Maus Creator Art Spiegelman Joins Occupy Comics’ Growing Chorus

Maus creator Art Spiegelman is the latest big name to join Occupy Comics, the graphic anthology that gives comics creators a platform for addressing the socioeconomic factors that spawned the Occupy protest movement.

Spiegelman is contributing an out-of-print 2001 cover from The New Yorker that presciently dissected America’s crumbling economy to Occupy Comics’ hardcover collection, slated to arrive in September.

Occupy Comics No. 1, the first comic book to come out of the ongoing project, steadfastly refuses to take political sides on the anti-Wall Street movement and the financial crisis that triggered the protest. The just-released comic – available in physical and digital bundles from indie publisher Black Mask Studios’ online store, with profits going to support the Occupy movement – serves up everything from how-tos for citizen journalists to pieces that place the multifaceted protest into historical perspective.

“The first issue drives home that this is about insightful reflections on the Occupy movement and its causes from a personal and nonpartisan point of view,” Occupy Comics organizer Matt Pizzolo told me. “Both parties are equally indicted. In my humble opinion, it never descends into polemic. It’s mainly a hopeful and positive book about unity and taking constructive action together.”

In issue No. 1, the spare but moving “Citizen Journalist,” by writer Ales Kot, artist Tyler Crook and colorist Jeromy Cox, shows observers ways to document the madness around them with smartly placed smartphones. Elsewhere in the comic, the dark, impressively dense “Casino Nation,” by writers Joshua Dysart and Kelly Bruce and artist Allen Gladfelter, deconstructs the White House and Wall Street’s disaster capitalism.

Other pieces fill in much-needed back stories, like the short “Exploitation: Our Noble Tradition,” by media surgeon Douglas Rushkoff and artist Dean Haspiel, and the longer “A History of Nonviolence,” from writer Caleb Monroe and artist Theo Ellsworth. Others, like Ben Templesmith’s horror standout “Clever,” are expressionist indictments of power and its abuses.

The ongoing collaborative effort continues to attract high-profile contributors, including Spiegelman, President Barack Obama’s so-called terrorist pal William Ayers – who with artist Ryan Alexander-Tanner released To Teach: The Journey, in Comics in 2010 – and indie satirist Matt Bors, whose topical smarts and prodding comics earned him a Pulitzer nomination this year.

They’re joined by well-traveled veteran Jimmy Palmiotti (The Pro, Jonah Hex) on an expanding roster that boasts indie and mainstream greats like Alan Moore and David Lloyd, whose prescient ’80s miniseries V for Vendetta provided Anonymous and the Occupy movement with their anarchopopulist iconography.

“Spiegelman created Maus, the first comic to ever win a Pulitzer, and he created Garbage Pail Kids,” Pizzolo said. “Pretty soon, we’ll have to stop adding new collaborators because all our heroes will already be on the team.”

Spiegelman – who said his New Yorker cover has only made more sense as “the bottom falls out of our economic system” – should fit in perfectly.

“I’m proud to be included in this book,” Spiegelman told me. “Occupy is the seismograph of things to come.”

“The image I drew over a decade ago seems to still be relevant,” Spiegelman said. “Occupy is one of the most significant things happening that could actually bring hope and change to our ravaged nation.”

This exclusive appeared in Wired