Aug 24 2020

For Art Spiegelman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus, the terrorist attacks of September 11, were both highly personal and. Aili McConnon admires Art Spiegelman’s compelling vision of the aftermath of the attack on New York, In the Shadow of No Towers. Cartoonist Art Spiegelman drew one of the most memorable images after the Sept. 11 attacks. Readers of The New Yorker magazine received.

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It was the first time his work had penetrated the bookstore since his Mauswhich had since won a Pulitzer Prize and been added to many college classes on history and the holocaust; Spiegelman had been praised in newspapers across the country, often describing him as the sole mature comic book creator in history, and he had worked for The New Yorkerthat bastion of elitism. In the Shadow of No Towersa thick and well-designed shzdow, became a bestseller in U. First, it is slight, its packaging deceptive.

Second and most seriouslyits politics is at times shockingly immature. Third, its invocation of comic strips from the first few decades of the 20th century does not seem apt to the subject. In the Shadow of No Towers is a mere ten original comics pages, each printed across spiegelkan pages in the book, preceded by a two-page introduction. While the ten original comics pages by Spiegelman are large, mimicking the dimensions of newspaper pages, each split across two pages, they are really ten pages of material — and are even labeled as such — even if those are ten large pages.

But printed on thick cardboard paper, the volume is massive, both in its dimensions and its width, which is about that of a page book.

But in the U. The volume feels like a con, although that might be due more to the publisher than to Spiegelman.

Yet surely one can say that, in format and pricing, In the Shadow of No Towers screams elitism. It argues that this is a serious book, an important work by an important artist, meant to be consumed by the kind of readers who can appreciate the fact that no corners were cut, no towefs spared. Did Kirby think he was going to live forever? And here we see that familiar elitist notion that rapid artistic production is always and automatically shoddy artistic production.

Surely, the quality of the artist, and perhaps how seriously he takes his craft, is a more important indicator than the time he takes, measured dumbly in days and not in hours per day. But in elite circles, real art must take time, and ni more time the better. If this sounds more like a used car salesman than an elite artist, congratulations: Except, perhaps, wpiegelman hire that guy who won the Pulitzer Prize for making comics about the Holocaust instead of super-heroes.

In the Shadow of No Towers

In some ways, such as in expressing the vision of a single auteur, perhaps they are. But the term is too often used as a way of looking down upon anything even remotely mainstream, no matter how influential and good. They are indeed paltry things beneath contempt.

Equally, one might ask how Spiegelman did not realize that he is exposing that his elitist notions about how much time comics should take really stem from his own laziness. Many mainstream comics artists produce twelve page comic books in a single year; even French illustrators can generally produce a page graphic novella or graphic novel chapter per year.


They were produced to deadline, exactly the opposite of how Spiegelman styles his own, serious artistic production. To be sure, newspaper comics have long had a certain cache, in high culture circles, relative to comic books.

Going back to broadsheet comics produced before the super-hero even existed is appealing because it manages to celebrate the medium while marginalizing the entire history of the original comic book, including super-heroes, as a strange historical oddity best forgotten in favor of the undergrounds, which can then be seen as a revival of the old newspaper tradition.

All of it is pretentious nonsense, and few things are more offensive than pretension about popular culture. I no longer feel in harmony with American culture, especially now that the entire media has become conservative and tremendously timid. Unfortunately, even The New Yorker has not escaped this trend. And of course, both Spiegelman and Hitchens have a point.

To be sure, the Bush administration has terrorized people, especially the press, into deeming any criticism of its policies as anti-American.

How politically biased does Spiegelman have to be to think that?

The Bush supporters who cry that liberals are appeasers would find ample evidence here: The implication is that Bush does not care for New York if he does towefs that would provoke terrorists. One can only imagine the shock if people had responded to Pearl Harbor this way! Ironically, eschatology in the U.

Packaging, Format, and Self-Presentation

That all killing is equally wrong? Taking a lesson of peace at any price from Auschwitz and Hiroshima can only be called immoral and an insult to the victims of the Holocaust or the nuclear bomb drops. It is also a pretension hostile to the American people. Spiegelman cannot resist repeating how Hearst was to blame for the Spanish-American War.

