Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 13:20 EDT

The Traumatic Temporality of Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers

October 23, 2007

By Kuhlman, Martha

RENOWNED FOR MAUS, HIS PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING TWO-VOLUME comic book that recounts his father’s experience in Auschwitz, Art Spiegelman had already spent over a decade wrestling with the difficulties of translating trauma into the visual medium of comix1 when Al Qaeda sent two airplanes careening into the World Trade Center. He describes this moment as a “wake-up call” that spurred him to respond artistically in a variety of ways, including the 9/ 11 New Yorker cover with the image of the towers in black, silhouetted on a black background, and the cover of 101 Stories, which depicts the towers draped by a black cloth. While these two representations of the tragedy were met with wide acclaim, Spiegelman’s most ambitious effort, his series In the Shadow of No Towers, was deemed too politically risky for The New Yorker, an editorial difference of opinion that contributed to his departure from the magazine at the end of 2002 (Pappu).2 The Forward, a Jewish newspaper based in New York, and The London Review of Books were a few of the only English language publications that featured the series; several European newspapers, including Die Zeit, published it as well. Like a time capsule packed with the equivalent of an artistic Molotov-cocktail directed against the Bush administration, Spiegelman’s pages have finally appeared in book form in the United States three years after the attacks. To read In the Shadow of No Towers now is to travel back in time with Spiegelman as he records his artistic response, what he terms his “slowmotion diary,” that constitutes his changing perceptions of the events of September 11, 2001 (Groth 46). Ten broadsheet compositions display multiple levels of chronology through the splitting of narrative strands that radiate outward from the essential traumatic core of the event. Spiegelman deploys these simultaneous temporalities in unusual page layouts that deliberately interrupt and destabilize the viewers interpretation of and relation to the text. Cathy Caruth’s description of the structure of trauma as an event that “is not fully assimilated as it occurs” but rather is the repeated “narrative of belated experience” is especially pertinent here, as Spiegelman represents his memory of the fall of the towers through a fragmentary, ironic, and self-reflexive narrative (Caruth 5-6). This visual response is complicated by Spiegelman’s references to comics history juxtaposed with digital images, photos, and reproductions to create a hybrid form that simultaneously gestures toward the past and the present.

In order to find models of representation that would respond to his evolving sense of trauma, Spiegelman returns to some of his earlier experiments in comics from the 1970s, particularly Breakdowns (Groth 46). The introduction to this series, which is in comics form, contains a definition of narrative that takes on an acute immediacy when viewed from this perspective:

My dictionary defines comic strip as “a narrative series of cartoons.” A “narrative” is defined as a “story.” Most definitions of story leave me cold. Except the one that says “A complete horizontal division of a building [from Medieval Latin historia ... a row of windows with pictures on them].”3

The coincidence between stories of the towers and the story he would tell provoked Spiegelman to create some of his most complex work to date. Chaotic and dense in appearance, these pages are intended to convey “that all-at-onceness” that was the “overwhelming feeling of September 11th.” Through the use of “a vivid kind of collaging,” he sets four or five narratives into motion on a single page that simultaneously compete for the viewer’s attention (“Ephemera and the Apocalypse”). Several problems confront the viewer. In what order should we read these sequences? And what are the spatial and temporal relations between different sections of the page? We will begin by considering how Spiegelman represents this narrative splintering into a variety of temporalities, registers, and voices as a form of traumatic symptom, and then analyze how underneath his seemingly chaotic page layouts lies a complex visual web that represents his effort to contain this trauma.

