Comics’ Royal Family

If ever there was a power family in the world of comics, cartoons, and graphic novels, it would be the Mouly-Spiegelman clan. The family is comprised of Art Spiegelman, Françoise Mouly, and their daughter, Nadja Spiegelman. Though they each wear many hats in the cartoonist community, they are brought together through their New Yorker covers–Art draws them, Françoise edits them, and Nadja runs a tumblr abut them. No word yet on what role the family’s son, Dash, will play after he graduates from college.

The family gave a talk last Thursday at Hyde Park’s 57th Street Books. The audience, crowded in the back half of the tiny bookstore, was clearly the type to get excited over the unveiling of New Yorker drawings and kids’ comics. Art stood by until the end to answer questions while the audience listened to his wife and daughter’s talk, which encompassed many different areas of their work. The main focus of the discussion was their recently published book “Blown Covers,” a collection of unpublished and unpublishable New Yorker cover sketches you were “never meant to see.”

The book is a rare glimpse into the New Yorker’s famously hush-hush editorial process. An accompanying tumblr was started by Nadja after her mother asked her to “do something to publicize the book with the interwebs.” The mother and daughter also worked together on the book itself, piecing together rejected covers to form a narrative.

With the tumblr, the collaboration has expanded beyond bloodlines. Nadja and François have launched a weekly contest, in which artists submit a sketch on a topical theme and Françoise picks a winner and several runners-up. By bringing the editorial process out of the “black hole” of the New Yorker offices and into the shimmering light of the Internet, a vibrant discourse has already opened up among artists.

Taking on themes like graduation, marriage equality, and Trayvon Martin, the amateur  submissions have come to reveal unexpected patterns, drawing out the bleak theme of student debt in discussions about graduation, or poignantly casting a stylized Trayvon Martin as Little Red Riding Hood. Although the published New Yorker covers so often offer incisive commentary on the issues, in the age of Internet memes and tumblr posts, “Blown Covers” may have more to say than what typical publishable ever will.