When I first traced my chosen pages from Maus, I didn’t include any shading. My traced page looked so bare in comparison to the original, so I went back, and I added shading as Spiegelman had done. This simple addition transformed the entire page and made me realise that Spiegelman uses dark shading throughout Maus to add extra meaning to the visuals, and to add an emotional depth that the otherwise simple sketches and limited text would struggle to portray.
For example, in the Goodbye Richieu page, Spiegelman chooses to almost completely shade out Vladek’s family members as they are walking away, contrasting his shading decisions throughout the rest of the two books, where the mice are predominantly left light and unshaded. In this instance, the black could convey a pre-emptive mourning for the characters that will die soon after this panel. Spiegelman also heavily shades the Nazi cat soldiers at the bottom of the Goodbye Richieu page, possibly to use the dark colours, and its connotations of evil, to emphasise how wicked the soldiers are. I also noticed that the little boy who is killed by the soldier transforms from light to dark as his life is taken. In this way, the darkness makes his death even more horrifying. Another significant shading decision from Spiegelman on page 1 is to make the panels in the ‘present’ much lighter and the memory panels much darker. This helps to emphasise how dark Vladek’s memories and past was.
This theme of a brighter and better present, in contrast to Vladek’s dark past in continued on the Auschwitz Map page. The map that takes up the entire background is very dark in comparison to the surrounding, lighter present-day panels. This just reminds the reader that there is a veil of darkness that surrounds Vladek’s past and also helps the reader to contrast the two different time frames.
In general, it is clear to see that the choices that Spiegelman makes with regards to shading are much more than stylistic, and help to bring more subtle meanings throughout his graphic novel.
Read my entire Tracing Maus project by following these links:
Sources cited: Spiegelman, Art. Maus: a Survivor’s Tale. Pantheon Books, 2011.