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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comic Book Moments – Day 300

Here is the latest cool comic book moment in our year-long look at one cool comic book moment a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

For the 300th installment of Cool Comic Book Moments, I’ve been persuaded by a reader suggestion (and by commenters the last time the topic came up) to finally feature probably the best comic that I have yet to post a moment from, Art Spiegelman’s Maus.

The moment here is something that I’ve always found profoundly fascinating about Maus, and it’s the aspect of the book that I think elevates it from simply a brilliantly told tale of one man (Spiegelman’s father) and all he had to do to survive the Holocaust. You see, in the first Book of Maus, Spiegelman tells his father’s story, with the Jews being depicted as mice, the Nazis as cats, the Poles as pigs and the Americans as dogs.

The SECOND book, however, was written after the first book was released to great fanfare. So for the second book, Spiegelman suddenly transitions to a much deeper story – one that you rarely see in ANY medium, but one that seems like comics tend to give you more frequently (which is to the credit of comic books as an art form). That story is the tale of what happens to a writer once his personal story suddenly becomes world famous, what happens to a man when his tribute to his father becomes a commercial success, what happens to a writer when his symbolism comes under fire – all of these feelings come out in the beginning (well, near the beginning, at least) of the second book of Maus, where Spiegelman pulls back the curtains a bit in this brilliant and dramatic sequence…

“The” moment is really right there in the first panel, when we see Spiegelman for the first time wearing a mask rather than just being drawn as an anthropomorphic mouse. As blog commenter Nick Evans noted awhile back, it’s a very comics-specific image, something that likely wouldn’t work in a different medium, and I think he’s correct.

The rest of the pages are really there just to back up the strength and the power of that initial page.

I initially avoided Maus because I felt it was a bit odd to call any Maus “cool,” but commenter Dan Lokhorst made a strong argument that there were plenty of narrative aspects of Maus unrelated to its depiction of the Holocaust that could be termed “cool,” and I think he was right. Reader Harry suggested I feature it for #300, and I agreed.

People often think of Maus as a compelling story of a man surviving the Holocaust, and if that’s all you got out of Maus, then you’re still getting a lot out of it. But there’s so much more to it, and I think this moment exemplifies the greater depths that Spiegelman gets out of the work.

And I think it is quite fitting to use the 300th Cool Comic Book Moment to examine the greater depths of one of the greatest comic book works of all-time.

42 Comments

You didn’t do a scene from 300 for the 300th Moment? :P

Still, great pick.

Yeah,not a lot you can say regarding this one.

Maus is in a league all of its own.

It’s funny you mentioned the strength of the first panel with Spiegelman wearing the mask because to me one the strongest moments of the comic is at the very end when we see a real picture of his father. Somehow that hit me,seeing the real person that lived that tragedy.

What a great moment. I feel a bit ashamed that upon coming across the first book in my local library aged 11, reading the whole book in an afternoon and feeling completely overwhelmed, I have always felt a bit nervous about reading any of it again. This was just the push I needed, thanks Brian and Harry!

I always like the line “Can I mention that, or does it completely louse up my metaphor.”

I’ve never read Maus, but am expecting Volume 1 in the post tomorrow! I think I’m in for a rewarding experience.

Awesome. I think I need to find a copy of this.

My favorite moment in that entire sequence, the one that’s actually stayed with me since I was a child, was “Maybe everyone has to feel guilty. EVERYONE! FOREVER!”

That still gets me right in the bones, for some reason I can’t even explain.

I still haven’t read volume 2, but 1 was a good book. I wouldn’t have read it if it weren’t for my graphic novel class at school. Not that I have anything against these types of books, I’m just more into adventure/fantasy. But there’s no doubt that Spiegelman is a great story-teller.

Chris McAree:

Spoiler! The Jews aren’t really mice!

Volume 2 is so much better than volume 1, and brings the whole work together. This is one of my favorite parts of the book.

I remember when Maus was one of the only bound comic (trade or graphic novel) one could recommend to non-readers to see the potential of the medium, and that it wasn’t all about super-heroes or other adolescent fantasies. Now, we have Fun Home, Louis Riel, No Exit, American Born Chinese, Palomar & Luba, Locas, the complete works of Will Eisner, etc. It’s amazing how far comics have come.

Er… “No Exit” was supposed to be Exit Wounds.

I can’t explain it, but that line “I want my MOMMY” has always hit me on a profound level

There are so many GREAT moments, just from this sequence. Really, Maus is essential reading. For Everyone.

