hell Planet' ('Short Order Comics' #1, 1972). 

Short Order Comix 
'Zip-a-Tunes and Moire Melodies Featuring Skeeter Grant's Skinless Perkins', a Spiegelman cartoon inspired by small-sized "Tijuana Bible" sex comics, appeared in San Francisco Comic Book Company's 1972 'Zip-a-Tunes and Moire Melodies'. A year later, this story was reprinted in Short Order Comix #1 (1972), an underground comic edited by Spiegelman, Justin Green and Bill Griffith. This same issue contained Spiegelman's 'Prisoner on the Hell Planet', a four-page autobiographical story detailing the effect of his mother's suicide in 1968 on himself and his father. The distorted style, high contrast and shadow effects in the comic were inspired by the 20th-century woodcut artists Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward. Spiegelman's father once stumbled upon the 'Hell Planet' comic, and was distraught about the memories it brought back. Spiegelman later drew his version of this incident in a chapter of 'Maus', reprinting the entire 'Prisoner on the Hell Planet' comic as part of the panels. In Short Order Comix #2 (1974), Spiegelman experimented with narrative techniques and lay-out in 'Don't Get Around Much Anymore', and the film noir parody 'Ace Hole, Midget Detective'.

'Don't Get Around Much Anymore' (Short Order Comix #2, 1974). A stream-of-consciousness depiction of loneliness and isolation, with a man sitting in his living room while random thoughts about his surroundings come to his mind. 

Arcade: The Comics Review
In the Spring of 1975, Art Spiegelman teamed up again with co-creator and co-editor Bill Griffith on Arcade: The Comics Review (The Print Mint). The editorial mission of this anthology comic magazine was to showcase the major talents of the underground comix scene alongside classic comics of the past and illustrated short stories by contemporary writers. New work by 1960s Zap Comix artists Robert Crumb, Gilbert SheltonVictor Moscoso, Robert Wilson, Spain Rodriguez and S. Clay Wilson adorned pages and covers. Fellow underground artists Jay Lynch, Jay KinneyJustin GreenKim Deitch and Jim Osborne from Bijou Funnies appeared alongside Spiegelman's and Griffith's own work. Arcade also featured many contemporary female cartoonists: Aline KominskyDiane NoominSally Cruikshank, Michele Brand (AKA Michele Robinson) and M.K. Brown were contributors, and Brown and her husband B. Kliban were the front and back cover artists for Arcade's final issue. 

Reprints of selected works of 1920s and 30s comics by Milt GrossGeorge McManusHarrison Cady and Billy DeBeck, among others, were featured alongside the work of these underground 1960s and 1970s cartoonists. Illustrated short stories by contemporary writers Paul Krassner, William S. Boroughs, Charles Bukowski and others added a bohemian literary aspect to Arcade's pages. 

Spiegelman's Arcade cartoons featured bold graphic experiments, displaying his increasing complexity as an artist. His subconscious inspired some strips, such as 'A Hand Job' (Arcade #1) and 'Real Dream' (Arcade #2). In 'Day at the Circuits', two drunks in a bar engage in a circular conversation as the reader follows various arrows from panel to panel. In the sixth issue, Spiegelman manipulated small panels from the newspaper comic 'Rex Morgan: M.D.', drawn by Marvin Bradley, incorporating them within his own drawings, creating a collage comic with optical illusions: 'Nervous Rex the Malpractice Suite' (1976).

'Day at the Circuits' (Arcade #2, Summer, 1975).

Spiegelman became less involved with the production of Arcade after he moved from the Bay Area back to New York City near the end of 1975. While Arcade sold reasonably well, and the quarterly always delivered high quality materials on time, Spiegelman and Grifith decided to cease publication after the seventh issue. Though it existed for less than two years in total, the groundbreaking work of Arcade did not go unnoticed, and the magazine had its fans. Comic writer Alan Moore ('Watchmen', 'V for Vendetta') proclaimed on the website ComixJoint that Arcade was "the only truly worthwhile material produced during the 1970s". 

Below the belt conversations in Spiegelman's 'Jack 'N' Jane/Rod 'N' Randy' (Playboy, October 1979).

