A quirky portrait of the artist is among the images in the museum retrospective looking at over 30 years of comics by Pulitzer Prize-winning artist Art Spiegelman.

There is no question that comics creator Art Spiegelman has done more than just anyone to raise the bar of what can be done with comics as a serious artistic medium on par with literature and the other visual arts. So, it comes as no surprise that the Centre Pompidou in Paris is among the art institutions honoring the prolific body of work of this secular voice in comics with the exhibition Art Spiegelman: Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics and Scraps on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery through June 9. In tandem with the exhibition, Drawn and Quarterly will be publishing the English language edition of the show’s book in Spring 2013.

Here is more information on the Vancouver Art gallery’s Web site:


Of course, Spiegelman’s crowning achievement is his Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic memoir Maus, which chronicles his father’s traumatic experiences during the Holocaust. However, what separates Spiegelman’s often harrowing book from other books on this subject is the accumulative punch of the artist’s stark, black-and-white drawings visualizing the genius idea of using anthropomorphic characters. in this tiny time capsule of one’s man’s recollections of life and death in the concentration camps, the Jews are rendered as mice and their Nazi oppressors are depicted as cats. The book’s concept succeeds in making this familiar chapter of catastrophic horror in the 20th century become new again for contemporary readers.

Art Spiegalman's classic graphic novel Maus is among the essential works in comics that I had my students read in my Comics and Graphic Narrative course at San Diego State University.

When I taught my Comics and Graphic Narrative course at San Diego State University’s Department of English and Comparative Literature, I always included Maus among a handful of essential graphic novels that changed the scope and possibilities of the medium. My students dived into the text, marveling at the monochromatic images juxtaposed with the dialogue of Spiegelman’s father offering his first-person account of the nightmares of the Third Reich’s Final Solution descending upon Europe.

Whether one is a first-time reader of Maus or a seasoned comic-book reader revisiting this groundbreaking work, the response to this unique volume is always the same. The reader is swept up in the story as the fusion of image and text leave you reeling with a mixture of sober reflection underscored by the aftertaste of raw reality. It is a dose of history as a living thing filtered through the simple renderings that Spiegelman once described to me as “picture writing” during an interview at Comic-Con in the 1990s.

After publishing my article in The San Diego Union-Tribune, I sent a copy to Spiegelman and he was kind enough to write a note saying he liked the piece. I still have that letter tucked away in the pages of my signed copy of Maus.

In recent years, Spiegelman returned to look and ponder the origin and impact of his work in Maus with the book Meta Maus. And now this ambitious retrospective on view at the Centre Pompidou through May 21 continues this study at what makes this important work of graphic narrative and other comics by Spiegelman work so beautifully on the page.

Meta Maus explores the origins and impact of Art Spiegelman's groundbreaking graphic novel Maus.

The show will travel elsewhere including New York’s Jewish Museum where it will open in Fall 2013.

In the meantime, here are some links about the traveling exhibition, Art Spiegelman: Co-mix:




I am hoping to make the trek to New York to see the show. And if good fortune smiles, perhaps, I will be able to get Spiegelman on camera to share his anecdotes and thoughts about the current state of comics for my documentary-in-progress, Comics Are Everywhere. I write this with my fingers crossed that such a meeting can occur.

I am looking forward to seeing the museum survey of Spiegelman’s extraordinary journey as an artist unearthing his own family history and, ultimately, illuminating the darkness of the human condition with the power of art and comics.

- Neil Kendricks 

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