Comic Creator Will Eisner

Will Eisner

Ford Davies, Will Erwin, Carl Heck, Willis, Willis Nerr, Willis Rensie, Willis B. Rensie, W. Morgan Thomas

(6 March 1917 - 3 January 2005, USA)   United States

Will  Eisner

'The Spirit' (19 September 1948).

Will Eisner was one of the pioneers of American comic books and graphic novels. As one half of the studio Eisner & Iger, he and Jerry Iger co-created and scripted many popular 1930s adventure comics, including 'Sheena, Queen of the Jungle' (1937) and 'Doll Man' (1939). During World War II, he co-created the long-running aviation comic 'Blackhawk' (1941) and the crime series 'Lady Luck' (1941-1949). Will Eisner's signature comic is 'The Spirit' (1940-1952), an atmospheric detective comic that gained a cult following for its innovative, unpredictable storylines and visual execution. In the second half of his career, Eisner produced educational comics for the U.S. army, before reinventing himself once more as "the godfather of the graphic novel." His 'Contract with God' trilogy (1978, 1988, 1995) is a captivating, autobiographical and deeply moving saga about love, life and survival in New York City. Eisner kept creating interesting comics right until his death. Recurring themes in his work are the 1930s, city life, prejudice, family issues, Jewish identity and existential angst. Eisner paved the way for many graphic novelists, writing theoretical books about comics, of which 'Comic & Sequential Art' (1985), is the most iconic. Countless adults have been converted to comics by his timeless, classic comics and thought-provoking essays. He helped the medium mature and be taken seriously as a form of art.

Early life and career
William Erwin Eisner was born in 1917 in Brooklyn, New York City, the son of a Jewish mural artist/theatrical background designer of Austrian-Hungarian descent. His family was poor and moved a lot in his youth, in search of work. They were frequent victims of antisemitism. When Eisner was 13 years old, his mother forced him to become a newspaper boy. The pay was too low to provide any significant income, but offered Eisner the chance to read the daily comics. Among his graphic influences were George Herriman, Cliff Sterrett, Burne Hogarth, Alex Raymond, J.C. Leyendecker, Al Capp and Milton Caniff. At age eight, he also visited the animation studio of the Fleischer Brothers, thanks to a friend's brother who worked there. Later in life, Eisner also expressed admiration for Jules Feiffer, Art Spiegelman and the late 1940s work of Harvey Kurtzman. He devoured novels, enjoying writers like Ambrose Bierce, Ben Hecht and O. Henry, as well as stories found in pulp magazines. He learned that no matter how high or low-brow a story was, the ones he thought were good were always understandable and easy to follow. In addition, Eisner was very much influenced by films, from Hollywood studio features, to Italian neo-realistic pictures and avant-garde movies by Man Ray.

Eisner studied at DeWitt Clinton High School, where one of his fellow students was Bob Kane. His earliest cartoons and illustrations appeared in the high school paper, The Clinton News. He also did stage designs for school plays. Together with future publisher Ken Giniger, he started a literary journal, The Hound and the Horn, full of erotica, poetry and illustrations. Eisner never graduated high school, because he failed Geometry. Even without a diploma, he was able to find a night job at the New York American newspaper, where he worked as a copywriter, illustrator and letterer of advertisements. He also began illustrating stories in pulp magazines like Western Sheriffs and Outlaws. Part of his earnings he used to finance his studies at the Art Students League of New York, under apprentice of George Brandt Bridgman.

Eisner's 'Harry Karry' was later sold as a newspaper comic strip (The Cullman Tribune, 16 June 1938).

Early comics
Will Eisner's first professional comics were the detective series 'Harry Karry' (1936), the adventure comic 'Captain Scott Dalton' (1936) and the pirate comic 'The Flame' (later retitled 'The Hawk' and again as 'Hawks of the Seas', 1936-1938). With the help of his former school mate Bob Kane, he was able to publish them in the magazine WOW by Henle Publications, using the pseudonym Willis Rensie. Although the magazine only lasted four issues, editor Jerry Iger bought 'Captain Scott Dalton' for future publications. Iger and Eisner got along well and started a professional partnership. Several of the WOW comics, such as the adventure serials 'Harry Karry' and 'Hawks of the Seas' (as "Willis B. Rensie")  continued on as weekly newspaper strips in the second half of the 1930s. Under the name "Carl Heck", Eisner also produced the weekly humor strip 'Uncle Otto'. Several of these comics were later collected in the book 'The Lost Works of Will Eisner' (Locust Moon Press, 2016). Later in life, Eisner revealed that around this same time, he had been offered to draw pornographic comics, nicknamed "Tijuana Bibles". Although lucrative, he eventually declined the offer in what he once called "one of the most difficult moral decisions of my life."

