Monday, February 6, 2012

Art Spiegelman's "Two-Fisted Painters"

Art Spiegelman is not only the creator of the  Pulitzer Prize winning graphic Novel Maus, he, along with his partner Françoise Mouly, were the creators of Raw Magazine where Maus first appeared. I was a huge fan of Raw Magazine back in the 80's. Reading it had a way of altering your view of what comics were. I would read something like Art Spiegelman's Two-Fisted Painters and I would start to see color breakdowns in all comics that I read afterward. I remember studying all the nuances of the book. I would look at the color break-downs and compare them to the finished pages, and study the pages with the 'wrong' color separation on them.

click on the pictures to get larger versions -


Behind this silly veneer of a hard-boiled detective story Spiegelman has created this very clever way of looking at the four color printing process. Not only do we get a clever story filled with funny fine art references but we also get a lesson in printing as well. I just love how the physical comic itself becomes part of the whole experience. When the alien steals the colors, he puts the 3 primary colors into jars. These are the very same colors that the printer who printed this comic used to make it, cyan, magenta and yellow. Then Spiegelman goes on to show us how these colors are combined like when the model runs down the stair case as the alien steals her colors Spiegelman first references Duchamp's famous Nude Descending the Staircase  then he takes the opportunity to show us the actual separations necessary to make her skin color. He does this again and again in the comic like the page where the man with glasses' colors are stolen we first see the colors minus the black, then again minus the black and yellow, and so on until he is just a black image on white paper. Interestingly Spiegelman contrasts this with the very subdued colors of the writers story just to show that the brightness of the colors of the main story were intentionally picked to show off the process. To tie it all together he puts the color separations of the first page on the inside front cover only using gray tones (rather than the colors they represent), and to finish the story off, uses those very same color separations on the very last page underneath the blacks of the alien running away with the type writer, though this may not be clear from these scans because of their relatively low quality.  That's why the colors don't match the picture. Go ahead and compare. 
I just love this story to death. I've studied these pages so many times and even now as I'm putting this blog post together I'm still enjoying Art Spiegelman's cleverness.

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