Roman Muradov’s graphic novella Jacob Bladders and the State of the Art reviewed

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Roman Muradov’s newest graphic novella, Jacob Bladders and the State of the Art (Uncivilized Books, 2016), is the brief, shadowy, surreal tale of an illustrator who’s robbed of his artwork by a rival.

There’s more of course.

In a sense though, the plot is best summarized in the first line of Jacob Bladders:

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Okay.

Maybe that’s too oblique for a summary (or not really a summary at all, if we’re being honest).

But it’s a fucking excellent opening line, right?

Like I said, “There’s more” and if the more—the plot—doesn’t necessarily cohere for you on a first or second reading, don’t worry. You do have worth, reader, and Muradov’s book believes that you’re equipped to tangle with some murky noir and smudgy edges. (It also trusts your sense of irony).

The opening line is part of a bold, newspaperish-looking introduction that pairs with a map. This map offers a concretish anchor to the seemingly-abstractish events of Jacob Bladders. 

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The map isn’t just a plot anchor though, but also a symbolic anchor, visually echoing William Blake’s Jacob’s Ladder (1805).  Blake’s illustration of the story from Genesis 28:10-19 is directly referenced in the “Notes” that append the text of Jacob Bladders. There’s also a (meta)fictional “About the Author” section after the end notes (“Muradov died in October of 1949”), as well as twin character webs printed on the endpapers.

Along with the intro and map, these sections offer a set of metatextual reading rules for Jacob Bladders. The map helps anchor the murky timeline; the character webs help anchor the relationships between Muradov’s figures (lots of doppelgänger here, folks); the end notes help anchor Muradov’s satire.

These framing anchors are ironic though—when Muradov tips his hand, we sense that the reveal is actually another distraction, another displacement, another metaphor. (Sample end note: “METAPHOR: A now defunct rhetorical device relying on substitution of a real-life entity with any animal”).

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It’s tempting to read perhaps too much into Jacob Bladder’s metatextual self-reflexivity. Here is writing about writing, art about art: an illustrated story about illustrating stories. And of course it’s impossible not to ferret out pseudoautobiographical morsels from the novella. Roman Muradov is, after all, a working illustrator, beholden to publishers, editors, art-directors, and deadlines. (Again from the end notes: “DEADLINE: A fictional date given to an illustrator to encourage timely delivery of the assignment. Usually set 1-2 days before the real (also known as ‘hard’) deadline”). If you’ve read The New Yorker or The New York Times lately, you’ve likely seen Muradov’s illustrations.

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So what to make of the section of Jacob Bladders above? Here, a nefarious publisher commands a hapless illustrator to illustrate a “career ladders” story without using an illustration of a career ladder (From the end notes: “CAREER LADDER: An illustration of a steep ladder, scaled by an accountant in pursuit of a promotion or a raise. The Society of Illustrators currently houses America’s largest collection of career ladders, including works by M.C. Escher, Balthus, and Marcel Duchamp”).

Draw a fucking metaphor indeed. (I love how the illustrator turns into a Cubist cricket here).

Again, it’s hard not to find semi-autobiographical elements in Jacob Bladders’s publishing satire. Muradov couches these elements in surreal transpositions. The first two panels of the story announce the setting: New York / 1947—but just a few panels later, the novella pulls this move:

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Here’s our illustrator-hero Jacob Bladders asking his secretary (secretary!) for “any tweets”; he seems disappointed to have gotten “just a retweet.” In Muradov’s transposition, Twitter becomes “Tweeter,” a “city-wide messaging system, established in 1867” and favored by writers like E.B. White and Dorothy Parker.

Do you follow Muradov on Twitter?

I do. Which makes it, again, kinda hard for me not to root out those autobiographical touches. (He sometimes tweets on the illustration biz, y’see).

But I’m dwelling too much on these biographical elements I fear, simply because, it’s much, much harder to write compellingly about the art of it all, of how Muradov communicates his metatextual pseudoautobiographical story. (Did I get enough postmoderny adjectives in there? Did I mention that I think this novella exemplary of post-postmodernism? No? These descriptions don’t matter. Look, the book is fucking good).

