February 15: Art Spiegelman

Comic book artist and comic history meyvn Art Spiegelman (Itzhak Avraham ben Zev), winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his Holocaust chronicle, Maus, was born in Stockholm on this date in 1948. The son of Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors (temporary survivors, anyway; Spiegelman’s mother committed suicide when the artist was 20), he was inspired as a kid by the intensity and insurgent spirit of MAD magazine, and joined the underground comix world in the 1970s with autobiographical strips that presaged Maus. Published in two volumes in 1986 and 1991, Maus was an international sensation that finally established the comic book as literary genre, richly artistic and worthy of adult and critical attention. Spiegelman and his wife Françoise Mouly also produced Raw in the 1980s and early ’90s, which helped launch several writer-artists in their careers. From 1992 to 2001, he was a contributing artist for the New Yorker and saw twenty-one covers published, including his wonderful, notorious Valentine’s Day cover of a Black West Indian woman and a khasidic man kissing (in the wake of the Crown Height black-Jewish tensions of 1991). Spiegelman has also created several New Yorker strips celebrating comic book history. He received his second Eisner Award and was inducted into the Comic Books Hall of Fame in 1999.

“Comics are a gateway drug to literacy.” —Art Spiegelman

Prompted by the current retrospective at the Jewish Museum (closes March 23, 2014), Mitchell Abidor reviews the life and work of Art Spiegelman on Blog-Shmog.

Blues guitarist Mike Bloomfield (Butterfield Blues Band, Bob Dylan, Electric Flag) died of a drug overdose on this date in 1981. To see him playing in 1974 with the great Muddy Waters (looks like Junior Wells on harp, too!), see below.

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