Friday, July 17, 2009

Alex Otto Zaiser covers Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History

Original cover by Art Spiegelman; Pantheon Books 1986. Alex Otto Zaiser's website is here.


  1. I hate to be a stick in the mud, but come on... There's nothing original here. Spiegelman's cover has just been poorly traced over digitally, taking the life out of his drawing. Why the change from a sans serif to a serif typeface? The original typeface fits the cover and the themes/design practices of Nazism much better. And the little design element which I always thought was clever - showing the hitler mustache while maintaining that he is a cat - is gone in the new cover. What is the point?!

    Yes I'm being cowardly and posting anonymously. I feel kind of bad berating this new cover, but I have also seen some pretty poor renditions here in the past and I just had to say something...

  2. I agree with you 100 percent. This is nothing special. I wouldn't notice the difference between these two if they weren't side by side.

    I'm not saying the artist who did this is untalented....but he should have tried to go for his own thing.

  3. It does seem more of a re-creation than a re-imagining of the cover. Perhaps we could get him to weigh in on this? Or Robert?

  4. IMO it would have been interesting to redo this cover with the characters drawn in a Disney, Looney Tunes or a Walt Kelly style.

    Imagine the impact of this dark subject done with a Tom cat Nazi symbol and a Jerry looking mice huddled below.

    Come to think of it, maybe I'll give that a shot...

  5. It looks to me like the cover art to the Maus animated special.

  6. I think the way to think of these blog submissions is to liken them to song COVERS....
    some are straight...not much difference. Some maybe have a different gender as the voice. Some are complete Beck's Odelay done ats Banjo music, Radiohead's Creep by a string-quartet, the Cure's Close to Me as a heavy-metal song, or the thousands of Steel-Drum, Blues, Disco covers of Beatles songs.

    My favorite covers here, as well as song-wise bend the original to captiure the personality or style of the person doing the cover.

    Certainly Seth could redo any cover and not change the composition and it would still seem like Seth.

    But sometiimes it is kind of fun to try to ape another artist's style.
    I remember redrawing Super-villain team-up 14 in Bob Hall's style when I was a kid.

  7. I've wanted to post a response to Erin for a few days but have been consumed with getting ready for Comic-con.

    As I go through the submissions that are sent to me and choose which ones to post or not post, I try to weigh a few things. They would include the general ways we judge art which would be composition, line quality, color, etc, but also if an artist brings something fresh to it. It's rare that someone can pull of all of those things brilliantly, but there have been some covers on this blog that have done it. In most cases however, it's a matter of how many of those things are done well. In the case of Alex's Maus cover, I thought that although it is close to the original, it was well executed. That said, I am trying to move things a bit more over to the re-interpretation side of the spectrum, then re-doing, for those considering submitting.

    I also think that Anthony has a point about a trying to draw in another artist's style. You can learn a lot by doing it and people have redrawn master's paintings and drawings forever. This tends to be more of an exercise then creating a new work of art. I guess a good example is Gus Van Sant's shot by shot remake of Psycho. It was probably a fascinating experience for Van Sant, but not so much for the viewers.

  8. Hey, I just wanted to provoke you all! :P

    By the way, I want to make several versions of this cover. This is the first one, just traced with Illustrator and rendered a little bit with Photoshop.

    If you are patience, you're gonna see different types. Maybe this wasn't the proper one to start with the challenge.

    Sorry about the inconvenient. Won't happen again.

  9. Thank you both for chiming in. Alex, you certainly don't need to apologize. You have more talent than I could ever dream of and you should never apologize for your artistic vision. I'm looking forward to seeing more versions of Maus, and your other work.

    Robert, I love this blog and very much appreciate it, thanks for all the work you do and for giving me (us) more insight on your methods. I hope you had a fruitful SDCC!

  10. Wow, this is the definition of a waste of time. "Traced in Illustrator..."

    Trying to draw in another's style is a good exercize in bettering one's skills, even copying an image freehand can help one appreciate the skill that went into the original.

    Tracing on the other hand is a waste of time both for the audience and the artist trying to better their skill.

    If nothing else, this is the perfect example of how it was a bad exercize in that important details were lost in the process. The flurish of Hitler's mustache (already mentioned), aside, there's also the deafening of the tone in the switch from the softer grainy rendering of the characters against the stark crisp and imposing "Nazi" iconography. It's not just about the placement of the figures.

    There's also the lost of emotion in the main characters, as the simple glint of life in their eyes is removed, the little detials of their garmets removed making them colder and more cartoon-y.

    I'm wrong about this being a waste of time. It's a shinning example of what to avoid. When approaching a piece like this, especially int he vein of treating it as a "cover" (like the song simile above), you have to consider what the original is trying to say first and foremost. Then when adding your own flourish, add to this, reinterpret or bring that original idea into your new piece. Personally, I think the reason Spiegelman chose the medium he did for this cover was to show the tender fragile nature of the main characters huddling together in tired fear. This is lost in the new version with it's stark clean hard lines.

    It's the textbook problem with tracing. The problem with copying in this fashion is that the copy always leaves out elements, and it obscures the original. They are almost always stuff, turning something organic into a defined shape.

    You can even see this in the attempt to copy the style by throwing a photoshop grain filter over the grey of teh floor and wall. It's a choice to mimick an aspect of the cover that is missunderstood as to why it's there in the first place.

  11. at first i thought it was just a boring tracing, but reading the comments, then going back to look at the images, i appreciated the differences between the two more.