Maybe it is because I have been reading Baudrillard and others discuss signs and signifiers for my final paper, but I couldn’t help but notice the ever-changing way that Spiegelman represents himself in In the Shadow of No Towers. A great example of this self-representation is on page two. At the top of the page there is a frazzled, red-eyed Spiegelman with an eagle/albatross around this neck. In the next frame, there is a little more life-like drawing of he and his wife as they hear the plane hitting the north tower. From there, the husband and wife duo changed into a what appears to be an homage to an older cartoon, two boys in jackets and ruffled shirts. The catch is that each have a WTC tower blossoming from his head. In another strip on the same page just left of center, there is a black and white cartoon of Spiegelman looking into a mirror. All the reader has is a profile, but a fairly realistic profile at that. The last frame of the four-frame cartoon is Speigelman looking into the mirror, but instead of the human, the reader sees a mouse. (Presumably a reference to his previous graphic novel Maus in which he depicted the Jews as mice and the Germans as cats.) The caption in this last frame is “issues of self-representation have left me slack-jawed.” Finally, there is a sleeping Spiegelman on his drawing board with a human body, but with the head of a sleeping mouse.
All of these representations have left me slack-jawed too. Certainly Speigelman is aware of his changing self-representations and calls attention to with with the aforementioned quote. However, is the reader supposed to take each sign or representation as a different side of Spiegelman? A different response to an element of the tragedy? A different emotion? I tried following the last idea throughout the novel. Does the stylistic rendering of one Spiegelman that portrays a particular emotion reoccur when the same emotion resurfaces later in the book? Here was how I went about it.
1)Frazzled, red-eyed. Initial emotion: panic. Appears on page 2, 7, 8, 9, and 10.
2) Life-like husband and wife. Initial emotion: stunned. Appears on page 2, 3, and 4.
3) Old-fashioned boys with towers on their heads. Initial emotion: panic. Appears on page 2, 4, 5, and sort of on 10.
4) Profile–black and white–and mouse. Initial emotion: astonishment. Appears on page 2, 3, 9, and 10.
5) Human with a head of a mouse. Initial emotion: reminisce? Appears on page 2, 3, 9, and 10.
Even though these same self-representations continually resurface throughout the book, the emotions association with each style change. So this maze has lead me no where. That said, the same story line does seem to continue through similar representations. For example the stunned husband and wife on page 2 go in search of their daughter at the UN school after hearing the plane crash into the WTC on page 3. Similarly, the mouse/Spiegelman representation reoccurs when he is drawing connections to his parents time in Auschwitz to the horrors of the September 11th. So which Spiegelman is the “real” representation? Are all of these representations just simulations of Spiegelman? Or to the reader do they become a simulacra of Spiegelman? Is the cartoon representation more real to us as readers than the actual Spiegelman?