Thursday, January 06, 2005

RIP Will Eisner 1917-2005.

The great American comic book artist Will Eisner died on the 3'rd of January, sad news as he was one of the most talented and influential artists to come out of the "golden age" of American comics (1940's to early 50's)

His primary creation was the detective series The Spirit which existed from 1940 to 1952. In these tales of an urban detective (who had risen from the dead and now lived under the Wildwood cemetery...) Eisner was a master of dynamic picture panels with extreme camera-like angles and story lines that went far beyond the usual stereotypes of good vs. Evil.
Eisners work always had a great sense of humor and an "human angle" on crime, and The Spirit would often battle not just common thieves and burglars but also corrupt politicians, mass murderers, greedy entrepreneurs and last - but not least: A wide range of female criminals who were always drawn by the virtuoso Eisner as the peak of 1940's chic.

Eisners abilities with storytelling and drawing made him one of the key figures in making the comic book a media for "mature" readers and Eisner began to describe the comic as "sequential art".
In the 70's a renewed interest in his work from the early days brought Eisner back from the world of commercial art and he began to produce a series of comic books starting with "A contract with God" (1979) which drew its inspiration from the migrated Eastern European cultures of Eisners childhood in The Bronx in New York - he was himself the son of an immigrant Rumanian mother and Austrian father.

Like many artists working out of New York (Hubert Selby Jr, Martin Scorsese to name a few) Eisner always had strong moral issues to convey in his stories. He often dealt with how the average citizen stands up to death, betrayal, exploitation, greed, corruption, failed love and the concept of God in a modern materialistic world which still had strong ties to a spiritual and mythical past.

In many of Eisners stories the heroes simply were the everyday people on "the block" in some typical New York neighborhood. Most of them a veritable catalogue of human flaws, but also loyal to their friends and families and with an abundance of what the typical Eisner bad guy/girl lacked: Heart.

When I was younger I didn't think much of Eisners later work which I often found was too heavy on morale of an very American flavor. Now, as I grow older, I keep saying to myself when I read it: "Yap, that's exactly the way it is!"

I personally had the pleasure of attending lectures by him here in Copenhagen in 1987 (and got myself his autograph)

Babe - Well, what would be better than one of Will Eisners creations.

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