A RAW History: Part One
edited by Bill Kartalopoulos

Raw Magazine functioned as a sporadically published periodical publication (with offshoots in book publishing) between 1980 and 1991, driven by the editorial and personal partnership between Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman. In the early-to-mid-1970's, Mouly was an architecture student at the Beaux-Arts in Paris, but had grown disenchanted with her studies.

Francoise Mouly: I was uncomfortable in an art school where they told you to make a project -- that was our assignment, project after project -- and to express your true self and to function as an artist, but it was obvious that in reality architects don't get to do this. Architects basically do what the money allows and what the patron allows. They please the patron. They don't please their inner selves, and it was unrealistic to train us as if we were sculptors or fine artists when we were not going to encounter that kind of freedom.

And then the speechifying in the amphitheater was really interesting, but it was endless and it led nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. We were anti so many things, but we weren't for anything. And once you go on the record against corridors and against closets and against roofs, slanted roofs -- we were really against slanted roofs -- and straight walls, it leaves very little options! And then we're asked to like, make a school. There was too much of a disparity, and I tried to engage my teachers in discussions, but not successfully. I didn't have any way in. And my colleagues were much more at rest with what they were asked to do than I was, so I really didn't feel that I was functioning that well.

Mouly left her studies in Paris and arrived in New York on September 2, 1974, intending to spend a year traveling throughout the U.S.

Mouly: The first night was probably the most climactic moment. I left the airport, sharing a cab with a girl I had met on the airplane who took pity on me. I had so little resources at my disposal. And I went to my youth hostel, which turned out to be like a forty story building on 34th street and tenth avenue, I think... And it turned out that this was a Y.M.C.A., and they do not take women. And I was left totally, like, flustered, because I wasn't willing to take a cab and try to go find myself a hotel room, which in 1974 was probably like 30 or 40 dollars a night. But I think I had only 200 dollars with me. I couldn't possibly spend that in one night. So I said, "But I have brought a letter and I am staying here!"

And after the woman at the desk finally saw that I wasn't gonna budge -- I really understood this later -- she called some goons, which were like some big guys wearing guns. They did have one floor in this entire building where they house women, mostly homeless women -- very far from the youth hostel that I expected -- and that floor was full. So what they did, because I wasn't going anywhere (I kept showing my letter) is they cleared out a room on one floor. But it was in the middle of a men's floor. So they cleared out the entire floor by walking through all of the corridors and getting the people locked into their rooms, and then they came down and got me. They cleared out the elevator, and they took me to that floor, and then they again made sure that there was nobody in the corridor, and they took me to that room while banging on all the doors: "Stay in! Stay in!" I mean, this was like -- a jail cell!

They put me into this cubicle that literally was the size of a cot, a window, a little table, the door, and they said, "We're locking you in. So if you need to go to the bathroom, drop off your suitcase now, we'll take you to the bathroom." OK, so they took me back through all the corridors, and all the door bangings, and up to the women's floor... There was one woman that was washing her laundry with a toothbrush and toothpaste while singing to herself. I mean, sights that eventually became totally commonplace to me as I stayed in New York, but it was a lot for my first night... And then they unlocked me the next day and moved me to the women's floor.

Within two days I got a spot at the Salvation Army. That was a home for young working women. But it was terrifying, it really was! It was a very intense experience, and then there was the next day, walking out of this place, and walking down, it must have been, like, 11th Avenue, the meat market, and I didn't know where I was. And I was totally disconcerted, and I was thinking, oh my god, somebody could kill me -- which was more likely on the streets of New York at the time than it is now, and also there was the lore that I'd heard about New York -- and nobody would know. They wouldn't know who I am, how to track me back. And the idea of being that anonymous was cathartic for me. It really was. And it made me fall in love with the endless possibilities. Because I'd felt constrained in Paris. It made every return back to Paris feel claustrophobic. It made Paris feel provincial. I mean, I grew up in a big town, but after New York, Paris is not that anonymous. There's always a concierge who knows who you are, and when you came. There's a very different public space. It's old fashioned and provincial compared to New York.

Mouly moved from the Salvation Army into an apartment, and within four months occupied the Soho loft where she and her family continue to live. She began working several jobs to support herself, including selling cigarettes and magazines at a newsstand, building architectural models, and acting in a play by Richard Foreman (titled "Pandering to the Masses" and featuring only non-professional actors).

