Art Spiegelman is one of the most famous, influential and admired comics artists of all time. He is celebrated for his autobiographical graphic novels which often tackle highly controversial topics, such as the Holocaust ('Maus', 1980-1991) and the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks on New York City ('In the Shadow of No Towers', 2002-2003). His signature work 'Maus' reflects on his difficult relationship with his father, who survived Auschwitz. The book is a milestone in the history of comics. He surprised many people with this solemn and deeply moving masterpiece. It became the first comic book to be deemed serious literature and even win a Pulitzer Prize. 'Maus' not only converted countless adults to reading graphic novels, but also inspired numerous other cartoonists to tell their own personal tragedies in comic book form. Spiegelman is also one of the medium's most prominent spokesmen. He drew numerous comics which experimented with content, lay-out and narrative style. He also highlighted several artistic comics in essays, books and lectures. Together with his wife Françoise Mouly he established the groundbreaking magazine Raw (1980-1984, 1986, 1989-1991), which offered comics innovators from all over the world a platform. Few people have done so much to explore and promote the endless creative possibilities of comics, bringing it on par with other media. Above all he elevated its status further than any other comic artist.

Early life
Ihtzak Avraham ben Zeev Spiegelman was born in 1948 in Stockholm, Sweden, as son of Jewish-Polish immigrants who'd left Poland three years earlier. In 1951 they moved to Norristown, Pennsylvania, settling down in Rego Park, Queens, New York City in 1957. His father was a businessman who, together with his wife, had survived Auschwitz. The rest of their family was executed during the Holocaust. Much of their traumas and depressions carried over into Spiegelman's own psyche. At age 20, he suffered a nervous breakdown, which wasn't helped by his frequent use of LSD. He was interned in a mental hospital and learned after his release that his mother had committed suicide. All these events shaped the highly personal and dramatic nature of his work.

Graphic influences (1)
All throughout his life, comics offered Spiegelman escapism. During his childhood they gave him his own identity, because his parents had no affinity with the medium. His father was even blissfully unaware of Dr. Fredric Wertham's witch hunts against comics. As such, the boy could read whatever he wanted, even stuff he wasn't supposed to read at his age, such as the horror and mystery titles published by EC Comics. Among Spiegelman's early graphic influences were Carl Barks, Chester Gould, George Herriman, Lyonel Feininger, Winsor McCay, Jack Cole, Bernard Krigstein, Charles M. Schulz, John Stanley, Will Eisner, Harry Hershfield, Harold Gray, Basil Wolverton and Al Capp. At age 12 he even signed his own primitive gag comics with the name "Art Speg", inspired by Capp. The most profound influence was Mad Magazine, particularly when Harvey Kurtzman was chief editor (1952-1956). Spiegelman loved its healthy disregard for U.S. politics, media, advertising and society in general. Every issue experimented with covers and lay-out. Their comics satirized everything, even other comics. It opened his mind to what comics (magazines) could be and how they could be marketed in an artistically interesting way.

Between 1963 and 1965 Spiegelman studied at the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan, followed by a study in art and philosophy at Harpur College (1965-1968), which he never finished. During the decade, comics gained more academic interest. Spiegelman started analyzing cartoonists from past and present in the same way one would study a painting or a novel. He felt that some of them were worthy of the name "artist". This naturally led to heated arguments with his professors, who looked down on the medium. Spiegelman nevertheless managed to open up professor Ken Jacobs' mind about Bernard Krigstein's 'Master Race' (1955) in a thought-provoking essay. 'Master Race' was interesting as one of the first comics to deal with the Holocaust, but in itself a fascinating visual narrative too. In 1975 Spiegelman would expand on this essay in a new article about Krigstein and 'Master Race'. Likewise, Jacobs liberated Spiegelman from his equally snobbish prejudices against modern art by telling him to look at painters and graphic artists "as if they were cartoonists." Soon Spiegelman warmed up to the work of Pablo Picasso, George Grosz and Otto Dix, though he always remained unimpressed with Roy Lichtenstein. In 1990, when the Museum of Modern Art organized an exhibition about the struggle between comics and high art, titled 'High/Low', Spiegelman was quick to criticize the patronizing way comics were treated. He expressed his anger in a comic strip, 'High Art Lowdown' (1990), published in ArtForum magazine.


