Spiegelman Purposely Misses the Point Over His Book Being Banned (Again)


Cartoonist Spiegelman was interviewed by the UK Guardian (the kind of leftist periodical that he’s been quite chummy with in the past), and brought up a certain line of trading cards he had co-developed in the mid-80s:


In 1985, at the height of popularity for the faddish baby dolls, the Cabbage Patch Kids, the cartoonist Art Spiegelman debuted a subversive line of trading cards, the Garbage Pail Kids.

Featuring viscerally queasy drawings of, say, a mushroom cloud detonating from the roof of a cheery toddler’s skull, or a Raggedy Ann facsimile barfing up dinner into a pot, the Garbage Pail Kids were a sensation among edgy preteens all over the world. They were also swiftly banned in a slew of schools. To this day, Mexico has a law restricting the import and export of Garbage Pail Kids material.

“You know how Joe Manchin is a thorn in our side?” Spiegelman asked in a phone interview this week. “His uncle, A Jamie Manchin, was the state treasurer of West Virginia in the 80s. He said that Garbage Pail Kids should be banned because they’re subverting children. It runs in his family.

“It reminds me that things keep changing, but we’re still dealing with permutations of the same struggles.”



Oh, so he was one of the artists behind that crude series of cards. I hadn’t been clearly aware of that until recently. It may not be a good idea to ban them, but that still doesn’t make them tasteful. Honestly, in retrospect, the Garbage Pail Kids were some of the most disgusting products of their time, and children need to learn why their type of humor isn’t healthy. And then, wouldn’t you know it, the newspaper made sure to attack conservatives, and make it look like they’re the only ones behind this:


The latest permutation came last week, when the McMinn county board of education in Tennessee voted to remove Spiegelman’s 1991 Holocaust memoir, Maus, from its middle-school curriculum. Though the board cited the graphic novel’s use of non-sexual nudity and light profanity in defending its decision, the ban is part of a wave of scholastic censorship in the US, largely led by an agitated conservative movement and targeting books that deal with racism or LGBTQ issues.


So in other words, they’re trying to make it look like conservatives are opposed to education about the wrongs of racism, despite how a Republican president in the 19th century, Abraham Lincoln, abolished slavery stateside. By now, it goes without saying this is simply reprehensible they target conservatives, yet almost entirely exonerate liberals from any of this, even as they later cite an example of where liberals were concerned about an illustration Spiegelman did for the New Yorker magazine. The article reveals, most interesting:


But the author of the Pulitzer prize–winning graphic novel, which tells the story of his parents’ experience as Polish Jews during the Holocaust, traces his own free speech radicalism to a very different inflection point in America’s censorship wars. As a teenager, Spiegelman found himself siding with the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois, a town with a significant population of Holocaust survivors.

“The ACLU lost a lot of members because they defended their right to march,” he said. “And I just thought that seemed right. Let them march, and if there’s any more trouble, stop them. I thought that was a conversation that had to take place.

“It shaped me.”


Yet today, the ACLU is one of the worst apologists for all that’s gone wrong in the USA, and no longer supports pro-life centers or religious businesses, to name but some examples of their 360 degree shift in ideological backings. Okay, so Spiegelman believed that, so long as the march was non-violent, it was okay to allow it. Unfortunately, there’s only so many violent riots in liberal-governed cities of recent, that one has to wonder whether Spiegelman has any worries about those, and if he hasn’t spoken out, how come? It’s sad how leftists like him today, despite all that’s transpired over the years, choose to limit what they raise in discussion and tiptoe around the rest.


Spiegelman says that he and his peers drew much of their rage from the rampant censorship campaign that targeted the comics industry in the 1950s – a time when, due to federal pressure, publishing houses instituted the Comics Code, which repressed even the teensiest adversarial tone in the work of mainstream cartoonists.

“There were literally parents and clergymen gathering comic books from kids and burning them in bonfires,” he said. “We as cartoonists of that generation loved the salacious, raucous, uninhibited expression of id. … We wanted to topple every article of the Comics Code if we could.”


Has it ever occurred to him that this could happen again, as a horrifying incident in Ontario, Canada last year makes clear? And does he have any worries over how censorship of the kind they’re alluding to has been making a comeback in ways that make the censorship of the 50s look pathetically tame by comparison? Why, just look at how serious issues like Islamic terrorism have been virtually shut out of discussion in mainstream superhero comics for starters, but even indie writers and artists by and large rarely give it focus now, if at all. There don’t even seem to be any tributes to the families of victims in the years since.


