Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Happy 64th Birthday, Art Spiegelman!

If you have ever heard of Art Spiegelman, it is likely due to his creating Maus. He won a special Pulitzer Prize for that series in 1992, and the collected graphic novel version is considered one of the great books of the 20th century in any genre or format. This dual narrative of a son trying to get along his father and his father's tale of surviving the Holocaust has touched millions of readers and been translated into 20 languages. He speaks about the impact of Maus in this recent interview with Chris Mautner.

That account is a tremendous presence in the world of graphic novels, and it took Spiegelman more than a decade to draw another comix work. But even without Maus, Spiegelman would be notable in the world of comics for a number of his contributions. Coming up from the underground comix scene of the late 1960s/early 1970s, he and fellow artist Bill Griffith created Arcade, an anthology series that highlighted artists such as R. Crumb, S. Clay Wilson, Jay Lynch, and Justin Green.

In the 1980s he and his wife Françoise Mouly published the seminal series RAW, which is where he first serialized Maus. RAW was an influential series as it was a prominent place for alternative cartoonists to publish their work. Later luminaries, such as Chris Ware and Charles Burns, had their early work appear there. Additionally, masterful European artists like Joost Swarte and Jacques Tardi were introduced to US audiences.

In addition to his comix work, Spiegelman also worked for Topps. While there for 20 years, he created or worked on novelties such as Garbage Candy, Wacky Packages, and Garbage Pail Kids. Because of a dispute of creators' rights and the lack of royalties for some hugely successful properties, Spiegelman eventually left the company.

In more recent decades, Spiegelman has been an instructor and lecturer about comics history and design, a cover artist for the New Yorker magazine, as well as a huge contributor to Toon Books, a publishing imprint that focuses on graphic novels for younger readers.

Spiegelman has won multiple award for his work over his career, including the Angoulême International Comics Festival Grand Prix, the Eisner Award, the Harvey Award, and the Inkpot Award. He was inducted into the Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 1999.

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