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

Underground comix
In 1963 Spiegelman founded his own fanzines, Blasé and Smudge, which ran his first cartoons and comics. A year later he sold his first professional cartoons to The Long Island Post and United Features Syndicate. As a student at Harpur College between 1965 and 1968, he was staff cartoonist and editor for the college newspaper. Halfway the 1960s many of these fanzines grew into counterculture magazines with a special kind of adult comics named "underground comix". The cartoonists tackled many taboo topics, such as politics, vulgar language, drugs, bloody violence and sex. Spiegelman was instantly attracted to the new creative possibilities it offered. He got involved in the scene and met many of the artists who inspired him, including Robert Crumb. Spiegelman illustrated a few covers of The East Village Other in 1969 and 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). Most of his early underground comix from the late 1960s and early 1970s appeared in magazines like witzend, Gothic Blimp Works, Bijou Funnies, Young Lust, Real Pulp and Bizarre Sex.


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

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 freelance illustrator. In 1966 Spiegelman became Topps' creative consultant. Inspired by Mad Magazine's satirical advertisements, Spiegelman developed a series of parodies of famous brand names and logos, collectable as trading cards and stickers, the so-called 'Wacky Packages' (1967). He designed many of them personally, but also brought in some of his underground comix colleagues, like Kim Deitch, Drew Friedman, Bill Griffith and Jay Lynch, but also George Evans, Norman Saunders, Bhob Stewart and Tom Sutton. Wacky Packages mocked huge corporations and looked so identical to their real advertisements that lawsuits were always a genuine threat. However, Topps kept the trading cards only in roulation for a short while. By the time the companies sent a letter of complaint, the specific cards were already off the market and replaced by other ones. The franchise inspired posters, T-shirts, books, erasers, binders, but also five comic book issues with artwork by Jay Lynch, Joe Simko, Neil Camera and Brent Engstrom. It provided many with a steady income, including Spiegelman himself, while they could still remain true to their anti-establishment ideals.

In 1985 Spiegelman launched another lucrative idea for Topps, namely the 'Garbage Pail Kids' trading cards, though he credited Stan Hart with the basic idea. The cards featured children doing disgusting things. Some were illustrated by Tom Bunk, John Pound and Carole Sobocinski. They were an instant hit among school kids and even spawned a live-action film adaptation, 'The Garbage Pail Kids Movie' (1988), which was not only a colossal box office flop but also widely regarded as one of the worst films of all time. It effectively killed the franchise and in 1989 Spiegelman broke off his partnership with Topps over legal ownership. All the time he had kept his involvement secret, out of fear it would shy away potential readers of 'Maus', if they knew he had created these "gross-out comedy cards".

Comics for nude magazines
From 1969 on Spiegelman made many well-paid erotic cartoons and comics for nude magazines like Cavalier, Gent and Dude. He once applied for Playboy, but his work was rejected. It wasn't until 1978 when Playboy cartoon editor Michelle Urry picked up specific samples of his work for chief editor Hugh Hefner that he was finally allowed inside its pages. With some help of fellow Playboy cartoonists, Spiegelman reworked his art style a bit so it looked more appealing. In December 1978 his gag comic 'Ed Head' (1978-1979, 1981) made its debut. Ed is a man who is all head and lacks a body or limbs. Most of his gags feature him resting on the side of street, begging for money. The first few episodes were all self-contained. From May 1979 on Ed was visited by a fairy god mother (or "fairy god head" as he describes himself) who grants him a few wishes, bringing a longer narrative to the series which seemingly concluded in November of that year. Two years later, in October-November 1981, two more episodes appeared in print, after which 'Ed Head' was discontinued. Spiegelman enjoyed this little gag series because it cost him little effort and he didn't take it all that seriously either.

In January 1979 Spiegelman published a 12-panel pantomime comic, 'Shaggy Dog Story', in Playboy. The story features a woman having sex with a dog, but presented in an amusing way, with stylized visuals. In October he drew 'Jack 'n' Jane' / 'Rod 'n' Randy', a comic presented in two frames, which can be read horizontally as well as vertically. The top frame depicts a man, Jack, who gives a woman in the street, Jane, a tissue after sneezing. In the lower half the man's groin, Rod, has a vulgar conversation with Jane's groin, Randy. Spiegelman and Lou Brooks made 'Teasers' for Playboy's January 1982 issue, which were basically low-brow sex jokes.

Graphic influences (2)
While his sex-related comics were best-sellers, Spiegelman felt most were nothing more but crude masturbation fantasies with shocking images. Ultimately they would never reach general audiences and even among fans the novelty was bound to wear off. He admired female underground artists like Mary K. Brown, Aline Kominsky and Diane Noomin who created titles like It Ain't Me, Babe and Wimmen's Comix in reaction to all the misogynistic stories in the male-dominated underground milieu. Three male underground cartoonists convinced him even further that adult comics could tell mature stories too. Rory Hayes was an amateurish artist, but managed to tell compelling stories despite these graphic limits. It gave Spiegelman more confidence in his own limited graphic skills. He also cited Robert Crumb and Justin Green as major inspirations, because during the early 1970s they both moved to more personal comics about their family background and psychological issues. Particularly Justin Green's graphic novel 'Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary' (1971) influenced him deeply, because it examined Green's Catholic upbringing and sexual guilt complexes.


