Book Name: Maus: A Survivor’s Tale I—My Father Bleeds History
Writer: Art Spiegelman
Artist: Art Spiegelman
Release Date: 1986
Art Spiegelman tries to connect with his father who survived the concentration camps during World War II. As Art tries to get the story of what led his father and his mother from their home in Poland to Auschwitz, Art tries to reconcile how his father’s experience made him the bitter old man he is today. While Art learns about his mother, father, and first son Richieu, Art remembers his mother suicide and tries to keep peace between his father and his new wife Mala (another survivor).
Art Spiegelman published Maus (chapters 1-6) in Raw magazine between 1980-1985 and then collected, refined, and published story in 1986 in book form. Also included in the story is a short he did about his mother’s suicide in Short Order Comics #1 in 1973. Maus was a big hit, winning numerous awards, and actually took home a Pulitzer in 1992 with the release of the second volume. It now is often taught in schools and universities.
Maus resonates because Spiegelman not only tells a great story of survival but presents a portrait of his father and his troubled relationship with him. It is impossible to understand what it is like to go through events that Vladek Spiegelman went through in the concentration camps and his son can’t comprehend it either. In spite of this, his father’s history has influenced his childhood and adulthood, so this book not only is for Vladek but for Art to come to peace with his past.
Spiegelman even states to Vladek’s struggling wife Mala that he doesn’t know how to present his father without giving in to the stereotype of a miserly Jew, but it is because of Vladek’s struggle to horde…something he learned form having everything taken from him. In this story, you see Vladek go from upperclass to chewing on wood just to feel full. This type of change in lifestyle can’t happen and not have a lifelong effect on someone and Art is trying to figure out why it affects his father one way while it might affect someone else another.
Spiegelman’s decision to turn the Jewish people into mice and the German in to cats also is a genius step. There are so many horrible stories of the Holocaust and this allows Spiegelman to distinguish his work, plus it creates this weird almost softer view of the horrible events without taking away from the horrors. Everyone has seen the images of the Holocaust but this forces readers to see it in a different view without causing them to turn away.
Maus is a great story and another example of how the medium of comic books can be more than just superheroes and capes. Maus is a biography of the highest standards and gives a real sense of roundness to the characters in it by not glorifying them or being apologetic. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale I: My Father Bleeds History was followed by Maus: A Survivors Tale II—And Here My Troubles Began in 1991.