Comics for Men's Magazines
In 1969, Spiegelman drew erotic cartoons and comics for the lucrative "Men's Magazine" market, including Cavalier, Gent and Dude. For publisher Al Goldstein's magazine National Screw #1, Spiegelman signed his gag cartoon with the pseudonym "Al Floogleman", a name he also used for a character in his 1974 comic, 'Ace Hole, Midget Detective'. Playboy magazine initially rejected his submissions, but by 1978, Spiegelman had reworked his art style, with some advice from fellow Playboy cartoonists, and cartoon editor Michelle Urry convinced founder/chief editor Hugh Hefner to run some of Spiegelman's work. In December 1978, his gag comic 'Ed Head' made its debut. Lacking a body or limbs, Ed is a man who is all head. Many gags feature Ed resting on the side of the street, begging for money. While the first episodes were self-contained, a longer narrative in the series, when Ed is visited by a wish-granting fairy godfather (or "fairy god head" as he describes himself), ran from May to November 1979. The final two episodes of 'Ed Head' appeared in print in October and November 1981.

Life and career at the end of the 1970s
In the mid-1970s, Spiegelman met Frenchwoman Françoise Mouly, and they married in 1977. They shared a passion for comics and an interest in their artistic possibilities, and from then on worked together on many projects. In 1978, Spiegelman found a steady teaching job at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where comic legends Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder also taught classes. Spiegelman lectured about the history of comics and focused his talks on cartoonists he admired. Spiegelman's teaching work led to more demand for comic lectures, essays, articles and books. 'Breakdowns', a compilation book of Spiegelman's comic work, was supposed to be released by Nostalgia Press (an imprint run by Spiegelman's longtime friend at Topps Chewing Gum, Woody Gelman), but bad investments left Gelman broke and unable to afford the printing costs. At the last minute, Bélier Press stepped in as publisher, releasing the title in December 1977. Unfortunately, 'Breakdowns' didn't sell well, and Mouly felt that the book suffered from sub-standard printing and marketing. She studied offset printing, in order to improve the print quality of future Spiegelman comics.

comic art by Art Spiegelman
Two panels from the Introduction of 'Breakdowns' (1977).

In 1978, the couple traveled to Europe, where Mouly introduced Spiegelman to many European comics he was unfamiliar with. Spiegelman appreciated that in Europe, comics were taken more seriously than in the USA, and in France, there was a steady demand for comic magazines with adult themes, like L'Écho des Savanes, Fluide Glacial and (Á Suivre). At the time, the only comparable publication in the States was Heavy Metal, and all their stories were English-language translations of the French comic magazine, Métal Hurlant.

Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly established their own publishing company, Raw Books & Graphics, in 1978. They produced and distributed postcards, comics and maps, of which the 'Streets of SoHo Map and Guide' proved to be the most lucrative. The map sold advertising space to merchants in the Soho neighborhood in Manhattan, New York City, and annual updates provided the couple with cash on a regular basis. In July 1980, Mouly and Spiegelman founded their own magazine, RAW, an alternative comic magazine of experimental graphic artists. They worked together as RAW's co-editors for the first five years, adding Robert Sikoryak as an associate editor in 1985. Contributions from Mouly's connections in Europe and Spiegelman's network of colleagues in the US alternative comic industry provided RAW with an international roster of talent. With Mouly overseeing the production of its top-notch full-color printing, and utilizing high-quality paper and an oversized format, RAW's content looked vastly different from the average underground comic. RAW's tagline proclaimed: "Now it's safe for adults to read comics... or is it?". The magazine managed to attract and slowly build a worldwide readership. During its eleven-year run (issues appeared in 1980-1984, 1986 and 1989-1991), dozens of experimental graphic artists appeared in the pages of the magazine. RAW featured the first English translations of comics of European and Japanese cartoonists, and helped expand the exposure and serious discussion of its experimental works beyond the usual comic circles.

Panels from 'Two-Fisted Painters', RAW #1 (1980). 

While Spiegelman colored and translated some of the comics, the majority of RAW was Mouly's labor of love. Spiegelman designed the July 1980 cover of the very first RAW, as well as issues #7 (May 1985) and #9 (July 1989), and additionally created some exclusive one-shot comics for the magazine. In the first issue, Spiegelman made the two-part mini-comic 'Two-Fisted Painters'/'The Matisse Falcon', which was stapled within the larger comic. The story simultaneously spoofed superhero comics and the art industry. In RAW #5 (March 1983), the cartoonist toyed around with speech balloons in the self-reflective story 'One Row'. Spiegelman provided a free-spirited adaptation of Bin Labutau's 'In Search of Eden', entitled 'An Aborigine Among the Skyscrapers' in the next issue (May 1984). Collaborating with Ever Meulen and Charles Burns, Spiegelman created 'The Passion of Saint Sluggo', a crossover deconstruction of Ernie Bushmiller's 'Nancy' strip for issue #7 (1985). Working solo, Spiegelman parodied Chester Gould's 'Dick Tracy' in 'Dead Dick' (RAW #9, 1989). In the final issue of RAW, Spiegelman contributed 'Lead Pipe Sunday' (1991), featuring characters from the early years of American newspaper comics. 

