Last night I attended an evening with Art Spiegelman at Eastern Michigan University, in which he presented a talk on “WHAT THE %@#$!! HAPPENED TO COMICS?!”
Don’t know who Art Spiegelman is? I bet you do. He created the Garbage Pail Kids. Remember those?!? If you’re around my age, then you probably remember trading them on the playground with great fondness.
Ok now that I’ve just spent the past 10 minutes taking a trip down memory lane as I scrolled through images of beloved GPK cards… I remember the excitement of a fresh pack. What gross thing would be inside? Would I be disappointed and get nothing new? Would it be full of cards I’d never seen? Could I trade some for even better ones? This was a currency that needed to be kept in tip top shape. Peel the sticker off? YEAH RIGHT! Oddly, my dad found a box of old GPK cards in his basement not too long ago and they had been my husband’s. I’m not certain how we left them in my parents’ basement, but I digress. We both had a blast looking through them and picking out our favorites.
Back to last night. Equally if not more importantly (read: sarcasm) than GPK cards are Art Spiegelman’s books MAUS I and MAUS II.
MAUS is his telling of his dad’s story of survival in a Nazi concentration camp, as well as his family’s survival before and after this horrible time. Many consider Art Spiegelman to be the Godfather of the Graphic Novel and some consider him the Godfather of Comics. He put graphic novels on the map as an actual form of literature demanding respect. I’m not going to do him justice here and my post is not really about what all he’s done for comics and graphic novels (and trading cards), but I needed to at least say why he’s so important and why this was such an exceptional event to have the opportunity to attend.
I have a Master’s degree in Literature from Eastern Michigan University, and perhaps it was the nostalgia of being on campus, thinking hard about literature late into the evening that was part of what was so special, but I left the auditorium feeling full. Full of thoughts, full of happiness, full of challenges to think about, full of things to read, full of images to remember… It’s what I miss about school, only better because I had no homework.
Spiegelman reminded me a lot of the late George Carlin, whom I saw perform twice in person. He dressed in all black. He talked fast and had lots of witty/grumpy side notes to insert along the way. He drank pop from a can the whole time, which I’ve never seen a presenter do before. He puffed on his electronic cigarette between sentences. I mean this guy really could give a s**t what anybody thinks of him, which I loved. He said from early on that he was going to keep us there a lot longer than they had planned for the program, and he sure did. It lasted nearly 3 hours! By the time I left, I felt like he had taught me even more how to read comics and graphic novels.
I like surrounding myself with people who find similar things interesting. How often do you get to be in a room full of people who all seemingly love graphic novels? (Except the poor 5 year old who was stuck sitting behind me and being shushed for 3 hours late at night…) It’s just fun to be able to fully immerse yourself into something.
Oh! And I got a book signed, of course. Which meant some nervous giggling as I stood there waiting. This time I kept my mouth shut because he intimidated me and would have probably called me out on it if I’d said something stupid. Apparently I have Art-Spiegelman-Specific-Social-Anxiety. Nevertheless, I got his signature: