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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 306

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the comics posted so far!

Today we look at art spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale….


As I mentioned last year, I always feel a bit odd referring to Maus as “cool,” but a commenter made a point that was good enough to convince me to feature it, which is that we’re not celebrating the plot, but rather how well spiegelman tells it, and I think that’s fair enough. So once I featured it as a moment, I really had to feature it as a cool comic, as it is one of the best comics out there period.

The thing about Maus is that it is not only a masterful piece of biographical comics (and it really IS an extremely well-told biography comic – if ALL you got from Maus was the biography aspects, it would still be a masterpiece), but it is also about the interplay between a son and his father.

See what I mean from these sample pages, including these pages which tell the story of his father’s life BEFORE the war…

and then during the very short armed conflict between Germany and Poland…

and when the noose was tightening back in Poland for the Jews there…

The book continues in this vein throughout the first book, as things get a lot worse for Vladek Spiegelman, but he manages to stay alive through pretty much any means necessary.

So that’s Book 1. But Book 2 is written and released AFTER Book 1 became a sensation, so now suddenly you have a whole new wrinkle thrown into the mix…guilt over profiting off of a story about the holocaust, self-doubt about the whole “drawing people as animals” angle, pretty much tons of self-doubt PERIOD….

So you have a brilliant biographical comic, you have a realistic and touching interplay between a father and son who perhaps never had a perfect relationship and then you have an insightful look at how it feels to put all of this together into an artistic work. Maus truly is one of the deepest comic works ever.


It’s the kind of story that can make me feel like a horrible human being, and at the same time, love the fact that I’m alive.

I have a different interpretation, and you’ll have to read them to get it, but when I teach this, I read it in this way:

Part one is a narrative of a more…naive writer who hasn’t understood fully his father’s perspective on life. It leads to Vladek being portrayed in the first book as mean, selfish, totally unlucky in everything, a bad father, and husband, and a bad decision maker.

Between part 1 and part 2, a lot more than fame happens, though that is undeniably a part of this (I also think it’s telling that Artie dissociates himself from Vladek’s situation by wearing a Mouse mask [indicating not really being a part of the group] rather than as a Mouse himself in the psychiatrist scenes). For one, Vladek dies and Art becomes a father, so now the writer shifts his perspective.

You’ll notice that in part two, the stance on Vladek changes. His “miserly” routines become clever and not mean (like taking the cereal back to the store). Vladek becomes a sort of super-man in the camps; he has a jack of all trades ability and has some of the most fortunate luck ever in surviving the camp. He gets clean clothes, avoids being caught when hiding, gets food, has people sending messages to Anna, and so on. There is an undeniable shift in tone and character portrayal here.

It’s like reading two totally different narratives about the same man. My only conclusion, and I have no hard proof, is that maybe the life experiences Art has between books forces him to reconsider his positions towards his parents, and I find while Maus I is mostly negative towards them (really, that comic about his mother, while maybe real, says a lot, as does bringing her emotional issues up…of course, he also calls his father a “murderer”), Maus II is very understanding and forgiving (he even lays to rest the bitterness with his brother at the end).

Both works are amazing, though. These are must reads if you haven’t yet.

Maus is fascinating and amazing, of course.

My cool Maus bits: I first read Maus in the college library. What’s cool is that I went to the same college art spiegelman did (Binghamton University now, SUNY Binghamton and Harpur College as it’s been known over the years), and the copies I first read were ones that spiegelman had done sketches of himself as maus in the inside front cover.

Other cool bit: I have the hardcover with both parts in it, and I got it 80% off at a local grocery store. No kidding. One of those remainder books bins that sometimes they have at grocery stores that’s usually filled with old bestsellers. I see Maus and go I must have it.

I like what smokescreen says about how books 1 and 2 have the shift in perspective. I’ve got to read this again, it’s been too long.

Maus is one of those classic stories where when you read it you see the horrors of what the jews were going through and almost feel bad about reading abouts some ones private hell being targeted just because of their beliefs. a true classic

The story is powerful, but so is the art. Spiegelman’s characters have basically a triangle and a few squigly lines for faces, and yet, it’s just as expressive as artists who draw human characters.

What always blows me away about this one is that it was created by the same guy who invented Garbage Pail Kids.

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