Tracing Maus


It’s always interesting to see what people think of when they hear the word “comic.” From what I’ve experienced, most people tend to think about superheroes, others think graphic novel or perhaps the ever growing webcomic. Now, the best part is when I tell them that I’m taking a class in which I have to analyze such books. After the statement a look of surprise appears usually followed by “Wow, that’s pretty cool!” or “How the heck do you do that?” Throughout my time in this class, I’ve learned not to underestimate the ability of a medium, especially that of comics. And to put this lesson into practice, let’s take a look at Art Spiegelman’s Maus series.

For this assignment, I had to choose any two pages from Maus I or II, trace them and take notes. I found this to be very eye opening since I caught details I didn’t the first time I read the book. One of these has to be Spiegelman’s use of shading. Darkness and light are an essential part to creating art. They not only convey depth and structure, but potential themes as well. The use of darkness contributes to a general sense or theme of being trapped. In the story, Vladek goes through a series of events which he cannot escape. Though he survives the Holocaust, the terrors he experienced never go away, seeping into the present. In the two pages, Vladek is trapped both inside and out in the open, darkness encasing his route to freedom. Spiegelman goes in depth and closes in on both scenes, though in different ways. He breaks them down into smaller, more digestible panels in order to emphasize a certain point or argument.

Overall, Maus is an effective comic because of Spiegelman’s careful craftsmanship and technique. The tone of the story is enhanced by the frame and shading, and the sense of feeling trapped adds to the sense of discomfort and anxiety. The goal of Maus is to tell a survivor’s story, but does so in a way that absorbs and interacts with the reader.

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