Writer/Artist: Art Spiegelman
By now most people are familiar with Art Spiegelman’s incredible Holocaust comic, Maus. But for everyone else, this isn’t just the top comic that you need to read before you die—it’s a work of art that you need to experience in your lifetime.
Based on the life of Spiegelman’s father (a Polish Jew and concentration camp survivor) during WWII, Maus gained notoriety by portraying all of the characters in the story as animals. Thus, the Jewish characters are portrayed as mice, Germans as cats, British as dolphins, non-Jewish Polish as pigs, and Americans as dogs. The choice to bring animals into the story isn’t just a gimmick. Each one is carefully considered and adds depth to all of these different segments of the population.
Whether you agree with the different representations or not, Spiegelman's commitment to them can't be argued. But while these animals look like cartoons on the surface, they simply serve as a counterbalance to the tale of tragedy and survival that he has crafted.
At its heart, this is the human story of Spiegelman’s father, Vladek, and his first wife, Anja. It’s a heartbreaking tale that pulls no punches when discussing the death and tragedy that've hovered over his life. Not since Night and Fog has a depiction of the Holocaust given us such a raw look at one of the blackest marks in human history.
Over the years Maus has shrugged off the “comic book” label. It’s now a college course curriculum regular and frequents “Best of 20th Century Literature” lists. If you have even the slightest bit of interest in either the comic medium or world history, this is a must-read.