The Long Shadow

"Through the walls of his darkened bedroom, a young American boy's slumber is shattered as he is woken night after night by the cries of his sleeping parents. They had survived the German concentration camps, but their nightmares would never leave them. Born after the war, their only son grew up amid its lingering traumas a little daily reminders. A child of survivors needs to find a way to survive himself. Reading and drawing comics offer him some escape, and later he briefly tries psychedelic drugs. At the age of twenty, however, his LSD experiments trigger a deep neurosis and he is committed for several months to a mental hospital. Then, three months after he is allowed out, his mother takes her life. The war casts a long shadow, over parents and son.

Art Spiegelman started using his short story comics in early 1970s underground anthologies to deal more explicitly with his feelings about his parents Vladek and Anja. Justin Green proved a great inspiration by his example of the autobiographical Binky Brown in 1972 and also by personally insisting that Spiegelman contribute something to a comic called Funny Aminals [sic]...I did produce a three page strip called 'Maus," which later triggered my long Maus project." (Gravett, 2005, p.56)

It is interesting to note that while some books (Frey, 2008, p. 28; Thompson, 2008, p. 136) and online resources credit Spiegelman with singlehandedly sparking the rise in the popularity of the graphic novel, Binky Brown was actually published first and its creator Green encouraged Spiegelman to complete Maus (Gravett, 2005, p. 23). "Without Binky Brown, Maus would not exist, and both in turn have inspired more cartoonists to deal with their early experiences and their after-effects" (Gravett, 2005, p. 23).

Art Spiegelman