Traumatic Time

In the Shadow of No Towers is haunted by the central image of the falling towers that Spiegelman represents as a moment frozen in time. Given that he lives a scant few blocks from where the towers once stood, there was little distance between himself and the event; on the morning that they fell he ran toward the towers, rather than away from them, in order to get his daughter Nadja out of nearby Stuyvesant High School. For Spiegelman, the shock of experiencing the event in all of its immediacy produces a psychological rupture that shakes time loose from its familiar linear course: “{a}t that moment time seemed to stop for me, and when it started up again it was out of joint. Time was aiming backwards as well as forwards” (“Ephemera and the Apocalypse”). This account recalls Dori Laub’s description of the traumatic event as a phenomenon “that has no beginning, no ending, no before, no during and no after” (69). The instant of trauma that cannot be assimilated is represented through the repeated visual motif of the “glowing bones of the towers” over the course of the ten-episode series, an image that Spiegelman explains is impossible to capture through the camera’s lens or on the television screen (Groth 48). His choice to depict the skeletal outline of the towers as an overtly digitized image may seem counterintuitive because he witnessed it, but his choice draws attention to the mediated incarnations of the event on television and in photos. The digital image of the towers is pixelated to such a degree that an attentive viewer cannot fail to notice the artificiality and constructed nature of the photographic image. From the start of the series, Spiegelman’s use of an obviously constructed image already indicates his consistent preference for diegesis, the narration and reconstitution of the event, over a mimetic, coherent account.

Successive layers of commentary and narration are developed around the central image of the burning towers that reflect the “multiphrenia,” as he terms it, of his reactions to the event: his third-person traumatic recounting of what transpired on the day of September 11, his first-person ruminations on his evolving posttraumatic reactions to the event, and his political commentary and parodie uses of comics history references, which gradually come to assume increasing importance as the episodes progress. According to Gerard Genette’s terminology, the first strand-the account of the event itself-is the story, while the other two constitute levels of discourse and intertextual citations that deal with the reception and traumatic working through of that story. As the episodes progress, In the Shadow of No Towers becomes the record of Spiegelman’s futile race with time as he tries to come to terms with the past in his perpetually traumatic present.

From the first episode, Spiegelman renders the traumatic structure of his narrative overt by acknowledging and foregrounding the gap in time between the event and its representation. In the far right-hand column, an off-kilter panel that reveals a partially obscured American flag immediately introduces a temporal breach between the event and its representation by alluding to a phantom episode that does not exist: “Synopsis: In our last episode, as you remember, the world ended.” A series of text blocks superimposed on the image of the falling towers begins in the immediate present of the story, “My daughter and I are rushing from the bomb site,” but quickly switch into a defensive register as the event recedes in time: “Many months have passed. It’s time to move on … I guess I’m finally up to about September 20th,” and then “Okay! Let’s say it’s not September anymore” (1). As in Maus, Spiegelman meticulously records the dates of composition, so that the attentive reader can appreciate the irony of his mea culpa: because he did not in fact begin to draw until November 19 and completed the page on February 15, 2002, the page was finished in just over five months after September llth.5

On the one hand, Spiegelman’s anxiety over accounting for time can be traced to the dilemmas he faced in Maus when he attempted to impose a chronology onto his father Vladek’s confused memories of Auschwitz. In The Shadow of No Towers, by contrast, the full responsibility of storytelling and chronology lies squarely with Spiegelman himself. It is almost as if Spiegelman’s wish to experience Auschwitz with his parents, which he states explicitly in Maus II,6 had revisited him in a completely different and unexpected form: like his parents, he finds himself suddenly “on that fault line where world history and personal history collide.”7 Burdened with an overwhelming sense of obligation, he does not want to be late off the starting block; as he states in his introduction, “Disaster is my muse!” At the same time, another impending and incalculable danger is hurdling toward him from the future as he anticipates a second attack: “I’d feel like such a jerk if a new disaster strikes while I’m still chipping away at the last one,” a fear that he satirizes through the “Etymological Vaudeville” sequence that illustrates the origin of the cliche “Waiting for that other shoe to drop!” Trapped between the simultaneous pressures of a catastrophic past and a threatening, uncertain future, Spiegelman creates each episode in a perpetual state of crisis. The types of experiments and solutions that Spiegelman devised to tell his father’s story in Maus received critical acclaim precisely because the narrative called attention to itself as a construct and included commentary that would, to quote Saul Friedlander, “disrupt the facile linear progression of the narration, introduce alternative interpretations, question any partial conclusion, withstand the need for closure” (53). But the key difference here is that Spiegelman’s father Vladek is not there to comment upon or dispute his version, as is poignantly illustrated in the third episode. This page comprises two interwoven narratives: Spiegelman’s third-person description of his search for Nadja on September llth and his first- person account of his parents’ experience during the Holocaust, which he narrates in his Maus persona: “I remember my father trying to describe what the smoke in Auschwitz smelled like … the closest he got was telling me it was indescribable … that’s exactly what the air in lower Manhattan smelled like after September 11!” (3). In the absence of Vladek, Spiegelman is forced to enter into a conversation with himself and the reader in order to create a dialogic space for his various reactions to 9/11. To achieve this effect, Spiegelman scatters fragments of narrative into configurations that weave and twist across the grid of the page.

