“Maus” by Art Spiegelman (1991) comic review – Top 10 Essential Graphic Novels 08 – #3


[Book cover of graphic novel “Maus” by Art Spiegelman (1991) – Number 3 in Top 10 comics countdown list]Now, the next book I’m going to discuss is a big one. It’s actually the first comic to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature. Of course, it’sMausby Art Spiegelman.Mausis an autobiographical comic about Art Spiegelman’s own experiences as the son of Jewish holocaust survivors. The book bounces backwards and forwards in time: we see Art interviewing his elderly Dad during the 1970s, and we get flashback scenes that show the events of World War II that his dad is describing. So, the book is one man’s experience of the holocaust, intermixed with scenes that depict the actual process of the interview. And also, scenes with Art – the son – ruminating on the whole experience, such as talking to his wife about it all. Now, famously, with the artwork forMaus, Art Spiegelman decided to draw the Jews as mice, and the Nazis as cats. Which is a decision that he made for a number of reasons. But, one of the major reasons is that drawing the story with simplistic animal faces allowed him to focus on telling the story at hand, without becoming too concerned about realistic facial features. And, in a weird way, having a lots of basic and simple faces, lets you think about the universality of how awful genocide is. The book is drawn in a simple, but effective style, with a deliberate focus on moving the story forward, rather than trying to dazzle the reader with all sorts of weird angles and visual tricks. But there some effective times where he does ‘break out’ and draw a feature page that breaks the mould. Art Spiegelman said that his goal withMauswas to draw a long comic that a reader would need to use a bookmark with, which was a very uncommon length for a comic, back when he was drawing this in the 1980s. And at almost 300 pages of quite dense comics, this is definitely a landmark work. So, check outMausby Art Spiegelman, and I also recommend the bookMetaMaus, which is sort of a “making-of” book that features all sorts of interesting information about the creative decisions, and the process that he used as he was planning and drawingMaus.[title music: “Dart” by Screamfeeder]

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