Mouly: As soon as I arrived in New York, I got, not just a job, but jobs. So I ended up with a schedule. I was doing the cigarettes from 6 am to 1 pm, then I would go to the Japanese architectural agency, where I would get there on my bicycle by 1:30 or so, and I would work until about 7 pm, and then at 8 pm I would be at Foreman's, and then I would come home at 11 and then I would hammer down the floor. I had to put a new floor in the loft. Those were very busy days.

Through Foreman, Mouly became involved a circle of local artists, primarily filmmakers, who regularly convened for avant garde film screenings and discussions. The circle included filmmaker Ken Jacobs, a long-time friend of Art Spiegelman's.

Animator Gerry Capelle with Mouly and others at the loft, ca. 1978.
Mouly: And through Jacobs, and through Foreman, because there was some overlap, there were a group of people that were film students and film makers that were starting the collective the Living Cinema, and they had rented this space at 55 White Street, where they were doing a little bit of what the Anthology Film Archive was doing in terms of showing independent films. So I worked with them, and I was surrounded by the younger generation that was putting that thing together. But I didn't know French filmmakers, I didn't have much to contribute. But what was another really amazing thing to me was that I had no qualifications. I didn't study this. I was simply interested in what people were doing, and everybody talked to me. Like, nobody slammed any doors. They didn't say, "Who are you to ask questions, or to be here, what right do you have?" It was the interest that was the qualification. They were glad, they were glad to talk to me. So we had some of the screenings in my loft. Geographically I was in the right place. So I was part of that whole milieu.

Between 1975 and 1976 Spiegelman and Bill Griffith edited seven issues of Arcade, a quarterly comics anthology published in San Francisco. In 1975 Spiegelman moved back to New York, and continued to co-edit Arcade until the magazine ceased publication in late 1976. He continued to work for the Topps company and began to prepare his own anthology book, Breakdowns, for publication. Mouly first encountered Spiegelman's work while seeking reading material to improve her English language skills.

Mouly: At some point I did ask various people for comics. Not because I had any special love for comics -- I grew up with comics -- but simply because the language part was still not clicking in very easily, and at some point somebody had said to me, "Oh, you should get the Sunday New York Times, that has a lot to offer." And I was really naive, so I got the Sunday New York Times and it took me five and a half months. I didn't know that you were supposed to throw out three fourths of it! I was like, Oh my god! So once I emerged from the weight of the New York Times, I said, "I'll be proactive here: I'll ask about comics..." I have a visual memory, I don't have such a good auditory memory, but visual memory, yes. So I needed to read, I wanted to read. I expected the English equivalent of like... For me it was, like, Pilote at the time, and Spirou, but also Métal Hurlant. I looked through the magazines and they didn't have comics. The only thing I'd seen was like a paperback of Peanuts, which I had gotten, but it was bizarre. There was something missing on the newsstand, you know. Anyway, so I asked, often I asked, "Where are the comics?"

And at some point, somebody said, "Oh there's this magazine that comes out of San Francisco, that's Arcade, and here, take a look at that." And I'd been given the first three issues of Arcade. "That's exactly what I'd been looking for! Thank you!" And I was told, "Oh, you like those magazines?" And I did, I actually spent time with those strips and I knew them well enough so that when they told me, "Oh, the guy who has put together those magazines, and who has done the strip..."

I met Art in that context with Jay Lynch. When we met he was living in San Francisco and came to New York to visit, so he came together with Jay. And my first impression... we went to a restaurant in Chinatown and I wasn't especially impressed, probably because he didn't pay that much attention to me, I didn't pay that much attention to him, per se. And also I had trouble following the conversations that were going on. And Jay is quite a character, and I didn't quite differentiate between Art and Jay.

1982 minicomic by Nisi Jacobs
And I did meet Art again another time when he did move back to New York, so that must have been '76. At that point, there was a more forceful intent for me to have to pay attention to him and to spend time with him, because I was very close with Ken and Flo Jacobs' daughter, Nisi, and Nisi was seven when I came, so she must have been eight or nine at the time -- and I could say I was babysitting her, but actually she was one of my closest friends. We were more like equals. And she had no problem with my limited language abilities (it was getting a little better by then). And they had decided that Nisi should be a cartoonist, so I was assigned to take Nisi over to Art, where he lived in Brooklyn, so that he would be helping her, criticizing her comic strips. But they assumed that he would just, like, fall over with admiration.

