14 July 2010

Maus Tail

In Maus: A Survival's Tale, creator, Art Spiegelman writes the biography of his father, Vladek's experiences before and during World War II.
In chapter 5, Vladek and his wife Anja (along with his in-laws) are relocated from their luxurious home in Sosnowiek to a small cottage in Srodula, a ghetto for Jews. During their time in the ghetto, they work for Germans, have coupons for their ration of food, and are in constant fear as news of the Auschwitz concentration camps came to their attention. As a result of their fear and distrust of the Germans, Vladek makes bunkers, hiding places for his family. While German influence gets worse, Vladek's family is slowly disbanded... Vladek sends his child with his brother and sister in law, their baby, and another child (the sister in-law later poisons herself and the children to save them from a fate at Auschwitz) and the father and mother in laws are left behind, unable to be snuck out of the ghetto. Vladek and Anja rely on their cousins to save them (even though they had to pay in jewelery) and later leave the ghetto disguised as Poles.
Art Spiegelman creates a world where nationality is distinct, as it was during German occupation... Polish are Pigs, Jews are mice, Germans are cats, and Americans are dogs. Although this kinda reminds me of "An American Tail," I still feel the purpose of making these distinctions... it was a different world for Jews then, and they were considered the small, lowly creatures that would be exterminated by the Germans. The biography is a powerful story of survival and shows that in times of desperate need, no friend or even family will watch out for you.

Maus: Serious, Innovative, Fuzzy Animals.

Before the introduction to Maus: A Survivors Tale, by Art Spiegelman, the following quote of Adolf Hitler appears “The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human.” How appropriate then that Spiegelman portrays all of his characters as separate species based on their race. The Jews are mice, the Germans are cats, the Americans are dogs, and the Poles are pigs. Its as if Spiegelman includes this quote to say “this is not necessarily the way I see it, but the way ‘they’ see it.” It also serves as an effective way of telling the story of his parents’ experience during the Holocaust.

Maus is the biography of Spiegelman's father Vladek Spiegelman. In Chapter 5, “Mouse Holes” the book portrays the author and his father discussing the father's experiences in German occupied Poland during the second world war. The experiences Vladek recounts to his son are illustrated in the book as flashbacks. Vladek tells his son about life in the ghettos. He describes sending his first son, Richieu, to live with his aunt in another ghetto that was supposed to be safer. Later Vladek and his wife Anja, Art's mother, find out that the aunt had poisoned herself, her child, and Richieu in order to spare them from going to the concentration camps. Vladek also describes hiding out in secret bunkers to avoid the Germans, and eventually leaving the ghettos in disguise.

Maus is a very powerful comic. The way the characters are portrayed, how they talk,is in some ways very realistic, apart from the fact that everyone is depicted as furry animals. In a way its kind of funny to think of a comic written about the Holocaust, especially one in which all of the characters are talking animals, but it works perfectly the way Spiegelman implements it. The use of animals adds to the story, and does not take away from it or make it seem any less serious.

Its great to read a comic that does something really different, and I can see why this particular comic won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. I think Spiegelman was very brave to write Maus. Not only for being a pioneer in the field of comics, and doing something creative and innovative with comics, but also for opening up his family's history for everyone to see.

12 July 2010

Maus Trap!!!

