Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


A Portrait of the Artist as Young %@&*!
March 16, 2009 3:21 PM   Subscribe

Art Spiegelman, author of award-winning graphic novel series Maus and the man behind upcoming McSweeney's release Be a Nose!, "was once banned from Robert Crumb’s house, loves chicken fat and hates the term 'graphic novel'".

During a November talk at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, Spiegelman discussed his early history. Intelligent Life's Gary Moskowitz reports regarding the author's "evolution from vile cartoonist to Pulitzer Prize-winning artist and illustrator".
posted by sarabeth (61 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can't stand the term 'graphic novel' either. It's basically a snooty term so adults can read comic books and not feel juvenile.
And I really like comics, be it the old Carl Barks Donald Duck comics or Joe Sacco's Palestine.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:23 PM on March 16, 2009


Who doesn't love chicken fat? Other than vegetarians and the like...
posted by P.o.B. at 3:23 PM on March 16, 2009


I love chicken novels and graphic fat.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:31 PM on March 16, 2009


Comic book or graphic novel? Who cares what you call it?
posted by josher71 at 3:35 PM on March 16, 2009


Posy Simmonds is pretty awesome in her own right.
posted by Artw at 3:35 PM on March 16, 2009


Comic book or graphic novel? Who cares what you call it?

Hey, is it an OGN or a TPB?
posted by Artw at 3:36 PM on March 16, 2009


I just hate when people refer to a TPB as a graphic novel.
posted by autodidact at 3:41 PM on March 16, 2009


/pulls a pin on a "Don't the works of Dickens count as novels?" grenade, lobs it into TPB debate.
posted by Artw at 3:44 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hah, I just saw Watchmen and someone who, at a distance, could have been mistaken for The Simpsons' own Comic Book Guy was talking to the snack-food providing folks in the lobby about how Watchmen was based on a graphic novel, not a comic.

In the case of Watchmen, I'd agree, simply based on the sheer bulk of the book. Have you seen it? It's 5.5 pounds (according to Amazon) of dense reading. Comics are not bound, so much as stapled together. That's not to knock the content, it's a simple matter of mass and necessity.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:53 PM on March 16, 2009


> ...hates the term 'graphic novel'".

I'm not a fan of his alternative, "comix" (or "commix").
posted by ardgedee at 3:58 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ted Rall's attack in The Village Voice

Pussey! - in which it is implied Spiegelman [caricatured as "Gummo Bubbleman"] financially exploited Los Bros Hernandez
posted by Joe Beese at 3:58 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hah, I just saw Watchmen and someone who, at a distance, could have been mistaken for The Simpsons' own Comic Book Guy was talking to the snack-food providing folks in the lobby about how Watchmen was based on a graphic novel, not a comic.

See, Comic Book Guy might say that, but if someone had referred to it as a Graphic Novel he'd be all about telling them they were misinformed and that it's actually a trade paperback collection of a miniseries.
posted by Artw at 4:02 PM on March 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


Please, please, please tell me what's wrong with "Comics" or "Comic Books?" It has the equity of 60 years of usage. Why throw that away? Is is because they are neither comics nor books? Well, modern classical music is neither classical, nor (in most cases) music, but we CALL it that. Most rock 'n' roll neither rocks nor rolls, but everybody knows what your talking about. Hip hop, needless to point out, neither... well you get the point. Comic books. It works. Keep it.
posted by Faze at 4:02 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Art Spiegelman is one of the few artists and authors who actually gives merit to the term "graphic novel" - so methinks he doeth protest to much.

And I'm including The Watchmen in my assessment, which I personally find to be massively overrated. The art in it is fine. The story - if wrested away from the art - is really bland and predictable and isn't going to win over any literate hearts any time soon. "But it was so much better than... anything!" the comix nerds protest. Just because it was better than 1980-1990s era Marvel or DC books doesn't mean it was - on it's own - a good book. And saying that "It was so much better than..." isn't a valid defense. If it was we could hold up all manner of drek and proclaim it to be awesome, but that's just because we compared it to a steaming fresh plate of cow pie. Which is exactly what most of the works of Marvel and DC are.

Give me a good book first and the pictures will take care of themselves, which is something I reckon Art Spiegelman would support.

posted by loquacious at 4:09 PM on March 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think I can understand how "graphic novel" might have become more popular to refer to longer comics that narrate one continuous story. I mean, if you think about it for a second, what is a comic book that follows a cohesive storyline over 160 pages but...a novel? A...graphic...novel. Right? So perhaps "graphic novel" is valid in reference to a certain subset of comics, rather than being a more elevated term for "comic book" in general. Just an idea.

