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31 Days of Comics – Comic That Changed the Way That You See the World

Our pal Seth Hahne, of GoodOKBad fame, came up with this 31 Days of Comics challenge, one of those things where each day of the month you’re given a different category that you then make a choice of a comic to fill that category. I figured it would be a fun bit to do, so here we are! Click here to see each of the categories so far!

We continue with Day 29, which is a Comic That Changed the Way That You See the World

Read on for my pick and then you can share yours!

This is another tough one, since I think it is likely fair to say that ANY great work should change the way that you see the world in some small way but at the same time, I can’t recall many works significantly changing my view of the world. Hmmm… Let’s go with…

Art Spiegelman’s Maus. Not for the Holocaust aspect (although obviously that is very powerful), but for Spiegelman’s brilliant work examining the guilt and self-doubts of authorship.

In the first book of Maus, Spiegelman begins to tell his father’s story of what happened to he and Spiegelman’s mother during the Holocaust, with the Jews being depicted in the book as mice, the Nazis as cats, the Poles as pigs and the Americans as dogs. The first book ends as Spiegelman’s parents are captured and sent to Auschwitz. More specifically, the book ends with Spiegelman telling the story of how he discovered that his mother had written extensive journals about her time during the Holocaust before she killed herself when Spiegelman was a young man. His father, though, destroyed her journals after her suicide, even though he recalled that she specifically mentioned keeping the diaries to pass on to their son. The book ends with Spiegelman calling his father a murderer.

The second book 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. 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 attempt to understand his parents’ tragic past 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…

This remains one of the most powerful studies of the guilt and self-doubts associated with authorship that I have ever read and it has greatly influenced any thoughts I’ve had on the subject ever since. I often find myself comparing it to other situations in other walks of life. Deconstructing your own work midway through the work itself is fascinating.

21 Comments

That is hands down my favourite part of Maus. I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan of the book, but that section is tremendous.

My own answer is Joe Sacco’s Palestine, but the full answer is a thousand words and I don’t know if you want a comment that long.

I’m pretty sure that a comic will never have that effect on me.

Yeah, Joe Sacco was a good call. I haven’t read Palestine, but Footnotes in Gaza was very stirring. It definitely made me more sensitive to the way policy affects real human beings.

Understanding Comics, in lots of ways, particularly the notion that simpler drawings can have a stronger emotional impact than a more detailed one and just various things about the nature of art in general. It really opened my eyes about what could be accomplished in the medium.

My first comic, JLA 30. It was my first exposure to a story that took place outside the real world and it gave me a realization that this other world was so much cooler and wilder and more amazing than everyday life. Which has affected my life in countless ways including my deciding to write for a living.

Gaiman’s SANDMAN taught me to be more open-minded and tolerant of those different from myself.

Maus is a good choice, but seeing as I am already Jewish, it didn’t have that much of an effect on me.

Persepolis did it for me. It’s like the Persian version of Maus.

The Cartoon History of the Universe really helped open my eyes to how much Europe champions itself in most history books (that I’ve been exposed to) – and in particular quite how much evil was perpetrated by the British empire (it’s amazing how much base love is felt for Queen Victoria and that whole era in the UK).

On a more personal note, I wrote a professionally published comic about 10 years ago, and during those months I found it really difficult to enjoy reading comics, because I couldn’t help but look beyond the actual product to see the craft involved. And even in the case of well-crafted comics, it was tough to find it more like work than enjoyment. So I guess that had a pretty profound effect on how I saw the world.

(It didn’t lead to a career in comics, but undoubtedly helped get me into a career in children’s publishing)

Y: The Last Men’s first issue or a volume (I dont remember which one) is something I read as a twelve year kid. In that issue, there is an insert about what would happen if all the men died in the world (as it does in the series). It was like “most of the military would be gone. most religious leaders are dead. etc” As a kid, I wasnt really thinking about the gender inequality in the world, but that issue (and the series as a whole) really made me take a step back. Like in one issue, Yorick meets a nun. As a Catholic nun, she has no guidance as all the Catholic leaders are dead, so she just stays in this church basically. Or in the first arc, the Secretary of Agriculture is first in line for the presidency, because most of the other position were filled by males.

Even if you’re not a kid, the series could really change the way you see the world. I personally think it’s the best serialized comic of all time.

Vertigo Jam #1.

Specifically, a short story (about 4 or 5 pages) by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred about Shade the Changing Man. Shade and friends discover a priest dying on the side of the road. The priest confesses to having lived a life of numerous despicable sins, and is in tears, not just because he’s sorry, but because he lived out his life and got away with everything. Shade’s actions at the end of the story, and their result, are very striking.

I read it in my early 20s, where my views on religion were in flux, and this really stayed with me as a way to look at the positive and negative values of faith, not to mention self-delusion.

While it didn’t throw me over to a secular outlook outright, it paved the way for my continuing evolution towards a sort of tolerant secularism that’s still a work in progress for me.

