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Graphic novelist Spiegelman is no mouse of a man

Art Spiegelman, a cartoonist referred to as “The Cartoon Genius,” is coming to campus on Sunday.

Spiegelman will appear at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Sunday to receive a Wexner Center Residency Award. His appearance is part of the 2010 Festival of Cartoon Art this weekend.

“It’s always interesting and informative to hear him speak because he’s a very intentional and self-aware cartoonist,” said Lucy Caswell, a professor and curator of the cartoon library.

Spiegelman is best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus.” The novel details his father’s battle to survive the Holocaust.

“Maus” illustrates Vladek Spiegelman’s wrenching internal and external struggles as a Jew in Nazi Germany, but Art Spiegelman’s cartoon portrayal of the horrifying events were executed with a hybrid theme: tragedy and comedy.

Tragedy transpires from the story by default, but subtle comedy develops when the Nazis are portrayed as cats and the Jews are represented by mice.

Spiegelman has also been inspired by 9/11. He created a renowned New Yorker cover along with a graphic novel, “In the Shadow of No Towers,” following the disaster.

In “Maus,” he wrote, “disaster is my muse.” For many aspiring comic artists, Spiegelman is their muse.

“For many of us in comics studies, it was Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’ that first showed us the potential of the form to tell the most powerful, difficult and personal stories — to be, that is, great art,” said Jared Gardner, an associate professor of English and film at Ohio State, in an e-mail.

Spiegelman was recognized as one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People in 2005.

“The man can do anything and his work never ceases to amaze and inspire me,” Gardner said.

Spiegelman is just as inspiring in person.

“He’s very open with his audiences;  I think for that reason people find him to be a superb speaker,” Caswell said.

Students who have read Spiegelman’s graphic novel find it more relatable and understandable than the more familiar stories about the Holocaust.

“By using the cat and mouse symbolism, it helped me understand the relationship between Germans and Jewish people at that time,” said Linda Robertson, a second-year in psychology who read “Maus” for History 331.

Gardner has been a fan of Spiegelman’s work since his early days of helping alternative comics launch their movement.

“As the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum celebrates its 10th triennial Festival of Cartoon Art,” Gardner said “This (is) the first time the Popular Culture Studies program has been in a position to chip in, and it is an honor.”

 

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