Page Layout

Spiegelman deviates from the traditional panel structure of a comic to highlight specific moments as he guides the reader through the page, and to manipulate the value of certain information.

In Maus, the traditional structure of a page is 8 panels of equal size and equal gutter space in between them, which can be read from left-right and top-bottom (an example of this is page 92 in Maus I). The Goodbye Richieu page loosely follows this structure as it has 8 panels and follows the same literacy flow, but this is where the similarities stop. As you move down the 4 lines, with 2 panels each, the panels increase in height, and thus get much bigger. At the same time, the narrative builds to a shocking moment, as a young boy is smashed against a wall but a Nazi soldier for crying. In this way, the panel size and the narrative work together so that the largest panels on the page highlight the most shocking moments. This general trend is present throughout both books. Another interesting point about the Goodbye Richieu page, is that there is no gutter between the 2 panels on the first 3 lines of the page. On each of these lines, 1 panel is shows Vladek and Artie talking in the ‘present’ and the other shows the event they were talking about happening in the past. In my opinion, the lack of gutters on these lines emphasises how the panels are interlinked. It is also interesting to see how there is a sort of checkerboard of shading as you move down the page, until the bottom two panels are both very dark. A combination of the large and dark bottom panels really makes them stand out.

The Auschwitz Map page has a page layout that is completely unique from the rest of the book. There are 10 panels, 9 of which are small, uniform panels, with clear gutters from the ‘present’ day, and 1 final panel which is one large map of Auschwitz and Birkenau that takes up 2/3 of the page and sits in the background. The ‘present’ day panels are arranged in a way over the map so that they don’t smother any important details, however, this layout makes the page slightly confusing and the literacy flow isn’t immediately obvious. By placing the panels in these positions, Spiegelman makes the past and the ‘present’ interplay with each other. As you move around the page, talking about different people in different places, it is almost as if you are following them with the map. It is very cleverly done, but to avoid getting confused, the reader has to take in the whole page at once, and almost see all the panels simultaneously while still observing each of the individual moments.

Read my entire Tracing Maus project by following these links:

Landing Page

First annotation (Goodbye Richieu)

Second annotation (Auschwitz Map)

Idea 1 (Shading)

Idea 2 (The Clarity of Mice)

Image credit: “layouts” by Kemeny_x

Sources cited: Spiegelman, Art. Maus: a Survivor’s Tale. Pantheon Books, 2011.