Monday, March 6, 2017

EISNER'S 100TH


Some thoughts, first posted here some years back, in celebration of what would have been Will Eisner's 100th birthday:

I had the honor of sitting on a panel beside Eisner—one of few comic book creators who crossed, then utterly erased, the line between pop culture entertainment and genuine literature—many years ago, but we never had the opportunity to really talk, really connect.  And yet we did connect, through his work, and he spoke to me, via words and pictures, in eloquent, unforgettable—and deeply personal—ways.     

There have been times, in a career that’s lasted over thirty-five years, when I’ve grown tired of comics, when I’ve felt that there’s nothing left for me to say; when I’ve looked at the form with a cynical, dismissive eye.  Better, I thought, to just focus on my television and film work, on novels, on anything but those damn comic books. 

And then, I’d pick up some Eisner graphic novel—Dropsie Avenue, To the Heart of the Storm, or my absolute favorite, one of the single most brilliant works this medium has ever seen, A Contract With God—and the scales would fall from my eyes, the cynical words would dissolve on my lips, the innocence and enthusiasm of a kid reading his first comic book would burn bright in my heart. 

Will Eisner didn’t traffic in costumes and super-powers:  He looked at the (apparently) mundane, everyday world and revealed the infinite universes within each person’s heart.  His work, unfailingly, inspired me and taught me, again and again, that the true potential of comics has only begun to be tapped; that we, as writers and artists in this medium, can, and must, tell stories of intelligence, emotion—and heartbreaking, uplifting humanity.  

Eisner inspired me in another way, as well:  He never stopped.  The man kept  working, producing graphic novels of unparalleled quality—producing art—till the day he died.  May we all follow his example and keep creating new worlds of imagination into our eighties and beyond.  Aspiring, as Will Eisner clearly did, to always be better at our craft.

©copyright 2017 J.M. DeMatteis

6 comments:

  1. I'm grateful for Will Eisner and his work and career. I must confess that I've never read a single thing he's written, but if he can inspire the writer that I find the most inspirational and clever and (most importantly) uplifting, then I am certainly grateful to him.

    I'll try and find "A Contract With God" since you've given it such high praise.

    Whenever I need to be inspired, my go to choices your "Spectre" series or "Forever Evil Blight". Those two remind me that no matter what, redemption is attainable. Thank you for that!

    George

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    1. You are incredibly welcome, George.

      Now go track down a copy of CONTRACT and then let me know what you think!

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  2. Apparently there is some problem with my stuff going through these days. So, lets see how much I can remember...

    I never liked the idea of Eisner being called a Graphic Novelist. Not for any reason other than they weren't novels, rather a series of vignettes.

    I think that to call them novels is a disservice, they were really something else unto themselves. Some sort of unique way of storytelling to Eisner himself.

    The other thing that is fascinating about him is that, with a few exceptions, it always seems like he is telling one long biography of life in the big apple. It isn't chapters, it isn't a series, but rather something else entirely.

    The best part of Eisner though, is his way of storytelling. Both the art and words are so simple and straightforward... yet elegant. No one loved and respected teh common man, even with all our flaws and sins, as much as Eisner did. This was all really phrased much better in the last one.

    Honestly I'm surprised you didn't name "The Dreamer" by name.

    My favorite works of his after Contract are probably the Building and Last Dy in Vietnam. The latter has a bit of Dark comedy in the end that you don't see much in his work.

    Of course that may not be true,I do have a muh softer spot in my heart for teh Spirit than you do. It is almost like a type of historical writing for the psyche of the eminently post-war American.

    It was also a bit of a precursor to Man-Thing and Sandman, in the since that he could inject whatever was acing through his mind that week.

    It was a different Generation of creators, and I dispel, we'll never have a man like him again.


    Jack

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  3. "Simple and straightforward...yet elegant." That's exactly right, Jack.

    There's so much Eisner I love. CONTRACT, THE DREAMER, TO THE HEART OF THE STORM, DROPSIE AVENUE. And on and on. What a body of work he left us.

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    1. I've never read "Heart of the Storm." Its on the List along with "Fagin the Jew," and either the collection of or actually issues of Will Eisner Quarterly.

      I have heard him referred to as the "Mark Twain of comics" and the "Orson Welles of comics." While I can certainly see and understand that, I think that it diminishes his own works by having to compare it to others. Perhaps rather Welles is the Eisner of movies.

      Also, remember this, no one ever drew water better than Eisner.

      He was a cartoonist in the best and purist meaning of the word.

      Jack

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    2. Yes, he was a cartoonist in the purest sense. One man, melding words and images in a unique and truly brilliant way.

      Those men and woman who can both write AND draw are magical creatures to me. And the comic book medium was made for them.

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