When Comics Conspiracy owner Ryan Higgins first read Maus he was a teenager. Now Higgins, 42, is committing to send free copies of the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel to students affected by its recent banning in an Athens, Tennessee school district.
On January 26, Higgins learned of the McMinn County School board's decision to ban Maus from middle school classes due to partial nudity and profanity. The 1986 graphic novel depicts the true story of author Art Spiegelman's father's experience in the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust. The story shows mice as imprisoned Jewish people and cats as their Nazi oppressors.
"I remember thinking, 'This is about more than superheroes fighting bad guys.' It was heartbreaking and emotional, and it brought a whole new window to something I had little knowledge about," Higgins said about Spiegelman's work to The Washington Post.
Anticipating a surge in sales of the graphic novel, Higgins immediately ordered 100 copies for his Sunnyvale, California comic book store. Then, he took to Twitter.
"I'll donate up to 100 copies of The Complete Maus to any family in the McMinn County area in Tennessee," Higgins wrote in his post, which now has more than 15,000 likes and retweets. He also volunteered to pay for shipping.
Higgins told the Post that about 60 students and parents who reside in the McMinn County school district have contacted him wanting copies.
"It's just so bizarre -- the actual images of the Holocaust are the most graphic, nightmare-inducing images in the world," he said. "Why take Maus out of the curriculum when it makes this horror more teachable to a wider and younger audience?"
This isn't the first time Higgins has stepped up when a school district has banned a graphic novel. In December 2021, a Texas school district banned the graphic novel V for Vendetta, and comic book series Y: The Last Man. So Higgins took to Twitter, offering to send copies to anyone in the district who wanted them.
Many people have since shown their support for Higgins, offering to help fund his endeavor and expressing their gratitude toward him, as well as dismay toward the school district.
"When thought-provoking comic books and graphic novels are banned, this hits my world," Higgins told the Post. "Sending out free copies of Maus is something I can do. If even one kid reads it and it changes their world, that's a wonderful thing."