Comic books use a progression of pictorial illustration, arranged in interconnected panels to relay information in a more humorous way, whereby conversations are serialized with caption and text balloons. Comics have seen a major development, starting from the silver comic age, which involved cartoon characters, often with less or no conversation, but pictorial representations. This was followed by the Bronze Age comic books, which saw to a major development in the field of comic books. In this age, many comic books had superhuman characters, idolized by leaders. These included the superman, green lantern, titans, among others (Witek, 1989). The field of comic books has matured to the current modern age comics, whereby non-human characters are given human traits to illustrate human behavior in a more entertaining way. Comic books of the modern era include Maus, a comic book written by Spiegelman using animal characters to recollect the holocaust era (Witek, 1989). This article exemplifies the importance of comic books, comparing Spiegelman`s Maus, to a green lantern, further analyzing the plot of Maus.
Throughout Maus, Spiegelman uses animal character to depict human men behavior. Different inter-related animals are used to show the interconnection between different persons in the time of the holocaust. The Nazis are drawn as cats, Jews as mice, non Jewish Americans as dogs, whereas the Polish are drawn as pigs (Witek, 1989). This is unlike in green lantern, whereby cartoon characters are used as the main characters. The green lantern comic book involves super cops determined to maintain peace and justice in the city. These super cops possess green lanterns and power rings, which are the source of their power. The power rings are technological creations with magical abilities, which help users to create a solid wall for self protection. Additionally, the green lantern gives immense power and strength to users, making them super human (Witek, 1989). The plot of all green lantern comics has no historical background, but exaggerated depiction of current insecurities cities. Green lanterns have the strength and will power to combat all evils in the city, making them super heroes. This is dissimilar to Maus, the comic book by Spiegelman (Witek, 1989).
Spiegelman uses animal species to represent human beings, unlike the green lantern comic which uses cartoon characteristics. These animal characters have their heads resembling their animal equivalents, but their bodies resemble and are dressed as the human. This makes it more fascinating than other comic books using cartoon characters (Witek, 1989). Additionally, the plot of the story in Maus depicts a real life historical event, the holocaust, making the comic book different from the green lantern and more fascinating to read. However, the two comic books are similar in that, just as in other comic books, their story lines have issues of social concern. These are depicted using non human characters, since using human characters would deny the humor intended in comic books (Witek, 1989).
Spiegelman use these animal characters to depict the era of the holocaust, the period when the Nazi were killing the Jews. The book narrates the horrific ordeals of the period, such as the inhumane killings, hardships in Poland based concentration camps and makes a great limp in illustrating hardships experienced by survivors of the holocausts especially mental trauma (Witek, 1989). Additionally, the novel exemplifies different challenges faced by second generation holocaust survivors in understanding horrific ordeal underwent by their ancestor. Though the story line is mainly about the dreadful torments of the holocaust, the novel is a great manifestation of human suffering induced by man himself, the horrendous impact and impacts on successful generations.
The sixth chapter of the novel, `The mouse trap`, describes great escape from the ghetto by Anja and Vladek. According to the book, the two hid in barns and cellars of sympathetic poles, and planned to be smuggled from Poland to Hungary in March 1944, but were double crossed by the would be smugglers. In their confusion, the two are separated and put on crowded train cars headed to Auschwitz. Vladek reveals that Anja, his wife, had also documented her own holocaust memories which he burned after Anja committed suicide, a fact which infuriated Artie (Witek, 1989).
Maus is a great comic book, which has achieved its set objectives, with animal characters play a vital role in illustrating human nature at the time of the holocaust. These are carefully selected to illustrate the picture the cat (Nazis) is a natural enemy of the mouse (the Jews) and finds favor in killing her. This illustrates the extent to which the Nazi abhorred the Jews, to the point of driving satisfaction from persecuting them. The use of the non-traditional format of comic books has enabled Spiegelman force readers from pre-set conceptions of human nature at the time, an accomplishment which would be hard to achieve had he used human or cartoon characters (Witek, 1989).
As aforementioned, Maus is an exceptional piece of artwork, which moves beyond the role of comic books to educate and remind the reader of the holocaust era. Use of animal characters has helped attain the goal of the book, whereby the reader is forced to forget all preconceived belief about human character, edifying him about the effects of the holocaust to survivors, as well as the successful generation. The comic book is a good illustration of human sufferings and struggles as well as all horrendous impacts of these struggles and suffering to survivors and successful generations.
Witek, J. (1989). Comic books as history : the narrative art of Jack Jackson, Art Spiegelman, and Harvey Pekar. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.