That said, I totally agree that it can sound a bit snooty and uppity. The term "comic" is fine and upstanding on its own without needing to be fancied up to lend legitimacy.
posted by sarabeth at 4:11 PM on March 16, 2009


I'm not a fan of his alternative, "comix" (or "commix").

Agreed. The "x" rubs me the wrong way. I don't know why, but ughhhhhhh! Heebie-jeebies.
posted by sarabeth at 4:17 PM on March 16, 2009


It's not really Comix if it doesn't have drugs and boobies in.
posted by Artw at 4:19 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Other than "In the Shadow of No Towers" has Spiegelman actually done anything since 1992?
posted by Artw at 4:24 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Back in the early 1960s, when DC comics had some "imaginary" Death of Superman or Superman Marries Lois Lane story, they'd have a banner on the cover reading, "Full-lengthen novel, complete in this issue." It sounded ridiculous even then (much as I love early 60s DC comics.)
posted by Faze at 4:28 PM on March 16, 2009


And saying that "It was so much better than..." isn't a valid defense. If it was we could hold up all manner of drek and proclaim it to be awesome, but that's just because we compared it to a steaming fresh plate of cow pie.

Hey now. If we didn't allow that kind of argument, MetaTalk as we know it would be impossible.
posted by languagehat at 4:29 PM on March 16, 2009


Crap, I forgot to put up my comic nerd defense shield.

*wheatpastes over entire lawn with #1 issues of many notable series*

That ought to do it. They can't walk on it. They can't peel it up. All they can do is stare at it and cry.
posted by loquacious at 4:31 PM on March 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I use to think graphic novels were the x-rated kind, so what?

And saying that "It was so much better than..." isn't a valid defense.

Of course it is. Comparing it to most of the crap that Marvel and DC were putting out and realizing it was much better than that is definitely cause for praise, especially with the techniques it used.

So :P~~~
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:31 PM on March 16, 2009


Hey now. If we didn't allow that kind of argument, MetaTalk as we know it would be impossible.

MetaTalk doesn't count and you know it, you cow-pie eatin' chimp.
posted by loquacious at 4:32 PM on March 16, 2009


80s comics are comicsy!
posted by Artw at 4:34 PM on March 16, 2009


Hah, I just saw Watchmen and someone who, at a distance, could have been mistaken for The Simpsons' own Comic Book Guy was talking to the snack-food providing folks in the lobby about how Watchmen was based on a graphic novel, not a comic.

In the case of Watchmen, I'd agree, simply based on the sheer bulk of the book. Have you seen it? It's 5.5 pounds (according to Amazon) of dense reading. Comics are not bound, so much as stapled together. That's not to knock the content, it's a simple matter of mass and necessity.


I'm pretty sure it was originally published over a year as 12 ordinary, stapled comic books.
posted by delmoi at 4:35 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


You think the terms graphic novel is bad? Art comics snobs call periodical comic books floppies or pamphlets.

I call comic book readers that use those terms self-loathing.
posted by MegoSteve at 4:35 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Singles!
posted by Artw at 4:42 PM on March 16, 2009


The term "floppies" is so full of defeat it makes me cry.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 4:51 PM on March 16, 2009


Oh, and at our stores (which contain the word COMIX in the logos, but sadly few drugs and boobies) we also use the term "collected editions" for -well- collected editions.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 4:55 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


In library cataloging it is not at all uncommon to see comic books labeled as "ephemera", sooooooooo
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:58 PM on March 16, 2009


It's 5.5 pounds (according to Amazon)

That's the deluxe oversized slipcased "we know the comics geeks who were reading this twenty ears ago are now middle-aged professionals we can get to pay through the nose" edition (I say as an owner of it.) The paperback reprint weighs in at just 1.2 lbs. according to Amazon, and you could drop it on your foot with impunity.

"Graphic novel" has its flaws, but we don't have a better way to say what it usually means, i.e., "book reprint of a comic book series." On balance, I'll take it. (I have no problem reading my superhero comic books in public, so I think I'm an unlikely candidate for comics geek shame.)
posted by Zed at 5:05 PM on March 16, 2009


Good to read about Spiegelmen, he's a crank but has produced some great stuff. Don't think I'll pick his new (old) stuff up though, Prisoner on the Hell Planet from Maus was intense enough for me.