Muradov’s art is better appreciated by, like, looking at it instead of trying to describe it (this is an obvious thing to write). Look at this spread (click on it for biggeration):

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The contours, the edges, the borders. The blacks, the whites, the notes in between. This eight-panel sequence gives us insides and outsides, borders and content, expression and impression. Watching, paranoia, a framed consciousness. 

And yet our reading rules—again, from the end notes: “SPOTILLO: Spot illustration. Most commonly a borderless ink drawing set against white background”; followed by “CONSTRAINT: An arbitrary restriction imposed on a work of art in order to give it an illusion of depth”.

Arbitrary? Maybe. No. Who cares? Look at the command of form and content here, the mix and contrast and contradistinctions of styles: Cubism, expressionism, impressionism, abstraction: Klee, Miro, Balthus, Schjerfbeck: Robert Wiene and Fritz Lang. Etc. (Chiaroscuro is a word I should use somewhere in this review).

But also cartooning, also comix here—Muradov’s jutting anarchic tangles, often recoiling from the panel proper, recall George Herriman’s seminal anarcho-strip Krazy Kat. (Whether or not Muradov intends such allusions is not the point at all. Rather, what we see here is a continuity of the form’s best energies). Like Herriman’s strip, Muradov’s tale moves under the power of its own dream logic (more of a glide here than Herriman’s manic skipping).

That dream logic follows the lead (lede?!) of that famous Romantic printmaker and illustrator William Blake, whose name is the last “spoken” word of the narrative (although not the last line in this illustrated text). Blake is the illustrator of visions and dreams—visions of Jacob’s Ladder, Jacob Bladders. Jacob Bladders and the State of the Art culminates in the Romantic/ironic apotheosis of its hero. The final panels are simultaneously bleak and rich, sad and funny, expressive and impressive. Muradov ironizes the creative process, but he also points to it as an imaginative renewal. “Imagination is the real,” William Blake advised us, and Muradov, whether he’d admit it or not, makes imagination real here. Highly recommended.

 

Vincent Mahé’s 750 Years in Paris (Beautiful book acquired, 10.28.2015)

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I’ve said it before, but the good people at Nobrow are making some of the best literary objects I’ve seen in years—the graphic novels they publish are smart, beautiful, strange, and witty. The last time I wrote about a Nobrow title, it was Jon McNaught’s Birchwood Close, which I read after a weekend of (very) primitive island camping. In a little coincidence (or not), Nobrow’s new title, Vincent Mahé’s 750 Years in Paris showed up as I was packing my Subaru for a camping trip with my family. I couldn’t help but fly too-quickly through the pages, before relinquishing it to my daughter, who tried to take it camping with us. “I need something to read on the beach,” she claimed, but I told her it was too big to take along (it’s about the height of a wine bottle). In truth, I just didn’t want to risk the book’s getting damaged. We read it again a few times when we got home—first very quickly, then more slowly. Fun.
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I owe the thing a proper review, but for now here’s Nobrow’s blurb:

If you could stand still for 750 years, what could you learn about the world? It’s time to find out.

A literary graphic novel unlike anything else on the racks, 750 Years tells the story of our time, focusing on one single building in France as it sees its way through the upheavals of history. Beginning in the 13th Century and making its way towards today, this historically accurate story is the eagerly anticipated debut from Vincent Mahé.

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The Spectators (Beautiful book acquried 6.11.2015)

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Victor Hussenot’s The Spectators is a gorgeous new graphic novel from Nobrow. I’ve read it twice now (“read” as a verb seems inadequate but—), and will get to a proper review later this week. Excellent stuff. Nobrow’s blurb:

What if we are merely shadows, our characters defined by a simple inflection of light? The realm of possibilities opens up, because in our world we are nothing but spectators.

The Spectators unfolds as a poetic and philosophical introspection on the nature of man. Victor Hussenot‘s palette is awash with subtle colour, gently carrying the narrative and allowing the reader to envelop themselves in the lyricism of the work. Reminiscent of French New Wave cinema with its clipped dialogue, gentle pacing and departure from a classic narrative structure, The Spectators is an exciting new graphic novel.

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The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil (Book Acquired, 10.07.2014)

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Stephen Collins’s The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is really really good. Full review forthcoming.

