No Fiore–No Towers

(My friend Jamo returns with another peek at the great big comix world beyond my sadly superblinkered purview!)


Here it is Fiore – about a week late but pain on your baby toe if you complain buddy. Sorry if my political bent comes through too loudly. I’m like ol’ Will O’Reilly hunting out the truth but failing to do any of the actual leg work. Willy, this one’s for you. (please print this as well)

In The Shadow Of No Towers – Art Spiegelman

The back cover of Art Spiegelman’s new book In The Shadow of No Towers is a mess. A goat who – not surprisingly – looks like Osama Bin Laden is kicking the shadows of old comic book characters all over the place. Krazy Kat, Charlie Brown, Little Lulu, they’re all air born, in different degrees of revolution. I can see part of Offisa Pup as he falls off the face of the boo back into our world. They’re part of the news story that didn’t make CNN or Fox when the Twin Towers collapsed, this “disinterred the ghosts of some sunday supplement stars” (8). They’re not free to run amok though, not as far as Spiegelman’s concerned. For him, their role is one of guide to mediate the No Towers world which he is a citizen of.

Spiegelman is no longer the distanced observer of history as he was in Maus. He is now an ill-prepared participant in History as it unfolds blocks away from his home. This is not a cohesive story, No Towers is a op-ed piece of comic biography (or the almost indefinable Current Affairs label on the bar code). This is Spiegelman’s dialgoue with us, with America, and himself. A dialogue that tries to find ground but which keeps falling from under it.

The image in the comic that can be used as a template for the entire comic is not the skeletal red tower weaving, almost dancing as it falls, but the picture found in Strip 8 of a miniture Spiegelman drilling a hole into a large cracked head of Spiegelman while nearby a mallet bearing George W. Bush happily looks on, and unbeknowst to him, the Statue of Liberty is pulled away by a crane (bye bye freedom bye bye). Spiegelman narrates: “I’ve consumed “News” till my brain aches. The papers have confirmed that the towers I saw really did fall.” This confirmation is stretching those cracks in his head because this official confirmation from the papers gets Spiegelman no closer to comprehending what happened to him. In Strip 2, Spiegelman – in Mouse mask – is slumped in front of a poster declaring his brain missing “last seen in Lower-Manhattan, mid-September 2001.” No side offers him support, he’s lost his identity, and his brain has just taken the last bus to Canada.

He tries retracing his steps, recounting where he was the moment the first plane hit. Unlike Spiegelman’s father in Maus, who begrudingly told his story, Spiegelman himself is the problem. He cannot pull the events into a coherent order. So each strip is really several strips. Some three panel stories (The New Normal) or one panel (Waiting for the other shoe to Drop). This is Spiegelman as reporter, each Strip representive – not of the comics page – but an comic version of the newspaper. This is his official confirmation of the events. Not Fox, not CNN, not, ulp, Dan Rather and CBS’ confirmation.

The incoherence of these comics is what should be celebrated. The Twin Towers event isn’t just a terrorist attack by Al Quaeda, sponsored by Bin Laden to punish America. Three years later look how far away the United States has gotten from that scenario. Now Bush has Americans in Iraq, he has them in Afganistan, they’re thinking about Iran, North Korea. Spiegelman, doing his impression of a cheerleader in red tank top and blue starred mini-skirt. says “I can’t seem to get with the program…if I won anything, I suppose it got lost in the mail” (Strip 8). The first question is how can Spiegelman get with the program when they’re so many of them being thrown at us – convoluting already convoluted situations.

The second, and this one I’ll answer, is what programs are U.S. citizens watching. At 5 pm, September 11, 2004, Fox News was running a segment on Celebrity Justice – Are Celebrities getting away with murder! ABC was running College Football, CNN was hurricane alerts, and Bravo was Queer Eye for The Straight Guy. Of all the programs on the third anniversary, only the Queer Eyes make sense. They’re showing us that we can clean ourselves up and live again. What we can learn from the television that day is that it’s business as usual, now that those ol’ Twin Towers ain’t pulling the ratings in like they used to. The dust has settled and everyone has to move on. Get the economy rolling, go shopping, cheer on the fab five as they get a touch down.

The comic supplement at the end of No Towers appears to be another of these diversions. Spiegelman’s choices aren’t real escapes. The Yellow Kid in “The War Scare in Hogan’s Alley” where children are lined up ready for war. Or “The Glorious Fourth of July” which ends in explosions, mayhem, and a character stating: “I detest the fourth of July.” Even Little Nemo gets into the action, as he walks through a scaled down New York, and one of his oversized friends topples sky scrapers. These comic characters who’ve escaped to help Spiegelman have ended up reinforcing his insecurities.

Orange Alert! Orange Alert! Terrorist Ignatz the Mouse is on the loose! Offisa W. Pup help! Krazy Kat in trouble! (Igantz throws his brick. Krazy hit. Pup arrests Ignatz. Repeat. Yikes if that’s a world scenario.)

Jamie Popowich

(And daring readers don’t forget on the back of the first Krazy Kat Collection from Fantagraphics Spiegelman makes an analogy about Ignatz being like Osama Bin Laden)

Good Afternoon Friends!


One comment

  1. “The incoherence of these comics is what should be celebrated.”

    I agree! I think the book is one of the more effective evocations of a state of mind I’ve seen in recent comics…


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