Spiegelman Speaks

Art Spiegelman is the author of Maus for which he won a special Pulitzer in 1992. Kathleen McGee interviewed him when he visited Minneapolis in 1998.


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conduit: Are you still working with The New Yorker?

art spiegelman: I’m still doing stuff for The New Yorker as an artist.

conduit: But not overseeing the comic art?

spiegelman: No, well my wife is there. She’s the cover art editor but not for my covers since it’s a conflict of interest. I was originally hired as a contributing editor as well but I quit.

conduit: Why?

spiegelman: There was always an issue with something I was asked to do that wouldn’t get used. Like the cover was too weird.

conduit: Like what?

spiegelman: Like the cover I did about the O.J. Simpson trial. The verdict is out and I get an emergency call asking me to do something for the cover. I said I would rather sit this one out since I just had problems with a cover I had done.

conduit: Which one? The Hasidic Jew?

spiegelman: No, the Crucified Easter Bunny. They insisted that I do it, so I said I’ll give it a shot. I came up with something I really liked. Tina Brown needed to have something pretty strong because the verdict came out and she had a double issue on home furnishings or something like that. She had to follow everyone else, so she needed something to arrest attention. I handed it in. She saw it in rough sketch form and said this is great. The image was a bloody gloved-hand holding some playing cards. The top card was a king/queen card, and the card facing up was the O.J. of spades with minstrel, Al Jolson lips, and the opposite was the KKK of clubs which was a L.A. policeman with a Klu Klux Klan mask on. Behind that was a credit card. The caption was "Gender Card Beats Race Card Unless Player Holds Gold Card." I get it done in record time and was feeling relieved and proud that I had made it happen. Then I get a call:

"Sorry, Art, but we’re not going to be able to use it."

"Wait, I remember talking to you on Friday night. I remember asking you, ‘Are you sure, are you really sure?’"

"Yes, but I showed it to Skip Gates and he didn’t think it was in good taste, and he has an article in the issue."

I said wait a minute you didn’t ask me if his article was in good taste.

conduit: I’m interested in why you are connected with The New Yorker and Details because in some interviews you were critical of mass culture; these are magazine that try to reach the greatest number of people.

spiegelman: I don’t have a problem as long as they publish work worth publishing.

conduit: Do you want to change what kind of information gets through?

spiegelman: What information and how information gets out. They [The New Yorker] did a few great picture reports like the Fashion issue where they had a sketchbook report about sweatshops by Sue Coe. They had another issue where early on when the Branch Davidian thing was happening Gary Panters, a cartoonist who is from the Waco area, was sent down to do a sketchbook report. Those are great.

conduit:Are you going to continue producing similar material for The New Yorker?

spiegelman: I can do it for The New Yorker or for Details. Actually my situation is lucky. I’m an exempted case—I’m not considered a cartoonist anymore.