Comics trivialize Holocaust?

Germancomic
CNN international presents a video report the the holocaust comic book we’ve mentioned here previously. Produced by the Anne Frank Center and drawn by Eric Heuvel in full-on clear line style, the comic is intended to give German schoolchildren a primer in the horrors of the Holocaust. However, according to the video, some experts feel using the comic book medium will trivialize the event. This is an old school argument, and it could be argued that the Tintin-inspired imagery isn’t the gut-punch that some would prefer, the idea that comics are inherently frivolous is one that we suspect will be protested loudly.

Comments

  1. No need to protest loudly. All you have to do is quietly squeak, “Maus.”

  2. Aaron Nowack says:

    That was my first thought also.

  3. I agree. We are at the point where we can comfortably ignore the nay-sayers.

  4. If anything, the juxtaposition in Maus of traditional comic book/cartoon images like talking mice with such horrific real-life subject matter really shocked me and had a great impact on me as a child.

    When I was working on Classics Illustrated for Acclaim Comics, I remember a story in which we were considering doing an original comic adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank but the medium was considered not “proper” enough for such a serious story. I don’t remember if it was the copyright holders on the work that told us this, or if this was a story about a different publisher requesting to do the comic and getting turned down — I just remember the element that it wasn’t considered a proper medium for the story and we didn’t get to do it.

  5. I don’t think we can ignore the nay-sayers — these people are insidious and it is folly to ignore them — but now more than ever we can respond from a position of strength and confidence, using the many and growing examples of excellent graphic stories which have successfully tackled many difficult topics.

  6. Alexa says:

    Scott, I agree completely. I’m sure if you go back in the opinion columns, you’ll find people decrying Holocaust films because they thought Hollywood would sugarcoat and glamorize the suffering that went on; needless to say, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone nowadays who would suggest the same.

    Incidentally, I was just in Amsterdam a week ago, and almost bought some of those comics, but I decided to go for the beautiful museum-exclusive edition of her diary. Flipping through them, though, I made a mental note that if I ever had children, I would have to send for them when it came time to teach my children about the Holocaust.

    I do find it curious that the video never even mentions Maus. Seriously, how much effort does it take to say, “In 1992, Jewish-American cartoonist Art Spiegelman won a Pulitzer Prize for his comic book retelling of his father’s experience in Nazi concentration camps.” Perhaps they thought it would skew the balance of the argument too much in our favor :)

  7. Andrew Davis says:

    Nothing like the news to give you sound bites and little information. To really understand whether the book has merit would require a full reading of it. If there are artistic or narrative issues, that’s a completely different thing than the fact that the Holocaust is being presented in a comic book. Nice to know, Alexa, that they looked good on first sight.
    Blistering barnacles, that stuff looks like it was drawn by Herge himself! Maus’ grittier style did seem fitting for the subject, but anyway…
    …it’s just interesting how much it looks like Tintin…

  8. Brian says:

    I agree Andrew, it did look alot like the Tin tin work (perhaps too light for such a subject and that may be where the true controvery comes in).
    One of the big fears with showing these historical events in comics form is that it the imagery becomes symbollic and not actual as it is in photographs or film of these horrible events. As Scott McLeod suggests in his Understanding Comics book, illustrations/cartoons of people are symbols with which we relate and personify with. They are great for relating to, but when we show a historical event we need to be certain not to do too much exaggeration for the sake of the drama of the story, or else it will invalidate everything we hope to acomplish through our storytelling. Unfortunately we live in a society where we have megalomaniacs and racist-radicals who denounce that these events actually occured. When presented with real life photos and film of real people suffering in unbelievably cruel ways (as harsh as they are to see) no one can claim that this did not occur or downplay the severity of human suffering-it is evident and apparent.
    I am all for the use of comics in education and I feel that they certainly have their rightful place, but I do feel that they are best used for telling more intimate and personal stories (or retelling of individuals stories as was the case with Maus), as opposed to being used for the ONLY source for factual and historical information. They should be used as supplimental material to accompany the undeniably real evidence photos and documents of these horrific events. I was exposed to these images at a very young age and I never forgot the crimes that were perpetrated on these people. I think the art of comics can create a very personal and dramatic story, but for stories such as this, it is important to have these real images burned into our memories so we never forget.
    So to sunnarize my long rants:
    Comics =great format for Expression and personal stories (Maus or perhaps an illustrated Anne Frank diary), but just can’t be used to replace the images of real people suffering that the film and photos of WWII provide. That is not to say they shouldn’t accompany the historical information, rather they should be used to relate more personal and expressive stories for students to relate with and provide better comprehension of what it was like to live through those horrific events.

  9. Chris Prievo says:

    I find the comics “trivialize” comment is down right insulting. CHeck OUT JOE Kubert’s Yossel. That will shut those critics up!!! it provokes the same “Gut-wrenching” emotion as Steven Speilberg’s Schindler’s List. I think Yossel Should be required to be read in schools all over.

  10. Writing Coach says:

    I agree with Brian (028 above)… an illustrated telling of Anne Frank’s experience while in hiding would make a great SUPPLEMENT. But that is what any good teacher WOULD use it as – only an irresponsible idiot would consider it the sole curriculum. As a veteran English teacher, I am appalled at the “interest grabbing” video provided by our text book series – I expected more. The video in question interviews survivors and that’s it… no original photos, no horrific tales, no archival film footage… so even STATE ADOPTED SUPPLEMENTS still do not tell the tale sufficiently.

    Being a non-comics person, I wonder if a “graphic novel” could be created that would juxtapose one or more pages of comic book telling of the Frank’s hiding with actual photo coverage of what it was they were trying to avoid by hiding out. NOW THAT! would leave a lasting memory of an often undertaught subject… not just Anne Frank, but the whole era.

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