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A great deal of the source material for Art Spiegelman’s ground-breaking, medium-defining, market-redefining Maus came from the cartoonist recording long conversations with his Holocaust-survivor father Vladek.
A great deal of the source material for MetaMaus, a book-length discussion of Maus that includes an astounding amount of reference, background and process-related material, comes from editor Hillary Chute recording long conversations with Art Spiegelman.
They didn’t put the word “Meta” in the title for nothing.
Less punchy, but also appropriate, might have been Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Maus and Probably Much More Besides, Including Things You Didn’t Know You Wanted to Know Until We Told You.
Pushing 300 pages and including a disc titled “The Complete Maus Files” that boasts the complete Maus and so much material about each page of it that it’s like a little Library of Mausandria, it might at first seem strange that the book about Maus seems to dwarf Maus itself, at least in terms of size. But part of the value of the project, beyond an admirable work of preservation of the astounding amount of research Spiegelman put into creating it and the family and cultural history that resulted and aside from creating an invaluable resource for future college kids writing papers on Maus, is what it reveals about Maus from a different perspective — inside out.
The book exists on a crossroads between family history and comics. And explaining the geography of where the work sits involved answering both questions pretty fully, and it was very difficult to reenter, I’ve got to say. Very painful….Well, you know, you get calluses when you work, and it protects you as you do your gardening, and during the thirteen years of Maus, I got my protective layer of dead skin, so that I could kind of deal with my family and history at least, and even get the comics done efficiently, if thirteen years is efficient. But those went away. You get new skin. And re-entering, looking at my dead family, rereading, and further reading, on an area where I haven’t really been focused, i.e., the death camps, and reading more, is really painful — and even looking back at my own work, and how it’s affected my work life since is difficult. So, I avoided the project for a long time. The first month or so was really devastating. Then the callouses came back, and I could go on to shaping and making a byoo-ti-ful book. So that’s why, basically.
—Art Spiegelman on how revisiting his masterwork Maus was hazardous to his mental health, in an interview on the exhaustive new Maus-umentary book/DVD MetaMaus with Robot 6’s Chris Mautner for The Comics Journal.
I have to say that even if I were dismiss the difficulty of having this personal and painful a work as your personal career centerpiece, and even if I were to discount his editing of RAW, his New Yorker covers, his illustration and children’s books, his publishing work, In the Shadow of No Towers, and the expanded re-release of Breakdowns, I’m still much more sympathetic than many with regards to Spiegelman’s supposed failure to produce another work commensurate with his Pulitzer Prize-winning family history of the Holocaust. That comic changed the entire art form for the better, and that’s one more art-form-changing comic than most people have drawn.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
If I had $15, I’d mostly grab the second issues of some DC stuff I enjoyed last month: Batman ($2.99), Birds of Prey ($2.99), and especially Wonder Woman ($2.99). No Justice League for me though. Unlike Action Comics, I didn’t enjoy the first issue enough that I can rationalize paying $4 for it. Instead, I’ll grab Avengers 1959 #2 ($2.99) and Red 5’s Bonnie Lass #2 ($2.95), both of which had strong first issues.
If I had $30, I’d have to put back Bonnie Lass and wait for the collection in order to afford Jonathan Case’s atomic-sea-monster-love-story Dear Creature ($15.99).
Publishing | Emily Nilsson, wife of Sparkplug Books publisher Dylan Williams, said she plans to continue running the publishing company after the death of her husband. “We need your support now as much as ever,” she said in a post on the Sparkplug blog. “We are grieving at the same time as we are trying to keep business afloat, and trying not to overstrain ourselves. We want to publish again soon but that is a step we will consider more once we get through the next few months.” Nilsson, Virginia Paine and Tom Neely will continue to run Sparkplug, with plans to continue online sales and attend conventions like the upcoming MIX in Minneapolis next month and the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival in December. Williams passed away in September due to complications from cancer. [Sparkplug]
Legal | Michael George, the former comics retailer found guilty of murder for the second time, is in the Macomb County (Mich.) jail after his bond was revoked following Tuesday’s verdict. George was found guilty of murdering his first wife Barbara in the back of their comic book store in 1990. “The family’s ecstatic,” said Barbara’s brother Joe Kowynia. “There’s no way a jury is going to get this wrong twice. I feel sorry for my nieces, this is long overdue. Now that this is over, Barb can rest in peace. And we can move on and he can rot in jail.” [Detroit Free Press]
Legal | Defense testimony began in the Michael George trial Monday after the judge denied a motion by the defense to order an acquittal. George’s daughter Tracie testified that she remembers her father sleeping on the couch in his mother’s house the night in 1990 when his first wife Barbara was shot and killed in their Clinton Township, Michigan, comic store. Another defense witness, Douglas Kenyon, told the jury he saw a “suspicious person” in the store that evening and that Barbara George, who waited on him, seemed nervous. [Detroit Free Press]
Conventions | Last weekend’s Alternative Press Expo inspired Deb Aoki to offer a burst of suggestions on Twitter as to how it could be made better. Heidi MacDonald collected the tweets into a single post, and the commenters add some worthwhile points (including not scheduling it opposite the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, which attracts much of the same audience and is free). [Deb Aoki’s Twitter, The Beat]
Awards | Ian Culbard’s adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness won the British Fantasy Award for best comic/graphic novel, presented Saturday by the British Fantasy Society. [The British Fantasy Society]
Art Spiegelman’s Maus has a straightforwardness to it that makes it look easy, but the book MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic is testimony to the years of preparation that went into the book. MetaMaus includes a lengthy interview with Spiegelman on his sources, his process, and the research he put into Maus, as well as illustration of primary source material and lots of sketches. The book is accompanied by a DVD that includes both volumes of Maus and audio recordings of Spiegelman’s father Vladek, who narrates the story to his son.
Suvudu has posted a 24-page excerpt from the MetaMaus DVD that shows the preliminary sketches and finished pages of two pages of Maus, and it’s well worth a look to see how Spiegelman developed his story on paper. The book complements this nicely with Spiegelman’s descriptions of the work, and it’s well worth checking out when it is released on Oct. 4.