Art Spiegelman’s Cartoon Contribution to the Arbuckle Case and a Review of Literature

An outlier among these cultural artifacts—for they aren’t really scholarly endeavors—is Art Spiegelman’s contribution to Sleazy Scandals of the Silver Screen #1, published by the San Francisco: Cartoonists Co-op Press in 1974. Best known for his graphic nonfiction novel Maus and its sequels, Spiegelman is intuitive in his rendering of the Arbuckle case, titled “Fatty’s Fatal Fling,” with just a few pages and panels. Much as he enacts a certain poetic justice on Nazi Germany for the Holocaust by depicting persecuted Jews and their survivors as mice and the Germans as cats, Spiegelman does so on Roscoe Arbuckle as karma.

Cover for 1989 reprint (Copyright 1989 Art Spiegelman)

Spiegelman would almost seem to be a proto-revisionist, anticipating some of the pathos of this book, “drawing” not only on Kenneth Anger but likely on some original archival research as well. Ultimately, Spiegelman sees Arbuckle in Hell, strapped to a table, having Coke bottles shoved up his rectum by an eternity of demons with an uncanny resemblance to Virginia Rappe. Indeed, Spiegelman could be seen as taking her side in toto when no one else did in the early 1970s, three years before David Yallop published The Day the Laughter Stopped.

Original art for p. 8 of Sleazy Scandals of the Silver Screen, #1 (Copyright 1973 Art Spiegelman)

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