"My Father Bleeds History" named Art Spiegelman his first volume of Maus: A Survivor's Tale, and he couldn't have picked it better. Maus bleeds a dark, tragic tale from the beginning of the first volume to the end of the second. It is the tale of the Spiegelman family, Vladek Spiegelman who has used his wits to a great extend to keep himself and his wife alive during the World War II concentration camps, Anja Spigelman who has killed herself after the war due to the intense suffering, Richeu Spiegelman, young son to Anja and Vladek who never made it through, and Art Spiegelman, who is trying to come to terms with his mothers suicide and his father's bitterness.
Maus is history. Maus is truth (mostly). Through the pages of Maus Art interviews his father about the World War II and how Vladek and Anja made it through the camps. But in that narrative is interwoven another relative: the present Art's dealing with his old, bitter, tempered father. Surviving the war and losing his son and wife to the aftermath has taken its toll on Vladek Spiegelman. He distrusts everyone. He is having problems getting along with everyone. And Art is having problems getting along with his father, which was one of the great things about this book: it helped me re-evaluate my own relationship with my father, we don't always get along either.
And Art has shown great courage. This is a very personal, very heart-breaking tale he has presented to the whole world. After the first part of Maus is published to great acclaim, he feels like he is trapped. He thinks he will never understand the pains and hardships his father has gone through. Maus is a twofold tale, the tale of Vladek surviving the camps and the tale of Vladek coping with the present day world.
Part I: My father bleeds history covers the time from the start of the war till Vladek gets placed to Auschwitz- he manages to avoid it for a good time- and Part II: And here my troubles began is about him surviving Auschwitz with his wife and also, his present day problems .
As you turn the pages of Maus, you are bound to realize Vladek's resourcefulness to stay on top of everything, his paranoid present self who once again proves that perhaps surviving a war is a harsh experience no one else can understand, Art's struggle to understand his father and his own history, and the brutality of the torture Jew's suffered during the war.
And you are also bound to realize something else- the art. I don't always speak of the art, and it's mainly because I am not an artist at all- I can't draw anything. When I read a comic, I read it from a writers perspective, I read the text and integrate the story the art is telling with the words, but I never really understand how much effort goes to drawing that panel. I may stop to consider how a scene is presented, but its the narration I care for, not the art itself (I feel guilty and I try to redeem this).
But for Maus, art is what made it so successful. Aside from the black/white storyline showing us the darkness of story, in Maus every race is drawn as a animal. The Jews are mice, the Nazi's are cats, and other races all get their symbolic animals, and Art uses this stereotypes extremely well.
So, If you are looking for a cozy bedtime story, Maus is not where you should be. If you are looking for a real, detailed, personal history of the World War II concentration camps, you are where you should be. Maus is a must read not only for the comic book fan but for everyone who lives in our era, because it tells the story of one of the great tragedies of our time- and reveals its consequences.
Happy readings, if that's possible.
Picture 1: This is a page from an earlier comic Art drew before he created Maus. Its a different style of art, but its close to how Maus is done and it also shows the troubles Art and Vladek went through after Anja's suicide.
Picture 2: Now this is the traditional Maus. Art and Vladek are at the present time, interviewing. They are both drawn as mice, and here Vladek is showing Art one of the ways the Jews used to hide. This reminds me of Inglorious Basterds, the 2009 WWII Film, and how Lanza tells at the beginning: what humans can do when they put pride aside?
Picture 3: Now this is Art speaking. He is going through a lot too and Maus is also his tale. His life is surrounded and shadowed with history, one he had never been a part of but feels inevitable. Note that his writing desk is on top of a bunch of dead Jews.
Picture 4: And this one is another classic Auschwitz Vladek. This is how he used his wits and resources to stay at the good side of everyone and survive. It is, after all, A Survivor's Tale.
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