The book exists on a crossroads between family history and comics. And explaining the geography of where the work sits involved answering both questions pretty fully, and it was very difficult to reenter, I’ve got to say. Very painful….Well, you know, you get calluses when you work, and it protects you as you do your gardening, and during the thirteen years of Maus, I got my protective layer of dead skin, so that I could kind of deal with my family and history at least, and even get the comics done efficiently, if thirteen years is efficient. But those went away. You get new skin. And re-entering, looking at my dead family, rereading, and further reading, on an area where I haven’t really been focused, i.e., the death camps, and reading more, is really painful — and even looking back at my own work, and how it’s affected my work life since is difficult. So, I avoided the project for a long time. The first month or so was really devastating. Then the callouses came back, and I could go on to shaping and making a byoo-ti-ful book. So that’s why, basically.
—Art Spiegelman on how revisiting his masterwork Maus was hazardous to his mental health, in an interview on the exhaustive new Maus-umentary book/DVD MetaMaus with Robot 6’s Chris Mautner for The Comics Journal.
I have to say that even if I were dismiss the difficulty of having this personal and painful a work as your personal career centerpiece, and even if I were to discount his editing of RAW, his New Yorker covers, his illustration and children’s books, his publishing work, In the Shadow of No Towers, and the expanded re-release of Breakdowns, I’m still much more sympathetic than many with regards to Spiegelman’s supposed failure to produce another work commensurate with his Pulitzer Prize-winning family history of the Holocaust. That comic changed the entire art form for the better, and that’s one more art-form-changing comic than most people have drawn.
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