Thursday, March 08, 2007


Art Spiegelman was in town yesterday, speaking at the U of A as part of the Student Union’s Revolutionary Speakers Series. The “revolutionary” hype fits as his graphic novel, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, established the concept of the “graphic novel”. Or introduced the idea into the public sphere, thereby launching a thousand “comic books aren’t just for kids anymore” articles. I heard someone on CBC the other day use a variant of that phrase entirely un-ironically!
Maus was actually one of a number of classic works from the mid-eighties that established the genre. Spiegelman considers himself part of the comics tradition that stretches back before World War Two. But Maus winning a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992 was a signal moment for the genre, when respectability finally arrived. I remember a university pal forcing Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986) on me as I rolled my eyes (“Batman comics? Surely you jest.”). I also mocked him for listening to country music. That pal is now an English prof at an Ontario university who uses graphic novels in his teaching. And I enjoy country music.
Other groundbreakers include Alan Moore’s Watchmen (1987) and V for Vendetta (published serially from 1982 on, with a complete book in 1995). Maus remains apart, as it is a memoir rather than fiction, focused on Spiegelman’s father and his life as a Holocaust concentration camp survivor. All the graphic novel memoirists and journalists that followed are in Spiegelman’s debt. I’m thinking of critically acclaimed works like:




Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home