Reading a comic online was very different than reading one in print. In the first few issues (mostly 1 and 2) I didn’t mind the interface at all, and the ability to see all the pages all at once was very interesting. However, as I kept reading I had more problems. Once there was more dialog and longer passages to read I had to keep zooming in to read the words and then zoom back out to actually see the page. It got very frustrating for me. I like that when you are reading something in print you can see everything at once, and if you focus on one part you don’t have to spend so long scrolling and zooming to see it. The interface really interfered for me. I am willing to say that the interface may not be such a challenge on normal sized screens, but on my net book it was a huge failure. The interface became my main focus rather than story. The fact that this is the first thing we read in serial form may have also added to my frustration. I got tired of having to stop reading, click the back button, click the next issue, and open it and then read. Maybe if we had read more shorter works rather than longer compilations that would not have phased me, but since we haven’t I got distracted.
Over all the constant need to zoom in to read the words then zoom out to see the pictures plus the constant need to open the next issue caused a frustration that overpowered the story. I never connected with the characters, I was too busy trying to read the comic. I never cared about Lee or her father or Lilly or Bayou…. I didn’t care about the story.
Had I been reading this for pleasure I may have read to issue three. After that I would have stopped. Why? Because reading should not be about keystrokes. I like to read when reading, not have to maneuver around in a desperate attempt to catch everything: I could easily read with out being able to read the dialog or without seen the images, neither was a good option and being able to see both proved more frustrating than my enjoyment of the novel.
I would read Bayou in print. But online, it just didn’t work for me.
There was a single page in Maus II that really got my attention and held it. On page 28, Vladek meets a priest who gives him hope in the camp. As a Catholic my first thought was “Oh my God! Its Maximilian Kolbe!” Kolbe is a Catholic Saint who was in Auschwitz. He was Polish and the priest in the novel is drawn as a pig (so he was a Pole). Well, as it turns out the priest Vladek met could not have been Kolbe because he was killed in 1941, but the page was still striking to me and I began to think about why.
There are two reasons this page was important. The first is that it, in a small way, widens who the story is about. The priest is not Jewish. And I think Spiegelman may have included it to show others who were in the camp. It also heightens the fact that within Auschwitz’s walls the traditional divides between people fade. In a survival situation most of the bias people has is stripped away to reveal the best (the priest and Mancie) and the worst (Yidl) in people. The priest is a great example of this not only because he reaches out and gives Vladek hope, but because it is a Catholic reaching out to a Jewish man. The relationship between Catholics and Jews has not always been the best and in 1944 there was still a great deal of tension between the two religions. Yet, the priest does not see Vladek as an enemy, but a fellow human in need of hope. Spiegelman includes this story to resonate with more people and highlight how people react in extreme circumstances.
There is a concept within Maus that I find particularly captivating. We discussed it in class on Tuesday with our discussion on the animals as “masks”. As I stated in class I think there is much more to these animal distinctions than simply a mask. They are a clear way to show just how divided by race Europe was and in some ways still is(see France’s treatment of the Roma people and of French born Muslims). The argument that the animals are about nationalism has some merit, but does not address the face that there are Polish and German Jews, but they are all drawn as rats/mice. Since there is no Jewish “state” I find it hard to believe the choice to draw peoples as different animals is solely about nationalism. I think that may play a part but it goes deeper. No matter what the mice do within Maus they are still mice. Put a pig mask on under you are still a mouse. No matter what Spiegleman’s father does he is still Jewish. This part of him cannot be removed. The same way the color of an individual’s eyes cannot be changed, or the color of one’s skin can’t be changed etc. Please note that I do not in any way mean this in a critical sense. I am not saying Jewish people should try to somehow disconnect from their past and their race. I am simply saying that you cannot completely separate yourself from ethnicity. The choice to show each ethnic group of people as different animals not only plays with the connotations those animals posses but it is also an easy way to show that an individual cannot choose to truly be a different ethnic group. The same way that under a pig mask is still a mouse.
Kyle Baker, the writer/artist of Nat Turner, discusses why he chose to self publish Nat Turner in an this interview.
In the interview he brings up the idea of the black Holocaust and how important it was to him to educate people about it. He also said that he didn’t make it political. He states the images are “visual and human, not political”. I’m not sure that a reader can completely ignore the political aspects of the novel, though. Is it human? of course, but I think there is a political edge too. Maybe Baker didn’t make the novel political on purpose but I believe it is political just the same. After all, having an opinion on any controversy is political in some way.