I remember a few things from this visit. One was how unbelievably small his -- he had a one bedroom apartment, but the bedroom was occupied by a mattress. But, fully. There was no room. It's like you open the door, and there was the mattress. I've never seen a space that was that punitive. My god, that was horrible... And also how he was nice enough to Nisi, he was kind, he wasn't like abrupt or rude. He gave her some feedback, but there wasn't any false pretense that this was -- it was very honest, I must say. It was like, "Yeah, good." But it wasn't like, "Oh my god!" You know, with the forcefulness of Nisi's parents, I had seen a lot of people tiptoe in front of Ken... No. Not Art. But it wasn't done in a rough or abrupt way. It's not like Nisi was in tears. And she didn't disagree with him, because it wasn't her thing. It wasn't like Nisi was fascinated by the idea of doing comics. But I actually was impressed that he could do that, and not either hurt the kid or create a problem for himself. So that, that's something that was a plus for Art.

And he was -- maybe my language comprehension was getting better -- he was quite entertaining. At that point I did see him a few more times, and then eventually we really did establish a relationship. At some point he gave me a copy of "Hell Planet," which had appeared in Short Order Comix. And that actually just blew me over. I mean, I had seen the other stuff that he had done in Arcade, including the packaging, and we had had some discussions. He was really upset because I had liked the George Kuchar strips. In Arcade there's a comic strip by George Kuchar, taking out the dog or something with the dog, and I said to Art, "Oh I really liked that strip." And Art was, like, upset at me because he didn't especially like that. It was good enough, but... But then I really disliked, intensely disliked Jay Kinney. It was, like, corny, and that, he could understand that. That was more a critique that he was more interested in. And he was the one who insisted that I pay attention to Justin Green's work, who I had liked a lot, but he made me re-read it.

And when he did give me the strip, the "Hell Planet" strip, which was the first real strip of his that I read, that was, like, mind blowing. Really mind blowing. Not so much for the construction of the strip itself, but it was the density, the density of information in those four pages. I just couldn't get over it. And the questions that were raised, and I realized, oh my god, I can actually talk to the author. Here's this thing that's like really, really, really bothering me, I mean, there's something about the strip. Simply the fact that, like, he didn't feel guilty about the fact that his mother committed suicide. He was supposed to. He was set up to. And he rejected -- he didn't. And he actually called her a murderer, and he was angry at her. How could he be angry, when the obligatory, expected, normal reaction is to feel pity and to feel guilt and to question what had he done wrong, what should he have done? And to realize, oh my god, I could actually ask the author... And it also was like, talk about work that stays with you, and enters into your brain... This was such a powerful piece of work. I didn't have what I later heard, "How could a comic be so powerful?" That wasn't at all an issue for me because I didn't have the prejudice. I did have thoughts like, "How could four pages be so dense?" I mean, how could it be so faceted, it doesn't settle one place... I just couldn't finish dealing with it.

So I actually, I, for someone who hates the telephone and still had a very poor command of the language, I actually talked to him on the phone, and maybe that is because it would have been too uncomfortable in person, I don't know. It seemed so personal, and how could he bare so much of his own feelings, and you're not supposed to talk about such things. And I stayed on the phone with him for eight hours, which was astonishing by this time because I never stayed on the phone with anybody for so long. So I realized that there was something going on that was beyond casual for me, and after that we actually went out on a date for Thanksgiving, 1976, where Art called me and said, "Of all the people in New York, I think probably you and I are the only two who have no idea, who don't have, like, you know, commitments... Well, it's Thanksgiving."

"What's Thanksgiving?"

So I was perfect. So we went for a duck dinner in Chinatown.

During this period Mouly did her first piece of color separation, accomplishing unbidden (and uncredited) the mechanical color separations for Breakdowns' table of contents. She had also stopped working at the newsstand and had begun work as a housepainter.