Falling Out of the Grid

I get a grid, and then I violate it all over the place.

(Spiegelman, Interview with Todd Hignite, Oct 9, 2003, 42)

When confronted with In the Shadow of No Towers, our gaze does not necessarily track from left to right, top to bottom, as in a Western prose text; the bewildering array of panels, competing narratives, and visual puns oblige us to rethink how to “read” comics. Scott McCloud, the recognized expert in the field of American comics criticism, defines comics as “[j}uxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response in the viewer" (20). Depending upon one's interpretation of "deliberate," the phrase "deliberate sequence" might imply a linear, left-to-right narrative, but it could also potentially encompass circular, multilinear, or other experimental forms. McCloud's "Carl" strip, which resembles a crossword puzzle, is the comics equivalent of a "choose-your-own-adventure" story; the reader can follow Carl's fate as he fatally crashes into a tree or discovers that his mother has left for Borneo or walks into a neighbor's house (105). McCloud takes this idea a step further in another version of the Carl narrative, the Fully Interactive, Multiple Path, Reader-Written, Death-Obsessed Comics Extravaganza (2001), which was created on the basis of quirky reader suggestions for variations in Carl's life. Another contemporary artist who experiments with nonlinear comics is Chris Ware, the author of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (2000). His intricate networks of filial lines, which resemble circuit boards despite their antique color palette, trace possible heredities or dead ends. In general, however, nonlinear comics represent the path not taken, but Spiegelman is an exception to the rule.

For In the Shadow of No Towers, Spiegelman revisits his experiments with the structure of page layouts from the 1970s (Hignite 42). In his composition Don't Get Around Much Anymore (1973), named for the Duke Ellington song, the text lags behind the image depicted in the panel so that the reader is obliged to read backwards, producing a staggered rhythm.11 The reader is led on a claustrophobic tour of an apartment where time is congealed around the reclusive narrator's monotonous daily reality of cable television, a refrigerator, and an open window. Because there is little "action," one can read these panels in almost any order. Another relevant example of this early work is Spiegelman's two- page spread, Nervous Rex: The Malpractice Suite (1976), based on Marvin Bradley's soap opera strip Rex Morgan M.D., which establishes a different kind of rhythm through the citation and repetition of individual panels from the original strip. By continuing the lines outside of the original panel borders, Spiegelman adds a level of grotesque and humorous exaggeration to what are otherwise completely banal exchanges between bland characters. Both of these comics subvert our expectations of a conventional linear narrative and introduce a few of the formal devices that he will later use.

Spiegelman's early detours from conventional narrative are a playful manipulation of form that shares something in common with the French group, OuBaPo, Ouvroir de bande dessinee potentielle [Workshop of Potential Comics], founded in 1992. An extension of OuLiPo, Ouvroir de la litterature potentielle [Workshop of Potential Literature], the members of this group generate comics from a given set of rules. Thierry Groensteen’s essay, “Un premier bouquet de contraintes” {An introductory bouquet of constraints], published in the first issue of their journal five years later, cites The Malpractice Suite as one illustration in a broader discussion about the possibilities of the comics form that also includes, among many other examples, a page from Windsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland (combined with text from Freud by Francois Ayroles), and Gustave Verbeek’s The Upside Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo, two references that are also important to Spiegelman in In the Shadow of No Towers.

