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In the shadow of no towers


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Three years ago today the nation, the world, was shocked when the twin towers of the World Trade Center, New York's symbol of power and wealth, were destroyed in a terrorist attack.


Art Spiegelman, the creator of the Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel about Nazism, Maus, is one of the lower Manhattan denizens who witnessed the tragedy.


It has taken years for the artist to put his thoughts and feelings about the attack down in paper and paint, after living and working in the great shadow cast by the towers.


This week, his collection of those thoughts about life after the towers were destroyed is collected in a powerful, oversized book In the Shadow of No Towers (Pantheon Books, $19.95). Spiegelman, who confesses that he finds drawing comics a daunting task, marvels at newspaper editorial cartoonists who can generate a comic each day that is both funny and pithy.


Spiegelman produced 10 huge statements, each sprawling over a double-page spread in this already oversized book and printed on thick cardboard. Even the feel of the book is massive. Each page feels heavy, worthy, lasting, like the towers themselves had been for so long.


These are not "Rah-Rah" pro-American statements, but heartfelt observations from one who lived so close to ground zero. Many of the comics are sharply critical of the Bush administration for co-opting the tragedy and turning it political grist.


The political satire is right up there with Bill Maher and Michael Moore.


The underlying theme of an ever-present fear fostered by the administration is belied by the contradictory exhortations to shop and act like everything is normal - but watch out behind you.


"How can they be so complacent?" Spiegelman's character asks while lying in a bed with a dozen others. "How can they sleep. I know they're on meds of some kind, but don't they know the world is ending?"


Elsewhere on the page, another cartoon called "Weapons of Mass Displacement" discusses how the nation demolished Iraq when Al-Quaeda could not be found and how the mayor of New York tried to relieve Manhattanites' anxiety about breathing the toxic, post 9/11 air, by outlawing smoking in bars and restaurants.


Spiegelman's recurring image of confused pigeons walking around the place where their Twin Towers home had been is juxtaposed with people acting the same way.


The original strips ran in newspapers and magazines in 2002 and 2003, such as "Die Ziet" in Germany and other European periodicals. In America, "World War III magazine," the "L.A. Weekly" and the "Chicago Weekly."


The last seven pages of the book, most of them double-paged comic strips from the turn-of-the-century (the 1900s, not 2000) that demonstrate how the U.S. acted in previous times of stress. Many of them feature towers ("Bringing Up Father" from 1921) ("Little Nemo in Slumberland" from 1907) camel-riding Arabs ("Is This Abdullah, the Arab Chief?" from 1911and a 1906 huge panel featuring immigrants leaving America as Lady Liberty waves farewell.


The cover of the book is the striking image of black towers set against a slighter blacker background, Spiegelman's powerful cover that ran in The New Yorker just days after the 9/11 attack.


I can't wait to go look for this one at a nearby bookstore soon...some are complaining that its only about 42 oversized pages or so, and that the price is too high for older comics & such. If that's the case, Amazon has it for $14. It's their sixth best-selling item right now.

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Ive read some really good stuff about this one. Haven't actaully read Maus but will certainly pick it up when I have some spare moolah.


Won't bother writing a fresh thread for it, but the new Eightball by Daniel Clowes is out and I really can't recommend it highly enough. Its only about $7 so no excuses. :D


Irish, did you ever get around to trying any Daniel Clowes?

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MLB - couldnt find that eightball one you mentioned, so beyond Ghost World, fraid not, m'friend...any recommendations?


Jax - Maus is indeed classic, but its not like the man's tryin to outshine it every time....it sucks when someone reviews an Alan Moore book and goes "fuck, its no Watchmen!".

Dammit, i lost my Alan Moore thread in the crash, now that i think bout it.


Anyway, for $14, im thinkin of gettin a copy....wonder what SB's thoughts are here?

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...any recommendations?


In my humble opinion the best comic of the genre is 'Jimmy Corrigan: The smartest kid on earth' by Chris Ware. Its won quite a few titles in the literary world and deserved every one of them.


Otherwise, while Ghost World was good, Daniel Clowes' next serial, David Boring I believe was even better.


Also really enjoying the Battle Royale manga at the moment but the series will set you back a pretty penny.


..Oh yeah and Global Frequency is pretty good.


Man I love comics :D


I'm pretty excited about trying Maus now, will certainly pick it up soon.

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Jax - Maus is indeed classic, but its not like the man's tryin to outshine it every time....it sucks when someone reviews an Alan Moore book and goes "fuck, its no Watchmen!"

No doubt, btu that's not what I was saying. I wasn't bashing this book, I was just saying that if you haven't read Maus, you should pick that up before goign for this one. I didn't say this one was lame because it's no Maus. If you've read Maus and liked it, check this new book out, but the description of this book doesn't make it sound like somethign worth reading yet if you haven't read Maus yet. I hate it when people see Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back and then don't feel compelled to check out Clerks or Chasing Amy. If they saw Clerks or Chasing Amy first, they've get into Kevin Smith.

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  • 11 months later...

....so no, this one turned out to not be anywhere near "Maus", as its a collection of small comics & rants by Spigelman. It has the arthouse feel of both DC and the indy works on 9-11 books, thought it foucses more on Spigelman's neurosis following the event.


Enjoyable, but pretty heavy-handed left leaning (he's no fan of bush), and its definitely more readable from the distance of a few years since said incident, there's a small handful of panels that'd been rough back then.

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  • 3 years later...

In The Shadow of No Towers was pretty intense. I think Spiegleman's specific kind of neurosis has a tendency to "infect" me. It's pro'bly just really good writing, but everytime I'm reading any Spiegleman I want to chain smoke.


Man, this is an old ass thread I'm bumpin'.



I agree with everything they say.

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