Spiegelman hasn’t exclusively rankled political conservatives. In 1993, in the aftermath of the Crown Heights riots, he drew a cover for the New Yorker that featured a Hasidic man and a Black woman bonded by a passionate kiss. The imagery ruffled feathers, even within traditionally liberal enclaves. Spiegelman recalls one baffling criticism from a member of the New Yorker editorial staff, who believed that his cover depicted a Hasidic man hiring an escort. (That clearly was not the case.)


Yet today, Spiegelman probably wouldn’t do things like disturb liberals now, seeing how he’s obsessed with demonizing conservatives all the more. And for somebody supposedly concerned about the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust, he didn’t seem worried about the USA suffering anything remotely similar:


A decade later, in 2002, Spiegelman struggled to find a domestic home for his 9/11-themed anthology of comics called In the Shadow of No Towers. Eventually he was forced to take it overseas to the German newspaper Die Zeit, due to what Spiegelman believes was the frothing jingoism that gripped the country after the attack.

“It was saying the unsayable. There’s one big panel in the second or third installment of In The Shadow of No Towers where I’m trying to take a nap at my drawing table. Osama bin Laden is on my left with a scimitar, while George W Bush is on my right with a gun to my head,” he says. “I think one of the people at the New Yorker said that I was crazy, that I was talking about those two things as equal threats. When that got back to me I said, ‘No, you’re right. America is a much larger threat.’


Ugh. This is exactly what’s disturbing about Spiegelman’s leftism, in a nutshell. He considers the USA no better than Islamic countries on the surface, yet it’s not like he’s actually ran any serious criticism of the latter ever since the 2001 tragedy. Has it ever occurred to him he’s desecrating the memory of victims of 9-11 as a result? Why, has he ever even met any members of 9-11 Families for a Safe & Strong America in the years since? This is exactly why there’s no genuine respect on the left for actual victims of violence.


Now Spiegelman is gearing up for the same war he’s been fighting since he first started drawing cartoons more than 50 years ago. The characters and context have changed, but his core ethics have not. In fact, the more I talked to Spiegelman, the more I got the sense that the Maus censorship has shaken him more than any of his previous brushes against authority. When you consider the many years children have turned to the book to better understand the Holocaust, it’s not hard to understand why.


Well is he willing to fight for the integrity of various other famous creations, like Marvel/DC, or even the rights of indie creators whose work could be shunned by Image and Dark Horse? Is he willing to fight for the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, among whom several staffers were violently murdered in a jihad attack in Paris 7 years ago? If he’s only fighting for his own properties, he’s not being altruistic.


I hope that dawning reality adds some clarity to the culture war, which is why it’s reassuring to watch Maus blast off to the top of the sales charts. The conceit that the left consists exclusively of nosy schoolmarms, while the right is united in first amendment patriotism, has surely been rendered counterfeit by now.

“This week has been like, ‘Well, who’s the snowflake now?’” said Spiegelman. Let’s keep those words in mind.


I’m sorry to say, but I think the paper’s own writer is a snowflake, if he’s implying conservatives are the problem here. This only takes away seriousness from the edge. But, what else could you expect from such a reprehensible newspaper?



Spiegelman’s notable graphic novel was also brought up by Front Page Magazine in a look at how children’s literature has become exploited for shoving LGBT indoctrination down everyone’s throats, and it points out how, in sharp contrast to Maus, there’s some very horrific books containing nudity, vulgarity and profanity that are kept on the school bookshelves unquestioned, apparently because they involve LGBT propaganda:


While the vigorous debate over race and the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in public schools has garnered an enormous amount of attention, less visible but equally as troubling is the increased adoption of books whose language, subject matter, illustrations, and general tone are so sexually charged and so graphic that a school board’s concern about a drawing of a naked mouse or some off-hand swearing by Holden Caufield seems disingenuous at best and hypocritical at worst.

A whole collection of new titles has been published as part of a campaign to normalize extremes of sexual behavior, to expose even young students to discussions about sexuality and physical relationships, to advance tolerance for and acceptance of gay and even deviant lifestyles and behavior, and for a pervading attitude that anyone’s difference and uniqueness—no matter how obscure or aberrant—should be discussed and embraced by everyone. This is part of a wide campaign that educators have taken on as something they believe is their right and duty to promote and teach, resulting in a variety of what many think are inappropriate, even offensive books that have found their way into school libraries, reading lists, and classrooms.

But it is the language that is troublesome here, not the oft-repeated critique of American society. At a September meeting of the board of the Leander Independent School District in Texas, the vulgarity and blatant sexuality of the book was exposed by a concerned parent who read passages from it and questioned why her child had found a book like this in his school library.

[…] KTTH-AM host Jason Rantz revealed that in a display for Pride Month, Zeiger Elementary School in Puyallup, Washington included Felix Ever After, a book that focuses on “top surgery.” The book, according to Rantz, is “a book with prolific drugs, sex, and vulgarity,” not to mention the fact that it promotes a controversial sex-altering surgery performed here on a minor. On top of that, the book is replete with swears and obscenity. “The F-word is present in this book 66 times in the first 90 pages, local activist Dawn Land said at a recent board meeting. “Considering that a movie that [says] the F-word more than once is automatically rated R, this book should not be anywhere near any school in this district.”

Apparently, if you are a “Black, queer, and transgender teen who faces transphobia,” you can swear with impunity, just as a gay, bi-racial Mexican character can engage in gay sex and describe oral sex sessions with another child and that content is acceptable because of the victim status of the books’ subjects.

[…] Something is clearly amiss when school boards and teachers purge their reading lists and libraries of classic works of fiction that have proven educational value and merit, even if they are peppered with occasional swears or slurs, including the n-word, but words that are appropriate to the narratives and even helpful in making the point of the stories. If an illustration of a naked mouse in a significant novel about the Holocaust is considered too controversial, but pedophilia, rape, and graphic depictions of oral sex by minors are somehow acceptable because the characters are members of protected identity groups, then the wrong standards are being applied to the literary works schools adopt for teaching its students.


Indeed, this is telling quite a bit about the double-standards at work here, which affected even Spiegelman’s graphic novel. Is he aware of this? Because if the school boards claim the profanity and nudity in his GN renders it unacceptable, yet believe the same elements are perfectly acceptable in the other books cited emphasizing LGBT ideology, then it’s clear their “morality” stems from racial contempt and acceptance of select victimology instead. If Spiegelman has nothing against privileged leftist groups and their minions indoctrinating children with such horrific ideas, how does he expect to ensure his graphic novel won’t also be a casualty?

The Times of Israel says Spiegelman also gave a webinar conference about this incident of the past few weeks, but there’s no mention whether he’s aware of the ironies here:


Art Spiegelman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the iconic Holocaust book “Maus,” on Monday blamed authoritarian political trends and petty parental grievances for the book’s removal from a Tennessee school’s curriculum last month.

The decision by the McMinn County school board set off a firestorm of criticism and sparked a national discussion about antisemitism and Jewish identity in the US.

Spiegelman spoke during a remote call Monday night with representatives of Jewish and Christian groups in Tennessee. Organizers said over 10,000 viewers tuned into the discussion.

He said he had pored over the minutes of the school board members’ meeting minutes to discern their motive for removing the book from the school’s curriculum. He said he believes they did so due to politics, an authoritarian bent and a desire to whitewash history, as well as petty grievances.

He pointed out that the school district had no problems with “Maus” until very recently.

“I’m distressed to find that’s changed in the midst of strong political headwinds that are burning books, literally,” he said. “They are trying to readjust our curricula to terrify librarians, book readers and teachers.”


Well does he think it’s a “petty” grievance when parents are concerned the school staffs are indoctrinating their kids with far-left ideologies like LGBT propaganda and even themes of sexual abuse played for cheap sensationalism? Are those the teachers he speaks of? He also noted:


He said some of the parents on the board wanted to teach the Holocaust in a way that made the US look good, and said that was tied to other recent trends in US education.

He said one board member commented: “What we need is a book that shows the patriotism we can proudly feel for having liberated the Jews from the camps.” Spiegelman pointed out that the US was reluctant to join the war and put a stop to the persecution of Jews, and that it was the Russians who liberated Auschwitz, where his father had been held.


On that note, does he know Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat president, was antisemitic and never made a proper effort to defend European Jewish communities during WW2? Some of the things he said or did in the past century were very repellent. Do these schools even teach about that? It’s not clear from this report. If Spiegelman remains a leftist after this whole affair, and has no remorse over how he implied the USA was worse than the Islamic terrorism that struck on September 11, 2001, what good is all this protest?


The Anchorage Daily News published an op-ed about this, and wouldn’t you know it, they too parrot the liberal narrative that the conservatives are the literal driving force here:


As noted by other writers and analysts, the district’s decision to ban “Maus” is part of broader conservative efforts to control classroom curriculum and “ban” certain books and topics of discussion. But putting “Maus” at the center of these conversations sparks another set of debates, one born of the comics medium itself.

