Comparative Analysis





Comparative Analysis

Many people consider comics to be a form of art mostly pictures but to do not believe it an actual form of reading. Comic books are meant to provide entertainment mainly due to their representation of figures and photographs. In recent times, however, there has arisen a debate on regarding comics as a form of reading. Reading is traditionally taken to refer to books and words. Comics incorporates images and words and demands that the reader interprets them both verbally and visually, hence stimulating the senses more. Will Eisner asserts that comics are a form of literacy that allows the reader to read while at the same time seeing the images representing the information in words. To examine this claim, we take a look at the graphic novel ‘The Complete Maus’ by Art Spiegelman.

The argument that text accompanied by images allows the reader to get a more thorough understanding of information. The novel by Spiegelman begins with a cover whose imagery is vivid, and the reader can get a glimpse of what it means. On the cover is an image of two mice who appear to be cowering and above them is the face of a menacing cat. The novel revolves around the hatred of Jews represented by mice by the Nazis who are represented by cats. Pigs in the story represent the Poles. The cover art alone is a clear indication that the cat is a threat to the mice which is true of the real situation between cats and mice usually.

The novel begins with Art interviewing his father on the events of the Holocaust. Art’s father tells him of how he met his wife, Art’s mother. The pictures show Art’s father dancing with a lady who asks him why she doesn’t invite him to his home. In the picture, the lady mouse looks wistfully back at what is Art’s father’s house. His dad had to break free from another woman known as Lucia as he loved Art’s mom, Anja. Her parents wouldn’t let her go out, so they had to meet at their parent’s homes. While reading the beginnings of this story, the pictures are quite captivating, and the reader can visualize the actual events. For example, Lucia trying to hug Art’ father while saying, “Forget her! You make me happy.” From the picture, we can see Art’s father trying to push her away, and it is evident that Lucia was quite unwilling to let go of him. She even fell to the floor begging Vladek not to leave her.

Page 23 shows Vladek instructing Art not to write any personal things in his novel. Vladek points his finger at Art to prove that he is serious while Art raises his hand in compliance with his father’s wishes. The second chapter talks about how Art went back to his father to get more information about their marriage. It talks about Anja’s ties to communists and how she was almost arrested. The pictures show her frantically trying to hide communist documents and how she ran to hide them with her neighbor, the seamstress. “I never saw the package before; one of my customers must have left it,” was the seamstress’ feeble protest (Spiegelman 28).The visuals show the arrest and make the story all the more vivid and exciting for the reader.

Page 32 shows the first image of a Nazi flag, the swastika, in a small town. Every Jew got frightened; they knew what it meant for them. Many stories abound of Jews killed and humiliated by the Germans (Spiegelman 32). Anja stayed in the sanatorium for a while, and Vladek stayed with her. When they got back, they got the news that their factory had been robbed. “It happened last month; they took everything!” The picture shows Vladek holding his face in dejection, gaining the empathy of the reader.

Page 38 shows soldiers in the march against Germany with Vladek being one of them. While telling this part of the story, Vladek begins to rub his eyes in the picture showing how emotional the memory still was for him. ‘It’s my eyes,’ he said, but he was tearing up. Vladek tells of how his father starved him and his brother so that they would not be enlisted and this tactic worked. Eventually, Vladek joined the army but was captured by the Germans (Spiegelman 50). The comic shows a picture of the captured soldiers being led across the bridge to the German’s side of the river.

They were released and taken back to Lublin where they heard terrible stores of hundreds who had been shot by the Germans. Page 71 is the beginning of the fourth chapter and shows mice hanging from ropes around their necks, signifying what was to come in the Holocaust. Vladek describes a scene in Ilzecki, ‘”I had to pass near, and they were grabbing Jews, papers or no.”(Spiegelman 80) The picture in that page is one of chaos; mice running away as cats grabbed them. Mice hanged publicly on page 83 gives an image of just how ruthless the Germans were. To avoid the gas chambers, a mother killed herself and her three children. The ghettos in which the Jews lived were to be liquidated and sent to Auschwitz; many were killed in the process. (Spiegelman 113)

Eisner explains that “In its most economical state, comics employ a series of repetitive images and recognizable symbols.” (Eisner 8). This is true of the comic book ‘The Complete Maus.’ The mice and cats to shoe Jews and Nazis respectively make them more recognizable to the reader. The animals are also a form of symbolism that requires the intellectual interpretation of the reader. Mice are oppressed by cats that are powerful.

Eisner also says that the visuals are a connection between the author of the novel and the reader. “Comics communicate in a language that relies on a visual experience common to both creator and audience.” (Eisner 7). Without the visuals in ‘The Complete Maus’, Art might not have been able to communicate his language as clearly.

The Complete Maus tells the story of a horrific event in history with a simplicity that makes it all the more profound. Reading this graphic novel with the aid of the pictures allows the reader to empathize with the characters in the story; to feel their pain and their fear. Reading the words at the same time as the images representing them conveys the message in a more precise manner. Will Eisner’s claim that “psychological processes involved in viewing a word and an image are analogous” (Eisner 8) has been validated in ‘The Complete Maus.’

Works Cited

Spiegelman, Art. The complete maus: A survivor’s tale. Vol. 1. Pantheon, 1997.

Eisner, Will. “Theory of Comics and Sequential art.” Pridobljen s http://www. floobynooby. com/pdfs/Will_Eisner-Theory_of_Comics_and_Sequential_Art. pdf (1985).