He had one brother named Richieu who died before Art was born. Richieu was caught in the conflicts of World War II and was sent to live with an aunt, Tosha, since the Zawiercie ghetto where she resided seemed safer than the Sosnowiec-Środula ghetto. When the Nazis started to deport people from the Zawiercie ghetto, Tosha poisoned herself, Richieu, her own daughter (Bibi) and her niece (Lonia). (Maus, Volume 1) Art mentions in Maus that he felt like he had a sibling rivalry with a photograph, since his parents were still upset over the death of their first-born son. The second volume of Maus was dedicated to Richieu and to Spiegelman's daughter Nadja.
In the late winter of 1968, he suffered a brief but intense nervous breakdown, an event occasionally referred to in his work. After his release from a mental hospital, his mother, Anja, committed suicide. Spiegelman was a major figure in the underground comics movement of the 1960s and 1970s, contributing to publications such as Real Pulp, Young Lust and Bizarre Sex. He co-founded two significant comics anthology publications, Arcade (with Bill Griffith) in San Francisco during the early 1970s and Raw with his wife, artist (and, later, Art Editor of the The New Yorker) Françoise Mouly, in 1980.
In 1973 he co-edited with Bob Schneider Whole Grains: A Collection of Quotations, featuring the notable words of countercultural icons like Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan before they got much play in such mainstream reference works as Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. The book was mistakenly racked on the "Cookbook" shelves at some bookstores.
Together with many other innovative works, Raw serialized Maus, which retraces his parents' story as they survived the Holocaust. In 1986, he released the first volume of Maus (Maus I: A Survivor's Tale, also known as Maus I: My Father Bleeds History) The second volume, Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began followed in 1991. Maus attracted an unprecedented amount of critical attention for a work in the form of comics, including an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992.
Spiegelman has also worked in more commercial forums: After a summer internship (when he was 18) at Topps Bubble Gum, he was hired as a staff writer-artist-editor in Woody Gelman's Product Development Department. During his 20 years with Topps, Spiegelman invented Garbage Candy (candy in the form of garbage, sold in miniature plastic garbage cans), the Wacky Packages card series and countless other hugely successful novelties. With Mark Newgarden, he co-created Garbage Pail Kids stickers and cards.
After 20 years of asking Topps to grant the creators a percentage of the profits, and after other industries (such as Marvel Comics and DC Comics) had grudgingly conceded, Topps still refused. Spiegelman, who had assigned Topps work to many of his cartoonist friends or students, left over the issue of creative ownership and ownership of artwork. In 1989 Topps auctioned off the original artwork they had accumulated over the decades and kept the profits.
Hired by Tina Brown in 1992, Spiegelman worked for The New Yorker for ten years but resigned a few months after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The cover created by Spiegelman and Mouly for the September 24 issue of The New Yorker received wide acclaim. At first it appears to be totally black, but upon close examination it reveals the silhouettes of the World Trade Center towers in a slightly darker shade of black. Spiegelman states that his resignation from The New Yorker was to protest the "widespread conformism" in the United States media. Spiegelman is a sharp critic of the administration of President George W. Bush and claims that the American media has become "conservative and timid."
In September 2004, he released In the Shadow of No Towers, in which he relates his experience of the Twin Towers attack and the psychological after-effects. Since Fall 2005, Spiegelman's new series "Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!" has appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review.
In 2005, Time Magazine named Spiegelman one of their "Top 100 Most Influential People.
In the June 2006 edition of Harper's magazine, he published an article on the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy which had occurred earlier in the year. At least one vendor, Canada's Indigo chain of booksellers, refused to sell the particular issue. Called "Drawing Blood: Outrageous Cartoons and the Art of Outrage" the article contained a survey of the sometimes dire impact of political cartooning on its creators, ranging from Honoré Daumier (who was imprisoned for a satirical work) to George Grosz (who was exiled). The article raised the ire of Indigo because it seemed to promote the continuance of racially-motivated cartooning.
Spiegelman is a prominent advocate for the medium of comics. He taught courses in the history and aesthetics of comics at schools including the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the School of Visual Arts in New York. He tours the country giving a lecture he calls "Comix 101." An anthology of interviews with Spiegelman, spanning 25 years and a wide variety of printed venues, was published by University Press of Mississippi in 2007 as Art Spiegelman: Conversations.
Together with Françoise Mouly, he published three hardcover anthologies of comics for children, called Little Lit, and in 2006, Big Fat Little Lit. He is an advisor for Mouly's newest publishing project, the TOON Books, a groundbreaking line of hardcover comics for young readers, which will be released in 2008.
He lives in downtown Manhattan with Mouly and their two children, Nadja and Dashiell.
In 1973 he co-edited with Bob Schneider Whole Grains: A Collection of Quotations, featuring the notable words of countercultural icons like Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan before they got much play in such mainstream reference works as Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.