A second 'Maus' appears in RAW
Beginning with RAW’s second issue (1981), Spiegelman's second version of 'Maus' was serialized in every issue. The first version, published in Funny Animals, was a three-page story about his father's Holocaust past, using mice and cats. After showing the comic to his father, the man casually told him more about his life in that era. Motivated to find out the entire story, Spiegelman began recording their conversations on tape. He also interviewed his father's friends and current wife, Mala. By 1978 Spiegelman started another, more ambitious attempt to tell the 'Maus' story. He expanded the narrative to include more of his father's anecdotes and tell everything chronologically. The artist documented himself about the Holocaust, 1930s Poland and visited Auschwitz twice, in 1979 and 1987. Spiegelman studied photos and artwork by camp survivors like Paladij Osynka, Alfred Kantor, Mieczyslaw Koscielniak and Waldemar Nowakowski. To capture the right mood while drawing, he listened to music by the 1927-1933 German-Jewish vocal group the Comedian Harmonists. 'Maus' was serialized in RAW through chapter installments, printed as small pamphlet-sized minicomics stapled into and hidden within RAW's oversized pages. It was a long, laborious process and Spiegelman researched and experimented with many narrative and graphic styles, trying to find the proper way to tell this complex and tragic story. 

Panels from 'Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History' (1986).   

Spiegelman had many reservations about telling a story set within one of the worst human tragedies in history, using a medium associated with "children's stories". It was a risky undertaking using anthropomorphic mice, cats and pigs to respectively represent Jews, Germans and Poles. Although Spiegelman was worried about depicting nationalities as animals, he discovered a WWII comic that had already done exactly that: Edmond-François Calvo's 'La Bête est Morte!' (1944) featured a wartime menagerie including Germans as wolves, French as rabbits, Brits as bulldogs and Americans as buffaloes. Spiegelman was also baffled to find out that a Jewish POW camp inmate, Horst Rosenthal, drew a funny animal comic while being imprisoned in the French internment camp Les Gurs during WWII. Rosenthals story, 'Mickey au Camp de Gurs', featured Mickey Mouse shown around in the camp. The discovery of these two comics encouraged Spiegelman to continue his own project. His Jewish mice and Nazi cat characters were part of a comic tradition, reaching as far back as World War II itself, instead of an ill-considered novelty. 

Spiegelman discovered one advantage to using animals to tell his story: it solved the problem of correctly depicting people his father described to him, but he had never met.  But the right drawing style for the animals and their surroundings took Spiegelman time and research to figure out. Looking for anthropomorphic animal artists, he modelled his characters after imagery from J.J. Grandville, Louis Wain and Carl Barks. Barks' 'Donald Duck' stories were particularly influential, as his "funny animal" characters behaved and reacted like believable human beings. In an early stage, Spiegelman drew everything in a luscious style, inspired by the woodcuts of Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward, but soon abandoned this, because the visuals were too distracting. He eventually settled on a simple yet sober style, which fit the somber tone of the narrative. Even so, Spiegelman wrestled with getting his images right, tinkering with the text and images in the story. In an interview in 'MetaMaus', Spiegelman's son Dashiell notes: "My dad redraws stuff and rewrites stuff until it's perfect to him, when other people reading it wouldn't have noticed anything in the first place."

Panels from 'Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began' (1991). 

'Maus' Books
In 1986, the first six RAW 'Maus' chapters were consolidated into a book: 'Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History' (Pantheon Books), followed in 1991 with 'Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began', which included all subsequent RAW 'Maus' installments, plus a previously unpublished final chapter. In 1994, the Voyager Company published a CD-Rom, 'The Complete Maus', which combined both parts of Spiegelman's original graphic novel with never-before-seen archive material, family photos, historical documentation and commentary. 'MetaMaus' (2011, Pantheon Books) expanded the story with additional interviews, essays and two bonus DVDs worth of audio and video recordings, including Spiegelman's original conversations with his father.

