Breakdowns Offers Breakthroughs: Review of Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@§ ! by Art Spiegelman

Posted by on December 7th, 2009 at 12:04 AM

Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@§!; Art  Spiegelman; Pantheon Books; 72 pp., $27.50; Color and B&W, Hardcover; ISBN: 9780375423956

In 1978, five thousand copies of Art Spiegelman’s Breakdowns were printed, although most of those, thanks to a printing mishap, were unusable. While this publication may have been under-purchased, it certainly was not under-valued. Breakdowns, aside for shaping Spiegelman’s masterwork Maus, continued an avant-garde tradition in comics. However, unlike others before him, Spiegelman used the medium to introduce postmodern techniques and subjects. Moving away (at least a little ways) from drugs and sex, Spiegelman brought out the psychology of reading comics and of reading his psyche in this collection. From the trauma of the Holocaust to the misadventures of a short hero (“The Midget Detective”), Breakdowns brings together innovative styles and topics that have changed comics and graphic novels.  Out of print since 1978, Breakdowns in available through Random House’s Pantheon Books as a collection entitled Breakdowns:  Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@§! This book offers artistic and thematic breakthroughs that provide fans and students of comic art tasty morsels to digest for years to come.

Breakdowns:  Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@§! is divided into three sections: “Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@§!,” “Breakdowns” (as a complete reprint, including front and back covers) and “%@§!: An Afterward.” The first section is subdivided into 24 strips, ranging in location and time from Stockholm in 1949 to SoHo, New York City  in 2005. Like its earlier literary precursor—James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man—this section goes back into his past to recreate the burgeoning experiences that shaped his ascent as an artist. Additionally, this document traces his parents’ influences onto his art and subjects.

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