Vertigo, DC’s adult-oriented imprint, has been repeatedly praised for having ‘fully joined the fight for adult readers’ in the early 1990s (Weiner 2010: 10). It has been noted that this “fight” coincided with the imprint’s ‘adoption of the graphic novel format’ as well as ‘a new self-awareness and literary style’ which ‘brought the scope and structure of the Vertigo comics closer to the notion of literary text’ (Round 2010: 22). However, little attention has been devoted to the very cultural identity of the imprint, even if Vertigo has since its early days engaged in an intro- and retrospective discourse on the American comics form, its history, and the power relations inherent to its industry. This short essay intends to start filling that gap by investigating Vertigo’s archival impulse. It argues that in deploying various rewriting strategies which engage with specific past (comics) traditions, the label has activated a unique memorious discourse that provides a self-reflexive and critical commentary on the structuring forces of the American comics field, its politics of domination and exclusion, and hence its canons.
Tag Archives: Art Spiegelman
Navigating the Post-9/11 Mental Space Architecture and Expressionism in In the Shadow of No Towers by Aletta Verwoerd
On September 11, 2001, Art Spiegelman, son of Auschwitz survivors and renowned author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus (1992), found himself on a “ringside seat” to the attacks on the WTC (Spiegelman, 2004: p. 2). This was it; the moment his parents had anticipated when they taught him “to always keep [his] bags packed” (Spiegelman, 2004 ). Personal life and world history collided once again on Ground Zero and, after years of writing and illustrating for The New Yorker – though never combining the two disciplines – the cartoonist returned to the medium that he considers to be ultimately his own: comix.
Spiegelman’s second opus In the Shadow of No Towers (2004) contains ten large-scale cardboard pages, each with an eclectic collection of images and frames: comic figures from the dawn of the twentieth century feature prominently in the autobiographical story that is further built on references to popular culture, including the author’s familiar ‘disguise’ as a mouse. Produced in the two years right after the attacks, the shape of the towers is frequently mirrored in both single panels and in page structures. All together, the book provides a nearly surreal report of life in lower Manhattan; the neighbourhood in which the absence of the Twin Towers was ultimately present. Further, in order to do justice to “oversized skyscrapers and outsized events” (Spiegelman, 2004) the templates are extraordinary in size; each of them designed to precisely fill a full newsprint page, in colour.
This article examines the way a temporary inflexion towards a cinematic representation in City of Glass: the Graphic Novel – an adaptation which actively seeks to explore the specificities of the comics form – brings to the surface the fragmented and incomplete state of tradition in comics.
Among many other things, David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik’s adaptation of Paul Auster’s City of Glass (City of Glass GN in the rest of this text) is a visual interpretation of the noir homage present in Auster’s book. City of Glass, the first novel of the New York Trilogy, initially relies on a loose pastiche of detective fiction and more specifically of the novels of Raymond Chandler, in which private eyes accept unclear missions for the sake of beautiful women. This archetypal scene is replayed both in the novel and in the graphic novel, when Quinn, the main protagonists, accepts to keep watch over a man named Stillman in part because of his attraction to Virginia’s Stillman, the man’s daughter-in-law.
The third issue of RAW (volume two), the digest-sized final collection of Art Spiegelman’s art comix series, is possibly the best single volume of a comics anthology ever published. Included among the book’s extraordinary contents are Spiegelman’s own penultimate chapter of Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, a classic 32 page excerpt of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat (the famous ‘Tiger Tea’ sequence), an exquisite Gary Panter sketchbook, ‘Thrilling Adventure Stories,’ the first glimpse of the genius that was to come from Chris Ware, ‘Proxy,’ a highly under-appreciated collaboration between novelist Tom DeHaven and Richard Sala, and a long portion of Kim Deitch’s masterpiece, ‘The Boulevard of Broken Dreams.’ The anthology also includes strong standalone pieces from Lynda Barry, Muñoz and Sampayo, Drew Friedman, Marti, Justin Green, Kaz, and several lesser-known but equally talented European artists, not to mention a brilliantly sarcastic R. Crumb cover. With such an impressive line-up, it’s easy to see how a little story by Alan Moore got lost in the mix.
Yet ‘The Bowing Machine,’ Moore’s unlikely collaboration with Amy and Jordan creator, Mark Beyer, is among the highlights of this impressive book. Written in 1991 on the heels of the highly publicized collapse of the Big Numbers series with Bill Sienkiewicz after only two issues, and just before he began exploring alternatives to the Big Two superhero publishers, including, most notably, his 1963 limited series for Image Comics in which he re-imagined the origins of the Marvel universe, this nine-page short story appeared during a period which the author himself described as his ‘wilderness years.’ (Rose)