“…a face worthy of a murderer” (From Hell)

A page from Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s outstanding graphic novel From Hell, an encyclopedic account of the Jack the Ripper murders. In this scene, our evil protagonist Dr. Gull undergoes a transcendent experience, and appears to William Blake, inspiring The Ghost of a Flea

Blake’s The Head of the Ghost of a Flea

I pulled the image of From Hell from this fantastic detailed review by Miguel at St. Orberose (far better than my own my own meager tackle at writing about the book). Plenty more images there, along with a comprehensive analysis of (what I take to be) Moore’s best work.

Mister Wonderful — Daniel Clowes

There’s an unexpected sweetness to Mister Wonderful, the latest work from Daniel Clowes (new in hardback from Pantheon). Sure, we’re still deep in Clowes territory here, with misanthropic protagonist Marshall offering up acerbic observations on wealthy yuppies, phony poseurs, and jerks on cell phones—all shot through a lens of self-loathing—but Mister Wonderful (subtitled A Love Story) is optimistic, a study in possibility that never tips over the sheer cliff of despair on the other side of romanticism. With its sense of balance, both emotional and narrative, Mister Wonderful is in some way the “good twin” to last year’s Wilson, a work that pointed to the illusory nature of growth and the futility of human connection.

Where Wilson measured the life of its eponymous protagonist over decades (and in extreme hyperbole) as he sought to regain contact with his estranged family, Mister Wonderful  covers just a few hours in the life of Marshall, a sad man set up on a blind date with nutty Natalie, a woman he immediately pegs as way out of his league. Marshall quickly romanticizes the possibility of a life with Natalie, struggling to keep his composure throughout their coffee and dinner date.

Natalie curtails the date to go to a party with old friends, but a surprise (violent) encounter allows Marshall a sliver of heroism—and a chance for more time with Natalie. They head to the party together, only to run into Natalie’s ex-boyfriend, giving Clowes plenty of oomph for a strong third act.

There’s a cinematic scope to Mister Wonderful. The book is 11″ x 6″, and Clowes makes excellent use of his Sunday’s comic page dimensions, exhibiting a level of detail and precision that imbue in Mister Wonderful an air of realism (one that contrasts the cartoony elements of evil twin Wilson). Clowes’s artistic powers are refined, balanced, and agile; he displays a command of color and shape that help define the strange emotional contours of Mister Wonderful, a book about second chances and those rare moments our interior lives might sync unexpectedly with the concrete possibilities life affords us.

Mister Wonderful is funny and balanced, but it’s not for everyone, including some longtime Clowes fans who might quibble with the book’s apparent slightness. Mister Wonderful clocks in at 80 pages, and while some readers may feel shortchanged, perhaps they are overlooking the scope of the work. Clowes is at the height of his powers here, deftly controlling a spare story about  midlife tumult. There’s maturity and depth in this graphic novella. “Novella” isn’t the right term—Mister Wonderful is closer to a long short story, expertly told. Clowes still exhibits some of the sharp, mean edges that marked his earlier work, but the points are more finely honed, more subtle and precise. Some of the erratic weirdness we find in Clowes’s early stuff isn’t on display here, but this is more on account of Clowes’s stronger command of his medium’s formal elements. The bizarre, cynical spirit remains, however. Thankfully, Clowes makes no attempt to redeem his weirdos, nor does he push them into an unearned, false conclusion. Instead, Mr. Wonderful presents their problems and hang-ups and shortcomings as very real, even as it suggests a tint of unironic optimism. Recommended.

Books Acquired, 11.02.2011

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I teach a night class on Wednesdays, and although I enjoy it, I also teach morning sections on Wednesdays, so I’m exhausted when I get home over twelve hours later that night. Anyway, I was thrilled to find a nice little packet from Shocken/Pantheon when I came home last Wednesday—a memoir, a graphic novel, and a book that blends and comments on both.

Meir Shalev’s My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum Cleaner is new in translation from Schocken. Their description—

From the author of the acclaimed novel A Pigeon and a Boy comes a charming tale of family ties, over-the-top housekeeping, and the sport of storytelling in Nahalal, the village of Meir Shalev’s birth. Here we meet Shalev’s amazing Grandma Tonia, who arrived in Palestine by boat from Russia in 1923 and lived in a constant state of battle with what she viewed as the family’s biggest enemy in their new land: dirt.

