29 March 2012

Show and Tell: Holocaust Edition

Maus by Art Spiegelman is a biography depicting the life of Art’s father during the Holocaust in the 1930s and 40s. And this specific excerpt begins with Art as a young child playing with his friends, we see him roller skating, but he falls and injures himself. He runs to his father who is working on some home improvements. We fast forward about two decades and we see Art with his wife and the phone ringing. Its Art’s father’s wife and she tells Art that his father is trying to get on the roof to fix a leak. A week later Art goes to visit his father and his wife tells Art that he found a comic Art drew called “Prisoner on the Hell Planet” which described Art’s life after his mother committed suicide. Art’s father told Art that the comic made him cry, but he was not mad. The two of them walk to the bank and we see Art asking his father about the “the selection at the stadium” his father describes the event as Art takes notes. Art’s father talked about living in the ghetto and how the gestapo evacuated the ghetto to take all the remaining Jews to Auschwitz. Art’s father and built a bunker to hide out in. After a few weeks he moved to another bunker and one day a stranger showed up begging for food and then that afternoon the gestapo showed up. His father described different little events that took place in the ghetto. One day Miloch, Art’s friend in the ghetto, showed Art’s father a secret tunnel that lead to a bunker that could hold 15 people. He described how he, Art’s mother and several Jews hid in the bunker and after a period of time they ran out of food. Some of the people in the bunker went out to find food and were shot. Eventually the ghetto was emptied out, but Art’s father had nowhere to go that was safe. Art and his father finally back it to the bank where Art gets a key to his father’s safe. His father complains about Mala, his wife, and he doesn’t know why he remarried because he only longs for Anja, Art’s mother.
In Understanding Comics by McCloud there is a chapter entitled “Show and Tell” which describes the “head on collision” words and pictures encountered in comics. McCloud argues that pictures must carry the weight in comics and this directly allows words “to explore a wider area”. This required balance is noticeable is Maus. If the words weren’t there I could still probably grasp the overall story Art was trying to tell, the words enhance the comic. This enhancement is exactly what McCloud says words do in comics.
Overall I found Maus to be very interesting, even though it was just a small portion of the biography, Spiegelman showed how comics can be legitimate literature. The story of Art’s father is a very moving and is a very important part of world history. Maus is definitely on my reading list, now.


  1. I agree that many comics can be understood with just the pictures but I think that in Maus, the words and the pictures are both as important. One part that really caught my attention was when Spiegelman writes "Menopausal Depression, Hitler did it!" To me the words did more than just enhance the pictures. Actually, now that I think back, I don't remember much of what the pictures looked like :/

    Maus is definitely on my reading list as well!

  2. Great post and excellent comment!

    Forgetting to really look at the pictures is very common for beginners. When I took my first graphic novel class as an undergrad, I found I had to go and reread a lot of the books just to make sure I could write about their visual aspects, as well :-)

  3. I agree with yours post on the "Intro to Maus, Chapter five," and the important issue on story line of Holocaust.It been proven the PTSD of the postwar of Jewish communities were high of suicidal death due the severe environment that Nazi's imposed then.I do agree with you on the fact this story is biography on the behalf of Spiegelmen part,but i like how he put in introspective by relation to central character by his father Vladek. The Pictures from the holocaust are pretty vivid and Spiegelmen idea of putting it into comic book that kids can read into history by comic book is academically genius idea for the future.