And it primed me for reading, years later, my “Discworld Novel That Changed the Way You See the World”: Hogfather by Terry Pratchett, which really hit home with lots of the same themes.

Yeah, Joe Sacco has that effect on people. Safe Area Gorazde was my eye-opener. It had a greater effect on me than hearing statistics or brief news coverage of the Balkan War.

Additionally, Hutch Owen by Tom Hart really made me question how materialistic I am. I read it in my early 20s, and found myself wanting to be more like Hutch and less like Wermer (the CEO guy). I can’t live my life the was Hutch does (homeless philosopher) but I can curb my urge to acquire things.* It also made me question how I viewed cartooning. The drawings are sketchy, kind of ugly near-doodles, yet the cartooning is excellent. I read some other Hart comics (The Sands, Banks/ Eubanks) and will now get anything the guy works on.

* except comics, of course.

I was going to say Understanding Comics for the very same reasons as Stefan, but to avoid redundancy, I’ll go with Wiches Tales Vol. 2 No. 4. It was my older brother’s and I found it in the attic. At that point in my life, the scariest art I had been exposed to was The Wizard of Oz. In my art world, adults were almost always infallible, and while children could be in danger, in the end, everything would work out. “The Thing in the Cellar” changed everything. It was a 4 pager about a kid afraid to go into the basement. His dad gives him a little man-to-man talk about not being afraid of imaginary nonsense. The boy realizes dad is right, and goes down into the cellar to confront his fears. Big mistake. Little Jefferey winds up in the furnace, a dead, flaming, skeleton:

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_iL6ciL0GqvY/S83pmWA6eKI/AAAAAAAAL6g/AO8R45nFzwU/s1600/ThingInTheCellar004.jpg

Holy Joe! Dad was wrong! A kid’s imagination is could be right! Sometimes, there is no happy ending and the kid dies! This story totally twisted my little mind. For years afterwards, the comic had a palpable sense of evil around it, even after I had buried it under tons of old junk back in the attic where it belonged.

That would be V for Vendetta. Before reading it, I never considered Anarchy as a valid view on society. Thought it was all about not accepting any authority. Nowadays I wonder if it’s that much less chaotic than the system we have now.

Didn’t change my behaviour though. Still am a very law abiding citizen who regularly buys and reads Superman comics :)

I’m not someone who can trace back anything I believe to one specific event. The closest I can come up with would probably be Preacher. It contextualized and codified my views on religion, possibly in a way Ennis really didn’t intend. It gave me an explanation for why I can trust my own sense of morality and keep faith despite the ways other people misuse religion. I see it as asking and answering the question of what if God is manipulative and sort of an asshole. If people who use religion to create oppressive social orders are right, then God doesn’t really deserve our worship. I live by the messages that sound right, not the ones that sound wrong, because both are there and faith is trusting to know the difference. But if I’m wrong about which parts to ignore then God and Iwill be having a bit of a chat when I die and, like Jesse set out on a quest for, I will be very, very cross with him.

Sin City

We are all prostitutes….wake up people

The Demon #26-29: Political Asylum by McDuffie and Semekis

I know, it’s a weird choice but this batch of books was lil’ me’s introduction to political satire. They aren’t anything close to subtle, but that’s fine when you’re a kid. Reading these books showed me that behind the dry, empty promises of politics was a colossal joke, and it was pretty funny.

Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cuse’s tale of Toland Polk, a young gay man struggling with his homosexuality in the south during the sixties. Toland is able to hide his homosexuality and avoid the persecution that his black and gay friends have to endure because they can’t hide who they are like Toland can. Until a series of tragedies shows Toland and the reader the importance of speaking out against things you know are wrong.

“So I said the words. And there were lots of them! I know that I did ’cause I can still remember the stammering, gulping sound of them tumbling out of my mouth. And I’ll be damned if I can recall what any of them were in particular -except for these four: It could’ve been me.”

Wanderers #12 by Doug Moench and Dave Hoover.

It opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

Fairly recent, but Daytripper really helped me re-examine loss and mortality, the context being the loss of multiple family members over the past decade. A beautiful and well-conceived notion of what a “life” is.

Ex Machina, particularly living in post-9/11 NY. As someone who was always turned off by politics and politicians, it didn’t exactly raise my hopes, but I think it helped give me a language beyond the cynical “Every politician is essentially the same” bullshit I’d been pushing most of my life. I started to realize more and more about it on a broad philosophical spectrum – that trying to make positive change in a vast and complex system is one of the hardest things to do, and that you’re only real hope of making any change at all is accommodating to the system, which, of course, means it will change you. Not particularly shocking, but what really hit me was the realization of how it all tied into 9/11, how that event completely changed the climate of the world, and that if you really wanted to be cynical, you could almost say that the only way to change the system is to introduce chaos. Goddamn, that’s a bummer…

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