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‘Drawing Is Always a Struggle’: An Interview with Art Spiegelman

14 April 2018

From The New York Review of Books:

When this interview was first proposed to the cartoonist, writer, and graphic novelist Art Spiegelman, he seemed puzzled by the pitch. “Why do you want to do that?” he asked. “There are a lot of other cartoonists who are on fire trying to find a place for themselves. I’m not there.”

It’s true that he doesn’t need the publicity. At seventy, he enjoys a success that few in the cartooning world can match. This once “underground” cartoonist is a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, has been a Guggenheim fellow, has two honorary doctorates and a Pulitzer Prize, to mention just a few of his awards and honors. There have been one-man exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and at the Jewish Museum and, perhaps even more important to him, a guest appearance on The Simpsons.

The glory began in a left-handed way in the late 1970s when Spiegelman started experimenting with a project that combined his drawings, psychotherapy, family history, and the thing he loved most in the world—comics. After many tries, what developed was Maus, a two-volume 296-page comic, eventually published by the late André Schiffrin at Pantheon Books. Maus examined Art Spiegelman’s pained connection to his parents, who were Auschwitz survivors, and the terrible legacy their story had bequeathed to him. How do you grow up a “normal” American kid when your parents wake up in the night screaming? How do you get the nerve to make a comic book about it?

. . . .

Has your agent been after you to make another graphic novel?

My agent has been wonderful. Anything I want to do, his office will find a publisher for. But then, every year, Maus sells as if it were a new book. It’s in twenty-plus languages. In January, it was number thirty-six on Amazon! That means it’s not economically important for me to find my next graphic novel. It means I can afford to live in Soho.

Actually, I don’t think I’ll ever make another graphic novel. Maus came out of the impulse of wanting to make a long comic that needed a bookmark and that begged to be reread. After I finished it, I did not think, “Aha. Now I’ve found my perfect form.” Drawing it was a struggle. Drawing is always a struggle.

Link to the rest at The New York Review of Books

Graphic Novels/Comics