Mouly: Part of it, it was like I was still desperately trying to hold on to what was interesting to me about architecture. I was finding so many other things that were so much more intellectually challenging, but I like everything you can do with your hands. So I like the part in architecture that you can actually make something, and what I had done in my loft, I had done myself. So I liked that part of it. I thought it was much better than sitting down with pen and paper to actually lay down a floor and learn how to do plumbing or electricity that will give me some kind of background to do electrical backgrounds... And the same thing with graphic design. I like the design parts of it, but I really like cutting film, etc. I was supposed to be a surgeon when I was a kid because my dad is a surgeon, and part of me likes that because it also involves working with your hands and cutting.

At the end of December 1976 Mouly returned to Paris.

Mouly: I went back to Paris, because I had said that I would, and Art was very unhappy about that. He didn't want me to leave. I hadn't made the decision to move to New York. I still was living under the delusion... I mean, I was registered in school and I had to show up in school, and I had a project that I had to do there. I'd skipped a year but I was in my third year. Art then said, "Oh my god, I just realized... It doesn't have to be you who doesn't leave. I could come to Paris." So he wrote back in January, and then he decided to come to Paris for his birthday, February 15, 1977. He stayed for two weeks, and then got angry with me all over again because I didn't want to come back with him. This was one of our really difficult points, because I needed to earn the money to buy my ticket. And he said, "No, I'll pay for the ticket, it doesn't matter."

"But it does matter. To me it really matters."

When I finally earned enough money to get my plane ticket I landed here and I got stopped at immigration. And they wanted to deport me. I had entered in 1974 on a tourist visa that was good for three months, overextended my stay. And I was very lucky because it was Friday past 6:00 and they can't deport you – the INS doesn’t want to pay your plane ticket. They have to force the airline to fly you for free. If you have the money they make you pay for it, but I didn't have a penny with me. They couldn't make me. And the airline has to be forced to fly you back at their own cost, but they need a judge's order, and the judge was not there past five.

They actually started going through all of my luggage and I had no way to notify Art that I had arrived and that I was there, except at some point they started going through all of my luggage and found my old passport, my letters of employment, my letters of recommendation, how much I had earned, where I had worked, and Art's letters to me, love letters to me. Beautiful love letters with drawings and whatever. "Look, look! Come on and look at this!" And they started reading them out loud, and I was in tears, and begging them, "You're not allowed to do this, you can't do this! This is private!"

The only response I got from them was, "Lady, you're here in no man's land. You're not a US citizen, you're not protected by that banner. You can't call your own consulate, you can't invoke anybody because this is no man's land. We can do anything we want. You can't stop us. We can do anything and everything." It was quite memorable.

Eventually, they released me with a hearing in front of a judge, and I went there with Art and with a lawyer we had gotten over the weekend, and I was released in Art's custody, with a bond posted of like, 10,000 dollars, something huge, something like that... With the help of the lawyer, who was a pro bono lawyer, we tried everything we could to get me a legal status.

In July 1977, we got married with the immigration officials holding the shotgun, because there was basically no other way for me to get the visa... Art didn't want to get married. Neither did I, especially because I wanted to legalize my situation. And, actually, he didn't want to have to tell his father. Vladek liked me a lot, and we got along very well, but there was the issue that I wasn't Jewish. I think at some point he did tell him in a conversation between him and Vladek that went something like, "She's very nice, but you know you can't get married with her."

And Art said, "Well, what if I told you that we are?"

So to please his father, to make it possible for his father to announce this, I went through conversion, and Art shopped around for the quickest, most painless way. And Vladek wanted his rabbi to do the conversion, but in conversation Art found out that it would take, like, nine months: "Well, it takes nine months to make a baby, it takes nine months to make a Jew." So then we went to other, quicker ways which involved Reformed synagogues. What Art refers to as the conversion mill, with one Japanese girl with a Jewish guy, and a black guy with a Jewish girl, him with me, in the accelerated six week course. And eventually we staged, in the fall of '77, something for Vladek's benefit. But his rabbi didn't come to perform the ceremony because he was Conservative, and I wasn't "properly" Jewish. So it ended up taking place in Queens, in Rego Park, but in a school gym, a community center, next to the locker room.

