Sunday, 11 December 2011

E is For...Eisner

Eisner by Eisner
While I'm by no means an Eisner completist, I have a particular affection for one particular period of his work and recognise his influence in other creators I love.
Back when my first comic shop in London was floundering and I'd read everything on the shleves that I wanted to, the local Islington library which was ably supplied (by us) through a lovely lady called Sue with all kinds of good stuff (or certainly had been).
It's where I read Sandman (out of order) but more importantly Cowboy Wally, Will Eisner's Space Spirit and Will Eisner's Contract with God.  Space Spirit was an exposure to Wally Wood's brilliance rather than Will Eisner.
Contract With God was the first time I encountered such pathos and deep human story telling in comics.  In the years since it might feel a little melodramatic compared with the work of Chris Ware, Clowes, Seth and Pekar but as a dyed in the wool super hero kid, branching out it had a massive impact.
The page layouts, fantastic lettering, and time period (30s New York) are so personal to Eisner in comics along with the hand wringing, lip bitting and wailing which you might only see in Jeff Smith's Bone.
The Super, not concious of impending doom...
The story of the Super lulled into looking at a little girls knickers by the awful little girl who then goes on to kill his dog and ends up driving him to suicide was pretty fucked up.  You have to wonder how much is based on and inspired by his own growing up in the period.
What's generally grouped together as being his Dropsie Avenue work is such a pleasure to read, full of hyper real characters an lush, innovative storytelling.
Eisner's Comics and Sequential Art book was very instructional as a reader to help understand what I was looking at and for, why some comics succeeded in grabbing me and others not.  I honestly feel that along with Understanding Comics (and to a lesser extent, How to Draw Comics The Marvel way) should be required reading for anyone with more than a passing interest in comics.  They certainly aren't the only books on the subject but for me they laid a solid foundation for my passion for great comics.
Lovely little hard cover with nice essays and an ecclectic collection of Eisner work.
I recently picked up the PS magazine articles collection which has his work showing soldiers how to maintain their jeeps and guns which is also very nice stuff but goes further to demonstrate his skill as a teacher.
I've never managed to get into his Spirit work but now that DC has finished publishing it all in 24 x $50 books, perhaps I'll start at the last one and go back as far as it's interesting to me.  I could do with a nice collection of just the splashes to be honest but I understand the last volume contains a lot of work done for Kitchen Sink Press' Spirit Magazine so it sounds up my street.
Eisner continued producing comics until he died and there was still a lot of good work there but, for example, Family Matter in particular, I was enjoying until a number of pages in someone whips out a mobile phone and for the first time I realised it wasn't a period piece.
I have my Eisner and I'm certain it's not everyone's.  I haven't even touched on the massive impact he had on comics at several stage of his life, including the above mentioned Contract With God being a contender for the first original graphic novel and the massive impact of his storytelling in the Spirit on all kinds of storytelling, not just comics or the Eisner/Iger studio which was so important at the birth of comics as we know them.  All that's out there.  Look it up.
Eisner was great, with a massive library of work but for me it doesn't get any better than Dropsie Avenue.

All images grabbed from a facile google search.
One of the several Dropsie Avenue books.

Exemplary Eisner setting just the right tone...

A typical Eisner relationship from Life on Another Planet

One of the most famous Eisner Spirit splashes
The other most famous Spirit splash

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