Grandma Tonia was never seen without a cleaning rag over her shoulder. She received visitors outdoors. She allowed only the most privileged guests to enter her spotless house. Hilarious and touching, Grandma Tonia and her regulations come richly to life in a narrative that circles around the arrival into the family’s dusty agricultural midst of the big, shiny American sweeper sent as a gift by Great-uncle Yeshayahu (he who had shockingly emigrated to the sinful capitalist heaven of Los Angeles!). America, to little Meir and to his forebears, was a land of hedonism and enchanting progress; of tempting luxuries, dangerous music, and degenerate gum-chewing; and of women with painted fingernails. The sweeper, a stealth weapon from Grandpa Aharon’s American brother meant to beguile the hardworking socialist household with a bit of American ease, was symbolic of the conflicts and visions of the family in every respect.

The fate of Tonia’s “svieeperrr”—hidden away for decades in a spotless closed-off bathroom after its initial use—is a family mystery that Shalev determines to solve. The result, in this cheerful translation by Evan Fallenberg, is pure delight, as Shalev brings to life the obsessive but loving Tonia, the pioneers who gave his childhood its spirit of wonder, and the grit and humor of people building ever-new lives.

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I read Daniel Clowes’s Mister Wonderful that Wednesday night. It was a treat—a wonderful balance of sweetness and acidity. I’m sometimes frightened by how closely I identify with Clowes’s protagonists. Full review next week.

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I can’t believe that Art Spiegelman’s MetaMaus hasn’t been remarked upon more—perhaps folks are still digesting it, like me, I guess. I consumed the first 50 pages immediately after finishing Mr. Wonderful, staying up way too late (all of this, accompanied by some mediocre red zin led to a mini-hangover and a generally poor performance teaching classes the next morn). Anyway, MetaMaus is far more engaging than any description of it might suggest. It combines Spiegelman’s cartoons with interviews and other media to detail the process behind creating the original Maus books (or, book singular I suppose is more appropriate). Fascinating stuff, covering memory and art and representation and mice &c. I’ll probably review it in bits and pieces—it seems like too much to process. It also comes with a DVD which I haven’t taken the time to look at yet—-

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“Cute Dog” — Daniel Clowes

Read our review of Daniel Clowes’s Wilson, or buy the book from Drawn & Quarterly..

Wilson — Daniel Clowes

In the first line of the first panel of the first strip in Daniel Clowes’s graphic novel Wilson, the eponymous character, looking directly at the reader, claims, “I love people!” The statement is both ironic and strangely true. Our hero Wilson loves the idea of loving people, and goes about his daily business (walking his dog, drinking coffee, mailing boxes of shit to his former in-laws) in a way that maximizes human contact. With no real family of his own, Wilson reaches out to every person he passes by, addressing them as “brother” or “sister” in an embracing, Emersonian spirit. The problem is that, as much as he loves the idea of loving humanity, Wilson pretty much hates every person he meets. Here’s the opening episode—

Wilson comprises about 70 one-page episodes, each with six or seven panels, each essentially self-contained yet part of a loose plot. The episode above is indicative of the structure of each chapter: a build-up, a monologue, often delivered to disinterested stranger, and then an anti-punchline in which Wilson reveals the ironic cognitive dissonance at the core of his being. The effect can be hard to process, and Clowes’s acerbic humor is clearly not for everyone. Although Clowes uses a traditional Sunday comic page structure, his technique is unsettling: the humor is drawn not so much from the deflationary punchlines that end each chapter, but the overall disconnect between perception, desire, and reality that those punchlines reveal.

Clowes uses this method consistently throughout Wilson, but alternates styles and color palettes, moving from a classic-Clowes style familiar to anyone who’s read Eightball or Ghost World, to a bouncy, cartoony style (see: “Marriage”). The choice to change up the styles calls back, again, to the Sunday comic pages of yore; it also underscores Wilson’s unstable identity, as the narrative slips through gradations of more realistic to more cartoony representations. It is a consistent inconsistency.