The Maus Tale
Spiegelman's father Vladek tells his son about his life in 1930s Warsaw, how he met his wife Anja and raised a family. In 1939, when Hitler occupied the country, all Jewish citizens are systematically persecuted or forced into hiding. Vladek and Anja manage to escape, though many of their friends and relatives are deported, killed or never seen again. At the end of the first volume, the couple is captured and sent to Auschwitz. Their experiences in the death camp and eventual reunion unfold in the second volume. 'Maus' is also a psychological study about a troubled father-son relationship. Spiegelman doesn't romanticize his father, nor himself. Vladek is obviously scarred by numerous traumatic events. He is neurotic, stingy and obsessed with orderliness. Spiegelman struggles to comprehend the horrors his dad endured, and some of Vladek's baffling decisions in the past and the present. His father constantly complains about his new wife, is emotionally manipulative and sees no hypocrisy in being racist to black people, even though he barely survived racial discrimination himself. Spiegelman shows his own negative side as well. He is impatient, occasionally yells at his father, and lies to avoid doing chores. At times, his character seems to have less interest in his father's needs than finding out the rest of his Holocaust past. Spiegelman depicts his guilt and insecurities, and wonders whether 'Maus' as a concept is too complex and overreaching.

Spiegelman divided 'Maus' into chapters, emulating a literary format used in novels. Most of the plot is told in flashbacks, with present-day narration by Vladek. Spiegelman developed a very different look for 'Maus' from his previous comics. He wanted the lay-out to be easy to follow, the speech balloons to look streamlined and the images to be clear and instantly understandable. Many pages were drawn and redrawn, in search of the right page composition. The lay-out on 'Maus' pages is visually clever. In one scene, a long line of prisoners waiting for food, divided over three panels, reveals itself to be one continuous drawing when seen from a distance. Other images use visual metaphors, such as a path that waits ahead of Vladek and Anja in the shape of a swastika. Spiegelman's simple but effective drawings manage to suggest the real-life events behind the animal characters. 

'Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History' (1986). 

Success & cultural impact
Public awareness of 'Maus' changed overnight on 26 May 1985, when Ken Tucker, a critic for The New York Times, gave it an enthusiastic review. Readers of the review wanted to buy 'Maus', which at the time, was unpublished in book form. Pantheon Books, capitalizing on the media buzz, published the first volume the next year, and a second volume in 1991. 'Maus' was a critical and commercial success. Jules Feiffer and Umberto Eco praised its multi-layered narrative in the press. Academic study of 'Maus', from school book reports to university theses, began to appear. In 1992, 'Maus' became the first comic book to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize.  The book began to reach a general audience, including people who normally didn't read comics. 'Maus' was translated in more than 30 languages, including German, Polish, Hebrew, Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Each translation took pains to maintain the effect of Vladek's broken English and incorrect sentence structures, as his phrasing appears in the original English-language version.

Spiegelman was amazed at the literary success of 'Maus'. He felt strongly that his story only worked in comic format and though he received numerous commercial offers, he refused all outside attempts to merchandise the book, including TV or film adaptations. Spiegelman was also very protective of how the book is presented in the media, once taking action to ensure 'Maus' was sold in the "non-fiction" section of book stores. Although the financial success of 'Maus' gave Spiegelman the opportunity to quit his teaching job, the success of his signature work left him with less time to draw new comics, and his newer comic projects did not get the same amount of praise that 'Maus' received. Spiegelman expressed his mixed feelings about 'Maus' in a comic titled 'Mein Kampf', published in The New York Times Magazine on 12 May 1996.

Over the years, Spiegelman's 'Maus' has continued to make headlines, sometimes in relation to scandals. During the 2012 edition of Angoulême Comic Festival in France - that year under chairmanship of Art Spiegelman - a pirate edition of 'Maus' was released by the Belgian imprint La Cinquième Couche. In this book, entitled 'Katz', the subversive Greek-Belgian artist Illan Manouach changed each and every animal character in Spiegelman's original to cats. Flammarion, the publisher owning the French-language exploitation rights to 'Maus', sued the Brussels publisher. La Cinquième Couche could not afford the legal costs, and settled out of court by destroying the entire print run, as well as the digital art files, of 'Katz'. In January 2022, the comic community was baffled by the news that a school board in McMinn County, Tennessee, had removed 'Maus' from its eighth-grade English language arts curriculum over concerns about "rough, objectionable language" and a drawing of a nude woman. Spiegelman reacted in a CNN interview, expressing his concern that language and nudity weigh heavier than teaching about the Holocaust. After the ban made worldwide news, 'Maus' was catapulted to the top of the sales charts, with five different editions of Spiegelman's book holding spots on Amazon's top 25.