From the original 'Maus' story (1972).

Maus (1)
He got in touch with Justin Green and in 1971, when Green moved out of his apartment in San Francisco, Spiegelman moved in. A year later Green approached him to make a graphic contribution to the one-shot underground comic book Funny Animals (1972). The title was meant ironically, since all the stories about anthropomorphic animals were intended for mature audiences. It was here that Spiegelman made a first attempt at an autobiographical comic strip. It already dealt with his father's Holocaust past under the title 'Maus', and used a cat-and-mouse metaphor. The Jews were depicted as mice, while the Germans are cats. Using animals as stand-ins for humans is as old as mankind itself, and humans have often felt sympathy towards tiny creatures victimized by predators. But Spiegelman also picked out mice because Nazi propaganda often compared Jews to vermin, like the infamous scene in the propaganda film 'Der Ewige Jude' (1941) where footage of Jews is intercut with footage of rats in a sewer. While the basic concept of 'Maus' was already there, this embryonic version still looked vastly different. The 1972 version is only three pages long and limited to a Jewish father telling his son anecdotes about his war traumas as a bedtime story. The drawing style is also more cartoony, while all direct references to Spiegelman himself are absent. Here the little boy is even called Mickey. Nevertheless Spiegelman abandoned the project again for the next five years. The 1972 'Maus' was reprinted three years later in 'Comix Book', an underground comix anthology published by Marvel.


'Prisoner on the Hell Planet'.

Short Order Comix
In 1972 Spiegelman created 'Zip-a-Tunes and Moire Melodies Featuring Skeeter Grant's Skinless Perkins', which appeared in Zip-a-Tunes and Moire Melodies (San Francisco Comic Book Company), with the intention to look like a Tijuana Bible. A year later the story was reprinted in Short Order (1972-1974), an underground comix magazine co-edited by Spiegelman, Justin Green and Bill Griffith. Spiegelman's most memorable comic for this publication, 'Prisoner on the Hell Planet' (1972), appeared in issue #1. The four-page story deals directly with the effect his mother's suicide in 1968 had on himself and his father. Inspired by 20th-century woodcut artists like Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward, Spiegelman used distorted visuals, shadows and black-and-white contrasts to provide a more visually inventive lay-out. 'Prisoner on the Hell Planet' can be considered his first masterpiece in the sense that it actually impacted its readers. His father once stumbled upon it and felt quite distraught about the memories it brought back. In 1975 Françoise Mouly also read it and was so moved that she and Spiegelman hung out more, becoming a couple.

In other comics in Short Order, Spiegelman experimented with narrative techniques and lay-out. In issue #2 (1974), for instance, he made the story 'Don't Get Around Much Anymore', where a string of seemingly disconnected panels are combined with neutral comments about different topics. It gives the comic strip the same feeling of a literary or cinematic stream-of-consciousness scene. Other comics were more humoristic, such as the film noir parody 'Ace Hole, Midget Detective', which appeared in the same issue. The witty story stars a little person who works as a private investigator. He then follows a Cubist painting walking through the streets, which leads to all kinds of visual jokes.

Arcade
In the spring of 1975, Bill Griffith, his wife Diane Noomin and Spiegelman established Arcade, a more professional underground comix magazine. It attracted many big names from the underground scene and provided Spiegelman with an outlet for even bolder graphic experiments. Some of his comics were inspired by dreams, such as 'A Hand Job' (issue #1) and 'Real Dream' (issue #2). Others were more challenging works. In the second issue Spiegelman also published 'Day at the Circuits' (1975), which depicts two drunks in a bar. The story has no clear beginning or ending. Each panel has an arrow pointing to other panels. No matter what direction the reader follows: each makes sense as a self-contained story. Some short, others longer. This also fits the comic's theme, since alcoholics also find themselves stuck in never-ending spirals. The work is a clever narrative masterpiece, which proved how much Spiegelman had grown as a cartoonist. In the 6th issue he cut out scenes from Nicholas P. Dallis' newspaper comic 'Rex Morgan: M.D.', drawn by Marvin Bradley, and juxtaposed them with different images. This collage comic, 'Nervous Rex the Malpractice Suite' (1976), plays with optical illusions and different scenes flowing into one another. While Arcade sold well, Spiegelman moved back to New York City near the end of the year. He became less involved with the production and the magazine was discontinued after only 7 issues.


