Art Spiegelman - Breakdowns (5 stars)

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Art Spiegelman - Breakdowns

(Viking)

BIOGRAPHY

Subtitled ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@*!’, this was the first collected book of comic art which the Jewish-American Spiegelman had published. Created between 1972 and 1977, the volume is reissued with an illustrated 20-page introduction, which – like the works that follow – pretty much redefines what might be considered as a typical comic book narrative.

Grounded in the countercultural comix of the 60s and a youthful obsession with MAD magazine and the EC horror comics of the late 50s, Spiegelman’s work reflects on his mother’s suicide and his own nervous breakdown-caused hospitalisation in detail which is often heartbreaking, and yet bleakly satirical. The question over whether it was illness or psychedelic experimentation which allowed him to invent daring explorations of form in sequential art – like ‘Cracking Jokes’, ‘The Malpractice Suite’ and the televisual imitation of ‘As the Mind Reels’, or an early three-page version of his Pulitzer-winning Holocaust masterpiece Maus – is ultimately irrelevant in the face of such spell-binding innovation.

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