Everything you ever wanted to know about the creation, impact and aftereffects of Maus.
The cultural significance of the Pulitzer Prize–winning work by Spiegelman (In the Shadow of No Towers, 2004) is beyond dispute. Not only did it establish the critical respectability and mainstream market for what have come to be called “graphic novels,” but its unsentimental account of family tragedy and dynamics showed a way that art could deal with death-camp genocide without descending into what the author terms “Holokitsch.” On the 25th anniversary of the publication of Maus I, this volume serves as the publishing industry’s version what the music industry markets as a box set—with extended bonus material, contextual analyses and previously unreleased cuts (some 7,500 drawings and sketches are but a small fraction of the offerings on the accompanying DVD). Included within the book are an exhaustive interview with the author by English professor Hillary Chute, shorter (but not short) interviews with his wife and their offspring on the artist and his art, plenty of illustrations from sketchbooks and inspirations, family photos, family trees, rejection letters (from major publishers), the source-material transcript of the author’s discussions with his father about the latter’s experiences in Auschwitz and Dachau and the original three-page version of “Maus” from 1972 that spawned the two-volume masterpiece. For Spiegelman, the key questions to address (at length) provide chapter titles: “Why the Holocaust?”; “Why Mice?”; “Why Comics?” The answers are intermittently fascinating and often provocative, though only an obsessive or an academic is likely to need a two-page response to the question: “You kept lots of pictures of mice and other animals around while you were working. Which ones were especially significant?” Yet the accompanying DVD will satisfy the insatiable appetite, with “a digital reference copy of The Complete Maus” (with audio and visual links) plus “MetaMeta” supplements that make the printed volume seem like an appetizer.
The power of Maus doesn’t require such exhaustive explanation and annotation, but those with a taste for it will find their appreciation enhanced.