The idea of creating a graphic novel (read: comic book for adults) about the aftermath of Sept. 11 is almost as far-fetched as the idea of creating one about Nazis. The topics themselves are so heavy that any attempt to deal with them in the realm of pop culture is generally poorly received. In this sense, the work of Art Spiegelman seems to be an anomaly. Spiegelman is best known for his graphic novel Maus, which handled the Holocaust. In 1992, Spiegelman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his work on Maus, which was the first work of its type to be given the award. Spiegelman's latest work, "In the Shadow of No Towers," is quite a worthy follow-up.
As the majority of Americans were attempting to bury the images of planes crashing into buildings, Spiegelman and his fellow Manhattan-ites were faced with the task of braving a truly new world. "In the Shadow of No Towers" opens with an essay by Spiegelman, which describes his struggle with the conception of the book itself, as well as his struggle to find a mainstream publisher that would release his new work (according to Spiegelman, both the New York Times and The New Yorker refused).
In the Shadow of No Towers
10 out of 10
Spiegelman writes that his "strips are now a slow-motion diary of what [he] experienced while seeking some
provisional equanimity - though three years later [he's] still ready to lose it all at the mere drop of a hat or a dirty bomb," and his personal tug-of-war between stability and full-blown neurosis comes through in his work. The pages themselves are laid-out vertically, mimicking the Sunday comics found in the newspaper. The strips themselves are a mixture of form, which range from pop art to drawings modeled after early 20th-century comic strips (which Spiegelman claims were his source of solace during the aftermath of Sept. 11).
The mixture of forms reinforces the mixture of storylines within "In the Shadow of No Towers." The strips provide not only a record of the event itself, but also records the reactions that echoed throughout America. At the center of everything is Spiegelman himself, struggling with his fears as father, husband, artist and New Yorker. He makes no effort to conceal his identity within the pages, making the novel that much more accessible. As the strips progress, they become much more political and there is no doubt of Spiegelman's leftist leanings; however, his political views do nothing to overpower the emotions Spiegelman's character expresses as he tries to get used to life post-Sept. 11.
Creating a comic about the events of Sept. 11 and the months that followed is a difficult task. Some would question whether or not Americans are ready to laugh about the attacks yet. Art Spiegelman allays these fears by creating a graphic novel that mourns the attack with reverence, but doesn't get bogged down in sadness.