Hong Kong’s cartoonists do what they can in a heavily controlled environment. One American cartoonist who has pushed the boundaries is Art Spiegelman, who was in town with the PEN group to launch its report on declining free expression in Hong Kong. In 1992, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his masterful Holocaust illustrated narrative Maus which portrayed Jews as mice and Nazis as cats. Maus II continued the remarkable story of his parents survival of the Nazi regime and their lives later in America.
Spiegelman noted that cartoons seemed not to be a significant player in shaping opinion during Occupy unlike other visual elements like posters and sculpture. Cartoons could play a more intensive role because cartooning has the ability to distill and focus.
He said there had been some celebrated cartoons and cartoonists in the past who had helped shape the times they had lived in. Now in the US cartoons have been defanged… as cartoons can be so effective newspapers are now incredibly wary of offending readers as they know that cartoons seem to have a high capacity to give offence when done well.
Looking at the fallout from the Charlie Hedbo attack, he said he had been amazed that American newspapers have not shown the images of what caused the Charlie Hedbo outrage. I can’t figure it out: was it out of a kind of hypocrisy or fear or a genuinely felt sense of delicacy of feeling? However, it seems to me that you can’t understand what the story involves without seeing the images.
Spiegelman said he might not agree with what Charlie Hedbo staff were doing, but he defended their right to do it.