Calgary Distinguished Writers Program
Art Spiegelman's comics are best known for their scratch-board, illustrative style and controversial content. In “What the %@&*! Happened to Comics?”, Spiegelman takes his audience on a chronological tour of the evolution of comics, all the while explaining the value of this medium and why it should not be ignored. He believes that in our post-literate culture the importance of the comic is on the rise, for "comics echo the way the brain works. People think in iconographic images, not in holograms, and people think in bursts of language, not in paragraphs."
Art Spiegelman has almost single-handedly brought comic books out of the toy closet and onto the literature shelves, especially with his masterful Holocaust narrative MAUS— which portrayed Jews as mice and Nazis as cats. MAUS won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 and in 2009 was chosen by the Young Adult Library Association as a recommended title for all students. MAUS II continued the remarkable story of his parents’ survival of the Nazi regime and their lives later in America.
Spiegelman and his wife, Françoise Mouly, founded the acclaimed avante-garde comics magazine RAW, and together collaborated on numerous comics anthologies, early readers and picture books for children. His work has been published in many periodicals, including The New Yorker, where he was a staff artist and writer from 1993-2003. His highly political work, In the Shadow of No Towers, was first published in a number of European newspapers and magazines including Die Zeit and The London Review of Books. The book version appeared on many national bestseller lists and was selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2004.
In 2005, Spiegelman was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and in 2006 he was named to the Art Director’s Club Hall of Fame. He was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France in 2005 and—the American equivalent—played himself on an episode of “The Simpsons” in 2008. In fall 2011, Pantheon published Meta Maus, a companion to The Complete Maus – the story of why Spiegelam wrote Maus, why he chose mice, cats, frogs, and pigs, and how he got his father to open up (the new book comes with a DVD of the transcripts of Spiegelman’s interviews with his father; it is not a graphic novel, but it is populated with illustrations, photos and other images). In 2011, Spiegelman won the Grand Prix at the Angoulême International Comics Festival, marking only the third time an American has received the honor (the other two were Will Eisner and Robert Crumb).
"Spiegelman has become one of the New Yorker's most sensational artists, in recent years drawing illustrations for covers that are meant not just to be plainly understood but also to reach up and tattoo your eyeballs with images once unimaginable in the magazine of old moneyed taste... From his Holocaust saga in which Jewish mice are exterminated by Nazi cats, to the New Yorker covers guaranteed to offend, to a wild party that ends in murder: Art Spiegelman's cartoons don't fool around."
- Los Angeles Times
Art Spiegelman gave the lecture What the %@&*! Happened to Comics? on Thursday, March 31, 2011 at MacEwan Hall, University of Calgary.