Groensteen’s Systeme de la bande dessinee [The system of comics] provides a useful framework for understanding how Spiegelman deploys nonlinear forms. As the director of the Musee de la Bande Dessinee in Angouleme and the primary theorist behind OuBaPo, Groensteen is attentive to the kind of formal experimentation in comics that is central to Spiegelman’s project. He divides comics according to two classifications: arthrologie restreinte [limited articulation] is sequential, narrative driven, and gives priority to the text; arthrologie generale [general articulation] uses narrative flux and exploits the possibilities of spatial distribution, visual analogies, and juxtapositions (27). For comics that belong to the second category, the space of the page is conceived primarily as a grid within which each panel functions as part of a larger network of relationships. This approach adds another layer of interpretation that would be absent from a strictly sequential reading:

… far from presenting itself as a sequence of panels, comics require a reading that is capable of searching for aspects or fragments that can be placed in a network, beyond linear relations, with potentially corresponding aspects or fragments of other panels.13

(Baetens and Lefevre qtd. in Groensteen 173)

Groensteen terms the process of creating a network of visual and semantic correspondences tressage, which means “braiding” or “interlacing.” Tressage can create resonances and linkages between sections of a single page, or it can have a more diffuse, subtle effect over a number of pages. Spiegelman, who has been following trends in European comics ever since he was the coeditor of Raw magazine with Francoise Mouly,15 is thinking along the same lines when he describes how he composes the page layout in an interview with French comics theorist Benoit Peeters (Personal interview, July 2004):

It’s like schizophrenia, but multiplied: I want to say this, but also that, and sometimes things don’t have anything to do with each other but they are indirectly related. How do I place them next to each other on the page? How can they be linked visually if they are opposed at the same time? What element can travel from one idea to another? And what kind of global collage can incorporate all of this?16 (23)

In Spiegelman’s work, the centrifugal force of fragmented narratives is balanced by the centripetal energy of tressage.

We can observe this dynamic in the second episode of In the Shadow of No Towers, which contains six different subnarratives: (1) Spiegelman’s first-person narrative of his compulsive desire to “retell the calamities of September llth to anyone who’ll listen”; (2) a third-person account of Spiegelman’s reaction as the towers fell, interspersed with images of the Katzenjammer Kids and a digital image of the tower17; (3) Spiegelman’s first-person meditation on his own representation, including an allusion to Maus through his self-portrait in “Maus”-face; (4) Spiegelman’s first- person commentary in the present about his reaction to the past; (5) a satirical drawing of Spiegelman flanked by Bin Laden and Bush; (6) a nonverbal narrative mise-abyme in the comics pages in Spiegelman’s hand, which refers to turn of the century comics source material. Strictly speaking, only the second narrative strand is devoted to the story as such, while the surrounding layers constitute various forms of discourse and satire that reflect back upon the central traumatic event. There is also no obvious order in which to read these narratives: Should one read from left to right? Or begin with the largest section and read around the page from there? The numbers assigned are arbitrary and are only necessary as points of reference (Figure 1).

Underneath the traumatic chaos of these diverse narratives, however, the principle of tressage establishes another form of order. Beginning at the top left-hand corner of the page, the panels gradually take on three dimensions until they are transformed into the towers on the far right; these three-dimensional figures cast a diagonal shadow behind the panels in the center of the page, and end in the lower left corner. From here, a series of seven rectangular panels convey a narrative from the left to the right as the image of the burning towers progressively sinks lower. Seen from a distance, these lines form the shape of a “z” across the page (Figure 2).18 Other visual resonances are created by two copies of the digital image of the towers, and two panels based upon Rudolf Dirks’s Katzenjammer Kids, one the mirror image of the other. A third visual link is created by the repetition of the drawing of the brain, found on the poster in the upper left and in the exclamation point on the lower right. These correspondences set in motion a play between foreground and background, between isolated panels and the visual impact of the whole page. An even more striking example of tressage, specifically in the sense of “braiding,” is found in the ninth episode of the series. The vertical panel on the far left is interwoven with horizontal panels that cut across the page as if each sequence were floating in a separate plane. In the upper left- hand corner, Spiegelman reflects upon the fact that September llth has faded from the public’s immediate conscience: “It’s almost two years later and most New Yorkers seem to have picked up the rhythms of daily life … but right under the surface, we’re all just a bunch of stunned pigeons” (9). To graphically demonstrate this distancing, Spiegelman’s crucial moment-the vision of the glowing tower before it falls-is represented as the memory of a mute pigeon. Three horizontal rows, centered on Spiegelman and dedicated to his late-night anxieties, are interrupted and alternate with three other subnarrative sections: a parody of a New Yorker cartoon; the “Weapons of Mass Displacement” sequence; and a political parody of his former Topps trading card artwork.19 Visual puns dominate the “Weapons of Mass Displacement” narrative as Spiegelman contrasts a benign substitution, a new kitten for a recently deceased cat, with the baitand-switch tactics of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq. Throughout this monologue, which ricochets between diverse subjects from Halliburton to Martha Stewart, Spiegelman and the cat are scramble and “displaced” upon each other, until Spiegelman throws the cat off his lap and breaks the frame of the panel.