… Not quite Buddy Bradley going “JEEZ-US CHRIST!” (Which woulda been MY pick but Keep it up with the indie moments!)

More Kirby (who’s ALWAYS COOL, BABY!!!) and more Warren Ellis. I see your dilemma in isolating ‘moments’. AND DON’T FORGET PETER BAGGE! If a year goes by and THERE ISN’T A PETER BAGGE MOMENT, then you better hope you can hire Lobo to protect you.

Several years ago, I saw a lecture with Art Spiegelman, and he pointed out how the shadow/lighting of the wall behind Art at the drawing board actually matched in with the angles of a swastika, the shadow of the Nazis always looming over him. I share your reluctance to label it “cool”, but it’s certainly powerful and important work.

Time to break these out and re-read them.

Ah I love Maus. I read it in high school originally but I think a lot of it went over my head. I’ll have to give it a good reread soon if I can find it!

Wow, that was a great choice. I had something else in mind, but those pages really exemplify what makes comics so “cool.” I think for me the moment is the panel with Spiegelman contrasting his relative successes with the suicide of his mother and then saying “lately I’ve been feeling depressed.”

I haven’t read these volumes since I was way younger, and recently took them out to revisit them, but I’ve been reluctant to, maybe ’cause I haven’t felt like diving into such heavy subject matter.

Still don’t know if I’m up for it yet, but reading this moment was very persuasive.

Excellent choice.

If there’s only going to be one Maus moment, then this is a great choice.

I also want to agree with sgt rawk re: Peter Bagge, and add Los Bros Hernandez to the list. May I suggest ‘The Death of Speedy’? ‘Flies on the Ceiling’ is also a good creepy choice for the Halloween season.

i could not think of a more deserving work for the 300th moment then mause espically the author shown in the fist pannel wearing a mask and feeling guilt over trying to get his fathers story about what he went through to survive one of the most evilest events in history and spigleman trying to understand his feelings about the whole story also.

Thanks for picking this as your 300 moment, Brian. Maus is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Excellent choice, Brian.

Maus is both an artistic and literary masterpiece.

Great sequence. Though, for me, the moment was BOO!

An excellent pick today, Brian. I was wondering if Maus would get a featured moment, due to its subject matter, but you found a way. Thanks.

The best comics are those that do what any other medium couldn’t, and Maus is the perfect example of that. Can you imagine if it was actually adapted into an animated movie?

Maus… in 3D! Egad.

That being said, I wouldn’t mind owning one of those Official Spiegelman Vests. Snazzy.

What Michael said.
The line “Can I mention that, or does it completely louse up my metaphor.” is such a good line, showing that even in his depression, there’s still a bit of humour that can sneak through.

Great choice.

Excellent choice.

Great to see Maus on this list. I have a couple of cool moments I’d like to see:

1. The climax of “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” I know you’ve already featured this story at least five times, but you haven’t even hinted at the coolest moment of the story, when the true villain of the piece is revealed.

2. Acme Novelty Library #1 page 11 (I think). You know the page I’m talking about. “I didn’t want to talk to the bitch anyway.” Maybe the coolest page in comics history.

3. The contraband comic making its way up the hierarchy in THB #1. I still laugh just thinking about it.

4. I wouldn’t call this a cool moment, but at the end of “Human Diastrophism” in Love and Rockets (don’t remember what issue), when Tonantzin sets herself on fire, I balled my eyes out. It’s the only comic book death that ever had that kind of impact for me. I’d love to see at least one of the many cool moments from Los Bros Hernandez, but that’s the moment that always sticks out.

5. Eightball had too many cool moments to count, but two of my favorites were “When did blue Italian shit come into style?” and “I wonder what happened to that fish who used to suck my dick?”

The thing that makes Maus so different (and much better) than virtually every other (auto)biographical graphic novel that it inspired or even every other Holocaust book is that it tells a great story of survival (with an actual PLOT) but the story about the father/son relationship is just as, if not more, interesting and provides a very relatable link for those who can’t even imagine living through the Holocaust themselves. Sorry Alison Bechdel, but Spiegleman kicks your butt in writing about fathers and children (see the aforementioned “with and actual PLOT” line).

Sometimes authors use a novel or screenplay to support political or social beliefs; or to cry out for morality and ethical principles. This is no more clearly evident than with Holocaust books and films. Whenever we stand up to those who deny or minimize the Holocaust, or to those who support genocide we send a critical message to the world.

