It might be a little odd to have an Art Spiegelman book that doesn’t have a whole lot of comix, and mostly essays, but it works. Comix, Essays, Graphics and Scraps: From Maus to Now to Maus to Now is a catalog published by RAW Books to go along with a travelling exhibition from the late 1990s of Spiegelman’s work. There’re a few examples of his comix, but most of those are from Breakdowns or Maus; the really interesting thing is the collection of sketches showing how he worked — doing drafts of each individual Maus panel and showing his process for that project. Continue reading
McSweeney’s always publishes beautiful editions — that’s one of my favorite things about their books, the idea of them as objets d’arte is as important as the literature inside — which often is, of course, worthy of such a beautiful form.
On the other hand, most ’70s underground comix, while undeniably art themselves, often took the form of the trashy and disposable; one could be forgiven for assuming the worst if they had no idea of what the contents were.
Art Spiegelman is (rightly) known as one of the founders of modern comics. Maus is often given the credit for making the graphic novel a viable and respectable art form, and his anthology series of the 1980s and early 1990s, RAW (originally a magazine, then a series of books) showed what could be done with the form.
However, while Maus‘ fame and reknown came mostly from the subject and content, using the form of comics to tell the story of the Holocaust, Spiegelman’s new-old book, Breakdowns is more about the form — and, taken together, provide an adequate course in how to write and create comics.
Harvey Kurtzman is a genius — that’s really all there is to it. Well, rather, there’s slightly more to it — “was”, considering he died not quite 15 years ago. And, well, sure just merely calling him a genius does sell him a little short, I suppose — it doesn’t bring up his fluid art style, his war comics which were the first to not glamorize war as all the others did, and he created Mad, which is pretty much a feat in itself. The Comics Journal had done a series of interviews with him, and this book compiles them (along with a couple of other earlier interviews, comics and essays). We can find out Kurtzman’s points of view on French comics (pro), being false in your work (con) and on the continuing decision to do Little Annie Fanny in paint rather than ink (mixed). Kurtzman also tells us about the genesis of the name “Mad”, the origin and naming of Alfred E. Neuman, and his views of business versus art.
Unfortunately, he tells us these things over and over again. Granted, that’s a product of the construction of the book — several interviews brought together — though I wonder if it’d have been almost better to compile the interviews into a long faux-conversation, to get to the new material without having to rehash the same questions over and over (which were, of course, new in the interviews’ original context, being in a stand-alone magazine rather than a book all on one subject). It is an admittedly minor nit, and that’s why we’re given the ability to opt to scan some things rather than read every single word as if it were gold… though the sum of these words is almost as good as that particular yellow, soft substance. (Not chicken fat.)