I love Maus, and it gave me one of my few "comics don't get any god damn respect" moments. It was grade 6, so around 1994, and I was reading it during class reading period. Oh you better believe I got some flack for reading a comic book, and not something like the latest Goosebumps. Sheesh. I knew it was something special, not just a comic, and tried to plead my case, but teacher wasn't having it. If only I had known at the time it had won the Pulitzer, that might have shut him up.
posted by yellowbinder at 5:17 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


we loves floppies. and comixes. nasty comixes.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 6:40 PM on March 16, 2009


I prefer the term "sequential art."

[dodging thrown objects]
posted by not_on_display at 7:00 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


How about Graphix? Oops, looks like Scholastic already trademarked that. Comics as a term never made much sense to me, since even the ones that were trying to be funny usually weren't. Graphic itself is too overloaded a term to make much sense. I give up... comic books.

All they can do is stare at it and cry

Quick! Do the roof too before the Fallschirmgecks and Zeppeldorks *THUMP* *RATTLE* *BIFF* *POW*... oh you poor fool.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:30 PM on March 16, 2009


"Sequential Art" and "Comics" can function as the umbrella term for the medium. "Comics" can also function as the object, which were the confusion sets in. "Graphic Novels" are generally supposed to be works that were intended (and published, arguably) as a single work- ie Fun Home or American Born Chinese. "Trade Paperback" or simply TPB is reprinted material. Oddly enough, it can be said that Watchmen is a TPB having been published as monthly pamphlets prior. "Pamphlet" is treated with weird derision in the community but I find it's far more descriptive and truthful than, say, "monthly comics" or- gah- just "comics". "Comix" was originally coined to denote the more mature themes and non-mainstream nature of the books- so that's valid today in the small press area. Unfortunately, this wordplay is all for naught since everyone just ignores what they dislike.

Of course, the attempts at categorization either springs from the money-maker's need to closely define the market or noble nerds trying to dress up their favorite pig. Both are similarly charming given what a small little world comics inhabit. Godblessum.
posted by cheap paper at 7:51 PM on March 16, 2009


I'm pretty sure it was originally published over a year as 12 ordinary, stapled comic books.

The novel Crime and Punishment was originally published as a series of short stories over a year.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:09 PM on March 16, 2009


Ghajeeeeee. Fuckit. psstwht6.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:50 PM on March 16, 2009


"Graphic novel" (*spits*) ... and when I was a kid I watched animation theater on Saturday mornings.
posted by spock at 10:16 PM on March 16, 2009


in which it is implied Spiegelman [caricatured as "Gummo Bubbleman"] financially exploited Los Bros Hernandez

Huh? I thought that was supposed to be Gary Groth - who was, you know, their publisher at the time.
posted by rodgerd at 12:27 AM on March 17, 2009


Other than "In the Shadow of No Towers" has Spiegelman actually done anything since 1992?

Show up at comic conventions and charge $30 for his autograph. I have a great photo from the 2006 Alternative Press Expo of Ted Rall posing lovingly beside the price chart.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:32 AM on March 17, 2009


My mom calls them "funny books".
posted by Fleebnork at 5:35 AM on March 17, 2009


In the case of Watchmen, I'd agree, simply based on the sheer bulk of the book. Have you seen it? It's 5.5 pounds (according to Amazon) of dense reading. Comics are not bound, so much as stapled together.

No dog in, etc, but come on. It wasn't when I was collecting it. It was, as you say, stapled together. That they've subsequently bound it doesn't change what it is.

Call it what you want, but finding a new name for it smacks of shame for what it is.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:04 AM on March 17, 2009


Staying with the Watchmen thread meander, I've wanted to say something about that book for a while. I just checked some dates and Heavy Metal magazine was happening well before Watchmen. The fact that Watchmen gets called ground breaking and stuff these days ticks me off. Because I hadn't checked dates, whenever I was about to bitch about Watchmen, I would say, "Maybe I would have felt differently if I'd read it at the time..." but, no. I'm guessing Watchmen was a corporate reaction to Heavy Metal. And the art looks like what it was -- some DC staff guy assigned to the job.

Thanks for your time.
posted by Trochanter at 6:32 AM on March 17, 2009


in which it is implied Spiegelman [caricatured as "Gummo Bubbleman"] financially exploited Los Bros Hernandez

Huh? I thought that was supposed to be Gary Groth - who was, you know, their publisher at the time.