Moreover, the Frenchman of the strip is stereotyped as politein contrast with more recent parodies, and his quotation is hardly malignant. Of course, bothering to mention that the U. It is shockingly necessary to mention that the snake, implicitly, is George W. After all, Spiegelman seems far more concerned with the former group than the shadoa.

Spiegelman uses early newspaper comics in his narrative primarily through juxtaposition. Or as a background to an entire page of panels on page four? Or juxtaposed with the swirling image of a falling tower, as on page five? Or rendered walking skeletons by an oil-toting Uncle Sam who, in line with the original comic but at odds with any reality, speaks with the phony German accent of the original strip? The final Nemo -esque panel of page six shows a baby Spiegelman, as an anthropomorphic mouse with a mother in a gas mask.

But beyond saying that the world feels upside-down during the debate over Iraq — a feeling shared by many of all opinions — what is gained by connecting this with the comic strip oof question? What is gained, on page eight, by Spiegelman depicting himself as the titular buffoon of Bringing Up Father? That Spiegelman, unusually self-critical in that strip, is a buffoon? And what is gained, in the final panel, of having the mouse Spiegelman meet Krazy Kat and his Kop?

And what is gained, on page ten, by Spiegelman depicting himself as the titular buffoon of Happy Hooligan? Is this a self-criticism of Spiegelman as a sort of parody of himself, unable to hold his tongue iin interviewed for TV? Elsewhere on the page, a bomb explodes, turning Spiegelman into the same Happy Hooligan star. The message, to the extent that we can realize it, does not seem consistent.


And even if it were, we would towees need early comics strips to make it. Seen in this light, In the Shadow of No Towers is more than a personal narrative: There are, of course, many good and worthwhile things to say about In the Shadow of No Towers — beyond its fantastic title and the employment of negative space on its cover earlier used as a New Yorker coverboth of which evoke the startling way in which absence haunts. Page two begins apiegelman a nice sequence with panels rotating to their side until they become the twin towers, one of which is burning — suggesting that Spiegelman, seen on the earlier panels, or even the form of comics themselves or as Spiegelman can find the strength to drawis wounded.

Art Spiegelman: ‘In the Shadow of No Towers’ : NPR

Page three has Spiegelman smoking and talking about New York air quality, the fumes covering over not only himself but his word balloons. The insertion of a Topps Mars Attacks shadpw into the narrative on page three works better than the comics references, demonstrating the surreal feeling of that day, when many felt as if they were suddenly displaced into some sort of melodramatic movie.

And beyond these formal elements, the content is hardly artistically ar. And the anecdote dhadow page nine about getting mugged as a refreshing sign that the city is returning to normal stands out. It is perhaps in this light at In the Shadow of No Towers may be best appreciated. Its future is that of an art object, as well as a footnote to both Spiegelman and to American history of the era. It is not a serious political commentary, except perhaps as insight into a paranoid, liberal New Yorkers.

It is a personal work, yet one that distances us from the narration through its abstract use of newspaper comics. But it is not directly personal in the vein of Persepolisan independent black-and-white graphic novel about life in Iran that was hitting the bestseller list around the same time.

In the Shadow of No Towers is interesting formally and interesting personally, yet noticeably lacking in both. RSS feed for Julian Darius.

Inwhile still an undergraduate, Dr. Julian Darius founded what would become Sequart Organization.

On In the Shadow of No Towers | Sequart Organization

Inhe moved to Waikiki, teaching college while obtaining an M. Inhe founded Martian Litwhich publishes creative work, including his comic book Martian Comics.

He currently lives in Illinois. See more, including free online content, on Julian Darius’s author page. Also by Julian Darius: Wpiegelman must be logged in to post a comment. Understanding Jack Kirby’s Twelve Essays on Watchmen Teenagers from the Future: Captured Ghosts Grant Morrison: Packaging, Format, and Self-Presentation In the Shadow of No Towers is a mere ten original comics pages, each printed across two pages in the book, preceded by a two-page introduction.

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