- Will Eisner
Infobox Comics creator
caption = Will Eisner, 1982
birthname = William Erwin Eisner
birthdate = birth date|1917|3|6|mf=y
Brooklyn, New York City, New York
deathdate = death date and age|2005|1|3|1917|3|6
Lauderdale Lakes, Florida
nationality = American
area = writer, penciler, inker
notable works = "
The Spirit" " A Contract with God"
awards = full list
William Erwin Eisner (
March 6, 1917– January 3, 2005) was an acclaimed American comics writer, artistand entrepreneur. He is considered one of the most important contributors to the development of the medium and is known for the cartooning studio he founded; for his highly influential series " The Spirit"; for his use of comics as an instructional medium; for his leading role in establishing the graphic novelas a form of literature with his book "A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories"; and for his educational work about the medium as exemplified by his book " Comics and Sequential Art".
In 1988, the comics community paid tribute to Eisner by creating the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, more commonly known as "the Eisners", to recognize achievements each year in the comics medium. Eisner enthusiastically participated in the awards ceremony, congratulating each recipient.
Early life and career
Eisner was born in
Brooklyn, New York, the son of Jewish immigrants— his father was a former painter, marginally successful entrepreneur, and one-time manufacturer in Manhattan's Seventh Avenue garment district. Eisner attended DeWitt Clinton High School. With influences that included the early 20th-century commercial artist J. C. Leyendecker, [cite news | title=Cons: New York 1974! | publisher= | work=The Journal Summer Special | date=1974 (fanzine published by Paul Kowtiuk, Maple Leaf Publications; editorial office then at Box 1286, Essex, Ontario, Canada N0R 1E0) | author=Lovece, Frank] he drew for the school newspaper("The Clintonian"), the literary magazine ("The Magpie") and the yearbook, and did stage design, leading him to consider doing that kind of work for theater. Upon graduation, he studied under Canadianartist George Brandt Bridgman(1864–1943) for a year at the Art Students League of New York. Contacts made there led to a position as an advertisingwriter- cartoonistfor the " New York American" newspaper. Eisner also drew $10-a-page illustrations for pulp magazines, including "Western Sheriffs and Outlaws".
In 1936, high-school friend and fellow cartoonist
Bob Kane, of future Batmanfame, suggested that the 19-year-old Eisner try selling cartoons to the new comic book "Wow, What A Magazine!". "Comic books" at the time were tabloid-sized collections of comic stripreprints in color. In 1935, they began to include occasional new comic strip-like material. Editor Jerry Igerbought an Eisner adventure strip called "Captain Scott Dalton", an H. Rider Haggard-styled hero who traveled the world after rare artifacts. Eisner subsequently wrote and drew the piratestrip "The Flame" and the secret agentstrip "Harry Karry" for "Wow" as well.
Eisner & Iger
"Wow" lasted four issues (cover-dated July-Sept. & Nov. 1936). After it ended, Eisner and Iger worked together producing and selling original comics material, anticipating that the well of available reprints would soon run dry, though their accounts of how their partnership was founded differ. One of the first such comic-book "packagers", their partnership was an immediate success, and the two soon had a stable of comics creators supplying work to
Fox Comics, Fiction House, Quality Comics(for whom Eisner co-created such characters as Doll Manand Blackhawk), and others. Turning a profit of $1.50 a page, Eisner claimed that he "got very rich before I was 22", [Mercer, Marilyn, "The Only Real Middle-Class Crimefighter", "New York" (Sunday supplement, " New York Herald Tribune"), Jan. 9, 1966; reprinted "Alter Ego" #48, May 2005] later detailing that in Depression-era 1939 alone, he and Iger "had split $25,000 between us", [Heintjes, Tom, "The Spirit: The Origin Years" #3 (Kitchen Sink Press, Sept. 1992)] a considerable amount for the time. Eisner's original work even crossed the Atlantic, with Eisner drawing the new cover of the Oct. 16, 1937 issue of Boardman Books' comic-strip reprint tabloid "Okay Comics Weekly".
In 1939, Eisner created Wonder Man for Victor Fox, an accountant who previously worked at
DC Comicsand wanted to get into the comic book business. Following Fox's instructions to create a Superman-type character, and using the pen name Willis, Eisner wrote and drew the first issue of Wonder Comics. Eisner protested the derivative nature of the character and story and eventually testified in the court case, admitting that the character was a thinly veiled version of Superman.
This period of Eisner's career is depicted in his semi-
autobiographicalgraphic novel, "The Dreamer".
