A Tribute to Art Spiegelman

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Art Spiegelman.

I am a great admirer of  of Art Spiegelman’s unusual work in comics and beyond. Today I pay him my personal tribute on the occasion of his new exhibition at the gallery Martel in Paris. Here are few of his  unpublished works, see more on ‘Pixelcreation’ in French.

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Here are two pages from the graphic book “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” who sold  over a million copies. The book tells the horrors of the Holocaust in an unique way, see more here.

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It is interesting to read the reviews by readers of  ‘Maus’,  members of the ‘LibraryThing‘ site:

…”This two-part graphic novel is a Holocaust autobiography featuring white mice as Jews, cats as Nazis, and wartime Europe as an enormous mousetrap. Using a deeply personal, reflective and rhythmic tone, the author peels off the layers of a cast of well-developed characters, centralizing around a Holocaust survivor and his son. The plot of this Pulitzer Prize winning narrative jumps between past and present with two storylines: one focusing on the Holocaust experience and one focusing on the father-son relationship. With its complex themes and unconventional format, Maus is a challenge to describe. Fiction, biography, autobiography and history, this work rises above genre to become an exceptionally unique work, an amazing story destined to become a classic. Despite being set in the Holocaust, what emerges from this comic-book masterpiece is a story of love, loyalty, and hope.”… Source: see here.

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More comics drawings from the exposition at the gallery Martel.

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Young X-Men Magneto in the Holocaust

The Israeli “haaretz” newspaper is considered as the ‘newspaper for thinking people ‘. So I looked with some suspicion and disbelief at the headline “X-Men mutant survives the Holocaust in new Marvel Comics miniseries”. But if X-Men becomes Bon Ton for ‘Thinking People’, then Marvel Comics and the Holocaust is OK.
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Well the bare facts are that indeed Marvel Comics create a new story, I quote…  “Last week, in Philadelphia, Marvel Comics announced that Greg Pak, best known for writing such characters as Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk, would be penning a new miniseries in September called “Magneto: Testament.” see here.
Quoting directly from Marvel’s site:
“This coming September, writer Pak and artist Carmine Di Giandomenico invite X-fanatics on a rare journey way back to the Master of Magnetism’s adolescent days as a mutant magnate in training. In MAGNETO: TESTAMENT, that journey weaves its way through 1930s Germany where we find pre-teen Erik Magnus Lehnsherr struggling with a unique gift as well as a ubiquitous curse around him as a young Jewish boy in the middle of the Nazi stronghold.

Not your typical tale of a Marvel character developing his extraordinary powers, this five-issue series tackles the common anxieties of a teenager with the far more severe threat of anti-Semitism supported by martial law.

“Like so many classic Marvel characters, [Magneto] has to grapple with the typical problems of any scrawny outsider: family problems, schoolyard bullies, and first crushes,” Pak explains. “But every little conflict takes on a terrifying, new dimension as the scope and inexorable advance of the Nazi menace becomes clearer.” see here.

Anyway,the ‘Magneto: Testament’ miniseries has a prestigious precursor, Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust comics, Pulitzer winning prize ‘Maus’, a standard for any creative artist approaching the subject in its comics form.
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And a final word, from an unexpected site (for me), I quote this..as a ‘preview’…”Some disagreement remains among fans and perhaps among writers about whether Magneto is Jewish or Gypsy (Roma). Possibly he is both, with one of his parents being Jewish and the other being Roma. Currently opinion seems to be leaning in the direction of regarding Magneto as Jewish. Certainly the successful X-Men movie (2000) seemed to portray Magneto as Jewish, as the movie opened showing him as a youth being forced along with other Jews into a Nazi concentration camp. The first X-Men movie and its sequel, X2: X-Men United were both directed by Jewish film director Bryan Singer”….etcetera…Visit this site for a wealth of information on the religion of comics characters.

Source of pictures Marvel Comics.

