Maus

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Nathalie Castro
Maus

Topics for Discussion: Comics Technique
In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud argues that a face drawn with great detail can represent only one specific person, but that a face drawn with few details—a smiley face, for instance— could be almost anyone. 

Source: Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics (DC Comics, 1999): 31.

Describe the faces in Maus. Are they iconic (could be anyone) or particular (could only be Vladek)? The faces in described in Maus are intensely descriptive and illustrated. For example, the Germans are drawn as cats, the Poles as pigs, Jews as mice, Americans as dogs, and lastly, the French were drawn as frogs. The faces could go either way; they could be iconic or particular. They could have the glasses like Vladek or they could look alike, like the prisoners at Auschwitz. It all depended on the relationship that Vladek had to the characters described in the graphic novel. Close friends or family were distinguished with details and traits that represented them, whereas strangers were plain and rarely given any special physical characteristics. All in all, the faces illustrated in Maus described and emphasized the importance of the individual characters that Vladek had encountered during the Holocaust. What adjectives would you choose to describe Spiegelman’s artwork? Generally, comics artist draw their works twice the size of the eventual published product. When the artwork is reduced by half, the resulting image is crisp and detailed. Spiegelman drew Maus at its actual size. Why do you think he did? Look carefully at the frames (the lines around the panels) and the gutters (the space between the frames). Gaps in the borders and lines intruding into the gutters are considered “unprofessional”. Why do you think Spiegelman drew Maus this way?

You must choose your words wisely when you begin to describe Spiegelman’s artwork. Some adjectives that come to mind when you think of Spiegelman’s artwork are allusive, picturesque and vivid. Contrary to the traditional way of drawing the artwork twice its size, then having it reduced by half which results in the image being crisp and detailed, Spiegelman drew Maus at its actual size. I believe he did this because he did not want the work to appear clustered. I think Spiegelman drew Maus the “unprofessional” way because he wanted to relate to the kids. If a person sees this book all clean and tidy, they would assume that it is simply boring. Hence, it would result in the student to not read it and get it’s full concept.

Why do you think Spigelman drew the characters this way? Hitler reduced the Jews to vermin. Is Spiegelman doing the same thing? Why?

I feel that Spiegelman drew the characters this way to prove a point. Since Hitler reduced the Jews to vermin, so did he. Readers would somehow understand how much the Jewish population suffered through the Holocaust since they were reading it from their side of the story. It would emphasize the actuality of the event. How was this actually was allowed to happen? To this day, there is no other phenomenon that compares to the discrimination and racism that a religion had endured such as the Holocaust. In book two, there are actual photos. How are these images different from the drawings? How do you feel when you photographs of Richieu and Vladek? (refer to the precious questions form Scott McCloud’s argument.) try to explain the author’s reasons. In book two, actual photos were placed of Vladek and Richieu. When I see the photographs of them, it’s sort of gives me an unrealistic satisfaction. It proves to me that all these stories and characters are actually all authentic. Once could associate these photographs to what Scott McCloud had explained in Understanding Comics. “Scott McCloud argues that a face drawn with great detail can represent only one specific person, but that a face drawn with few details—a smiley face, for instance— could be almost anyone.” The...
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