'Day at the Circuits' (Arcade #2).

Life and career at the end of the 1970s
In the mid-1970s Spiegelman met Françoise Mouly, a Frenchwoman whom he eventually married in 1977 to help her gain a visum. They shared a passion for comics and their artistic possibilities. Mouly often helped her husband with his essays about the medium. In 1978 Spiegelman found a steady teaching job at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where legends like Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder also taught classes. He taught his students about the history of comics and focused on cartoonists he admired. It led to more demands for lectures, essays, articles and books. In December 1977 a compilation book was released by Bélier Press under the title 'Breakdowns', partially selected by his wife. Unfortunately it didn't sell well, because he wasn't a household name yet and most of the comics were too experimental. Spiegelman came to realize that he was basically working in a small niche, namely experimental stories for underground comix readers. It motivated him to return to more readable narratives, fit for general audiences. Mouly felt that 'Breakdowns' also suffered from bad presentation and marketing. She therefore studied offset printing, becoming very skilled in this profession.

In 1978 the couple travelled to Europe, where they built a network with many magazines, publishers and editors. Through his wife, Spiegelman discovered many European comics he'd never heard about, especially Franco-Belgian, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and British ones. He was amazed that in Europe, comics were not only taken more seriously, but that there were genuine adult comics magazines, like L'Écho des Savanes, Fluide Glacial and (Á Suivre). In the U.S., on the other hand, the only real adult comics magazine that wasn't porn was Heavy Metal... a translation of the French Métal Hurlant!


'Two-Fisted Painters'.

Raw
Realizing they'd better fulfill the need themselves, the couple established their own publishing company, Raw Books & Graphics (1978). They 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 neighbourhood in Manhattan, New York City, and had to be updated annually, thus providing Raw with cash on a regular basis. In July 1980 Mouly and Spiegelman went one step further and founded their own annual magazine: Raw. It presented itself as an alternative comics magazine for more experimental artists. Thanks to Mouly's connections in Europe and Spiegelman's link with the alternative scene in the USA, Raw had a global outlook and thus a worldwide readership. With its top-notch print quality and classy image, its content looked much better than the grudgy underground magazines of yesteryear. All while still appealing to cult audiences too - like the tagline summarized: "Now it's safe for adults to read comics... or is it?" - Raw lasted until 1991, with a hiatus in 1985 and 1987-1988. Dozens of cartoonists owe their international career to the magazine. The same went for many European and Japanese cartoonists who received their first English translation. It also helped the medium being taken more seriously outside comics circles.

Mouly and Spiegelman were co-editors, with Robert Sikoryak joining in as associate editor in 1985. Spiegelman occasionally colorized and translated some of the comics, but the majority of Raw was mostly Mouly's labour of love. He designed the cover of the very first issue, doing the same for issue #7 (May 1985) and 9 (July 1989). Naturally he created a few exclusive one-shot comics for the magazine as well. In the first issue (July 1980) Spiegelman created the two-parter 'Two-Fisted Painters'/'The Matisse Falcon', which simultaneously spoofed superhero comics as well as the art industry. A few pages further, one could read 'Drawn Over Two Weeks While on the Phone', an experimental comic strip made from unconnected panels where each speech/thought balloon is unreadable due to the use of squares and triangles. In the fifth issue (March 1983) the cartoonist toyed around with speech balloons again in the more self-reflexive 'One Row'. Spiegelman provided a free-spirited adaptation of Bin Labutau's 'In Search of Eden', titled 'An Aborigine Among the Skyscrapers' in the next issue (May 1984). Along with Ever Meulen and Charles Burns he created 'The Passion of Saint Sluggo', a crossover deconstruction of Ernie Bushmiller's 'Nancy' (issue #7, 1985), while making a solo parody of Chester Gould's 'Dick Tracy' with 'Dead Dick' (issue #9, 1989). In the final issue of Raw Spiegelman created 'Lead Pipe Sunday' (1991). Most of these one-shots were signed with the pseudonym "Spieg". But his most famous comic strip in Raw was, of course, 'Maus', consequently the only serialized comic in the magazine. From the second issue until the final it was prepublished in its pages, leaving only the final chapter for people to buy the book.


'Maus 1'.

