Episode 35: Look Mommy I Have a Blog and It’s about the Holocaust

Wow it’s been a while since I’ve written something. First and foremost, Happy Mother’s Day to whomever qualifies for the celebration. Now time for some somewhat biographical details as to things that are going on between posts. I was sick for a few days while working on stuff. The fever was pretty bad, sweated through a few shirts a night kind of deal, so I took a page from one of my favorite shows, Avatar: The Last Airbender andused the time as a type of transormation. Long story short, good news: I dealt with some issues and feeling a lot better. Bad news: I think my first level of Paladin just got retconned. By the way if you haven’t seen the new Avatar show, see it! So amazing at every level of storytelling possible.

I was motivated to start writing again thanks to this amazing blog called Film Critic Hulk. It’s everything I would like this blog to be down the line, without the all capslock but still cool. Check it out when ypu get the chance and you might just learn something awesome. http://filmcrithulk.wordpress.com/

Now let’s get to the actual part of serials. A little while back I read what is considered perhaps one of the greatest graphic novels of all time and gave it to my students, which they loved as well. I am speaking of course of the Pulitzer prize winning Maus by Art Spiegelman. What makes it amazing and unique is that does something that few other forms of comics do, at least according to conventional thought, is that there are no heroes. It’s the story of a man talking to his father about the worst possible time in his life and recording it for future reference.  It reads like a biography but it’s fairly meta in that you see Art talking with his father and engaging in regular converstation about well anything. His father, aka Vladek Spiegelman, is old and kooky to the point of borderline stereotypical miser Jewish guy. Somewhere down the line I started reading Vladek with Zoidberg’s voice and it somehow made way too much sense to stop, even if I felt a little guilty about it. The character is fairly complex in that you really find him annoying to the point of borderline hatred when you see him as an old man but you cheer and hope for him as he is taken captive during the events of World War II. It is because of those traumatic events that we Vladek bem=comes the he is and ultimately whe we as readers pity him.

It is an amazing story but you may be wandering how exactly is it a serial? One of the more interesting parts Maus is that the last part ends with Vladek saying “and then they sent us to Auschwitz” then revealing something that makes Art storm out and openly hate his father. Maus part II wasn’t exactly planned or probably going to be published and probably wouldn’t had the first one not been critically acclaimed and well recieved. Maus, technically Maus I, ended with a pretty decent cliffhanger. The second part is a pretty good story, mostly following what we already saw in the first part, but it is somehow not nearly as good. Perhaps that’s why the most interesting part as a serial is that you wil often see the books compiled into The Complete Maus in one giant (okay it’s really not that huge) hardcover book. The second part starts out normal, but the second chapter has this weird moment when it becomes super meta and it’s just Art talking about the process of writing and publishing his book. For all intents and purposes, it works like an introduction to the book, even to the series and yet here it is as part of the narrative exposition. In case you were wondering, the Americans are shown as dogs to continue with the metaphor that Jewish people are mice, Nazis are cats, Polish people are pigs (WTF?!?!) and the French are frogs (kinda hoping for a Pepe Le Pew type skunk but it makes sense.)

Now I bet that you are wondering why is it that I picked this particular serial for Mother’s Day to write about. What many people forget is that the catalyst for the father and son to reunite and for the story to be written is that the mother (Anya) commits suicide years before the story takes place. Mala, Vladek’s second wife, is literally an attempt to substitute one love for another and her leaving Vladek and his neurosis (what is the plural of that word? neusoseses, neurum, neurosii?) crazy antics pushes for another meeting of father and son, thus pushing for the second part of the novel. One of the more pignant and slightly disturbing parts is that one of the chapters of the first book is the award winning short story/comic that Art did right after his mother’s suicide that goes through the event and the depression that followed. The break from the narrative focus of Vladek’s story and the shift in artistic style is jarring but poignant for the reading.

Let’s see if I can get back on the habit and write a bunch more this week. Coming up: The Sandman comics by Neil Gaiman. 

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