This is the two-hundred and second in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and one.
COMIC LEGEND: art spiegelman was denied a passport to Poland because of his depictions of Polish people in Maus.
STATUS: False, with a nugget of truth
Reader Andre wrote in to ask about a story that he had heard involving art spiegelman being denied a Polish passport because of outrage over how he depicted the Polish as a people in his Maus.
To refresh people’s memories as to what Andre is referring to, we should probably take a quick look at Maus as a whole.
Maus is an incredibly moving comic book by art spiegelman detailing his parents (mostly his father)’ experiences during World War II. They were both Polish Jews. The work is brilliant from the get go, but as it goes on, it expands beyond a simple biography and becomes an examination upon the relationship between a father and a son and the relationship between the storyteller and the story that is being told (the latter becomes a major aspect of the comic in the second volume of Maus, written after the first volume had already achieved a high degree of attention from the national media).
In any event, to tell the story of Maus, spiegelman chose to depict various nationalities/ethnicities with animals.
The Jews are mice (hence the title)…
The Germans are cats…
The American soldiers are dogs…
And the Poles are depicted as pigs…
The key to this animal imagery is clearly shown in a pointed quote from Adolf Hitler that spiegelman posts in the beginning of Maus…
That’s how spiegelman approaches the story – the Germans considered the Jews vermin and the Poles pigs, so spiegelman chose to show them that way to get right in the reader’s face with the absurdity of the idea. It’s one thing to hear that being said about people, his theory was, it’s a whole other thing to show people that way – it has a much stronger impact that way, spiegelman felt.
The book was widely praised by Jews around the world, but Poles were not as pleased with their depiction.
This leads us to the story that I’m certain Andre is referring to. It appears in a wonderful interview in The Comics Journal in 1991, conducted by J. Stephen Bolhafner.
He and spiegelman are discussing the imagery of Maus when spiegelman relates the following story:
These images are not my images. I borrowed them from the Germans. At a certain point I wanted to go to Poland, and I had to get a visa. I put in my application, and then I got a call from the consul. He said “the Polish attache wants to speak with you.” And I knew what he wanted to talk to me about. On the way over there, I tried to figure out what I was going to say to him. “I wanted to draw noble stallions, but I don’t do horses very well?” When I got there, he gave me the perfect opening. He said, “You know, the Nazis called us schwein” (German for pig). And I said, “Yes, and they called us vermin (German for mouse or rat).”
That’s the end of the story, but I think it’s plainly clear that spiegelman was not denied the visa, but I suppose a “100% certain” answer would be nice, as well, if anyone happens to know it.
Here‘s a link to the rest of Bolhafner’s Comics Journal interview with spiegelman. It’s an absolutely fascinating piece, and spiegelman discusses the whole “animal imagery” thing further.
Thanks to Andre for the question and thanks to J. Stephen Bolhafner and especially art spiegelman for the information regarding the story!
COMIC LEGEND: Mini-Marvels is being discontinued due to Super Hero Squad.
STATUS: At the Moment, True
Reader Jacob wrote in recently (seemingly quite frantically) asking if there was any truth to the rumor that Chris Giarrusso’s Mini-Marvels series was canceled by Marvel due to the Super Hero Squad.
As it turned out, I did not have to wait very long to get an answer to this frantic plea, as Giarrusso addressed it in an interview he did with Andy Khouri for Comic Book Resources just this past Friday!
To first set up Giarrusso’s answer, let’s take a look at Mini-Marvels and Super Hero Squad.
Mini-Marvels is Giarrusso’s cute series of comic strips that first began appearing in Marvel comics…wow…it’s basically been about a decade ago, right? Yeah, I think 1999 was the first time they began appearing as little bonus strips on Marvel’s “Bullpen Bulletins” page.
They were cute takes on the various Marvel heroes as kids.
Giarrusso was not afraid to take the piss out of some of Marvel’s lesser ideas, like the goofy costumes for Marvel’s The Avengers: United They Stand cartoon/toy-line…
or the silly anti-drug series that Marvel ran in all their titles for a few months…
But Giarrusso was not afraid to occasionally have pointed commentary, as well…
The standout character from the strips was probably Hawkeye, who Giarrusso used nicely to build up a whole inferiority complex character around him.