Maus
Since 1978 Spiegelman had revisited his 'Maus' concept, when his father casually told him more anecdotes about his life in the 1930s and 1940s. This motivated him to find out the entire story, recording their conversations on tape, while also talking to his dad's friends and relatives. Spiegelman documented himself thoroughly about the time period and Auschwitz, even visiting the camp twice in 1979 and 1987. However, right from the start, it was a highly ambitious and controversial project. Adapting one of the worst human tragedies in history in a medium generally associated with "children's stories" was a bold undertaking. Using anthropomorphic animals was even riskier. In fact, Spiegelman once admitted that Raw was partially founded because no other magazine dared to run 'Maus'!

Yet, as he did his research, Spiegelman actually discovered animal comics about World War II made during the conflict, namely Horst Rosenthal's 'Mickey à Gurs' (1941) and Calvo's 'La Bête est Morte!' (1944). Especially 'Mickey à Gurs' baffled him, because it was a comic made by a POW camp inmate starring Mickey Mouse visiting the very camp he was imprisoned in. Even the idea of an artistic comic strip about the Holocaust had a predecessor in the aforementioned 'Master Race' (1956) by Bernard Kriegstein, although this was a mere short comic story. It strengthened him in the belief that his plans weren't that far-fetched. Using anthropomorphic animals also rid him from the problem of visualizing people his father described to him, but whom he never encountered. The animalistic faces helped him keep some emotional distance from the severely depressing subject matter as well. Still, Spiegelman was careful in capturing the right mood. While drawing he played music by the 1927-1933 German-Jewish vocal group the Comedian Harmonists. He studied photos and artwork by camp survivors like Paladij Osynka, Alfred Kantor, Mieczyslaw Koscielniak and Waldemar Nowakowski. Looking for anthropomorphic animal artists, he modelled his characters after imagery from J.J. Grandville, Louis Wain and especially Carl Barks. Barks' 'Donald Duck' stories were essentially "funny animal comics", but his characters behaved like believable human beings, thus making readers forget that they were looking at talking ducks and dogs. Spiegelman also imitated the way Uncle Scrooge's pince-nez was drawn to depict his father's glasses in 'Maus'. 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 sober, scratchy style which fit the somber tone. The earliest pages still show very animalistic mice, complete with whiskers and a tail. But gradually they evolve into humans with stylized animal heads.

Like the tagline explains, 'Maus' is a survivor's tale. Spiegelman's father Vladek tells his son about his life in 1930s Warsaw, how he met his wife Anja and raised a family. When Hitler occupies the country in 1939, all Jewish citizens are systematically persecuted or forced into hiding. Vladek and Anja manage to escape for a long while, though many of their friends and relatives are deported, killed and never seen again. At the end of the first volume the couple is captured and sent to Auschwitz. Their gruesome experiences in the death camp and eventual reunion unfold in the second volume. Apart from being a powerful family chronic about a black page in history, '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 wants everything to be in order. Money ought to be saved at all costs. Nothing is allowed to be thrown away. But he nevertheless wants his son to be and look well off. Spiegelman struggles to comprehend the horrors his dad endured. At times he doesn't understand his actions in the past, nor in the present time. Vladek constantly complains about his new wife, which sometimes delves into paranoia. He is obviously emotionally manipulative and sees no hypocrisy in being racist to black people, while barely having survived racial discrimination himself. Spiegelman shows his own negative side as well. He is too impatient to deal with his father's nagging. Sometimes he yells at him. Other times he downright lies to avoid doing chores. The artist even shows his own manipulative behavior, as he has less interest in his father's needs and more in finding out the rest of his Holocaust past. Spiegelman also portrays his own guilt and insecurities, to the point that he visits a psychiatrist. He also wonders whether 'Maus' as a concept isn't just too complex and over-reaching...


'Maus 2'.

In order to reach audiences who normally didn't read comics, Spiegelman envisioned 'Maus' as a literary book, divided into chapters. Most of the plot is told in flashbacks, with present-day narration by Vladek. He kept the reading rhythm in check at all times. Many pages were sketched and re-sketched for hours, in search of the right page composition. The lay-out had to be easy to follow. The speech balloons weren't allowed to look crammed and the images had to look understandable. Spiegelman also took full advantage of the comics medium. The lay-out on some pages is visually clever. In one scene a long line of prisoners waiting for food is divided over three panels, but actually one continuous drawing when seen from a distance. Other images use visual metaphors, such as the swastika-shaped path that waits ahead of Vladek and Anja. Above all, Spiegelman's simple but effective drawings manage to suggest the real-life events behind the animalistic characters. Vladek's gut-punching commentary makes them resonate even longer.