German New Comics

Germany launches comic book on Holocaust.
I quote..”New book part of effort to combat anti-semitism in Germany, which has a rapidly growing Jewish community”..”Created by the Dutch cartoonist Eric Heuvel”…”The book, based on fact, describes how Jews in Germany and the Nazi-occupied Netherlands experienced the genocidal Nazi persecution that took the lives of 6 million European Jews.”…” Through pictures and realistic dialogue, the book depicts the suffering and humiliation that Jews endured as they were stripped of their livelihoods, ostracized and, finally, sent to camps to be worked to death or gassed…”[The] comic book is called “The Search,” and tells the story of Esther, a fictional Jewish survivor of the Holocaust.”…see here.
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The Search
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Comics book and Holocaust is an oxymoron: something like “being dead”. It is hard to find some comic attributes in this gigantic massacre. Looking at the comics and their style reminds me directly of “Tintin et Milou”, the know comics characters made by the Belgian Georges Rémi, alias Hergé.
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Tintin et Milou
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Now, the “Tintin style”  has the same oxymoron quality by trying to illustrate a feroce reality of death with beautiful drawings.  Taking a look at the Eric Heuvels drawings and comparing them to the real photos of the Nazi regime, we see:
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1933 - Nazis stage boycott of Jewish shops and businesses
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Boycott pickets outside No. 79 Grindelallee, 1st April 1933.
Boycott pickets outside No. 79 Grindelallee, 1st April 1933, see more.
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The Night of the Long Knives
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200 synagogues were burn
“SS leader Reinhard Heydrich reported 7500 businesses destroyed, 267 synagogues burned (with 177 totally destroyed) and 91 Jews killed”, see here.
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Transport of Jews. 1941
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Razzia of Jews
The first major raid in the Amsterdam jodenbuurt, at the end of February 1941. At the Jonas Daniel Meyerplein were arrested, driven together, see more.
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I am aware that the German edition of this comics book is intended for pupils of the German schools . But there are people, much older, in their fifties and sixties, who remember the veritable atrocity of the Nazi Era-  atrocity embellished here for an educational purpose by the Tintin-style style and so perhaps leading by inadvertence kids or parts of the today general public to  made the colossal unforgivable mistake that the Holocaust is a super comics adventuresee here and here.
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I published this story on NowPublic and add here the comments by  NowPublic editors and contributing members.
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good stuff:korzac, interesting observations, thank you for posting.

However, I think that there is a place for the graphic novel to tell the stories of tragedy. In relation to the Holocaust, I think the best example is the Maus series. And In the Shadow of No Towers, Spiegelman’s graphic novel about 9/11 he presents another tragic topic in this medium.

To be specific about Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’, he sets the stage, to show by a ‘metaphorical’ rude way of drawings and telling the storie, that the tragedy is on the limit of the visible, another planet, created by the Nazis. A graphic novel  like ‘The Search’ is a nice superficial didactic ‘skin’ having its own legitimacy, but it is only a facade. “Maus” is not a facade..

ryan, thanks for the comment and the flag

I appreciate that distinction.Do you think Spiegleman’s work is different becuase of his personal history and experience?

Art Spiegelman’s work is different because he has an unique talent to make it different. He was born in 1948, after the war. His ‘experience’ comes from the history of his family who did not survive the Holocaust. “Maus” is the story of millions of Jews based on this own recollection of his family story. I can see myself as a kid and my family in Belgium and in Poland, in the characters of ‘Maus’. I cannot see the same in the graphic novel ‘The Search’.To do this I need the real photos. With ‘Maus I don’t need photos, I feel the awe the dread and the pain.

good stuff: Constructive discourse about difficult topics, no matter the medium, is positive in my opinion.  Rugs can only hide so much.

Thanks for the comment and the flag.

This story fascinated me, and I had not heard of it before. I think however, with a subject matter as controversial and young as the Holocaust, a comic book has no place here. It will be interesting to see however how the Jewish community in any country reacts to it, and I suppose if it’s well received there then I have no business commenting on it in the first place!

Let it be a movie a book, poetry, visual art and media publication, having as their subject matter the Holocaust, their publication will arise a controversy.The survivors interpret any objective historical study as blaspheming…The Dutch German comics cannot overcome their feelingsBut see what German students say. I quote …..”It sounds a bit blunt but I think it’s dangerous if students can’t differentiate between a Holocaust comic and Mickey Mouse,” said Henning Küppers, a history teacher at a high school in Stuttgart.”….  …”Others point out that “The Search” can hardly compare to other Holocaust comics, in particular Art Spiegelmann’s famous   “Maus” which is considered a classic and a revolution in the genre.”… .”In an interview with Berliner Zeitung, Tobias    Strunk from a specialty comic book shop called the Anne Frank Holocaust comic book “a bit forced.”… see here.

amyjudd,thanks for the comment.

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Four more comics drawings and photos,(not included in the above post)
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Transports of Jews
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Transport Jews Lodz 1942
Loading transports of Jews at Lodz station, 1942, see here.
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After the selection gaz chambers Jews
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Selection Auschwitz
Selection at the Auschwitz ramp in 1944, where the Nazis chose whom to kill immediately and whom to use as slave labour or for medical experimentation, see here.
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Gaz Chambers and Crematorium
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Auschwitz Gaz chamber door
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Gaz Chamber
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ZyclonB
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Crematorium
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Crematorium
Crematorium furnaces in the Gusen concentration camp after the liberation. (May 6-30, 1945) see here.
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