American cartoonist Art Spiegelman, best known for his Holocaust graphic novel “Maus,” has said he pulled an essay from a Marvel Comics publication after the company sought to excise his comparison of US President Donald Trump to a classic supervillain.
Spiegelman told the Guardian newspaper he had been asked to write an intro for a collection of classic Marvel comics mostly from the 1940s. His paper touched on the history of classic comics as a reaction to fascism and rising global darkness, and asserted that such darkness was again on the rise today.
“The young Jewish creators of the first superheroes conjured up mythic — almost god-like — secular saviors to deal with the threatening economic dislocations that surrounded them in the great depression and gave shape to their premonitions of impending global war,” he wrote.
But Spiegelman told the Guardian he received pushback on his wry note that “In today’s all too real world, Captain America’s most nefarious villain, the Red Skull, is alive on screen and an Orange Skull haunts America.”
Spiegelman said Marvel Comics informed him it wished to remain apolitical, and conditioned its use of his essay on the removal of the “Orange Skull” reference. Spiegelman refused, and published the essay in the Guardian on Saturday instead.
“I didn’t think of myself as especially political compared with some of my fellow travelers,” he said, “but when asked to kill a relatively anodyne reference to an Orange Skull I realized that perhaps it had been irresponsible to be playful about the dire existential threat we now live with, and I withdrew my introduction.”
Spiegelman also questioned whether the request to censor his essay had something to do with the fact that Marvel Entertainment chairman Isaac Perlmutter is a friend of Trump and a donor to the 2020 campaign.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Spigelman is the son of Polish Holocaust survivors. “Maus,” his semi-autobiographical graphic novel, tells the story of his father’s experiences during World War II as well as their strained relationship. He won the Pulitzer in 1992. Both “Maus” and its sequel were commercial and critical successes.