By Katsuhiro Otomo
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Extra resources for Akira Vol. I, No. 1
1). 6 The question arises of whether the use of the predictive passages is just an artistic device that Spiegelman has imposed to make his father’s story seem more meaningful and optimistic than it otherwise might have been, or if he is reporting true and amazing incidents that Vladek himself has related. I think that—with the possible exception of the Jacob’s dwelling prayer in the POW camp (discussed in note 5)—it is clear that Spiegelman is claiming that these incidents really happened in his father’s life, just as Vladek apparently reported that they did.
Moreover, like film or theater, the graphic novel offers characters that one can see. In the case of Maus, which remains the most powerful and the deepest reflec- 40 Chapter 3 tion on the Holocaust in the graphic novel genre, the characters are animals and the contrast between them, the people they represent, and Disney and other animal cartoons sets up a special resonance. In other graphic novels, the reader can see the human characters, as in a film or the theater, and so the graphic novel combines both reading and viewing, and the advantages of prose texts and visual media, in a special way.
Perhaps Vladek is right that the death of Herman, her elder brother and only surviving close family member, in a car accident in 1964, caused her to die a little all the time and eventually to commit suicide (2:114). Perhaps her early tendency toward depression, glimpsed in her postpartum breakdown after Richieu’s birth that required a sanatorium visit (1:34–35) and augmented by the aftermath of Auschwitz, recurred. But as he shows in “Prisoner on the Hell Planet,” Art himself can never understand her suicide, except to feel guilty about the last time he refused to tell her that he loved her and to accept the disdain of his relatives for not having been a high-achieving son and for not having been sufficiently concerned about her well-being.