Censorship has a long history when it comes to the comics industry, with 20th-century critics of comics claiming to protect young readers by censoring comics on the basis of language and imagery. Yet, buzzwords like “obscenity,” “nudity” and “decency” distract from a more sinister argument driving the censorship of comics: that progressive, accessible storytelling is somehow dangerous in the hands of young readers.


So, is that saying leftist ideology isn’t dangerous, but rather, that conservative ideology is, in every way? It sure sounds like it. This is not doing any good by singling out rightists while exonerating leftists. I suppose if there were a story written up about why it’s good for men and women to fall in love on a consensual basis, and this encountered censorship, the leftists would turn their backs and refuse to defend it? They go on to discuss the censorship of the 50s, including the Wertham influence, and say:


For example, the 1952 “Shock SuspenStories” series featured a number of these protest comics, also known as “preachies,” specifically designed to make readers think about the consequences of hate and prejudice. The series included stories that featured Black men tried and executed for crimes they did not commit, stories of Black soldiers being denied burial rights in local cemeteries after World War II and stories of white, non-Jewish characters terrorizing their Jewish neighbors. The hope was that the “shocking” nature of these story lines, which intentionally reflected contemporary social issues, would inspire real-world change.



This fails to note one of the tales from Shock SuspenStories featuring a blind man getting killed at a patriotic march by more than one character, in what leftists like to call “jingoism” today. It was very farfetched, and honestly embarrassing. Worst, it made patriots out to look like they’re lethally violent towards anybody who dares stray off the path. It was certainly weird how Wertham failed to realize that, and argued instead that such a tale could indoctrinate children into becoming violent themselves, when it could actually do something worse. The op-ed continues:


General Standards Part C Guideline No. 1 banned “profanity, obscenity, smut, (and) vulgarity.” Guidelines under the label “Costumes” banned “nudity in any form,” along with “indecent or undue exposure.” There would be no sex or homosexuality. There would be no violence. There would be no criminal activity. There would be no drug use, no scenes of torture and no story of evil triumphing over the forces of good.

There also would be no Black protagonists. For example, the CCA refused to approve the sci-fi comic “Judgment Day!” in 1956. The comic featured a helmeted astronaut encountering a society of orange and blue robots with intense segregation practices, despite the robots all being made with identical parts. In the final scenes of the issue, in which one robot asks whether there is any hope for their society to move past segregation, the astronaut assures them that they will undoubtedly learn to live together just as the citizens of Earth had. He later returns to his rocket and removes his helmet, revealing to the reader that he is Black.

CCA administrators denied approval of the striking anti-segregationist story, subsequently stopping its continued publication. When asked why, administrators replied: “You can’t have a Negro.” “Where in the Code does it say that I can’t depict a Negro?” asked “Judgment Day!” editor Al Feldstein.

The administrator replied again: “I say you can’t have a Negro.”

As this incident demonstrated, once a comic could be censored for language and imagery, it could be censored for any language or image, including ones that depicted a Black man in a position of power or that preached a message of justice or equality. So was the official, and unofficial, letter of the censorship rules.


And today, censorship’s come roaring back in the form of a union at Image Comics. But predictably, nobody in the MSM will observe the issue objectively, and ask whether that’s healthy. And it makes no difference that Howard Chaykin is a leftist himself; if the left wants to throw one of their own under the bus, they’ll do it in a jiffy, surely under the confidence the leftist in question will never change allegiances or make a convincing case in public about how the liberal movements have been flooded with undesirables hell-bent on dismantling their hard work.


The CCA officially disbanded in 2011, long after its stranglehold on the comics industry had ended. But its impact has, apparently, remained. McMinn County has not banned the teaching of the Holocaust — although board members did toy dangerously with the idea of cutting the unit entirely from the curriculum. The district has, instead, cast its decision in the same language of decency, calling for the censored, “sound” and “wholesome” history that “Maus” is not. The board’s decision adheres to a set of codes nearly 70 years removed from the event, calling back to a moment in which “decency” was about more than language or nudity, no matter what the rules claimed.


Yes, the impact remains, but nobody’s willing to complain about how deep things run in the establishments on the left that led to this, and made universities a bad influence producing this kind of monstrosity. Not even Spiegelman himself. So how do they think this’ll be solved if they only make it sound like conservatives are guilty, not liberals? Unfortunately, despite most suggestions to the contrary, chances are high they have no true interest in solving the problem, and within another decade or three, most of the books and graphic novels they’re supposedly defending today will be thrown under the bus tomorrow.


Originally published here.

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1