As in the prior example, this comix collage can be read in any order (Figure 3), but the separate sections return to a common concern: Spiegelman is both relieved and horrified that time continues to flow forward; as if everything were “normal.” In the New Yorker parody, a young woman recounts how “relieved” she was to be mugged on Avenue C, taking this as a sign that the city had recovered its psychological equilibrium. Spiegelman represents himself complaining: “Maybe I really want the world to end, to vindicate the fears I felt back on 9/11!” Friedlander s distinction between the collective and the individual response to trauma helps to clarify Spiegelman’s predicament:

At the individual level, a redemptive closure (comforting and healing in effect), desirable as it would be, seems largely impossible. At the collective level, however, regardless of the present salience of these events, there can hardly be any doubt that the passage of time will erase the “excess.” (54)

In ten episodes composed over a period of nearly two years from 9/ 11/ 01 to 8/31/03, Spiegelman is constantly wrestling with the problem of closure. His original idea-to tell the story of that particular day-is abandoned halfway through the series. He intended to recount how he had to race across the city to retrieve his son from the United Nations school, but suddenly this project seemed less urgent once the war with Iraq began. The story disappears; or, it might be more accurate to say that it changes. In the Shadow of No Towers is an exercise in excess, an individual’s impassioned call for us not to forget but also not to allow 9/11 to be appropriated for political ends.

Breaking the Frame

Although the In the Shadow of No Towers episodes are ostensibly fragmented and chaotic, they are supported by an elaborate substructure that contains hidden symmetries, visual analogies, and references that create a coherent whole through the principle of tressage. Beneath the trauma is also the delight of fitting these pieces together and figuring out graphic solutions to a catastrophic event that appears to defy representation. In Maus 11, Spiegelman depicts an exchange with his therapist, a Holocaust survivor like his father, in which he quotes Samuel Beckett: “Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.” The sequence skips a beat for one panel as the two silently absorb this information before he adds, “On the other hand, he said it” (45). As in Maus, Spiegelman’s staging of multiple levels of trauma as they develop over time in In the Shadow of No Towers has a therapeutic function. Laub’s explanation of how the Holocaust victims work through the process of coming to terms with their trauma is useful in this regard:

To undo this entrapment in a fate that cannot be known, cannot be told, but can only be repeated, a therapeutic process-a process of constructing a narrative, or reconstructing a history and essentially or re-externalizing an event-has to be set in motion. This re-externalization of the event can occur and take effect only when one can articulate and transmit the story, literally transfer it to another outside oneself and then take it back again, inside. Telling thus entails a reassertion of the hegemony of reality and a re-externalization of the evil that affected and contaminated the trauma victim. (69)

Rather than allowing trauma to overwhelm him into silence, Spiegelman turns his narrative “multiphrenia” into a vehicle for self-expression. But for Spiegelman, it is not so simple to “re- externalize” the source of trauma and “reassert the hegemony of reality” when that reality seems hijacked by the agenda of the Bush administration. Marianne Hirsch describes how “Spiegelman … exposes the protective mechanisms that are deployed by the ways in which vision typically operates in our culture” (1213). Spiegelman’s personal and political response cuts through the obfuscation and censorship of the media version of events and reaches “beyond the ready-made tropes and cliched images that frame our look” (1215). His confrontation with the media is most evident in the tenth episode when he represents himself failing to deliver the saccharine patriotic cliches for CBS in a “virtual” interview with Dan Rather (Spiegelman’s favorite “American” food is sshrimp pad thai).

