Art Spiegleman

Essay by Alfred E. NeumanHigh School, 10th gradeA+, December 1996

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Until Art Spiegelman arrived on the scene, comics had not truly been acknowledged as art. Never, until Art Spiegelman came along, had anyone won a Guggenheim Fellowship award in order to complete a work of cartoon art. In 1986, Art Spiegelman, hailed by some as the "new Kafka," published Maus: A Survivors Tale, a graphic-novel depiction of his troubled relationship with his father, a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Death Camps. Then, in 1991, he published Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began, which earned him a Pulitzer prize for both volumes.


Art Spiegelman was born on February 15, 1948, in Stockholm, Sweden, to Vladek and Anja (Zylberberg) Spiegelman. Three years after his birth, his family immigrated to the United States, to the Rego Park area, in Queens, New York. His father, Vladek, was a wealthy textile salesperson and manufacturer in Poland. Before World War II, he worked in the garment trade and later in the diamond business.

Both of his parents survived confinement to the Jewish ghettos and imprisonment in the famous Nazi Concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland. His mother, Anja, suffered from periodic depression, and his father, perhaps acting on instincts that had once been necessary for survival, was obsessively frugal. His mother committed suicide in 1968 after barely surviving Auschwitz, and then coming to America. Spiegelman was the youngest child to Vladek and Anja; he had a brother named Richieu. Richieu had been poisoned by an aunt who also killed two of Art's cousins and herself just before the Nazi's came to take them away.

Spiegelman began drawing as a child, spending time with a doodling game his mother had developed. She scribbled a little on a paper, and he would turn it into something. The game led to his drawing cartoons, and he began...