The success of Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize winning Maus (1980-1991) revitalized the discussion about the capacity of comics to represent traumatic historical events such as World War II. More importantly, it sparked the publication of a large number of comics dealing with this historical episode in various ways. The assumption that comics books can only trivialize serious subject matter contrasts with the opinions of scholars who claim that the medium is especially suitable for traumatic and historic events because of its fragmentary nature and its tendency to self-reflexivity.
It would be a mistake, however, to view Maus as the genesis of comics that have a historical subject. In three of the most important comic book traditions – the American, Franco-Belgian and Japanese – there have always been, since the beginning of mass production and the growing popularity of comics in the 1930s, comics that deal with the past in various ways.
Historical comics, like other representations of the past, to a greater or lesser extent restrict their narrative freedom by referring to historical events. However truthful comics aim to be, they have to shape reality and represent it in both the form of a story and a comic book.
My research focuses on how this medium and its history afford specific ways to represent the past. It aims to contribute to the understanding of how representation of the past in combinations of images and texts alter the ways in which the past is experienced in the present.