Multi-award winning cartoonist and Maus author Art Spiegelman is going to receive an additional award for his shelf – the 2022 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (DCAL) from the National Book Foundation. The first cartoonist to receive the lifetime achievement DCAL medal in its 34-year history, it will be presented to Spiegelman by Neil Gaiman at a ceremony taking place November 16, 2022.


2022 has already been an eventful year for Spiegelman. January saw a Tennessee school board delist – and de-facto ban – his 1986 holocaust graphic novel Maus, leading to widespread media attention and protest. Spiegelman was interviewed by press outlets and invited to public discussion panels in the aftermath, and it all helped the book to once more surge up sales charts.

art spiegelman award

Although widely recognised for Maus – which was serialised in Raw, an alternative comics anthology published by Spiegelman and his wife Françoise Mouly between 1980 and 1991 – Spiegelman’s career extends as far back as 1960s fanzines and illustrations for local press as a teenager before he became immersed in what later became known as the underground comix movement of the 1970s. Beside Maus and the 2011 MetaMaus companion piece, Spiegelman has also produced The Wild Party (1994), In the Shadow of No Towers (2004), Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! (2008), and Be a Nose (2009).

The previous awards and prizes that Art Spiegelman has received are too numerous to list, but among them are the Guggenheim Fellowship (1990), Pulitzer Prize (1992), Eisner Award Hall of Fame (1999), a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government (2005), Angoulême Grand Prix (2011), an American Academy of Arts and Letters membership (2015), and  the Edward MacDowell Medal (2018).

National Book Foundation Board of Directors Chair David Steinberger said:

“Art Spiegelman has captured the world’s imagination through the comics medium. His masterful graphic novels tackle and illuminate topics from the Holocaust to the aftermath of 9/11, alongside the personal intimacy of the people, events, and comics that shaped him as an artist. Spiegelman’s groundbreaking work has shown us the limitless possibilities for comics as a literary arts form, and the Foundation is proud to honor his legacy.”

Executive Director of the National Book Foundation Ruth Dickey added:

“Art Spiegelman’s tremendous body of work, as well as his anthologizing, community building, and advocacy for comics literacy for readers of all ages have secured comics as an irreplaceable literary form. His carefully researched Maus blends family memoir with world history and political commentary, and shines a light on the complexity of intergenerational trauma. The graphic novel is a frequent target of censorship, and remains essential reading not just to understand our history but our present as well. We are honored to celebrate Spiegelman’s work as an artist and an advocate with the Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.”

The National Book Awards have been in existence since 1950. They were decided by publishers, editors, writers and critics and as a means to honour the best fiction, non-fiction and poetry. In 1989, the National Book Foundation non-profit organisation was founded to oversee the awards as well as promote readership and the appreciation of great writing in the country. While previously snubbed, comics have increasingly been garnering National Book Award attention and prizes – including Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell and the late John Lewis’ March in 2016.

The Distinguished Contribution to American Letters began in 1988 and “is presented each year to a person who has enriched our literary heritage over a life of service, or a corpus of work.” While Art Spiegelman is the first cartoonist to receive the award, his name will sit beside previous recipients including Toni Morrison (1996), Oprah Winfrey (1999), Ray Bradbury (2000), Stephen King (2003), and Ursula Le Guin (2014).