During 1977 Mouly began doing freelance coloring work for Marvel Comics.

Mouly: I didn't go back to the architectural agency. I was coloring for Marvel, which was a job that I liked because it was freelance. I wanted to publish things so I went to a vocational school where I learned printing in Bed-Stuy. They taught air conditioner repair, and vending machine repair, and printing. It was really interesting. I did buy the multilith press then.

In late 1977 she published the first of what became an annual project: The Streets of Soho Map and Guide. The publication was suggested to her by Jim Drougas, owner of the New Morning bookstore. The project, which involved selling listings to local businesses and was printed on a larger, commercial press, would both support Mouly and fund her other various self-published projects.

The 1978 Streets of Soho Map and Guide was originally a "Crass Publication," printed in late 1977. Also pictured: the 1979 and 1980 maps (published by "Raw Books and Graphics").

Mouly: Jim Drougas mentioned to me at the time because of my architectural background that I should do a map of the neighborhood, because people came into his store all the time asking where's this, where's that. Nobody knew the neighborhood because it didn't have that many galleries or stores, but also the streets were not numbered so there was no way to figure out where Greene Street was if you were on Spring Street. So that was to answer a specific need, but I didn't think it was worth trying to make money selling a map. More money could be made from listing the places that were there, which were hard to find because people didn't really walk the streets of Soho. A lot of the galleries were scattered throughout the streets. So that was the impulse behind that, and I sold the map in the few places of business that already existed. So I got income, somewhat from selling the map, and from spending three months selling listings. And I took it to the printer in December of that year. And in order to make it a good business it had to be renewed every year. But the fact that it worked and it went well gave me a lot of confidence. I could then do things like the mailbooks, and there were other things I felt like doing and I wouldn't have to worry about if they all sold or not. There was an operating budget.

Raw stationary, 1978
The 1978 map was "A Crass Publication," but every subsequent edition would be a production of "Raw Books and Graphics." Mouly would publish the Map annually through 1990, devoting the last three months of every year to the project's assembly. In 1978, most likely in the spring, Spiegelman and Mouly traveled together to Europe, visiting cartoonists, editors, publishers and comic book shops in various major European cities including Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Barcelona, and Milan.

Mouly: So when we landed I think the first place we went to in Amsterdam was Real Free Press. It was like High Times, they were basically, like, selling dope, but they also had comics. They had Mariscal's stuff, as well as Joost Swarte, and a lot of the artists hang out there. Joost we met through them... and then from meeting Joost we met Eddie Vermeulen, so those were rallying points. There was a whole contingent of like Dutch and Belgian people that we met there. Then in Paris it was Futuropolis. We probably met Jacques Tardi from Ettienne Robial and Florence Cestac, because they were friends... We met Bruno Richard and Pascal Doury through Futuropolis, also, and the Bazooka people, Kiki Picasso and those people. In Spain it was El Vibora. In Paris we went to Charlie Hebdo, which was a continuation of the Hara-Kiri Hebdo, and that was a weekly magazine that was mostly political drawings. We were invited to their Tuesday gathering, and that was where they'd all gather around the table, and there were pieces of paper everywhere in front of everybody, as well as wine and bread and cheeses, and whatever, and everybody is discussing the news of the week and making a doodle. And they're trying to find the cover, and trying to come up with cartoons, and then passing it on to the next person, passing it on around the table... A lot of those groups led to other groups.

Spiegelman with Mariscal ca. 1978; Mouly and Spiegelman each with Jose Muñoz during a 1982 trip.

Spiegelman entered into discussions with editors at (A Suivre) about the possibility of running Maus in that magazine.

Mouly: The magazine (A Suivre) had just started, and that was started by Casterman, and that was a monthly. (A Suivre) was specifically set up by Casterman to do continuing stories. Now we didn't really know of too many continuing stories that needed to be published in about 8 page segments every month -- and then they would be gathered in an album published by Casterman -- but Jacques Tardi was doing stuff with them, and he introduced Art to Jean-Paul Mougin, who was the editor at the time, and Art talked about doing Maus. Mougin said "Fine, but I want a proposal in writing." And Art wrote down an outline for Maus, which of course at the time was meant only as a sample, but it's the first time he had to provide the structure, and chapters, and the narrative arc, which he pretty much stuck to.

