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Free Comic Books Essay Sample

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Problem Statement

For many people, comic books are just funny books read for fun. Some people even refer to comic art as a "traditionally low genre". As a matter of fact, very few people have realized the impact that this kind of fun and "traditionally low genre" literature can have in our society. In this research paper I look at the work of one of the most highly acclaimed comic artist - Art Spiegelman- and the impact that his work has had on communicating the serious themes of racism and alienation in society.

Comic books or comic artwork refers to magazines or pieces of art that contain cartoons or drawings that tell a narrative story. In such artwork, dialogue is incorporate in the artwork to help the reader to understand what is going on. This is done through the use of dialogue bubbles or captions. Descriptions of places and time are also done using words if they cannot be incorporated in the drawings. Like other continuous prose approaches to literature, comic works are divided in scenes and chapters.


Comics (as they are known in short) are used to tell a story and such a light approach to storytelling can have a profound impact on society. Many modern day writers and artists have employed the funny, entertaining and light-hearted approach that comic art tends to introduce as a form of literature to inform, educate and warn society on some of the difficult and serious issues like racism, political conflict and sexual harassment

This is the kind of communication that would have taken other genres of literature volumes and volumes of continuous prose to communicate. But still, many do not seem to appreciate the impact that this kind of literature can have in society.

A study of the work of Art Spiegelman

Art Spiegelman is an acclaimed and award winning comic artist, having written, edited and drawn many works of art related to comic art. However, Art Spiegelman is best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning comic work titled Maus (referring to the German word for mouse). In this biographical comic novel of his Polish Jewish father Vladek Spiegelman; Art Spiegelman depicts the German's as cats, the Jews as mice and the poles as pigs.

Art Spiegelman uses Maus to tell the story of his father, a survivor of the holocaust using interviews which are depicted in the form of comic art. In the comic, Art interviews his father over the years and his father tells him how the German policy changed in 1931 causing his well to do comfortable family to suffer in the hands of the Germans.

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Comic art allows Art Spiegelman to use symbols in his book. For example, the use of the Cat to symbolize the Germans and the Mouse to symbolize the Jews clearly paints a picture of the situation of things at the time of Vladek Spiegelman. Just as the cat chases the mouse and the mouse remains afraid of the cat, the story of Vladek Spiegelman shows how the Germans were hunting and hurting the Jews and how the Jews remained in constant fear of the Germans.

In between interviews, Art Spiegelman depicts the state of life of Vladek's family, how they were well to do and how they had it all going on until the holocaust began. This kind of going back to the past to tell a story which would have been done in the form of a flashback in continuous prose is done easily in Art Spiegelman's work using comic art in different strips.

Art Spiegelman employs the use of irony in telling his father's story by depicting the fact that even after suffering in the hands of the Nazis, Vladek Spiegelman still remained racially prejudiced against people from the black community.

Art Spiegelman clarifies the absurdity of racism very easily in his comic. This he does by the fact that, even as he uses the mouse to represent the Jews, the cat to represent the Germans and other animals to represent other nationalities, races and religions, he ensures that the animals representing one particular race are all the same and look alike except for their clothes and a few other distinguishing factors. In this way Art Spiegelman seems to be leaving the reader of his comics with such questions in his mind as, "If there is nothing difference between us in the way we, the animals of the same race look, why then do we discriminate and alienate each other based on our ethnicity or other grounds?" And as far as discrimination between the races is concerned, the question in the reader's mind remains that of, "If we all look alike, why is it then that other people see us as being different?"

This depiction of all animals of the same race as being the same except for their clothes also illustrates how people create stereotypes towards certain races based on their experiences with only one person from that race. In the comic, just because one person is a pig or a bad person, the world creates stereotypes against his race and views all the other people belonging to that race as pigs, or bad people. If one person is bad then everybody in that race is bad, Art Spiegelman seems to illustrate.

The way Art Spiegelman uses different animals to represent different nationalities, races and religious can also be seen to depict the point that, being that we come from different backgrounds and different societies, it is definite that in one way or the other we really are different. However, the way Art Spiegelman uses other different kinds of animals can also mean that, inasmuch as we are all different, the bottom line remains that we are all animals. Or rather, the bottom line is that we are all still the same. We are all human beings.

The reduction of people to animals, the Germans to Cats, the Jews to Mice and the Poles to pig depicts just how the actions of the Nazis had reduced the whole world into a jungle and how degrading the whole holocaust was to the whole of the human race.

Art Spiegelman, instead of using the words of his father or his own words to tell the tale of his mother's suicide, comic art enables him to use the approach of telling a story within a story. This, Art Spiegelman does by introducing another comic book within his comic story. He calls the book Prisoner on the Hell Planet: A Case Story. 

The way Art Spiegelman ensures that the art work does not stand alone but is explained by narratives, dialogue bubbles and captions turns comic art into the fullest type of literature. His depiction of society as it still is using his comic art leaves the critically analytical reader with nothing short of amazement at the nature of the society we live in. The truth is the words of a skilled writer or orator can be used to stand alone and tell a story. Another truth is that the drawing of a skillful artist can probably tell a story better than written words. Like a picture, that drawing is worth a thousand words. But when the two come together, the picture illustrating the situation as is, and the words depicting what the people are saying, that which cannot be expressed in the skill or art, a story then becomes complete. Literature is brought to actualization through the employment of comic art. The comics by Art Spiegelman genuinely cause the reader to reconsider comic art as a form of literature.

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