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RIP Will Eisner

Silent Bob

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I could go on forever about what Mr. Eisner means to our art form, but anything I could stammer out would be both redundant and an understatement. Instead I’ll tell my only Eisner story. I’m remembering all this through the glow of fond memory, so please forgive any inaccuracies.


My career began in the black and white explosion of the mid to late eighties. I was attending my very first San Diego Con as a pro and was completely star struck. I stood within ten feet of Jack Kirby, but could not screw up the courage to even say hello, same with Will Eisner. Instead I simply went to every panel they spoke on and tried to absorb as much as I could.


At one roundtable discussion on the state of the industry, the current comics intelligentsia began to decry the glut of really crappy comic books flooding the market, claiming (maybe accurately) that the swell of bad books was drowning the struggling good ones. They wanted to do away with all the amateurish rags clogging up the shelves. Rags to which I had contributed. It was heartbreaking. I knew I wasn’t very good, but I was so excited just to be allowed on the playground with all the great cartoonists of the day, to hear they wanted me and my kind to vacate the industry was a body blow.


Mr. Eisner quietly made the point that maybe those on the panel ought not to judge this new batch of cartoonists too harshly. That this new generation was under more scrutiny than any before it, and someday soon these creators would probably be collaborators with many on the panel. In essence it was a gentle, graceful, noble, astute smackdown. At this point Will’s halo just about blinded me.


After the panel I retired to the restroom. Just as I finished up, Eisner stood at the urinal right next to mine. I froze. I’d concluded my business already, but kept my station. Only one year into the business and I’m peeing right next to Will Eisner! He turned to his pal who had the next urinal over and asked, “Gee, you think I was too hard on those guys”?


It was all I could do to keep from hugging him.

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Farewell to a true artist, and a legend to the industry. :D


SB, im glad you were able to meet him, man. My next reads of his are "Last day in Vietnam" and the rest of "Sequential Art", tho i do intend to read The Spirit sometime too (nice avatar).


On that history channel special, "Superheroes Unmasked" he had a great line about Karen Page vs Elektra:


"There's an underlying contempt for the safe, good girl next door that your mother approves of. She's boring.

Now, the slut down the street...she's interesting."

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My favorite Will Eisner joke (ok, probably not his but he liked to tell it a lot, apparently):


This guy's walking down the street in New York City and realizes that his watch has stopped working. So he looks around the block and finds a shop with all sorts of clocks and watches hanging in the window. Guy goes in. There's no one at the counter so he rings the bell. Out from the back room walks an old man with a long white beard.


"Excuse me," the man asks, "my watch has stopped, can you fix it here?"


"No we don't fix watches here." the old man replies.


"Uh, ok, well do you have any cheap ones I could buy?"


"We don't sell watches hear either."


Puzzled, the man asks, "well what do you do here?"




"Circumcisions?! Well, what's with all the clocks and watches in the window?"


The old man shrugs. "What the hell else was I gonna  put in the window?"


Circumcision jokes really are the best when they're told by an 86 year old Jewish guy from New York.

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Newsarama reports a really cool move on behalf of the CBDLF.




Will Eisner’s The Spirit Graces 2005 CBLDF Member Card


The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) is proud to announce that Will Eisner’s legendary character The Spirit will be featured on its 2005 Member Card. The image, drawn by Eisner himself, is an extraordinary statement about the late master’s commitment to protecting the comics field’s First Amendment rights.


“Will authorized us to use the Spirit on this year’s card last summer,” says CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein. “We’d planned all along to release the art this week, but unfortunately our timing is now bittersweet. But in addition to standing as a tribute to Eisner, this card is yet another illustration of his generous and continued commitment to the art form, and to the CBLDF’s fight to preserve the First Amendment rights of this field. I know he was proud to illustrate this year’s card, because he realized that members are the heart and soul of our organization.”


A constant innovator in comics, Eisner began his avid support of the CBLDF when Denis Kitchen founded the group in 1986. Brownstein continues, “From Denis' first benefit portfolio up to the present day with the release of this card, Will unselfishly volunteered his art, time, and resources to help us fulfill our mission. He was always available on the other side of the phone whenever we needed his insight. He never turned down a request. He was always curious about our ongoing work and freely offered good ideas about how we could do that work better.”


CBLDF President Chris Staros said, “Will Eisner understood that the ability for him to create the stories he was interested in telling depended upon a strong retailer environment that would be defended against unnecessary prosecutions. It’s poignant that he was able to provide this card as one of his last gifts to our members. He was an inspiration for our work and continues to inspire us as we face the challenges of 2005.”


The 2005 member card is presently at the printer and is due back in early February. It will be sent to members who join or renew this year. To sign up, please visit http://cbldf.org/membership.shtml

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  • 1 year later...




I've read it (yeah you're thinking "of course he's read it), it's good. Admittedly, it's not one of Eisner's best, mostly because the story's pretty simplistic. A lot of Eisner's work deals with multiple characters, or timelines and they're a little more complex. Fagin is about one character and reads like a straight-forward biography. It also gets a little preachy during a speech at the end, but it's a good speech so it's forgiveable. That said, yeah it's a good book. Short too, you could probably just read it at the book store if you wanted to.

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just got fagin, thanks SB. also found one called (kind of) "How to avoid death & taxes and live forever" or something like that, you read it? any good? Im still trying to find "last day in vietnam".


Actually SB, what are your personal Eisner favoirtes?

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Actually SB, what are your personal Eisner favoirtes?


I actually lean toward his sketchbook-type books, rather than the more heavily plotted graphic novels. I like Invisible People, The Building, Dropsie Avenue and his City People Notebook, stuff like that. Most of them are pretty much a series of loosely connected vignettes about life in New York. Dunno what it is, I just find them charming.


I've found it a little hard to get other people into Eisner because from a modern standpoint, his books really are...well, I dunno for lack of a better term, quaint. You could probably find more intricate plotting and subtler dialogue in any random issue of Spider-man these days. To understand why Eisner is great, one has to know the history enough to know that he was peerless when he wrote most of his books. Compared to modern serious-minded graphic novels, Eisner's work is a bit of fluff. Sure, he deals with very serious adult issues, but he does so in such a broad, theatrical, almost-cartoony way that it's a little hard to take seriously sometimes. It's like old movies - no matter how great they are, they will always have one or two products of their time that seem hokey through modern eyes. You have to learn to somehow view those movies and read Eisner's books through the prism of the time they came from.


Anyway, just talking outloud, I don't think anyone here would have a problem getting into it.

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