This is what the comics medium can achieve. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Art Spiegelman has a full-page editorial cartoon in Sunday’s Washington Post which is a grand salute — and critique – — of editorial cartoonists of the past. Those familiar with his work will know that Spiegelman is famous for his graphic novel Maus, about the Holocaust, featuring Nazis as jackbooted cats and the Jews, including Spiegelman and his father, as mice.
The interactive on the Post web site does not have the delicious impact of opening the Outlook section over your morning coffee and taking in the entire breathtaking page of newsprint. But click around and pick up on its beauties. Spiegelman, in his usual mouse guise, closely reflects all the seventy-year-old cartoons he’s telling us about. Also, look at how cleverly he handles the progression of the panels (directing you which to read next) and yet steps out of the traditional grid format. His mouse avatar steps before, behind, and even reaches from one panel to another.
The work of a master — and, in the great tradition of editorial cartooning, it’s ephemeral, read today and lining a bird cage tomorrow. Luckily his magnum opus Maus, because it won the Pulitzer, is available everywhere. Look in your local library if you don’t want to spring for it at Borders — it’s there.