In the early 80's Art Spiegelman and his wife Francoise Mouly decided to put out a very new and experimental magazine that would contain all of the awesome new comics that they were discovering over seas in Mouly's homeland of France as well as all the great new comic artists Spiegelman was meeting while teaching at New York's School of Visual Arts. They would call this new magazine RAW Magazine and among the new and experimental works that they would publish in it was Art's own story of his dad and his struggles surviving German concentration camps of WWII, a work that he would call Maus.
(born February 15, 1948)
|Arcade #1 (spring of 1975) was a life raft for the San Francisco based Underground cartoonists edited by Art Spiegelman and Bill Griffith.|
Art says in the introduction of Read Yourself RAW, "When anyone would come to visit, we'd start dragging out the piles of books, posters, and magazines we'd amassed in Europe. 'Look at this. And this. And this.' We'd leave everybody with their eyeballs hanging out and swollen. Then we'd have to spend hours putting all the printed matter back on shelves, only to yank it out again when the next pair of eyeballs dropped by. It was an exhausting and inefficient way to disseminate work."
Art would print some of his own work in RAW including something that he had been working on at the time. Art says, "When I took Maus on, it was the result of feeling myself at
a bit of an impasse. Over the previous 7 or 8 years I found myself working in a
more and more specialized way for an audience that seemed smaller and smaller
and that the things that were interesting me were very hard to get across to
people who didn’t have the same background or the same way of understanding
what’s happening on a comic page. Although those things remained of interest to
me, I figured ‘well gee, if I keep going this way, I won’t have to make stuff
for print, I can just put it up on a wall somewhere and the 10 or 12 people who
were really interested in it will have to find that wall.’
"So I figured, ‘OK, I give up, if comics are about telling a
story, I’ll just sit down and make myself tell a story. It’s such a long and
involved process that it wasn't something that I was eager to enter into just to tell one more escapist adventure story or one more joke. It’s just too much
work for that. So I had to find a story that was important enough for me to
enter into fully and something difficult enough to keep me challenged
throughout, and Maus seemed like about the most challenging thing that I could
Art has said, "When I’m drawing Maus, I end up working on typing paper. I
use a fountain pen and liquid paper to white it out. I want to feel like I’m
writing, so I’m using stationary supplies. I’m drawing very small. The drawings
that appear inside the book, which are 6” by 9” or something like that, are the
actual size that I am working so there is less of an intermediary. What usually
happens is that cartoonists tend to work rather large, 12” by 18” or something
like that and In the process of printing it and reducing it there is a process
of refinement, and it ends up looking a little crisper, a little more
“professional”. The result is a distancing between the reader and the
creator. Here I really wanted to be more
like, “the mark I make is the mark you see”. It would be more like picking up a
journal and looking over someone’s’ shoulder to read that journal. To me that
is part of the intimacy that comics are capable of and that intimacy is
something that was very necessary for me in this particular strip."
|Spiegelman and Mouly were discovering all of these cool cartoonists like (from Upper left) France's Jacque Tardie, Belgium's Ever Meulen, Holland's Joost Swarte and Argentina's Sampaio and Munoz.|
|Art has always made abstract comics that comment on the form itself as he did here in this comic from RAW Magazine #1, 1980.|
|Maus first appeared as a small booklet stapled into RAW Magazine like this one that appeared in issue #3 of RAW.|
It seemed that Art was disappointed by comics of the early 80's. In an interview he said, "Since all we’re really talking about is words and pictures that are plastered together somehow, a structure is made of those words and pictures that can contain a comics equivalent of Beethoven as well as a comics equivalent of Van Halen. It’s open. All it really is is a medium and that can be as strong and potent as the artists working within it. I’d like to see it move away from genre fiction. I’d like to see it move away from obsessive recapitulation of the same fantasies over and over again. So on the one hand I’d like to see subject matter more reflective of what peoples actual situations are. I’d like to see it grapple with more difficult moral and political issues. I’d like to see it deal with more personal issues. I’d like to see it develop aesthetically. I’d like to see it by people who’s backgrounds aren't solely drawn from comic books that all they can be spit back is more comic books, third fourth and fifth generation comic book vision, something that has it’s roots in reality, inner and outer."
Art's reaction to this poor comics market was to create Maus, a deeply personal and politically charged work, as well as publishing other creators work which covered a wide range of subjects and aesthetics in RAW Magazine. Over the coarse of the 8 large format issues that Art an Francoise published, there were a number of contributors who regularly appeared in RAW that could be considered RAW artists, people like Joost Swart, Even Meuler, Mark Beyer, Charles Burns, Kaz, Mark Newgarden, Jerry Moriarty, and Gary Panter,
|RAW's regular contributors include, clock wise from upper left, Mark Beyer, Charles Burns, Kaz, Mark Newgarden, Jerry Moriarty, and Gary Panter.|
Some of the Art Spiegelman's quotes used here come from the interview with him in Masters of Comic Book Art - 1987 which starts at 54 minutes.