Graphic Novel Review: Jennifer Engelke

For this semester I chose to read the graphic novel Maus I: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman. I was not sure where to start with my search in graphic novels, however, this book was mentioned in class and caught my attention. The book tells the story of Artie, a mouse who is writing about his father’s stories during World War II. Artie tells the story by interviewing his dad, he switches from his view to his father’s view as he reflects. The book initially starts with Artie as a young mouse, then jumps to him as an adult visiting his dad. As the novel progresses Artie’s father recalls meeting his son’s mother, his beginning of first son’s life, and his time within the war. Within the pages, Art uses many scene-to-scene panels. He tells a story in multiple places that are all occurring at once. 

Since the novel tells the story during times of war iconography is applied when the main characters are visualized as mice and the Nazis as cats. When using these symbols the reader sees the characters as enemy vs ally. Such as how cats and mice are viewed, cats are the hunter while mice are the prey. This is used as a tactic to make sure the reader understands who is good and who is bad. The book plays into the good guy vs bad guy stereotypes. Creatively, Spiegelman applies a twist to the normal way Nazi Germany is portrayed, as they are now prey and predator animals.

Example of lines representing “madness” from Art Spiegelman’s Maus

When applying this graphic novel to the 5th chapter of Understanding Comics, living in line. The deep dark lines in this specific example represent madness. Scott McCloud mentions many examples when giving examples of what lines can represent. Madness can be seen within this panel of the book. It focuses on Nazi cats, giving them the visual of being bad, or in this case, mad. The lines are thick and dark making the panel with the cats seem “scary” and “bad”. Elsewhere in the book panels are seen with the mice are light and thin lines, such as in the left panel. Again the iconography and lines play a role in the good guy vs bad guy stereotypes.

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