Controversial Spiegelman covers for The New Yorker: left, 'Valentine's Day' (15 February 1993), right, 'Theology of the Tax Cut' (17 April 1995).

The New Yorker
Between 1991 and 2002, Art Spiegelman was a contributor to The New Yorker, creating cartoons, illustrations and thematic one-shot comics for the magazine. Some were interviews or essays about comic artists Harvey Kurtzman, Maurice Sendak ('In the Dumps', 27 September 1993, a collaboration with Sendak), and Charles M. Schulz ('Abstract Thought is a Warm Puppy', 14 February 2000). Other contributions dealt with political issues, such as neo-Nazi violence in Rostock, Germany ('A Jew in Rostock', 7 December 1992). Spiegelman also created some highly controversial covers for The New Yorker, some which had to be slightly altered in order to be published. His 1995 'Valentine's Day' cover, which appeared shortly after race riots between Jews and African-Americans in Crown Heights, NYC, showed a rabbi kissing a black woman. While Spiegelman felt his illustration conveyed a pacifist message, many readers interpreted the cover as either being racist or depicting a rabbi visiting a prostitute. Four years later, controversy surrounded Spiegelman's 1995 cover 'Theology of the Tax Cut'. In that year, the day after Easter Sunday was Tax Day, when all Federal and State taxes were due. Spiegelman's cover depicted the Easter Bunny crucified in front of a tax document. Many religious readers, including the Christian Anti-Defamation League, sent letters of protest to the magazine. The cartoonist caused uproar again on 8 March 1999, with a cover depicting a policeman aiming at regular civilians in a shooting gallery, only a month after New York City Police fired 41 shots into an unarmed and innocent black man, Amadou Diallo, as he attempted to pull out his wallet to show his identification. Spiegelman's cover, 'Fears of July' (8 July 2002), was also criticized by some readers for depicting an atomic mushroom cloud during Independence Day fireworks.

Other Spiegelman New Yorker covers received positive feedback. Saul Steinberg praised his 1996 cover 'Family Values', depicting a happy family of beatnik grandparents, hippie parents and a punk rock daughter and her newborn baby. Spiegelman was also praised for his iconic cover in remembrance of the victims of the 11 September 2001 attacks, done in collaboration with his wife Françoise Mouly, the art editor of the magazine since 1993. On first glance, the cover appears to be completely black. But on closer inspection, one can see the contours of the World Trade Center towers in a slightly lighter shade of black. 'Kisses From New York', a compilation of Spiegelman's work for The New Yorker, featuring a foreword by novelist Paul Auster, was published by Penguin Books in 2006.

The Several Selves of Selby Sheldrake, by Art Speigelman 2001
'The Several Selves of Selby Sheldrake', from Little Lit: Strange Stories for Strange Kids (2001).

Little Lit
Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly were also responsible for the 'Little Lit' anthologies, of which three volumes were published by HarperCollins: 'Little Lit: Folklore & Fairy Tale Funnies' (2000), 'Little Lit: Strange Stories for Strange Kids' (2001) and 'Little Lit: It Was a Dark and Silly Night' (2003). The series collected artistically-crafted comic stories aimed at children, not only by Spiegelman and other former RAW artists, but also by prominent authors and illustrators of children's books. In 2006, a selection from the original three books was published by Puffin Books under the title 'Big Fat Little Lit'.

In the Shadow of No Towers
Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly were in New York City on the day of the 2001 9/11 terrorist attacks. They panicked because their children went to school not far from the World Trade Center, and although the principal had safely evacuated the school before the towers started to collapse, Art Spiegelman was traumatized and depressed by the events of the day. In the months following the attack, one thing that provided him escapism were classic American comic strips. Spiegelman decided to express his feelings in comic form, since "tragedy seems to be my muse". His comic series 'In the Shadow of No Towers' appeared in Die Zeit, The Forward, Courrier International, The Independent, The London Review of Books, Internationale, The L.A. Weekly, The Chicago Weekly and World War Three Illustrated. The first few episodes of the comic depict how Spiegelman personally experienced that dramatic day and the effect its aftermath had on ordinary citizens. Over time, the comic gradually became more politically charged, criticizing blind patriotism, President George W. Bush, his "War on Terror" and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Because old comics brought Spiegelman relief, he added parodies of classic 1900s newspaper comics, reimagined in the post 9/11 climate. Among the spoofed series are Winsor McCay's 'Little Nemo', George McManus' 'Bringing Up Father', Gustave Verbeck's 'The Upside Downs', Frederick Burr Opper's 'Happy Hooligan' and Rudolph Dirks' 'Der Katzenjammer Kids'. 