Basically the book "Maus" by Art Spiegelman is about these mice, who are Jews, and live in this town called Czestochowa which was in Germany. Artie started going out with this mouse named Vladek. They were going out for about 3 to 4 years and then Artie found another mouse named Anja. When Vladek first got married to Anja, they both lived a luxurious life is Sosnowiec altogether with his in-laws. Of course, when the war came, they suffered a 180 degree spin in their lives as all the comforts they were used to where taken away from them and had to manage with what little was available. Throughout these hostile situations, Vladek acted like a very strong and clever man, and he even established important relations that helped him in his way to salvation. His survival skills and his instinct were at their utmost, as he was one of the few who made it to the end.
In chapter 5, Mouse Holes, In Srodula, the Germans begin to round up Jews at random. To protect himself and his family, Vladek builds a shelter under a coal bin, in which they hide during the Nazi searches. Soon, though, they are moved to a different house. Again, Vladek builds a shelter, this time in the attic and accessible only through a chandelier in the ceiling. One evening, as they are leaving the shelter, they see a stranger below. It is a Jew, who tells them he was only looking for food for his starving child. They think about killing him to be sure that he will not report them, but they take pity on him and give him some food. That afternoon, the Gestapo arrives and takes Vladek and his family into a secure compound in the middle of the ghetto.
The compound is a waiting area for transport to Auschwitz. Vladek enlists his cousin, Haskel, who is chief of the Jewish Police, to help. In exchange for a diamond ring, Haskel arranges for the release of Vladek and Anja. Anja's parents also send valuables to Haskel, but in the end he chooses not to help them. At this point in the Holocaust, family loyalties have largely eroded, and it is every man for himself.
The first, Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus, can work very well as an introduction to the Holocaust. Because the story is told through the medium of “the comics,” students find it very accessible. I myself find it to be very overwhelming, it relates to Anne Frank and I took that story very personal. But there is little that is “comic” about the story of Vladek Spiegeleman, the author’s father, and his mother, both of whom manage to survive by combination of extraordinary resourcefulness on the part of Vladek and sheer luck. The story continues after the the Holocaust to show how for many survivors, there really is no end to the suffering and horror. Speigelman takes great care to set the historical context for his father’s experiences, so that even students without much direct knowledge of the Holocaust can understand the story.

The Interpretations of Batman

By watching “Gotham Knight,” a series of interpretations of the Batman, I was able to see this superhero in many different perspectives. In the first segment, Batman is shown through the eyes of four children. Batman is a “living shadow” by one witness account. Batman’s ghostly ability to melt into the darkness keeps his assailant from ending him. By another witness, the Batman is a Bat-monster. Like a humanoid-bat, this version can fly and shrieks like the animal of his namesake when fighting. But that report is also challenged by another observer who claims Batman is not a man at all. In this testimony, the Batman is a robot—a machine that fights and uses sophisticated technology (think: crazy explosives and rocket launchers) to fight off bad-guys. The stories are proven to be nothing more than the figments of the active imaginations of the children at the end when the real Batman comes crashing through the window. Fighting the same type of villain as in the first stories, this Batman is definitely human, hurt and exhausted from fighting. Batman even has a moment of weakness that his attacker tries to take advantage of… but his young fan (and the only child who has no other experiences to draw on) steps in and has Batman’s back. The attacker is down, Batman prevails with the help of the child. Batman thanks the kid, then, is on his way. The other kids want the story… “Man, do I have a story for you!”

This first segment was the most memorable of the series for me because it shows how a legend is made… through hearsay. ;) These children tell their stories with conviction and even participate in the events surrounding their story… they weren’t just there, they were in the action. Batman becomes what they want him to be… a shadowy ghost with the ability to disappear into the darkness, a monster, a robot! Batman is anything but human to these children because he’s a superhero. The children can’t explain who Batman is without making him more than human.

The rest of short series explains how a man can do such extraordinary things. He trains hard, works through his pain, and uses his riches to attain special weapons and machinery. How he is seen through the eyes of children, the cops he aids to apprehend bad guys, Commissioner Gordon, the woman who trains him, Alfred the butler all vary. Who is Batman?? The question is an ongoing debate in the series.

I enjoyed these interpretations of Batman. Seeing the different segments gave me more background on the hero… I have seen the movies but only read the comics assigned in this class so my exposure is very limited. I feel that viewing these short films also gave me another perspective on “the look” of Batman. Batman was drawn differently in each section and the differences all served a purpose. How we perceive Batman can change how we interpret him.