360 Staff Pick: MetaMaus

Blog: 10.27.11

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 12:00 PM

It’s been 25 years since Art Spiegelman published Maus, the graphic novel about his father's experiences in the Holocaust. This is the book that opened the doors for graphic novels and eventually graphic nonfiction, and made alternative comics a mainstream phenomenon.

When I heard that Pantheon was putting out a commemorative book, I kept forgetting what it was called: was it MegaMaus or MetaMaus? The book, MetaMaus, published this month, is actually both: mega meta.

MetaMaus is structured around a series of conversations Art Spiegelman had with the narrative comics expert Hillary Chute. The two discuss everything from the obvious questions like “Why mice?” (the original idea was to depict racism in America with African American mice and the Ku Klux Kats) to the pens Spiegelman used in his drawings (two kinds, both fountain). Surrounding the text of the interview is a wealth of images: early drafts of Spiegelman’s sketches, family photos, and drawings that illustrate the interview itself.

For Spiegelman enthusiasts, though, the most satisfying piece of MetaMaus snaps into the inside cover. It’s a DVD containing both volumes of the original Maus, as well as a whole slew of supplemental audio and images titled — you guessed it — Meta Meta. If Maus has been a touchstone for you over the last decades, you have a new way to understand this moving and revolutionary book.

 

Slideshow: Sketches from MetaMaus

MetaMaus
Art Spiegelman, MetaMaus

MetaMaus features never before seen sketches from Art Spiegelman’s notebooks from the period in which he was conceiving Maus (a comic book about his father Vladek’s experiences during the Holocaust). Here, Vladek the mouse arrives at Mauschwitz. In the final drawing that appears in Maus, the text for the panel reads: “Here it was the live showers, not the dead gas showers what we heard sometimes rumors.”

MetaMaus
Art Spiegelman, MetaMaus

Preliminary sketches for the scene in which Spiegelman depicts Vladek’s dinner table mentality, which had been shaped by his time in the camps.

MetaMaus
Art Spiegelman, MetaMaus

Draft panels for a scene in which Vladek tells a former girlfriend that he’s getting engaged.

MetaMaus
Art Spiegelman, MetaMaus

Another early sketch for Maus.

MetaMaus
Art Spiegelman, MetaMaus

In an interview for MetaMaus, narrative comics expert Hillary Chute notes that Spiegelman shows the mice with their mouths open only a few times in the book.  Spiegelman explains, “When I show the mouths, they’re almost always there as cries and screams ... It allows for a kind of vulnerability, coming in toward the underbelly of the mouse.”

MetaMaus
Art Spiegelman, MetaMaus

In Maus, the British are drawn as fish. Spiegelman tells Chute, “I thought about fish and chips, an island culture, fish out of water. All those things just seemed to lead me toward drawing fish without bicycles but with jeeps.”

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Comments [1]

Chris Roberts from Brooklyn, USA

In his interview, Art Spieglman states that Hitler thought of the Jews as vermin. I will say that the designation *vermin* is more in tune with rats. Mice are kept as pets, rats are not. If Spieglman wanted to enlarge and put into direct focus such a hideous statement the use of rats has a deeper impact and it wouldn't make the Jews seem as meek, i.e., "quiet as a church mouse."

I find it interesting that in all the Holocaust literature, there is nearly no mention of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Here we have the story of Jews not as victims, not broken, but emboldened by the energy of tenacity, a die free or don't die at all spirit. Where are the graphic novels of this uplifting story? It is an important event that can be read by the young and passed down forever.

Chris Roberts

Oct. 28 2011 10:11 AM

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