Surprisingly, Wilson has a cohesive plot. After the death of his father, Wilson seeks to reunite with his ex-wife, whom he believes to be a drug-addicted hooker. He also hopes to meet the child she was pregnant with when she left him—

Wilson does find his wife. And then he finds his teenage daughter. And then he kinda sorta kidnaps her, or at least doesn’t bother to return her to her adoptive parents. And then he goes to prison. But maybe I’m spoiling the plot now. In any case, Wilson’s adventures are hardly zany. They are poignant and sad and pathetic and cringe-worthy. Clowes is willing to punish his already-tortured protagonist, and yet there’s a payoff for pour Wilson. Throughout the graphic novel, Wilson yearns for human connection, yet is always disappointed by the humans around him who can never measure up to his ideals. Like any sociopath, Wilson lacks a meaningful emotional core; throughout the narrative he longs to experience an epiphany, staring at the ocean, for example, in the hopes illumination. He finally earns this epiphany near the close of his life. The moment is unexpectedly touching, and provides the kind of balance that proves Wilson a work of art and not merely a collection of funny strips. Recommended.

Wilson is available now from Drawn & Quarterly.

“Marriage” — Daniel Clowes

From Daniel Clowes’s graphic novel Wilson, available from Drawn & Quarterly.

Charles Burns Talks to Vice; Discusses Subconscious Tintin Influences

At Vice, Sammy Markham (Crickets) interviews one of our heroes of Charles Burns. Read our review of Burns’s latest, X’ed Out. From the interview with Markham, Burns discusses subconscious influences–

There’s work that I grew up with and looked at and internalized. It is still in my subconscious, and I pay attention to that part of myself, and those images come through. For example, I looked at Tintin books when I was really, really young—before I could even read—and so there were elements of the stories that I didn’t understand the relevance of. In The Secret of the Unicorn there’s one scene where Tintin is down in this basement. He’s been kidnapped. He wakes up and there’s this intercom that’s stuck on the wall. And in my mind, I had no idea what an intercom was, but I could tell that there was a voice balloon coming from this little hole in the wall.

In a weird and felicitous coincidence, I happened to have read The Secret of the Unicorn just last week and then read a comic by Burns in the May or June 2010 issue of The Believer where he riffs on the very scene he’s described above, a comic I only understood after reading Unicorn. Here’s the comic–

From Hell — Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell

Earlier this week, I pulled out From Hell with the bold intention of re-reviewing it for this site. I love Halloween and I love Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s epic revision of the Jack the Ripper murders, so this seemed as good an occasion as any for a reread (especially considering the “review”  I wrote back in October of 2006 is so lazy that I won’t even link to it). Alas, I misjudged or misremembered the sheer density of From Hell–so, on Halloween day, I’m still only half way through, despite staying up way past my bed time, crouching under my sheets with a quavering flashlight, scanning Moore’s erudite words and Campbell’s scratchy inks (okay, that image is an exaggeration). I’ve read it at least thrice before, so I’ll review it anyway.

From Hell posits Sir William Gull, a physician to Queen Victoria, as the orchestrator of the Jack the Ripper murders that terrified Londoners at the end of the 19th century. Although the murders initially arise out of the need to cover up the knowledge of the existence of an illegitimate son begat by foolish Prince Albert, Victoria’s grandson. However, for Gull the murders represent much more–they are part of the continued forces of “masculine rationality” that will constrain “lunar female power.” Gull is a high-level Mason; during a stroke, he experiences a vision of the Masonic god Jahbulon, one which prompts him to his “great work”–namely, the murders that will reify masculine dominance.

One of the standout chapters in the book is Gull’s tour of London, with his hapless (and witless) sidekick Netley. In a trip that weds geography, religion, politics, and mythology, Gull riffs on a barbaric, hermetic history of London, revealing the gritty city as an ongoing site of conflict between paganism and orthodoxy, artistic lunacy and scientific rationality, female and male, left brain and right brain. The tour ends with a plan to commit the first murder. From there, the book picks up the story of Frederick Abberline, the Scotland Yard inspector charged with solving the murders. Of course, the murders are unsolvable, as the hierarchy of London–from the Queen down to the head of police–are well aware of who the (government-commissioned) murderer is. The police procedural aspects of the plot are fascinating and offer a balanced contrast with Gull’s mystical visions–visions that culminate in a climax of a sort of time-travel, in which Gull not only sees London at the end of the twentieth century, but also receives a guarantee that his murder plot has had its intended effect. From Hell takes many of its cues from the idea that history is shaped not by random events, but rather by tragic conspiracies that force people to willingly give up freedom to a “rational” authority. The book points repeatedly to the 1811 Ratcliffe Highway murders, which led directly to the world’s first modern police force. In our own time, if we’re open to conspiracy theories, we might find the same pattern in the 21st century responses to terrorism (Patriot Act, anyone?).