Through the graphic devices of interruption, multiple chronologies, breaking the frame, and political cartoons, every page works against the grain of a political reality that is increasingly alienating to the artist. Spiegelman breaks the frame in yet another way when he enters into dialogue with Bush and with us, the readers of his comix. In the fifth episode, the first panel reads: “Leave me alone, damn it! I’m just trying to comfortably relive my September 11 trauma but you keep interrupting-.” The center of the page is dominated by a familiar metaphor made literal: “The Ostrich Party: Join your fellow Americans before it’s too late. Rise up and Stick your heads in the Ground!” (5). This satirical view of the American party system marks a departure from his previous thinking about politics and comics. In his introduction, he complains that he “work[s] too slowly to respond to transient events while they’re happening,” and that “nothing has a shorter shelf-life than angry caricatures of politicians.” But September 11th shocks him into a new “traumatic” understanding of time that convinces him to adopt a more overtly political approach.


1. “Spiegelman prefers the worH ‘comix’ to ‘comics’ because it alludes to the co-mixture of image and text, and it distances the medium from ‘funny’ comics or children’s comics” (Young 672).

2. Spiegelman still contributes editorial comics occasionally to the New Yorker, for example, he published pages about the Republican National Convention and the “Blue State blues” following the 2004 election.

3. For a full-color reproduction of the original page from Breakdowns, see Comix, Essays, Graphics and Scraps (26).

4. Erin McGlothlin admirably recapitulates all of the categories that have been applied in the major academic articles on Maus and posits her own scheme. Based on Genette’s narrative theory, she proposes that Vladek’s survival in Poland is the “story,” Vladek and Artie’s interactions are the “discourse,” and Artie’s meditations on the difficulty of witnessing and retelling his father’s story is the “narration” (181). In the case of In the Shadow of No Towers, the events of September 11th are the story, while Spiegelman’s traumatic reactions and the intertextual citations are the discourse.

5. At first, Spiegelman takes a few months to create each episode, but gradually, as the initial event becomes more distant in time, he is able to “catch up” and produce about an episode per month: The first episode took four months-11/19/01-2/15/02; the second took three months 2/20/02-5/2/02; the third took six weeks 5/ 20/02-7/1/02; the fourth took seven weeks 8/1/02-9/23/02; the fifth took two weeks 11/15/02-11/30/02; the sixth took one month 12/31/02- 1/27/03; the seventh took three weeks 3/11/03-4/2/03; the eighth took one month 4/29/03-5/27/03; the ninth took one month 6/10/03-7/ 14/03; the tenth took one month 6/27/03-8/31/03.

6. “I know this is insane, but I somehow wish I had been in Auschwitz with my parents so I could really know what they lived through! I guess it’s some kind of guilt about having had an easier life than they did,” Spiegelman, Maus II (16).

7. The attacks “left me reeling on that faultline where world history and personal history collide-the intersection my parents, Auschwitz survivors, had warned me about when they taught me always to keep my bags packed.” In interviews, Spiegelman is careful to differentiate the Holocaust from September 11th: “This work is not a continuation of Maus.” Nonetheless, “Towers’ draws certain parallels between his experience and Vladek’s, without diminishing the evil of Shoah. In a number of panels, he depicts himself as his rodent character from Maus” (Pfefferman). 8. See Scott McCloud’s Web site, www.scottmcloud.com

9. See Daniel Raeburn’s book on Chris Ware. Ware, like Spiegelman, uses the analogy of architecture to describe the structure of comics. Ware also compares his comics with ragtime music in its pacing and repetition (25).

10. For more about nonlinear comics, see Marc Singer’s discussion of Grant Morrison’s series, The Invisibles. The series, which is about time travelers, manipulates chronology through fragmented page layouts and a nonlinear narrative that depicts the past, present, and future simultaneously. “A fragmented discourse, for Morrison, is just as mimetic as a chronological one-in fact, the true story emerges from the assemblage of fragments. Without any one right way to order time, the distinction between story and discourse-the ‘real’ story and the way it is told-disappears” (38). Singer’s insight applies to Spiegelman’s work as well, because the story of September 11 is fragmented and ultimately engulfed by Spiegelman’s traumatic reaction to that event, and to the beginning of the Iraq War.

11. As Spiegelman describes it, “One is trained to read a comic strip from left to right, top to bottom, one panel at a time. O.G.A.M.A.’ attempts to derail this training” (“Don’t Get Around Much Anymore: A Guided Tour.” Comix, Essays, Graphics and Scraps 7).

12. Bart Beaty and Nick Nguyen translated Thierry Groensteen’s The System of Comics, which was published by the University Press of Mississippi in the spring of 2007.