In "late '39, just before
Christmastime," Eisner recalled in 1979, ["Art & Commerce: An Oral Reminiscence by Will Eisner". "Panels" #1 (Summer 1979), pp. 5–21, quoted in [http://www.comicartville.com/rareeisner.htm Comicartville: "Rare Eisner" by Ken Quattro] ] Quality Comics publisher Everett M. "Busy" Arnold"came to me and said that the Sunday newspapers were looking for a way of getting into this comic book boom". In a 2004 interview,Will Eisner interview, "Alter Ego" #48 (May 2005), p. 10] he elaborated on that meeting:
Eisner negotiated an agreement with the syndicate in which Arnold would copyright "The Spirit", but, "Written down in the contract I had with 'Busy' Arnold — and this contract exists today as the basis for my copyright ownership — Arnold agreed that it was my property. They agreed that if we had a split-up in any way, the property would revert to me on that day that happened. My attorney went to 'Busy' Arnold and his family, and they all signed a release agreeing that they would not pursue the question of ownership" This would include the eventual backup features, "
Mr. Mystic" and "Lady Luck".
Selling his share of their firm to Iger, who would continue to package comics as the S. M. Iger Studio and as Phoenix Features through 1955, Eisner left to create "The Spirit". "They gave me an adult audience," Eisner said in 1997, "and I wanted to write better things than superheroes. Comic books were a ghetto. I sold my part of the enterprise to my associate and then began The Spirit. They wanted an heroic character, a costumed character. They asked me if he'd have a costume. And I put a mask on him and said, 'Yes, he has a costume!'" [Will Eisner interview, [http://www.twomorrows.com/kirby/articles/16eisner.html "Jack Kirby Collector" #16 (June 1997)] ]
"The Spirit", a seven-page, urban-crimefighter series, ran with such backup features as "Mr. Mystic" and "Lady Luck" in a 16-page Sunday supplement (colloquially called "The Spirit Section") eventually distributed in 20 newspapers with a combined circulation of as many as five million copies, premiering June 2, 1940, and continuing through 1952.
Eisner's rumpled, masked hero (with his headquarters under the tombstone of his supposedly deceased true identity, Denny Colt) and his gritty, detailed view of big-city life (based on Eisner's Jewish upbringing in New York City) both reflected and influenced the "
noir" outlook of movies and fiction in the 1940s.
The strip is especially notable in other areas. First, it was the story of people, often the little people overlooked in the city's maelstrom. In some episodes of "The Spirit," the nominal hero makes a brief, almost incidental appearance while the story focuses on a real-life drama played out in streets, dilapidated
tenements, and smoke-filled back rooms. Second, along with violenceand pathos, "The Spirit" lived on humor, both subtle and overt. He was machine-gunned, knocked silly, bruised, often amazed into near immobility and constantly confused by beautiful women.
Set in the Manhattan "manqué" of Central City, the strip featured a big-hearted supporting cast that included the gruff Irish police commissioner, Dolan; his gorgeous blonde daughter, Ellen, whose waifish manner belied the occasional vicious uppercut or scathing remark she could throw; and
Ebony White, an orphaned African Americanchild who served as the Spirit's sidekick, surrogate son, and kid-appeal comic relief, whom the other characters treated with a casual, inherent respect not always seen in the pop cultureof the time, but which also drew criticism for its racial caricature — one which, in the manner of that era's pop culture, extended to many others of the strip's people of color. One exception was Detective Grey, an African American police detective on the Central City force, who was rendered as ordinarily as the Caucasian characters.
While Eisner's later graphic novels were entirely his own work, he had a studio working under his supervision on "The Spirit". In particular,
letterer Abe Kanegsoncame up with the distinctive lettering style which Eisner himself would later imitate in his book-length works, and Kanegson would often rewrite Eisner's dialogue.Sim, Dave, "My Dinner With Will & Other Stories", "Following Cerebus" #4 (May 2005)]
Eisner's most trusted assistant on "The Spirit", however, was
Jules Feiffer, later a renowned cartoonist, playwrightand screenwriterin his own right. Eisner later said of their working methods "You should hear me and Jules Feiffer going at it in a room. 'No, you designed the splash page for this one, then you wrote the ending — I came up with the idea for the story, and you did it up to this point, then I did the next page and this sequence here and...' And I'll be swearing up and down that "he" wrote the ending on that one. We never agree".
