Thursday, August 5, 2004

In the Shadow of No Towers

View a frame from In the Shadow of No TowersView a frame from In the Shadow of No TowersThis September, Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, will publish a new adult-oriented comic book by Art Spiegelman, In the Shadow of No Towers. The book will explore, through a series of emotionally- and politically-charged cartoons, the trauma of 9/11 and the frustration many Americans have felt in the subsequent years.

The Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist has spent much of the last decade illustrating covers for the New Yorker, working and living only blocks away from the World Trade Center. The trauma of the attacks transformed into anger for Spiegelman, who grew increasingly upset with his own government. Resigning from the New Yorker, he returned to cartooning and, after immersing himself in the newspaper comics of the later 19th and early 20th centuries, began exploring his own political-themed cartoons.

In the Shadow of No Towers is a 42-page large-format cartoon collection, the appearance of which is reminiscent of large cardboard children’s comic books. Mixing vintage cartoon characters, Spiegelman’s own creations, and modern political satire, In the Shadow of No Towers explores the anguish of 9/11.

In the Shadow of No Towers does not depict a particular narrative, as Spiegelman’s Maus did, but instead uses individual comics to portray Americans, New Yorkers in particular, and himself in the aftermath of 9/11 and in the political climate that followed. Many comics are inspired by the author's own memories – in addition to living near the World Trade Center, his daughter Nadja had just started high school at the foot of the South Tower. Individual cartoons from the book have appeared previously in Forward and the print edition of The London Review but this will be the first time the series is presented in its entirety.

In his introduction to In the Shadow of No Towers, Art Spiegelman writes, "I hadn't anticipated that the hijackings of September 11 would themselves be hijacked by the Bush cabal that reduced it all to a war recruitment poster...When the government began to move into full dystopian Big Brother mode and hurtle America into a colonialist adventure in Iraq – while doing very little to make America genuinely safer beyond confiscating nail clippers at airports – all the rage I'd suppressed after the 2000 election, all the paranoia I'd barely managed to squelch immediately after 9/11, returned with a vengeance."

Art Spiegelman is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus (Maus: A Survivor's Tale and Maus II: From Mauschwitz to the Catskills), a chilling comic-format story of the Nazi holocaust. While Maus was a key book in the development of the modern American adult graphic novel, it is most highly regarded for the refreshing approach, both visually and rhetorically, with which it tells its story; in Maus, the Jews are depicted as mice, the Nazis as cats (the Katzies), and various other ethnic groups as various other animal species (the Poles, for instance, feature prominently as pigs). Spiegelman is an editor of Raw, an award-winning anthology of avant-garde comics, has been a regular contributor to The New Yorker and various underground publications, and has published comic-art works in a number of mainstream adult titles.

Spiegelman’s Maus protagonist/alter-ego even appears in In the Shadow of No Towers as a stand-in for Spiegelman. He has said of this juxtaposition, “This was a means of representing myself at a time when I couldn't even see myself in the mirror clearly.” fb

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