Yeah, I think the Spiegelman avatar in Pussey! was the guy who hired on the basis of whether you'd read a Czech cartoonist and then kept all of his artists locked in an unheated room. It was faux-Groth that was exploiting Los Bros.
posted by COBRA! at 7:10 AM on March 17, 2009


Alan Moore is not a fan of the term graphic novel either:
I think that a lot of people, irrespective of whether they'd ever read a book like Watchmen, took it basically as a form of license. I think there were a surprising number of people out there who secretly longed to keep up with the adventures of Green Lantern but who felt they would have been socially ostracized if they had been seen reading a comic book in a public place. With the advent of books like Watchmen, I think these people were given license by the term graphic novel. Everybody knew that comics were for children and for intellectually subnormal people, whereas graphic novel sounds like a much more sophisticated proposition.
Trochanter -- I've read my share of Heavy Metal, and there was some great stuff, but what specifically do you think anticipated Watchmen?
posted by muckster at 7:52 AM on March 17, 2009


Oh, and Spiegelman's Breakdowns is pretty great. And way oversized.
posted by muckster at 8:03 AM on March 17, 2009


My general impression of Heavy Metal is that it's all Frank Frazetta knock-offs and the odd cool but incomprehensible thing from Mobius.
posted by Artw at 8:08 AM on March 17, 2009


Thanks for your time.

That was some spectacular trolling there, sir. A true craftsman, you are.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:24 AM on March 17, 2009


Muckster, I suppose just that Heavy Metal was proving that you could do way more with comics than DC and Marvel had ever thought of and that people were buying it.
posted by Trochanter at 8:38 AM on March 17, 2009


FatherDagon, I didn't mean it as a troll.
posted by Trochanter at 8:40 AM on March 17, 2009


"Muckster, I suppose just that Heavy Metal was proving that you could do way more with comics than DC and Marvel had ever thought of and that people were buying it."

Yeah, but that has nothing to do with your claim of Watchmen being a corporate reaction.

It's obvious that Moore (and Gibbons) were going for European-style draftsmanship, and were influenced by Mobius (especially drawings of Manhattan and the world-building aspects of European art), but they were also (beyond obvs) influenced by the American tradition of superhero comics, and the Brit spin-offs thereof.
posted by klangklangston at 9:00 AM on March 17, 2009


Yeah, but that has nothing to do with your claim of Watchmen being a corporate reaction.

I don't really know how sales ever were for Heavy Metal, but it was pretty big news in comics, wasn't it? I think it shook things up in the industry. It might even have changed the industry. A suit had to green light Watchmen. I don't think I'm that far out of line.

ArtW, you're right. There was always dead air. I loved Moebius and it was the first time I'd seen Corben, so that was a revelation, but there was filler for sure, and the greatness didn't last that long in my HO.
posted by Trochanter at 9:19 AM on March 17, 2009


I would like to see an interview with Alan Moore in which Trochanter suggests that Watchmen was a corporate response to Heavy Metal. I mean, all Alan Moore interviews are interesting, almost despite the predictability of them, but this I would pay to see.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:26 AM on March 17, 2009


Alan Moore interviews, of which there seem to be a hell of a lot lately, are always more interesting when there's more than one question.

"So, about those movies you don't want anything to do with..."
posted by Artw at 9:31 AM on March 17, 2009


Well, now I am going to start sounding like a troll, but Moore's a dork. Big time.
posted by Trochanter at 9:32 AM on March 17, 2009


"I don't really know how sales ever were for Heavy Metal, but it was pretty big news in comics, wasn't it? I think it shook things up in the industry. It might even have changed the industry. A suit had to green light Watchmen. I don't think I'm that far out of line."

Post hoc ergo propter hoc?
posted by klangklangston at 9:34 AM on March 17, 2009


Post hoc ergo propter hoc?

In this case? Yeah, it could well be.

Raiders of the Lost Arc >> King Solomons Mines

Post hoc ergo propter hoc? Yeah, it could well be.
posted by Trochanter at 9:44 AM on March 17, 2009


Alan Moore is not a fan of the term graphic novel either:

I don't see how that passage, or the surrounding passages from the interview you took the quote from, indicate that he doesn't like the term. It reads to me that the term "graphic novel" allowed fans to maintain their fandom as they grew older, rather than abandoning the medium as immature. This doesn't sound like a bad thing, in my opinion. Why would he want less of an audience?
posted by owtytrof at 9:47 AM on March 17, 2009


Point taken, owtytrof. I'm fairly certain I've seen him call it a "useless marketing term" before though, but couldn't say where. That Mindscapes movie, perhaps? You don't have to take my word for it.
posted by muckster at 11:24 AM on March 17, 2009


The secret origin of the term ‘pamphlet’
posted by Artw at 11:12 AM on March 30, 2009


« Older There's a showdown in Ann Arbor, MI between geeks ...  |  Sci Fi has a new name.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments