Episode 073: Art Spiegelman
Two years ago, while on a take a half day off following a photography convention, I ran into Art Spiegelman on the streets of Cologne, Germany. Actually, I spotted his wife first, and it took me a moment to place the familiar face so completely out of context — New Yorker editor and former RAW Magazine partner in crime, Francoise Mouly. I reintroduced myself, having interviewed Art a year or two prior for a HEEB Magazine cover story. Spiegelman nodded his recognition and invented me to a talk his was giving at a modern art museum later that night. Naturally, I obliged. It was one of the more surreal experiences of my comics-adjacent life. What began as a conversation about the cartoonist’s beloved holocaust book Maus, soon transitioned into a slideshow featuring holocaust denial gag strips Spiegelman had drawn, answering then-Iranian president Amedinijad’s call in the wake of the uproar over the massively controversial 2005 Dutch Muhammed cartoons. Watching the German audience crack up at the work offered a fascinating glimpse at the coping mechanisms of a country whose psyche is forever changed by the topics Spiegelman has unflinchingly embraced. It was also a reminder that, along with being a vocal pundit in the ever-shifting give and take between “high” and “low” art, Spiegelman has long been a showman. His new touring act “Wordless” is the most direct manifestation of these two qualities. The event mixes multimedia, lecture, a live jazz band and conversations revolving around the influential if often forgotten pictorial novels of artists like Lynd Ward. Spiegelman spoke with me ahead of his upcoming tour about Ward’s on-going impact on his own work, the power of the visual medium and the often questionable pursuit of multimedia comics.