We live in an age of vulnerability. Holocaust deniers ply their mendacious poison everywhere, especially with young people on the Internet. We know from captured German war records that millions of innocent Jews (and others) were systematically exterminated by Nazi Germany – most in gas chambers. Holocaust books and films help to tell the true story of the Shoah, combating anti-Semitic historical revision. And, they protect future generations from making the same mistakes.

I wrote “Jacob’s Courage” to promote Holocaust education. This coming of age love story presents accurate scenes and situations of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, with particular attention to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. It examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality. A world that continues to allow genocide requires such ethical reminders and remediation.

Many authors feel compelled to use their talent to promote moral causes. Holocaust books and movies carry that message globally, in an age when the world needs to learn that genocide is unacceptable. Such authors attempt to show the world that religious, racial, ethnic and gender persecution is wrong; and that tolerance is our progeny’s only hope.

Charles Weinblatt
Author, “Jacob’s Courage”
http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/

Roman, I concur about the Bechdel comparison, as I read Fun Home and immediately thought “so what?” through nearly every major scene. Just because something happens to someone doesn’t automatically make it interesting.

Sidenote: I remember reading Augie’s Pipeline not too long ago and he mentioned that he had never read Maus. Shouldn’t that be punishable by stoning, or at least, dodgeballing around these parts?

The scene with the reporters still gets to me as we see Spi “devolve” in age with each question. There is no way that after reading one or both volumes, a person doesn’t come away thinking about 2 things: their lot in life and family.

I know after the first time I read Volume 2, I definitely found myself thinking about my grandparents and that I had not talked to them in years. I called them a few hours later just to say hi and that I loved them. I am glad that I did because 2 days later I lost my grandfather to a heart attack.

Just one of the things I will always be grateful to comics for. Thank you Mr. Spiegelman.

I lent my Maus to a colleague about a year ago. I must get it back.

The scene with the reports reminds me of the great failing of journalism today:

When Maus was merely a book, literary critics, because they are expected to criticize, were allowed to say what they thought the message of the book was.

When the book began making “Best” lists and won the Pulitzer, it became “news.” That brings in reporters who, because they are expected to be “impartial,” are reduced to asking the author what the message was. This kind of mind-set leads to the embarrassing spectacle of a TV reporter asking some mother who lost her children in a house fire “How do you FEEL.”

It can seem that asking how we are supposed to react to the Holocaust instead of actually having a reaction can be the first step toward forgetting how it could happen.

I’ve never read Maus.

I now intend to go and buy it.

I first read Maus when I was 11 years old, and its content blew me away. I reread it earlier this year, and reading it as an adult, I found myself admiring the technical touches as much as the story itself.

Not to say I didn’t get the fourth wall-breaking stuff when I was a kid — the scene with Art describing Francoise’s transformation from frog to mouse, with the metafictional flourish at the end of “See? If this were real life, you wouldn’t have let me talk this long without interrupting” (paraphrasing to the best of my memory) was always one of my favorites. But as an adult, I appreciate things like Spiegelman’s layouts, his more organic, hand-inked hash shading (can you tell my artist vocabulary’s not so hot?), the amount of emotion he manages to squeeze out of his characters JUST WITH THEIR EYEBROWS.

All this to say, Maus is a tremendous accomplishment on Vladek’s story alone, but Art’s skill as a cartoonist brings it home, and the postmodern portions where he breaks the fourth wall are every bit as important to its unique identity as its subject matter.

I found it quite interesting reading this except because Spiegelman’s daughter was born five days after me. I goes to show not only how many good graphic novels there are out there, but how many of these classic works aren’t that recent. When we have had so many great works around for so long, I wonder why so few people are reading them. In my local library, all of the classic graphic works, including Heartbreak Soup from the Love and Rockets series, are shelved in the ‘Young Adult’ section! It is basically labeling these works as juvenile, when I think these books represent greater works of literature than most of the books that they cataloged for adults. Why after all these years do people still have the predetermination that books with pictures are for children… That is why I am glad that resources like this are available, to show the world the wonderful, moving stories that are out there, so that more and more people out there might actually read them!

Heartbreak Soup in the young adult section, that surprises me. It shows no one at the library could have so much as flipped through it, as it has some very adult content. At least they have it at your local library, which is encouraging.

Excellent choice, Brian. ;-)

I always told myself I’d never read your Maus entry until I actually got around to reading it for myself. I just finished it and WOW. One of the most powerful things I’ve ever read. And good pick for a single moment, although I hope you also tackle Maus in a Year of Cool Comics as well so that you don’t have to limit yourself to just one moment and can include some of the other incredible moments from this book.

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