In the Shadow of No Towers, by Art Spiegelman
Panels from 'In the Shadow Of No Towers' (2002).

The strips were compiled into a book, also entitled 'In the Shadow of No Towers', which was published by Pantheon Press in September 2004. Although the pages of the comic were quite large, the entire series was only 10 pages in total length, so Spiegelman increased the page count by adding seven reprints of old newspaper comics with coincidental thematic connections to the 9/11 attacks. The book was given additional heft by printing the pages on thick cardboard instead of paper. Composer Mohamed Fairouz was inspired by the book to write his symphony 'In The Shadow Of No Towers'.

Political controversy
In the years that followed, Spiegelman became more outspoken in his views regarding racism, religion, censorship, U.S. politics and freedom of speech. In June 2006, he wrote an article for Harper's Magazine, regarding the public outrage over a series of cartoons published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which depicted the Prophet Muhammad. The essay, 'Drawing Blood: Outrageous Cartoons and the Art of Outrage', looked back at the history of cartoon censorship and took a stand against it. In January 2015, editors of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were murdered by terrorists for ridiculing Muhammad, once again sparking debates about the freedom of speech in comics. Spiegelman made a one-shot comic, 'Notes From a First Amendment Fundamentalist', in which he defended "the right to be offended in cartoons".

'Notes From a First Amendment Fundamentalist' (2015).

In 2019, Spiegelman wrote a foreword entitled 'Golden Age Superheroes Were Aided By The Rise of Fascism'. It was intended for the book 'Marvel: The Golden Age 1939-1949', a deluxe compilation of classic Marvel Comics by the Folio Society. In this piece, he wrote about how the earliest U.S. superhero comics were mostly written, drawn and published by artists who, during World War II, pitted their characters against Nazis and Fascists in propaganda-themed comics. Spiegelman concluded his text by drawing a parallel with present times, when global racism and fascism has risen again and "an Orange Skull haunts America". This reference alluding to U.S. President Donald Trump (who has a notable orange tan) didn't go unnoticed by Marvel's editors, and they asked Spiegelman to remove it, as the company wanted to be apolitical. Spiegelman then withdrew his foreword and offered the essay to the newspaper The Guardian on 16 August of that year, who made the controversy public. Spiegelman pointed out that Marvel Entertainment chairman Isaac "Ike" Perlmutter is a longtime friend and public supporter of Trump, which he felt was the real reason for the attempted censorship of his writing.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!
In 2008, Spiegelman and the publishing house Pantheon republished his 1978 comic book compilation 'Breakdowns', including, as a preface, 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!', a more recent, nineteen-page comic originally published in the Virginia Quarterly Review (2005-2006). 'Portrait' is a non-chronological overview of Spiegelman's life, told in comic strip form. It is a personal "coming-of-age" tale, focusing on key moments that had a profound impact on his way of thinking. Among these are the first time Spiegelman discovered Mad Magazine and EC Comics, and things his parents told him that made a lasting impression. Spiegelman depicts how a cheap marketing trick disappointed him as a kid and made him "discover America", and included moments early in his career when he was still trying to find his own voice. 

Panels from 'Breakdowns - Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!' (2005-2006).

Children's book illustrations
Spiegelman has written and illustrated three children's books: 'Open Me I'm a Dog' (1995), 'Jack and the Box' (2008) and 'Be A Nose' (2009). These picture books all make use of sequential narratives. 'Open Me, I'm a Dog' was published by HarperCollins, but thereafter, all of Spiegelman's children's books were released by Toon Books, an imprint run by his wife, Françoise Mouly. Toon Books publishes child-friendly and educational picture books, illustrated by professional comic artists. 