13. This passage, quoted in Groensteen, is from Pour une lecture moderne de la bande dessinee by Jan Baetens and Pascal Lefevre: “… loin de se presenter comme un enchainement de cases, la bande dessinee demande une lecture capable de rechercher, au-dela des relations lineaires, les aspects ou fragments de vignettes susceptibles d’etre mis en reseau avec tels aspects ou fragments de telles autres vignettes” (72).

14. To illustrate the principle of ttessage, Groensteen cites Baeten’s analysis of the first page of Coke m Stock by Merge. The page has a nine by nine structure in which the third panel of each row contains the name “Alcazar.” At the same time, the image of General Alcazar is progressively developed in the same series of three panels: initially he appears in a poster, then there is an image empty suit, and finally we see the image of the general himself. Groensteen emphasizes that this network of correspondences operates vertically, rather than horizontally, and thus is independent from (but complementary to) the narrative logic of the page (179).

15. Mouly and Spiegelman edited Raw magazine, a forum for avant- garde comics from American and Europe, from 1980 to 1991. Jacques Tardi, Joost Swarte and Jose Munoz are a few examples of the European artists Spiegelman brought to the American public. See Kartapoulos’s interview with Spiegelman, Mouly and others on the lndy magazine Web site.

16. C’est comme la schizophrenie, mais en multiple: j’ai envie de dire ceci, mais aussi cela, parfois des choses qui n’ont rien a voir entre elles mais qui sont indirectement connectees. Comment les poser cote a cote sur une planche de BD? Par quel moyen les relier visuellement tout en les opposant? Quel element peut voyager d’une pensee a l’autre? Et quel collage global peut incorporer tout ceci? (Spiegelman 23).

17. The Katzenjammer Kids, by Rudolf Dirks, was published in the Ni>> York Journal from 1897 to 1912. Dirks is considered one of the pioneering comic artists. see Brian Walker’s book The Comics Before 1945 for a brief overview of his work and the history of other newspaper comic strips that Spiegelman cites in this series: Frederick Opper’s Happy Hooligan, Windsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland, Richard Outcault’s Yellow Kid.

18. It is interesting to note that one of Groensteen’s other primary examples of tressage, the eighteenth page of the first comic book in the Sambre series by Yslaire and Balac, also traces a “z” form across seven panels that portray a graveyard landscape, but contain no text (183-84).

19. Spiegelman was Creative Consultant for Topps Gum Inc. from 1966 to 1989, where he designed candy packaging, stickers, and the infamous and popular Garbage Pail Kids trading cards (Comix, Essays, Graphics and Scraps 34).

20. In an interview with Glenn Sumi (Personal interview, Oct. 2004), Spiegelman expresses some regret at not having been more of a social activist: “In hindsight, I wish I had fought for social justice 25 or 30 years rather than for the legitimacy of comics. Considering how successful I’ve been with comics, maybe I could have done more good if I’d picked a bigger target.”

Works Cited

Caruth, Cathy. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1996. 1-10.

Friedlander, Saul. “Trauma, Transference and ‘Working Through’.” History and Memory 4 (1992): 39-59.

Groensteen, Thierry. Systeme de la Bande Dessina. Paris: PUF, 1999

_____. “Un premier Bouquet de Contraintes.” OuBaPo: Ouvroir de Bande Dessinee Potentielle 1 (1997): 13-59

____. The System of Comics. Trans. Bart Beaty and Nick Nguyen Jackson: U of Mississippi P, 2007.

Hirsch, Marianne. “Editors Column: Collateral Damage.” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 119(2004): 1209-15.

Kartalopoulos, William. “A Raw History: The Magazine.” Indy Magazine Winter 2005. 4 Sept. 2005 (http://64.23-98.142/indy/ winter_2005/raw_02/index.html).

Laub, Dori. “Bearing Witness, or, the Vicissitudes of Listening.” Testimony: Crises

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McGlothlin, Erin. “No Time Like the Present: Narrative and Time in Art Spiegelman’s Maus.” Narrative 11 (2003): 177-98.

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Martha Kuhlman is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Bryant University, where she teaches courses on the graphic novel, critical theory, and modernism. She has a chapter in the forthcoming MLA volume Teaching the Graphic Novel.

Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Oct 2007

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