Success & cultural impact
Since 'Maus' ran in Raw, it was mostly unknown the outside world until Ken Tucker, a critic for The New York Times, noticed it and gave it an enthusiastic review. His readers got curious and wondered where they could buy this book, which at that moment hadn't appeared yet! The media buzz motivated Pantheon Books in 1986 to publish the first volume. The second followed in 1991. 'Maus' was an instant critical and commercial success. While Will Eisner's 'Contract with God' (1978) had already set general acceptance of graphic novels into motion, 'Maus' became the first to solidify it. Jules Feiffer and Umberto Eco praised it. The work was accepted in intellectual circles as genuine literature. Its multi-layered narrative invites repeated readings and academic study. 'Maus' is nowadays part of any self-respecting library and one of the few comics acceptable for school book reports and university theses. In 1991 it became the first and still only comic book to win a Pulitzer Prize! But 'Maus' also reached general audiences, many which normally didn't read comics. The book was translated in more than 30 languages, including German, Polish, Hebrew, Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Just like the original English-language publication all translations have kept Vladek's broken English and incorrect sentence structures intact.

Spiegelman was, of course, amazed that the comic he worked on for more than 12 years became such a literary success. It made him able to quit his teaching job. He received numerous commercial offers, but refused all attempts at merchandising, including film or cartoon adaptations. To him 'Maus' only works in comics format. He is also very protective of how the book is presented in the media, once taking action to make sure it is sold in the "non-fiction" section. In 2012 the French publishing company Flammarion sued a parody of 'Maus' by the Belgian company La Cinquième Couche, which plagiarized the entire book only to draw cats' heads over each mouse head. The "artist" behind this pointless work remains anonymous, but is presumed to have been Illan Manouach.

In 1994 the Voyager Company published a CD-Rom, 'The Complete Maus', which combined Spiegelman's original graphic novel with never-before-seen archive material, family photos, historical documentation and commentary. This was expanded upon in 2011 with 'MetaMaus', which offers the same background material, but with extensive interviews, essays and two bonus DVDs worth of audio and video recordings, including Spiegelman's original conversations with his father. He made it all available to the public to avoid having to answer the same questions about 'Maus' forever, and finally focus on other projects. Indeed, the success of his signature work left him with less time to draw new comics. Even the few works he made afterwards never reached the same amount of praise. Spiegelman expressed his mixed feelings about all this in a comic titled 'Mein Kampf', published in The New York Times Magazine on 12 May 1996.

The New Yorker
Between 1991 and 2002 Spiegelman was creative designer and columnist for The New Yorker. He contributed cartoons, illustrations and thematic one-shot comics. Some were interviews or essays about artists like Harvey Kurtzman, Maurice Sendak ('In the Dumps', 27 September 1993, on which Sendak collaborated as well), and Charles M. Schulz ('Abstract Thought is a Warm Puppy', 14 February 2000). Others dealt with more political issues, such as neonazi violence in Rostock, Germany ('A Jew in Rostock', 7 December 1992). Yet Spiegelman caught most attention with his often highly controversial magazine covers. Some even had to be slightly altered in order to be published. His 'Valentine Day' cover (15 February 1991) showed a rabbi kissing a black woman, in reference to the race riots between Jews and African-Americans in Crown Heights, NYC. The illustration conveyed a pacifist message, but many readers misinterpreted as either being racist and/or depicting a rabbi visiting a prostitute. Four years later a lot of dust rose again when Spiegelman drew 'Theology of the Tax Cut' (17 April 1995), which showed the Easter Bunny crucified in front of a tax document, satirizing the annual tax innings at Easter. Many religious readers sent a letter of protest, including the Christian Anti-Defamation League. The cartoonist caused uproar again on 8 March 1999, with a cover depicting a policeman aiming at regular civilians in a shooting gallery. His cover, 'Fears of July' (8 July 2002), was criticized too for depicting an atomic mushroom cloud during fireworks at Independence Day.

Other covers received more positive feedback. Saul Steinberg praised his 1996 cover 'Family Values', depicting a happy family of marginals. Spiegelman was also praised for his iconic cover in remembrance of the victims of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. In reality, he merely came up with the initial idea, while his wife Françoise Mouly (who was art editor of the magazine since 1993) streamlined the design. 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. Mouly still gave her husband credit, though, because he "came up with the creative spark". A compilation of Spiegelman's work for The New Yorker can be read in 'Kisses From New York' (Penguin Books, 2006), featuring a foreword by novelist Paul Auster.

Little Lit
Spiegelman and Mouly were also responsible for the 'Little Lit' anthologies, of which three volumes were published by HarperCollins between 2000 and 2003: 'Little Lit: Folklore & Fairy Tale Funnies' (2000), 'Strange Stories for Strange Kids' (2001) and '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 under the title 'Big Fat Little Lit' by Puffin Books.