Other projects 
Over the years, Art Spiegelman has edited, written and drawn material in publications beyond his better-known work in Arcade, RAW comics, Playboy and The New Yorker magazine. He paid tribute to underground comic artist Don Dohler in the collective homage album 'ProJunior' (Krupp Comic Works, 1971). In 1973, along with Bob Schneider, he edited and drew the cover of 'Whole Grains: A Book of Quotations' (Douglas Links), a wide-ranging collection of quotes from figures in popular culture, divided into four sections: 'Sex, Dope and Cheap Thrills', 'Earth Ship', 'Alienation Blues', and 'White Light'.. In 1994, Spiegelman illustrated a book reprint of the 1928 poem 'The Wild Party' by Joseph Moncure March (Pantheon) and edited David Mazzucchelli's graphic novelisation of the Paul Auster novel 'City of Glass'. The following year, together with Robert Sikoryak, he edited 'The Narrative Corpse', a crossover comic in which 69 cartoonists (many from RAW) create a chain story, where one artist takes over from where the previous artist left off. Spiegelman contributed the foreword to 1996's 'Tijuana Bibles: Art and Wit in America's Forbidden Funnies', discussing the history of these small, eight-page sex comics. He wrote the self-reflective article 'Getting in Touch with My Inner Racist' for the 1 September 1997 issue of Mother Jones magazine. His 8 March 1999 New Yorker article about Jack Cole, 'Forms Stretched To Their Limits: What Kind of Person Could Have Dreamed Up Plastic Man?', eventually expanded into a complete biography about the cartoonist, written with Chip Kidd: 'Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits' (Chronicle Books, 2001). The 2010 compilation 'Lynd Ward: Six Novels in Woodcuts', published by The Library of America, featured a foreword written by Spiegelman about the Chicago-born artist. A compilation of Spiegelman's work was published by Drawn & Quarterly in 2013 under the title 'Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps'. Art Spiegelman has a few movie and TV credits as well: he was one of many cartoonists interviewed in the 1988 documentary film 'Comic Book Confidential', and his voice, along with comic artists Daniel Clowes and Alan Moore, was used in 'Husbands and Knives', a 2007 episode of Matt Groening's 'The Simpsons'.

'High Art Lowdown' (1990).

Comics analysis and criticism
Between 1963 and 1965, Art Spiegelman attended the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan, followed by three years at Harpur College (1965-1968), majoring in art and philosophy. Spiegelman started analyzing cartoonists from the past and present and had heated arguments on the artistic merits of comics with professors who looked down on the medium. Spiegelman managed to impress professor/filmmaker Ken Jacobs with his thought-provoking essay about the artistic values of Bernard Krigstein's 'Master Race' (1955), one of the first comic stories to deal with the Holocaust. (In 1975, Spiegelman, along with John Benson and David Kasakove, expanded this essay into a new article on Krigstein in the fanzine Squa Tront #4, featuring a page-by-page analysis of 'Master Race'). Professor Ken Jacobs also changed Spiegelman's negative impressions of modern art by suggesting to regard painters and graphic artists as if they were cartoonists. Soon Spiegelman warmed up to the work of Pablo Picasso, George Grosz and Otto Dix. In 1990, when the Museum of Modern Art organized an exhibition about the inter-relationship of comics and high art, titled 'High/Low', Spiegelman criticized what he perceived as the patronizing way comics were treated in the exhibition. He published his reaction to the show in a 1990 issue of ArtForum magazine, in a comic strip entitled 'High Art Lowdown'. On 3 August 1999, political cartoonist Ted Rall criticized Spiegelman's powerful influence in the cartoon industry with an article published in the Village Voice. While Spiegelman himself didn't react to it, cartoonist Danny Hellman did. He mailed 35 cartoonists and editors a satirical hoax letter, pretending to be Rall. When Rall sued for libel, Hellman published his two-part comic book series 'Legal Action Comics' (2001, 2003) to finance the costs of his trial. Spiegelman, feeling somewhat responsible for the whole brouhaha, joined several other cartoonists to make a graphic contribution entitled 'Sketchbook Drawings' in the second volume. 

Although Art Spiegelman is renowned for being the first and only comic artist to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize (the 1992 Pulitzer Prize Letters Award), he and his work in comics have received various honors and awards for more than thirty years. In 1982, he won the Playboy Editorial Award for Best Comic Strip and the Italian Yellow Kid Award for Best Foreign Author. Between 1983 and 1985, he received three consecutive Regional Design Awards, followed in 1986 by the Joel M. Cavior Award for Jewish Writing. Spiegelman picked up an Inkpot Award in 1987. He won two Urhunden Prizes from the Swedish Comics Association for Best Foreign Album in 1988 and 1993, respectively, and in those exact same years, also received the Prize for Best Comic Book at the Festival of Angoulême, France. Spiegelman also has been bestowed with the 1990 German Max und Moritz Award, Eisner and Harvey Awards and the Los Angeles Book Prize for Fiction - all three in 1992 - as well as the 1993 Sproing Award. Binghamton University gave him an honorary doctorate of Letters in 1995. Art Spiegelman was inducted in the Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 1999. The French government named him Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2005. In 2011, Spiegelman received the National Jewish Book Award and in the same year, the Festival of Angoulême once again honored him with a Grand Prix d'Angoulême for his entire career in comics. The American Academy of Arts and Letters made him an honorary member in 2015, and in 2018, Spiegelman was awarded the Edward MacDowell Medal.