So trusted were Eisner's assistants that Eisner allowed them to "ghost" "The Spirit" from the time that he was drafted into the
U.S. Armyin 1942 until his return to civilian life in 1945. The primary wartime artists were the uncredited Lou Fineand Jack Cole, with future "Kid Colt, Outlaw" artist Jack Keller drawing backgrounds. Ghost writers included Manly Wade Wellmanand William Woolfolk. The wartime ghosted stories have been reprinted in DC Comics' hardcover collections "The Spirit Archives" Vols. 5 to 11 (2001–2003), spanning July 1942 - December 1944.
On Eisner's return from service and resumption of his role in the studio, he created the bulk of the "Spirit" stories on which his reputation was solidified. The post-war years also saw him attempt to launch the comic-strip/comic-book series "Baseball", "John Law", "Kewpies", and "Nubbin the Shoeshine Boy"; none succeeded, but some material was recycled into "The Spirit".
American Visuals Corporation
During his World War II military service, Eisner had introduced the use of comics for training personnel, in the publication "Army Motors", for which he created the cautionary bumbling soldier Joe Dope, who illustrated various methods of
preventive maintenanceof various military equipment and weapons. In 1948, while continuing to do "The Spirit" and seeing televisionand other post-war trends eat at newspapers' readership base, he formed the American Visuals Corporation in order to produce instructional materials for the government, related agencies, and businesses. One of his longest-running jobs was " PS, The Preventive Maintenance Monthly", a digest-sized magazine with comic-book elements that he started for the Army in 1951 and continued to work on until the 1970s with Klaus Nordling, Mike Ploogand other artists.
In the late 1970s, Eisner turned his attention to longer storytelling forms. "
A Contract with God, and Other Tenement Stories" (Baronet Books, Oct. 1978) is one of the first American graphic novels, combining thematically linked short stories into a single square-bound volume. Eisner continued with a string of graphic novels that tell the history of New York's immigrant communities, particularly Jews, including "The Building", "A Life Force", "Dropsie Avenue" and "To the Heart of the Storm". He continued producing new books into his seventies and eighties, at an average rate of nearly one a year. Remarkably, each of these books was done twice — once as a rough version to show editor Dave Schreiner, then as a second, finished version incorporating suggested changes. [Sim, Dave, "Advice & Consent: The Editing of Graphic Novels" (panel discussion with Eisner and Chester Brown) and Frank Miller interview, both "Following Cerebus" #5 (August 2005).]
Some of his last work was the retelling in sequential art of
novels and myths, including " Moby-Dick". In 2002, at the age of 85, he published " Sundiata", based on the part-historical, part-mythical stories of a West African king, "The Lion of Mali". " Fagin the Jew" is an account of the life of Dickens's character Fagin, in which Eisner tries to get past the stereotyped portrait of Fagin in " Oliver Twist". His last graphic novel, "The Plot", an account of the making of the anti-semitic hoax" The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", was completed shortly before his death and published in 2005.
In his later years especially, Eisner was a frequent lecturer about the craft and uses of sequential art. He taught at the
School of Visual Artsin New York City, and wrote two books based on these lectures, " Comics and Sequential Art" and " Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative", which are widely used by students of cartooning. In 2002, Eisner participated in the Will Eisner Symposium of the 2002 University of Florida Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels. [ [http://www.english.ufl.edu/imagetext/archives/volume1/issue1/eisner/ Transcript, Eisner's keynote address at the 2002 University of Florida Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels' Will Eisner Symposium] ]
Eisner died in
Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, of complications from a quadruple bypass surgeryperformed December 22, 2004. [ [http://scoop.diamondgalleries.com/scoop_article.asp?ai=7363&si=121 Gemstone Publishing: "Industry News" (Jan. 7, 2005): "In Memoriam: Will Eisner"] ] [ [http://www.sfwa.org/news/weisner.htm Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: "SF&F Publishing News" (Jan. 4, 2005): "Will Eisner (1917–2005)"] ] DC Comics held a memorial service in Manhattan's Lower East Side, a neighborhood Eisner often visited in his work, on April 7, 2005, at the Angel Orensanz Foundation on Norfolk Street. [ [http://scoop.diamondgalleries.com/scoop_article.asp?ai=8024&si=121 Gemstone Publishing: "Industry News" (March 18, 2005): "DC Comics Celebrates Will Eisner"] ]
Eisner was survived by his wife, Ann Weingarten Eisner, and their son, John. In the introduction to the 2001 reissue of "A Contract with God", Eisner revealed that the inspiration for the title story grew out of the 1969 death of his
leukemia-stricken teenaged daughter, Alice, next to whom he is buried. Until then, only Eisner's closest friends were aware of his daughter's life and death.
Awards and honors
Eisner has been recognized for his work with the
National Cartoonist SocietyComic Book Award for 1967, 1968, 1969, 1987, and 1988, as well as its Story Comic Book Award in 1979, and its highest accolade, the Reuben Award, for 1988.
