10. “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” by Art Spiegelman (For simplicity’s sake, let’s just say Maus: Book 1 and Book 2) – 774 points (17 first place votes))
The genius of Art Spiegelman’s masterpiece, Maus, is that it is not just a brilliant re-telling of one man’s tale of survival during World War II and the Holocaust (with the jews as mice and the Germans as cats).
If it were just that, then it would still belong on this list, but it isn’t. It’s also the tale of a man dealing with his father. It’s also the tale of how stories are told. And perhaps most fascinating to me is that it also eventually becomes about a man dealing with the fact that his personal story about his father’s survival of the Holocaust has become a commercial and critical success. How does one reconcile oneself with something like that? Spiegelman addresses it beautifully in this story. Here’s a snippet from later in the series from when Spiegelman deals with the strange turn of events that came about after the release of the first maus book…
But at the heart of the comic, Spiegelman is telling us how his father, Vladek Spiegelman, survived the war.
And Vladek’s tale is absolutely fascinating, made even more so by Art’s deft storytelling skills, as he prevents the book from ever getting monotonous, while at the same time being quite detailed in the history of the tale. It reminds me a lot of the work Eddie Campbell did on From Hell.
Here is a section both seeing the horror of war (via the discovery of what happened to Vladek’s son during the war) and also Vladek’s ingenuity (as well as the kindess of other people)…
It took Spiegelman years to get this story finished, but it was well worth the wait, as it was an exceptional piece of work.
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