Art Spiegelman

Legacy & influence
Art Spiegelman remains one of the most famous and widely-respected cartoonists in the world, and his work has resonated with many people in the contemporary comic scene. Daniel Clowes satirized him as Gummo Bubbleman in 'Pussey' (1989-1994). His experimental comics and thought-provoking essays were a strong influence on Scott McCloud's 'Understanding Comics' (1993). 'Maus' paved the way for other autobiographical graphic novels about the Holocaust, such as Joe Kubert's 'Yossel' and Dave Sim's 'Judenhaas'. The type of frank depictions of difficult autobiographical subject matter Spiegelman pioneered in his comics have been further explored in the works of Marjane Satrapi's 'Persepolis', Alison Bechdel's 'Fun Home', Joe Sacco's 'Palestine' and Chris Ware's 'Jimmy Corrigan'. Cartoonists worldwide have listed Spiegelman as an influence, including Blexbolex, Cosey, Sophie CrumbEmil Ferris, Matt Groening, Jean-Louis Lejeune, Ulli Lust, Stewart Kenneth Moore, Wilfred Ottenheijm, Mimi Pond, Thierry van Hasselt, Katrien Van Schuylenbergh, and Ted Stearn.

The world of modern comics was changed for the better by the success of Art Spiegelman's 'Maus'. Its popularity happened at a time when the graphic novel was in its infancy, and the attention and high regard Spiegelman and 'Maus' received after being awarded the 1992 Pulitzer Prize made the world reconsider the medium: after 'Maus', the graphic novel acquired a new-found respect, as a type of book that could be just as worthwhile of scholarly attention as the written novel, with the potential to address issues as deep and profound as any work of literature. Within the comics community, the success of 'Maus' encouraged other cartoonists to explore autobiographical subject matter, and established that there was an audience for comics addressing serious topics and stories based on historical and current real-life events. Although his other comic projects were not as well-known as the simply drawn, black-and-white 'Maus', the inventively experimental, complex, colorful and political nature of Spiegelman's "co-mix" (a term he often used to describe his works) pushed the envelope of the art form, and was noticed and influential with his peers in the community. 

An important part of Spiegelman's legacy lies not in his own comics, but in the comics of dozens of artists, from the beginnings of the genre to the current generation of graphic novelists. Although it only lasted a year and a half, Arcade, The Comics Revue (1975-1976) provided a lavish showcase, and employment for male and female underground comic artists at a time when that market had largely collapsed. Spiegelman also used a portion of Arcade's pages to reprint works by great comic artists of the past, exposing their work to a new generation of readers. His editorial work in RAW (1980-1991) continued these traditions, selecting and giving exposure to more than a dozen European, Japanese and American comic artists whose work had previously not been seen or published in the USA. Simultaneously, RAW showcased comic artists from the past, whose works prefigured or influenced the current generation of experimental cartoonists. Spiegelman used the fame he received in the late 1980s and early 1990s to direct attention to other works and artists of the comic industry, spanning the decades from the earliest days of the art form, from American newspaper comics forward through comic book artists of the 1930s and 1940s, underground comix artists of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the contemporaries of his own generation. His involvement with new editions of long out-of-print works, his essays and biographies about comic artists of the past, his spirited promotion of all forms of comics - not just his own - has added to not only his legacy, but the legacies of many greats of the comic industry, all of whom received attention, readers and financial support through his publications. Although Spiegelman frequently fretted that he had been pigeon-holed in the public imagination as simply "that 'Maus' guy", his consistently generous and decades-spanning work promoting all of comics as a unique and legitimate art form has revealed Spiegelman as a man who has made the world reconsider the entire field in a new, and more positive light.

Books about Art Spiegelman
For those interested in his life and career, Joseph Witek's 'Conversations' (University Press of Mississippi, 2007) contains many Art Spiegelman interviews.

Guestbook drawing for comics shop Lambiek in Amsterdam by Art Spiegelman. It was published in the Lambiek Bulletin #3 (1977).

Series and books by Art Spiegelman you can order today:


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