MetaMaus: the secret history of Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer-winning Maus

More than a quarter-century since its inital publication, Maus, Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer-winning graphic novel history of his father's Holocaust experience, is still counted as one of the seminal documents in the history of comics, of memoir, and of Holocaust stories.

MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic, Maus, just released, is an in-depth look at the art, the psychology, the history and the politics of Maus. It consists primarily of a long interview with Speigelman, in which he describes the artistic influences he took to his task, the artistic challenges he met, the familial frustrations he dealt with in interviewing his father, the political, social and professional fallout from Maus's success, and many other subjects.

Spiegelman is well-spoken and insightful, and is one of those rare creators who can talk coherently about his own work and process. His recollections and analysis are complemented by interviews with his wife and children, as well as a transcript of some of his original interviews with his father. MetaMaus is thoroughly illustrated with excerpts from Spiegelman's sketchbook, from the original source materials he used when creating his book, and news clippings and other ephemera from the books' storied history.

The book is accompanied by a DVD with about 4GB of video and audio, including the interview that makes up the book, the original interviews with Speigelman's father, and several videos and images of the source material. The DVD nominally requires a Mac or PC to view, and the media files are hidden on the disk, which makes it hard to move the MP3s of the audio to your portable player. I solved this by creating a disk image of the DVD, which made all the files visible again. I'm looking forward to listening to the interviews on the move.

Mark blogged the book's trailer last month, and it gives a good sense of how gripping and smart the book and DVD are.


  1. Where is the Maus love? This is the second mention in as many weeks, and less than a handful of comments between the two. Maus was Fan-Tas-Tic!

  2. Maus is great. The reason for me to not be terribly interested in MetaMaus is the fact that the original work already contains something of a “making of” as part of the story, i. e. Spiegelman talking to his father and relating their difficulties in communication to the reader. I´m sure MetaMaus offers plenty of deeper information for those who seek it though.

  3. “…one of those rare creators who can talk coherently about his own work and process.”
    Props to Spiegelman, it’s unfortunate that one can express this paramount talent of “understanding the whats and whys of what one is expressing” as rare among an already rare group of people who can even express things coherently at all.

  4. Tech note, but there is something weird on the homepage/index listing of this piece.  The Twitter icon is missing and instead it seems like the original title to the piece is being placed in the space where that icon should be and is hidden by overflow I think?  My web-dev cap is on right now, but please check the screenshot and pass along to whoever is debugging the new design.

  5. A few years ago, a literature professor caught me reading “American Splendor” and turned me onto “Maus”.  I am forever grateful to her, even though she was a horrendous witch.

  6. Agreed, Maus deserves its classic, touchstone status. It’s truly astounding, and affecting.

    My MetaMaus arrived yesterday, can’t wait to dive into it. Flipping through it, it looks very personal, with all sorts of family photos and info. Its “associate editor” is Hillary Chute, who’s quickly emerged as the leading scholar of comics.

  7. Am I the only one who can’t stand Maus ? I’ve read thousands of comics (everything I can get my hands on except for super-hero crap), but I’ve never been able to get past the first few pages of Maus: I find the art horrible. Maybe the story is great, I don’t know, I’m just not able to stomach the horribly drawn panels. When I first tried to read it, I though it was a parody badly drawn on purpose. It’s just too ugly, period.

    1. Just because it isn’t in the same style as something you are familiar with, doesn’t make it ‘bad’.  I don’t know what you’re reading, and though it isn’t in a traditional comic book style, it IS well drawn.

      More importantly, he knows good visual story telling and layout. Something many of todays artists lack.

    2. Yes. How can you resist the protagonist furiously resenting his father, in the scene where they pick up a Black hitchhiker?

      1. I love that scene (in Maus 2, I think).

        This is an honest, bare, unsanitized story. His father is not a likable guy and at times he was shown as the flawed person he was (a coward, racist, etc). He went through something horrible and we should thank Art for pulling the details out of him.

  8. You don’t draw, do you, Gilly? It’s obvious you don’t know what you’re talking about. His style is both apt and sophisticated.

  9. Maus and Maus II were assigned reading in high school in ’95-’96.  To say that these works were profoundly moving and motivating would be an understatement.  Powerful stuff that inspired compelling class discussions.  I am going to buy this, if not just for the original interviews and other goodies available on the DVD.  I think it will be hard, but rewarding, as the novels were.

  10. I am not sure if this is sad, or scary, or hopeful–but it was Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” that made this goy REALLY FEEL the Holocaust. Intellectually I understood it, I did not deny it–but despite all the good stuff, and even the bad propaganda (Leon Uris, “Exodus” anyone?) I didn’t appreciate its reality. Maus did that for me. Who knows how many others had the same experience? Thank you Art for blowing my mind and making me weep. Never again.

  11. I am so sick of hearing “Maus, Maus, Maus” all the time. I am an underground comics fan- I have almost all of Art’s comics (the good and the terrible),and think he is a great comix auteur (get BREAKDOWNS or RAW for some fine examples). But how long can he milk this MAUS thing? How many editions are out already? Yeah, it was good; that was like 30 years ago. Art- how about doing something ELSE of substance with a pencil and ink, instead of editing books of other people’s comics? Is “The Shadow of 2 Towers” the best you can do? MAUS made Spiegelman the darling of the NY Times “cognoscenti”; if they need a “serious artiste” to comment on comics, they trot Art out to bloviate. There are plenty of other old undergrounds/ alternative strips that should be seen by a wider audience. Instead we get the 44th edition of MAUS. There is more to undergrounds than R Crumb (a god in the pantheon, to be sure) and Spiegelman. *sigh* I guess I should brace myself for the meta-META Maus that is sure to come in 2014…

    1. Well – because Maus is NOT an underground comic. Perhaps it started life as one, and Art’s other work certainly was underground, but Maus is not one  of them. It is one of the darlings that made it into mainstream. Even more mainstream that say “Kick Ass”, “American Splendor” or one of the other independent comics turned into film.

      People who NEVER would have picked up any sort of comic or graphic novel read Maus. I think mainly because Maus isn’t a comic, as much as it is a good story told in comic form. I remember having my English teacher read my copy and she was pleasantly surprised.

      I don’t know what else Art is doing now (I am admitting to being out of the loop), and there are other artists who deserve more attention that what they have, but Maus is an “every now and then” thing. Ironically, if every underground comic artist who deserved it made it mainstream, there would be no underground.

  12. I like some of Spiegelman’s stuff, but sometimes he seems more interested in writing about writing than in just writing. We already got the meta-discussion of the maus artist interviewing his father within Maus. Does Meta-Maus have a maus drawing a maus drawing a maus who is interviewing his father about the holocaust? Like a drawing of Escher as he drew one hand drawing the other hand?

Comments are closed.