Although From Hell features moments of supernatural horror in Gull’s mysticism, it is the book’s grimy realism that is far more terrifying. London in the late 1880s is no place you want to be, especially if you are poor, especially if you are a woman. The city is its own character, a labyrinth larded with ancient secrets the inhabitants of which cannot hope to plumb. Despite the nineteenth century’s claims for enlightenment and rationality, this London is bizarrely cruel and deeply unfair. Campbell’s style evokes this London and its denizens with a surreal brilliance; his dark inks are by turns exacting and then erratic, concentrated and purposeful and then wild and severe. The art is somehow both rich and stark, like the coal-begrimed London it replicates. Although Moore has much to say, he allows Campbell’s art to forward the plot whenever possible. Moore is erudite and fascinating; even when one of his characters is lecturing us, it’s a lecture we want to hear. His ear for dialog and tone lends great sympathy to each of the characters, especially the unfortunate women who must turn to prostitution to earn their “doss” money. And while Abberline’s frustrations at having to solve a crime that no higher-ups want solve make him the hero of this story, Gull’s mystic madness makes him the narrative’s dominant figure. Rereading this time, I realized there is no character he reminds me of as much as Judge Holden from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. I’m also reading Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent now, a book that dovetails neatly with From Hell, both in its time and setting, but also in its exploration of social unrest and duplicitous authority. Both novels feature detectives fighting a complacent system, and both novels feature a working class that threatens to erupt in socialist or anarchist rebellion.

From Hell is a fantastic starting place for anyone interested in Moore’s work, more self-contained than his comics that reimagine superhero myths, like Watchmen or Swamp Thing, and more satisfying and fully achieved than Promethea or V Is for Vendetta. Be forewarned that it is a graphic graphic novel, although I do not believe its violence is gratuitous or purposeless. Indeed, From Hell aspires to remark upon the futility and ugliness of cyclical violence, and it does so with wisdom and verve. Highly recommended.

In the Shadow of No Towers–Art Spiegelman

Art Spiegelman’s Maus, released as a graphic novel over twenty years ago, did more to legitimize the comic as an art form than any other work I can think of. It won a Pullitzer Prize Special Award in 1992 (the Pullitzer committee found it hard to classify…perhaps they didn’t want to admit that they were giving a prestigious award to a comic book!), and today Maus is a standard on many college English syllabi.

After Maus, Spiegelman worked for The New Yorker for over ten years, quitting in early 2002 after the September 11th attacks to work on a series of broadsheets entitled In the Shadow of No Towers. These broadsheets were collected in 2004 in an unwieldy 15″ x 10″ book.

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Spiegelman lived in downtown Manhattan, right by the towers; his daughter attended school a few blocks away. He saw the towers collapse in person, fleeing for his life with his family. Spiegelman attempts to capture this raw, unmediated, and very personal experience in In the Shadow of No Towers (Sonic Youth’s 2002 album Murray Street works to the same end–only much more abstractly): the narrative is discontiguous, fluctuating from bitter satire to earnest inquiry. Spiegelman’s choice of the broadsheet as his medium (the broadsheets were published monthly by different newspapers as Spiegelman produced them) is tremendously affective: just like the 9/11 attacks, the broadsheets are larger than life, hard to grasp, hyperbolically resisting easy, singular readings. Spiegelman balances bitter attacks against the conformist mentality spurred by the Bush administration with pathos and humor; In the Shadow of No Towers recalls the good-natured satire of broadsheet comics from a hundred years ago, bittersweetening the content. The 2004 collection wisely contextualizes Spiegelman’s work by reprinting broadsheets of “The Yellow Kid” and “The Katzenjammer Kids.”

Like Maus, In the Shadow of No Towers is a fascinating exploration of how disaster confronts and transforms identity. And reflecting its heinous subject, In the Shadow of No Towers ends without concluding: as the foolish Iraq war begins, Spiegelman can no longer shape any meaning or sense from his work. This isn’t a graphic novel–don’t look for a cohesive narrative structure here; instead, In the Shadow of No Towers explores the loose ends, the detritus, the psychic remnants of disaster.