In the Shadow of No Towers, by Art Spiegelman
'In the Shadow Of no Towers'.

In the Shadow of No Towers
As New York citizens Spiegelman and Mouly were in the city on the day of the 9/11 2001 terrorist attacks. Their children went to school not far from the World Trade Center. After much panick and chaos they eventually discovered that the principal had already evacuated the school, hours before the towers started to collaps. Although his family survived, Spiegelman was just as traumatized and depressed as his fellow citizens. The only thing that gave him escapism were old comics. This convinced him to express his feelings in a comic strip, since "tragedy seems to be my muse". 'In the Shadow of No Towers', as his comic was titled, is mostly a series of anecdotes and satirical metaphors. The first few pages deal with how he personally experienced that dramatic day and the effect its aftermath had on ordinary citizens. Since Spiegelman has always been a slow worker, the completion of new episodes took a while. As the months rolled by, the comic strip gradually became more politically charged, criticizing blind patriotism, president Bush Jr., his "War on Terror" and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Because old comics brought the cartoonist relief, Spiegelman 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', as his 9/11 comic was titled, was Spiegelman's first big project in a decade. Ever since the conclusion of 'Maus' in 1991, most of his comics had been one-shots of barely a page long. He tried to prepublish 'In the Shadow of No Towers' in the New Yorker, but his editors felt some scenes had to be censored because they were too politically charged. They also claimed that they weren't too keen on serialized comics, since the New Yorker is known for stand alone cartoons. Spiegelman soon found out that no other U.S. magazine dared to publish it either. In Europe he found a more receptive market. 'In the Shadow of No Towers' debuted in the German newspaper Die Zeit in 2002, and also ran in the British paper The Independent and the French weekly Courrier International. Eventually the only U.S. publication to pick it up was the Jewish Daily Forward. In 2003 Spiegelman quit The New Yorker. When the 2004 presidential elections were near, he rushed a book publication of 'In the Shadow of No Towers' in the hope of influencing some U.S. voters. The only problem was that the book was still rather short, so Spiegelman added some reprints of old newspaper comics with coincidental thematical connections to the 9/11 attacks. Unfortunately Bush was re-elected, but the comic book did inspire composer Mohamed Fairouz 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 then recent 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 made a stance against it. His article unfortunately had trouble finding publication. In January 2015 editors of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were murdered by terrorists for ridiculing Muhammad. It once again sparked debates about the freedom of speech. Spiegelman made a one-shot comic, 'Notes From a First Amendment Fundamentalist', in which he expressed "the right to be offended in cartoons".

In 2019 Spiegelman wrote a foreword titled 'Golden Age Superheroes Were Aided By The Rise of Fascism'. It was intended for 'Marvel: The Golden Age 1939-1949', a deluxe compilation of classic Marvel Comics by the Folio Society. In this prologue he spoke about how the earliest U.S. superhero comics were mostly written, drawn and published by artists who, during World War II, pitted the 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 rose again and "an Orange Skull haunts America". This reference 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 commission and offered his 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 explained the censorship.


'Breakdowns - Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!'.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!
In 2008 Spiegelman and the publishing house Pantheon relaunched his 1978 comic book compilation 'Breakdowns', but added a longer and more recent comic strip, 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!' (2005-2006), originally published in the Virginia Quarterly Review. 'Portrait' is a non-chronological overview of his life, told in comic strip form. It could be described as a personal "coming-of-age" tale, focusing on key moments which had a profound impact on his way of thinking. Among these are the first time he discovered Mad Magazine and EC Comics, but also things his parents told him that he never forgot. Spiegelman shows how a cheap marketing trick disappointed him as a kid and made him "discover America". He also included moments early in his career when he was still trying to find his own voice. Like his original conception of 'Maus' as a metaphor for African-American history of racist repression through cats and mice, only to realize he knew nothing about it and kept brainstorming what other direction he could take with the idea. Another selection of Spiegelman's work was published by Drawn & Quarterly in 2013 under the title 'Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps'.

Children's book illustrations
Spiegelman has so far written and illustrated three children's books, namely 'Open Me I'm a Dog' (1995), 'Jack and the Box' (2008) and 'Be A Nose' (2009). While they are technically picture books, he made use of the comic strip format. 'Open Me, I'm a Dog', published by HarperCollins, sparked off a far more ambitious publishing company, Toon Books, run by his wife, Françoise Mouly. Toon Books publishes child friendly and educational picture books, illustrated by professional comics artists. All his children's books have since then been published by Toon Books.