Eventually, Giarrusso’s Mini-Marvel strip became popular enough that he had a few one-shots featuring the characters…
He then had full-page strips appear in a number of Marvel titles that were collected into books of the Mini-Marvels stories.
A recent collection of Secret Invasion themed Mini-Marvels was just recently released.
Now Super Hero Squad is a toy-line from Hasbro that depicts the various heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe in a cartoonish, sort of “happy” style.
The line began in 2007 and has become quite popular. An animated series is currently in the works to debut pretty soon.
So as you might imagine, Marvel has begun working the Super Hero Squad characters into comic strips in Marvel Comics, as well.
They even had their own comic book one-shot recently.
And they have strips on Marvel.com often (is it weekly?).
Here are some examples of Super Hero Squad comic strips from Marvel.com…
So where does that leave Giarrusso?
Let’s see what he says to Khouri’s question…
Marvel just released “Mini Marvels: Secret Invasion,” the latest Mini-Marvels collection. What else do you have in the works for Marvel?
There’s a brand new nine-page Mini Marvel Hawkeye story written and illustrated by me in the just-released “Marvel Assistant-Size Spectacular” #1. Beyond that, Marvel is turning their attention to “Super Hero Squad.” Marvel feels that Mini Marvels will confuse their Super Hero Squad branding too much, so there are currently no plans to continue Mini Marvels. Fans of my writing and art can continue to follow my particular brand of all-ages kid super-hero stories in “G-Man,” while folks who want to see their favorite Marvel heroes in the all-ages comic strip style will be plenty satisfied with “Super Hero Squad.”
So yes, Jacob, I’m afraid the Marvel Assistant-Sized Spectacular #1 is the last place you’re going to see the Mini-Marvel characters for awhile, at least (which is a darn shame, as they are a good deal more interesting than the Super Hero Squad characters).
But, as Giarrusso mentions, be sure to check out his G-Man comics at Image Comics!
Thanks to Jacob for the question and thanks to Andy Khouri and especially Chris Giarrusso for the ultra-quick answer to Jacob’s question!
COMIC LEGEND: A written and lettered issue of Adventure Comics was re-scripted and re-lettered before publication!
This is a fascinating story because it a missing story that went undiscovered for almost two decades before happenstance uncovered it. Well, happenstance and the dedication of an awesome comic book fan, M W Gallaher.
Gallaher, as you may or may not know, runs the amazing web site, the Jim Aparo Fan Club.
Let me just turn it over to M W Gallaher, and an excerpt from his post on the subject here:
Back when I was first assembling the complete Jim Aparo Checklist in the early 90’s, I forwarded a copy to my pal Chris Khalaf for corrections and additions. One of his corrections was: “Aparo didn’t letter Adventure 441. Ben Oda did.” I took another look at the comic, and sure enough, Chris was right. That wasn’t Aparo lettering. (At the time, I didn’t have the skill to recognize Oda, but after this incident, it was suddenly simple to spot Oda).
But why? In this era, Aparo always did his own lettering, along with the inking! And these were Aparo’s inks…I couldn’t imagine what situation would have arisen to require his pencilling the pages, then sending them in for lettering, then getting them back for inking! (And I didn’t know it at the time, but I later learned that his usual technique was to do the lettering first!) It was a mystery.
The mystery was solved when I moved to Nashville for a year in 1992. At one of the local comics shops, I found a stack of original art that included one Aparo page: the one shown–sort of–above. The answer was simple: Ben Oda’s lettering was pasted over all of Jim’s original balloons and captions. Aparo had lettered, pencilled, and inked the entire job, but after his part was done, editor Joe Orlando had, for some unknown reason, rejected Paul Levitz’s script, and had David Michelinie rewrite the entire comic. Oda then lettered the new script and pasted it over Aparo’s work.
To get even MORE awesome, he stripped the Oda patch-job, and for the first time in decades, we can show you the original script!
The original script is first and the published version is second!
Thanks so much to M W Gallaher for this interesting insight! Be sure to check out his tireless work to the memory of Jim Aparo at the Jim Aparo Fan Club here!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com.
As you hopefully know by now, Plume Books (a division of Penguin Books) is publishing a collection of my Comic Book Legends Revealed columns (half expanded “best of”/half new stuff) and it is due out on April 28th.
Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…
If you’d like to pre-order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…
See you next week!