Lowell Conference: a conversation with Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman

The McMullen Museum is pleased to present a conversation between Francoise Mouly, Art Spiegelman, and exhibition co-curator American Alternative Comics, 1980-2000: Raw, Weirdand beyond, John McCoy. This event coincides with the recent opening of American alternative comics featuring the work of Mouly and Speigelman. Co-sponsored by Boston College McMullen Museum of Art, Center for Jewish/Christian Learning, Center for Human Rights and International Justice, Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy, American Studies Program, Literature Core Program, English Department, History Department, Art, Art Department of History and Cinema.

Francoise Mouly was the artistic editor of the new yorker since 1993, where she has supervised more than fourteen hundred covers. Many of them have been named cover of the year by the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME). In 1978, she and Art Spiegelman, her husband and frequent collaborator, co-founded the groundbreaking comic book anthology BELIEVED. Together they also edited the New York Times– no longer sold Little lit series and the TOON Treasure of classic children’s comics.

Mouly is the publisher, designer and editorial director of TOON Books, which she and Spiegelman launched in 2008. TOON Books is an imprint of comics for early readers and has won numerous awards, including Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for “Most Distinguished” Book for Beginning Readers. In 2001, she was named Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, and in 2011 she received France’s highest honour, the National Order of the Legion of ‘Honor. She received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Pratt Institute and numerous awards, including the Richard Gangel Art Director Award from the Society of Illustrators. In September 2014, she received the Eric Carle Museum Bridge Award for “sustained achievement in the field of illustrated books for young people”. In November 2015, Ms. Mouly received the Ingenuity Award from Smithsonian magazine for her work in education, calling her “a transformative figure in comics”. In 2021, Ms. Mouly was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame.

Art Spiegelmann almost single-handedly pulled the comics out of the toy closet and put them on the literature shelves. In 1992 he won the Pulitzer Prize for his masterful account of the Holocaust Maus– which portrayed Jews as mice and Nazis as cats. Maus II continued the remarkable story of his parents’ survival from the Nazi regime and their later life in America. His comics are best known for their changing graphic styles, formal complexity, and controversial content.

A major exhibition of his work was organized by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, as part of the exhibition “15 Masters of 20th Century Comics” (November 2005). In 2005, Art Spiegelman was named one of Time magazine‘s 100 Most Influential People and in 2006 he was inducted into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame. He was made an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France in 2007 and played himself in an episode of “The Simpsons” in 2008. In 2011, Art Spiegelman won the Grand Prix du Festival international de la Angoulême comic strip, marking only the third time an American has received this honor (the other two were Will Eisner and Robert Crumb). The honor also included a retrospective exhibition of his works, presented at the Center Pompidou and traveling to the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Jewish Museum in New York and last stop at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The companion book to the exhibition is CO-MIX: a retrospective of comics, graphics and scraps. In 2015 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2018, he was awarded the Edward MacDowell Medal, the first ever awarded in comics.

Angela C. Hale