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I have recently taken on the idea to submit ten essays, one per week, taking an in depth look at what I think are some of the finest examples and collections of comic book stories around. By no means have I read everything ever printed and don’t claim to know it all. I have read and own everything on this list as well as a large amount more. This is an eclectic collection that I, personally, think would please not just hardcore collectors, but casual fans as well. And that’s the most important criteria in forming this list; I looked at complete stories, easily accessible, without too much history to learn. Something that a casual fan, or even non comic fan can pick up and possibly enjoy. Last week featured The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck by Don Rosa.
Number Eight: The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman. $35.00, Pantheon Books a division of Random House. This book collects A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History and And Here My Troubles Began.
Art Spiegelman produced this book on his own. It was originally done in the strip format and published in Raw Magazine. Spiegelman is by no means a great comic book artist, but his minimalist approach and dark heavy line work are perfect for what he had hoped to accomplish in this story. He also displayed an uncanny ability for pacing so that the story just moves along. Maus is the very personal story of a Spiegelman's father, a Holocaust survivor, utilizing captivating images of Jews presented as mice. Germans are cats and Poles are pigs. There are two separate components to the story, in the modern timeline, Art, himself, is interviewing his father about his experiences. That’s cut back and forth with the scenes from the past detailing his father’s experiences in the years leading to World War II and beyond. It’s an amazing story, often categorized as a memoir, historical feature, and biography among other things. I enjoyed it thoroughly not just for the historical reference, but as a fan of character driven pieces. Art Spiegelman spends a good amount of time dealing with all kinds of emotion, and not just what you might expect from the Holocaust, but his strained relationship with his father, to their guilt about surviving Art’s mother and brother. One scene in particular has art in human form wearing a mouse mask on a pile of dead Jewish people, an homage to the guilt he personally feels at the success of Maus, built on the bodies of the people who died to create that story.
And it was successful! Arguably the first graphic novel to be widely accepted in school systems and libraries, it championed to a much wider audience what comics and graphic novels could be. In 1992 Maus had the distinct honor to be the first and only graphic novel to have ever won a Pulitzer Prize. 1992 also saw Maus awarded the Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album – Reprint, the Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Material, and The Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. In 2012 Spiegelman won another Eisner Award for Best Comics Related Book (Metamaus, all of this plus a DVD). Despite all of these awards, this is a solid story and a great representation of words and pictures working well together.
Michael R. Murray read his first comic and has been buying and collecting for over 35 years. At one point his collection included two copies of Amazing Spider-man #1, and one copy each of Amazing Fantasy #15, Fantastic Four #2, Avengers #4, Showcase #22, and dozens more high grade and key issues. The collection has grown to include original art pages, as well as statues and busts, with the current emphasis on collecting original drawings from appropriate artists on the inside of his hard covers. His personal collection of graphic novels consists of over 2,000 hardcovers and trade paperbacks. He has attended all of the Boston and New York Comic Cons and experienced Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Diego. He has championed comic books in the local schools and was very proud that both of his children read at least three years above their grade levels, due nearly exclusively to comics. He’s quick to point out that none of this makes him an expert, but that his love of comics is most enjoyable when he can share it. Follow on Twitter at mycomicstore001 or like his Facebook page.