He was inducted into the
Academy of Comic Book ArtsHall of Fame in 1971, and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1987. The following year, the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards were established in his honor.
He received in 1975 the second
Grand Prix de la ville d'Angoulême, the most important European comics award. The only other American author to receive this award was Robert Crumbin 1999.
Jack Kirby, Robert Crumb, Harvey Kurtzman, Gary Panterand Chris Ware, Eisner was among the artists honored in the exhibition "Masters of American Comics" at the Jewish Museum in New York City, New York, from Sept. 16, 2006 to Jan. 28, 2007.
A Contract with God" (1978, Baronet Books ISBN 0-89437-035-9; DC Comics' reissue ISBN 1-56389-674-5)
* "Will Eisner Color Treasury" (1981, Kitchen Sink) (ISBN 0-87816-006-X)
* "Spirit Color Album" (1981, Kitchen Sink) (ISBN 0-87816-002-7)
* "Spirit Color Album, v2" (1983, Kitchen Sink) (ISBN 0-87816-010-8)
* "Spirit Color Album, v3" (1983, Kitchen Sink) (ISBN 0-87816-011-6)
* "Life on Another Planet" (1983) (ISBN 0-87816-370-0)
* "Comics and Sequential Art" (1985) (ISBN 0-9614728-0-4)
* "New York: The Big City" (1986) (ISBN 0-87816-020-5 softcover and ISBN 0-87816-019-1 hardcover) (reprinted in 2000, ISBN 1-56389-682-6)
* "The Dreamer" (1986) (ISBN 1-56389-678-8)
* "The Building" (1987) (ISBN 0-87816-024-8)
* "A Life Force" (1988) (ISBN 0-87816-038-8)
* "Art of Will Eisner" (1989 2nd ed, Kitchen Sink) (ISBN 0-87816-076-0)
* "Outer Space Spirit" (1989 Kitchen Sink) (ISBN 0-87816-012-4)
* "To the Heart of the Storm" (1991) (ISBN 1-56389-679-6)
* "The Will Eisner Reader" (1991) (ISBN 0-87816-129-5)
* "Invisible People" (1993) (ISBN 0-87816-208-9)
* "Dropsie Avenue" (1995) (ISBN 0-87816-348-4)
* "Will Eisner Sketchbook" (1995, Kitchen Sink) (ISBN 0-87816-399-9 softcover and ISBN 0-87816-400-6 hardcover)
* "Christmas Spirit" (1995 Kitchen Sink) (ISBN 0-87816-309-3)
* "Spirit Casebook" (1990 Kitchen Sink) (ISBN 0-87816-094-9)
* "Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative" (1996) (ISBN 0-9614728-3-9)
* "The Princess and the Frog" (1996) (ISBN 1-56163-244-9)
* "All About P'Gell: Spirit Casebook II" (1998 Kitchen Sink) (ISBN 0-87816-492-8)
* "A Family Matter" (1998) (ISBN 0-87816-621-1)
* "Last Day in Vietnam" (2000) (ISBN 1-56971-500-9)
* "The Last Knight" (2000) (ISBN 1-56163-251-1)
* "Minor Miracles" (2000) (ISBN 1-56389-751-2)
*"The Spirit Archives:" [No Eisner work in vols. 5–11]
** Volume 1 (2000, Fall 1940) (ISBN 1-56389-673-7)
** Volume 2 (2000, Spring 1941) (ISBN 1-56389-675-3)
** Volume 3 (2001, Fall 1941) (ISBN 1-56389-676-1)
** Volume 4 (2001, Spring 1942) (ISBN 1-56389-714-8)
** Volume 12 (2003, Spring 1946) (ISBN 1-4012-0006-0)
** Volume 13 (2004, Fall 1946) (ISBN 1-4012-0149-0)
** Volume 14 (2004, Spring 1947) (ISBN 1-4012-0158-X)
** Volume 15 (2005, Fall 1947) (ISBN 1-4012-0162-8)
** Volume 16 (2005, Spring 1948) (ISBN 1-4012-0406-6)
** Volume 17 (2006, Fall 1948) (ISBN 1-4012-0417-1)
** Volume 18 (2006, Spring 1949) (ISBN 1-4012-0769-3)
** Volume 19 (2006, Fall 1949) (ISBN 1-4012-0775-8)
** Volume 20 (2006, Spring 1950) (ISBN 1-4012-0781-2)
* "Will Eisner's Shop Talk" (2001, Dark Horse Comics) (ISBN 1-56971-536-X)
* "Fagin the Jew" (2003) (ISBN 0-385-51009-8)
* "Hawks of the Seas" (2003, Dark Horse Comics) (ISBN 1-56971-427-4)
* "The Name of the Game" (2003) (ISBN 1-56389-869-1)
* "Will Eisner's John Law: Dead Man Walking" (2004, IDW) (Softcover ISBN 1-932382-27-5, Hardcover ISBN 1-932382-83-6)
* "The Plot: The Secret Story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" (2005, WW Norton) (ISBN 0-393-06045-4)
* "The Contract With God Trilogy: Life on Dropsie Avenue" (2005, WW Norton) (ISBN 0-393-06105-1) (anthology collecting "A Contract With God", "A Life Force" and "Dropsie Avenue")
