Art Spiegelman Wants a Blood Test


“Sipping from a glass of white wine and secretly itching for a cigarette (he later admitted), Art Spiegelman glibly entertained a gaggle of British adult comic-book fans. We were all in a small theatre at London’s Institute for Contemporary Arts, where Spiegelman explained his rationale for what is perhaps one of his most shocking drawings from the 1970s: a decapitated man getting fucked in the neck.

“I did the most vile comics I could possibly think of, because I thought that’s what underground comics were all about,” he said with an unapologetic shrug. He then admitted that Robert Crumb, a comic artist renowned for testing the limits of taste in his own drawings, banned him from his house in San Francisco in the 1960s. His wife was just too disturbed by that particular image.

The drawing appears in Spiegelman’s most recent effort, a new edition of “Breakdowns: A Portrait of the Artist as Young %@&*!”, created first in 1978. This book, said Spiegelman, should lend some insight into his evolution from vile cartoonist to Pulitzer Prize-winning artist and illustrator. The Pulitzer came in 1992 for “Maus”, a personal story about the Holocaust in which Jews were depicted as mice and Nazi Germans as cats. Though canonised now as an important unconventional memoir, “Maus” was originally met in 1978 with “a stunning silence”, Spiegelman said. His goal for the project, first drawn with a fountain pen, was to make readers feel like they were reading a diary. “Breakdowns” offers a trek through Spiegelman’s early work and development as a comic artist, revealing what he grappled with before “Maus”. At the lecture, Spiegelman presented slides from the book–rough, silly, strange and sometimes simple images that exemplified his mantra: “comics should be whatever you want them to be.”

(via More Intelligent Life)


  1. Feh! I did some ‘color-separations’ for BREAKDOWNS for Art back in the late-70s… thru a coincidence last year I heard that Art was doing an updated new edition. We usedta see each other often when I was still living in the Village. I contacted his agent with a congratulatory note which said agent assured me would be forwarded. Didn’t hear back diddley. Oh well. There was a big war between Ted Rall and Danny Hellman in ’99 over a TR article about Art’s ‘gatekeeper’ influence over the hiring comix-style illustrators in ‘serious’ NYC media, right before the Internet made the whole thing moot. I was friends with Danny thru SCREW, and Danny’s art is beautiful, whereas Ted’s is ugly… so I thought Ted was a bumptious upstart… but subsequent events pretty much bore out Ted’s point.

  2. “There was a big war between Ted Rall and Danny Hellman in ‘99 over a TR article about Art’s ‘gatekeeper’ influence over the hiring of comix-style illustrators in ’serious’ NYC media” Further tries at recalling the particulars make me think that the original Ted Rall article was in the VILLAGE VOICE… then there was a snappy comeback article in the rightwing rival NEW YORK PRESS with a killer illo by Danny… this was a VERY interesting cusp-of-the-Internet-Era exchange…

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