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)

Graphic contributions
In 1971 Spiegelman paid tribute to Don Dohler in the collective homage album 'ProJunior' (Krupp Comic Works). More than 20 years later he illustrated a 1994 reprint of the 1923 poem 'The Wild Party' by Joseph Moncure March. On 3 August 1999 political cartoonist Ted Rall criticized Spiegelman's power of influence in the cartoon industry through 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, pretending to be Rall, only to reveal a satirical hoax letter. When Rall sued for libel, Hellman published two comic books, 'Legal Action Comics' (2001, 2003) to finance the costs of his trial. Spiegelman, feeling somewhat responsible for the whole brouhaha, joined several other famous cartoonists to make a graphic contribution titled 'Sketchbook Drawings' in the second volume.

Books and essays
Apart from comics, Spiegelman is just as famous as a comics essayist. He and Bob Schneider edited the best-selling quotations manual 'Whole Grains: A Book of Quotations' (1973). On his own he also edited David Mazzucchelli's 1994 graphic novelisation of Paul Auster's novel 'City of Glass' (1994). Together with Robert Sikoryak he co-edited 'The Narrative Corpse' (1995), 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 'Tijuana Bibles: Art and Wit in America's Forbidden Funnies' (1996), about the history of Tijuana Bibles, and to a 2010 compilation of the work of Lynd Ward, 'Lynd Ward: Six Novels in Woodcuts' (2010). He wrote the self-reflecting article 'Getting in Touch with My Inner Racist' for the 1 September 1997 issue of Mother Jones. An article about Jack Cole published in The New Yorker on 8 March 1999, 'Forms Stretched To Their Limits: What Kind of Person Could Have Dreamed Up Plastic Man?', eventually became a complete biography about the cartoonist: 'Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits' (Chronicle Books, 2001), co-written with Chip Kidd.

comic art by Art Spiegelman

Recognition
Art Spiegelman might be one of the most honoured and awarded cartoonists of all time. He won the Playboy Editorial Award (1982) for Best Comic Strip and a Yellow Kid Award for Best Foreign Author (1982). Between 1983 and 1985 he received three consecutive Regional Design Awards, followed by the Joel M. Cavior Award for Jewish Writing (1986). He won two Urhunden Prizes for Best Foreign Album, respectively in 1988 and 1993. At the Festival of Angoulême he received the Prize for Best Comic Book twice, in 1988 and 1993. The same festival honored him in 2011 with a Grand Prix d'Angoulême for his entire career. After winning an Eisner Award (1992) he was inducted in the Eisner Award Hall of Fame (1999) before the decade was over. Spiegelman furthermore added an Inkpot Award (1987), Max und Moritz Award (1990), Pulitzer Prize Letters Award (1992), Harvey Award (1992), Los Angeles Book Prize for Fiction (1992), Sproing Award (1993), National Jewish Book Award (2011) and Edward MacDowell Medal (2018) to his honors list. The Binghamton University gave him a honorary doctorate of Letters (1995), while the French government named him Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2005) and the American Academy of Arts and Letters made him a honorary member in 2015.

Media appearances
Spiegelman was one of many famous cartoonists to be interviewed in the documentary film 'Comic Book Confidential' (1988). Along with Daniel Clowes and Alan Moore he was special guest voice in Matt Groening's 'The Simpsons', namely the episode 'Husbands and Knives' (2007).

Art Spiegelman

Legacy and influence
Art Spiegelman remains one of the most famous and widely respected cartoonists in the world. Daniel Clowes even satirized him as Gummo Bubbleman in 'Pussey' (1989-1994). Spiegelman made many people look at comics with different eyes. 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 real-life tragedies, such as Joe Kubert's 'Yossel' and Dave Sim's 'Judenhaas', which also deal with the Holocaust, but also works like Marjane Satrapi's 'Persepolis', Alison Bechdel's 'Fun Home', Joe Sacco's 'Palestine' and Chris Ware's 'Jimmy Corrigan'. Spiegelman was also an influence on Blexbolex, Cosey, Emil Ferris, Matt Groening, Jean-Louis Lejeune, Ulli Lust, Stewart Kenneth Moore, Wilfred Ottenheijm, Mimi Pond, Thierry van Hasselt, Katrien Van Schuylenbergh, Ted Stearn and Chris Ware.

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


Guestbook drawing comics shop Lambiek in Amsterdam by Art Spiegelman. It was published in #3 of the Lambiek Bulletin.

Series and books by Art Spiegelman in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

X

If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.