* "New York: Life In the Big City" (2006, WW Norton) (ISBN 0-393-06106-X) (anthology collecting "New York: the Big City", "The Building", "City People Notebook" and "Invisible People")
* [http://www.willeisner.com/ Official site]
* [http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/05/books/05eisner.html?ex=1262667600&en=0529c71a224768cb&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland "The New York Times" (Jan. 5, 2005): "Will Eisner, a Pioneer of Comic Books, Dies at 87", by Sarah Boxer]
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,,1385740,00.html "The Guardian" (Jan. 5, 2005): "Obituary: Will Eisner", by Paul Gravett]
* [http://www.adventurestrips.com/spirit/spirit_origin_heintjes_2.html "Will Eisner's "The Spirit": Setting Up Shop", by Tom Heintjes]
* [http://www.tcj.com/267/i_eisner.html "The Comics Journal" #267: Excerpt, "Will Eisner: Having Something to Say"] (interview)
*Steranko, Jim, "The Steranko History of Comics 2" (Supergraphics, 1972)
* [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/01/05/MNGPEALB111.DTL "The New York Times" Syndicate obituary, by Sarah Boxer]
* Feiffer, Jules, "The Great Comic-Book Heroes", ISBN 1-56097-501-6
* Jones, Gerard, "Men Of Tomorrow" ISBN 0-434-01402-8
* Andelman, Bob, "Will Eisner: A Spirited Life" ISBN 1-59582-011-6
* [http://comics.org The Grand Comics Database]
* [http://www.miami.com/mld/streetmiami/7199728.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp "The Miami Herald" (no date): "The Amazing Adventures of Will Eisner"] (empty link)
* [http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Aurora/2669/intrview.html "Cubic Zirconia Reader": Interview with Jerry Iger] (1985 first-person article by Iger, disputing Eisner version of Eisner & Iger origin)
* [http://www.angelfire.com/art/wildwood/ Wildwood Cemetery: The Spirit Database]
* [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A11308-2004Jun2.html "The Washington Post", June 3, 2004: Interview]
* [http://avclub.com/content/node/22822 "The Onion", Sept. 27, 2000: Interview]
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,,1385740,00.html "The Guardian" (UK newspaper) obituary, Jan. 8, 2005]
* [http://www.arts.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/01/06/db0601.xml "The News Telegraph" (UK newspaper) obituary, Jan. 6, 2005]
* [https://www.logsa.army.mil/psmag/pshome.html "P*S" (official site)]
* [http://dig.library.vcu.edu/cdm4/index_psm.php?CISOROOT=/psm "P*S" Digital Collection at Virginia Commonwealth University]
* [http://www.e-mago.co.il/Editor/english-588.htm E-Mago: "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion: The Truth Story", by Eli Eshed, translated by Gila Brand] (background on Eisner graphic novel)
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Will Eisner — Will Eisner, 1982 William Erwin Eisner (* 6. März 1917 in Brooklyn, New York City; † 3. Januar 2005 in Fort Lauderdale) war ein US amerikanischer Zeichner von Comics und prägte maßgeblich deren Entwicklung im 20. Jahrhundert. Eisner führte den… … Deutsch Wikipedia
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Eisner Award — Will Eisner Award Les Will Eisner Awards (ou Eisner Awards) sont des prix qui récompensent les meilleurs bandes dessinées américaines. Ils ont été créés en 1988 suite à l interruption des Kirby Awards. Les Eisner sont décernés par les… … Wikipédia en Français
Eisner Awards — Will Eisner Award Les Will Eisner Awards (ou Eisner Awards) sont des prix qui récompensent les meilleurs bandes dessinées américaines. Ils ont été créés en 1988 suite à l interruption des Kirby Awards. Les Eisner sont décernés par les… … Wikipédia en Français
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