"Maus" postcard used for personal correspondence (1979)

In late 1978 Mouly began publishing projects on her multilith press under the Raw name, including prints, stationary, postcards, and a series of eight-page "mailbooks," primarily featuring new work by American and European cartoonists. The living European artists were all future Raw contributors who Mouly and Spiegelman encountered during their 1978 tour of Europe.

From left to right: The front and back cover of Mouly's Caran d'Ache mailbook (October 1978); "Manhattan" mailbook by Mark Beyer (December 1978); "Wallpaper" greeting card by Spiegelman. (December 1978).

Mouly: I really, really liked all of the graphic arts which were very hands on at the time, but I also loved the idea being able to make something, to actually think of something. It was exactly what I hadn't done in school. It was a dream come true. You could conceive of a project, and then you could design it, and then there you could actually build it yourself. And for me, having a press allowed me to take everything from start to finish. And not only print it, but fold it, and the binding and the stapling, and then I would go to the stores, which was the local stores, New Morning which was run by Jim Drougas, Sohozat, a few other card shops.

"Top Drawer" rubber stamp catalogues, published on commission by Mouly with design elements by Spiegelman (1979).

I wanted to learn to print, but some of the things I was printing were strictly in terms of learning what to do, second color, and so on and so forth, but I was ambitious in term of what I wanted to bring about. I liked doing the Caran d'Ache, the cow looking at a passing train. With Töpffer I was thinking of doing a book at the maximum size. I could take a story and translate it and publish it.

Mouly and her multilith press; Mouly's work area; Mouly, Spiegelman and the press.

Mouly's interest in comics and publishing was sufficiently piqued by these experiences that she began to entertain the idea of publishing a comics magazine.

Left to right: "French Postcard" mailbook, printing vintage erotic photography; Test lithograph, drawing by Spiegelman; "The Collector," lithograph by Spiegelman; "The Basis of Make-Up" mailbook by Heinz Emigholz. (All February 1979)

Mouly: At the time there were quite a few magazines, there was (A Suivre), there was L'Echo des Savanes, there was Métal Hurlant, which then was about to come out with Heavy Metal, they hadn't yet, and that led to pretty much nothing in terms of getting French artists into America. But then I got interested… I knew how frustrated Art had been with Arcade, but I was saying like, "Let's publish some of this interesting stuff in the US," and he was very reluctant to go back into any kind of publishing. But it fit right in with what I wanted to do.

Left to right:"Every Day Has Its Dog" mailbook by Spiegelman (March 1979); "French Postcard II" mailbook by Bruno Richard; "1-2-3-4-5-6-7" mailbook by Pascal Doury (Both 1979, month unspecified); "Maus' Revenge 2," lithograph by Spiegelman (May 1979); "The Chinese Landscape" mailbook by Heinz Emigholz (October 1979).

I wanted to do something like Raw. I really did. And Art didn't. In a way, it was almost like getting married, where, like, we tried everything else. So, he did renew his efforts to get other people to publish comics, and he did it because of the antagonism that came from him being the editor of Arcade. Because he felt at the time he had put all of his efforts into doing something that nobody else really appreciated or wanted, and that they were not as unhappy with the alternatives as he was, and he was very unhappy with things like Comix Book, the co-opting, and for him, he was adamant that artists have to keep their rights, and so on. So he renewed his efforts to get some legitimate venues to publish comics.

Front and back cover to "Work and Turn," a booklet by Spiegelman that was later considered as a tip-in for Raw's first issue. (March 1979) The "Zippyscope," a hand-assembled picture-story viewer with 285 scrolling pantomime panels by Bill Griffith (April 1979).

And I would have wanted -- there were basically two ways to do it. One would have been to do a publishing house, and to publish all this, and to do a book with each one of those people, like Futuropolis. I also liked doing everything myself, but I found out that publishing houses put out a minimum of ten to twenty books a year, and that's a really small publishing house. I couldn't imagine putting out twenty books a year and doing everything start to finish. So I thought, well, it's more efficient to put everything together into one package and do a magazine, and then the magazine would be basically the showcase, rather than telling people how to do these all this, and just do it. Obviously, I couldn't force Art's hand.   Continue to part two...