Hawks of the Sea by Will Eisner
'Hawks of the Seas', created in the 1930s, still ran in the Canadian paper Le Petit Journal in 1946 (13 October 1946).

Eisner & Iger
In 1936, Jerry Iger and Will Eisner set up a comic production studio at the corner of Madison Avenue and 53rd Street, popularly known as "Eisner & Iger", though it also ran under the name "Universal Phoenix Features Syndicate" (most sources erroneously say the "Syndicated Features Corporation", but that belonged to the Sangor Shop). Although Eisner was actually 19 years old at the time, he claimed he was 25, in order to be taken seriously. Iger on the other hand later asserted that he merely made Eisner his business partner because he was too expensive to be employed as just an artist. At the time, many syndicates reprinted their most popular newspaper comics in book format. These were bestsellers, but Eisner realized that these publications were bound to quickly run out of material. So  "Eisner & Iger" focused on the production of new, original comic series. Eisner wrote and drew most on his own, while Iger did the lettering. Will Eisner deliberately used various pseudonyms - often anagrams of his own name - including Will Erwin, Willis Nerr, Willis Rensie and Willis B. Rensie, but also Carl Heck. That way it would seem that their studio had more artists than there actually were. As their company became more lucrative, the two partners were able to hire more employees. Some future comics legends who started their career at Eisner & Iger include Bernard Baily, Nick Cardy, Reed Crandall, Lou Fine, August Froehlich, Bob Kane, Jack Kirby, Mort Meskin, Bob Powell, John Spranger, George Tuska and Wallace Wood. All comics were made by commission for clients like Editors Press Service, Fox Comics, Fiction House and Quality Comics and sold not only to U.S. magazines, but also to the Canadian, British and Australian market. In December 1939, Eisner left the company when Quality Comics offered him the opportunity to create a newspaper comic for them, with the possibility of being published in comic book format afterwards. He sold his share of Eisner & Iger's stock, and the company continued until 1955 under the new name "S.M. Iger Studio".

Early comic book work by "William E. Eisner" for Centaur's Western Picture Stories #3 ('Wild Tex Martin: Man-Hunt', April 1937).

Sheena, Queen of the Jungle
Eisner and Iger's most successful feature was 'Sheena, Queen of the Jungle' (1937), produced under their collective pseudonym W. Morgan Thomas, with Mort Meskin as the first illustrator. Sheena is the young daughter of a white explorer in Africa. While visiting a native witch doctor, Koba, Sheena's father accidentally drinks a magic potion and dies. Koba takes responsibility and adopts the girl. By the time she reaches adulthood, Sheena has become "queen of the jungle", leaping from tree to tree in her leopard skin outfit, protecting her tribe and all creatures from danger. Originally, she had a chimpanzee sidekick, Chim, and the attractive hunter Bob Reynolds as her love interest. In later episodes, the witch doctor Koba was remodeled into a woman, N'bid Ela, with Chim becoming her pet, rather than Sheena's. Sheena also received a new partner: the hunter Rick Thorne. The comic strip cashed in on the success of the Edgar Rice Burroughs 'Tarzan' novels, which were adapted as a popular comic series by Harold Foster and Burne Hogarth and as an equally beloved film series, starring Johnny Weissmuller. Yet Sheena's name was inspired by "She-who-must-be-obeyed" from H. Rider Haggard's novel 'She' (1886), while her personality was inspired by William Henry Hudson's novel 'Rima, the Jungle Girl' (1904).

Through syndication by Editors Press Service, 'Sheena, Queen of the Jungle' debuted in the first issue of Wags, a British tabloid magazine (January 1937) before appearing in the U.S. in Jumbo Comics (issue #1, September 1938), published by Fiction House. It took until the spring of 1942 before she received her own title, 'Sheena, Queen of the Jungle', making her the first U.S. female comic character with her own comic book series. 'Sheena' became a tremendous best-seller and the series continued until April 1953. Many readers were more interested in the idea of a sexy blonde in a fur bikini strolling around in the wild than the plotlines. Despite never showing anything risqué, the comic book had an erotic flavor. Most other mainstream comics of the 1930s, other than Norman Pett's 'Jane' in Britain, weren't so sexually suggestive. Sheena was also strong, intelligent and independent, and far less passive than most female comic characters. As most 'Sheena' stories featured her rescuing men, the comic also appealed to and attracted a large female readership. 'Sheena, Queen of the Jungle' was the first "jungle princess" character in comics and inspired many similar comics, including 'Camilla, Jungle Queen' (Charles A. Winter, 1940), 'Tiger Girl' (Robert Webb, 1944), 'Princess Pantha' (Art Saaf, 1946), 'Tegra, Jungle Empress', and/or 'Tygra of the Flame People' (1948) , 'Rulah, Jungle Goddess' (Matt Baker, 1947), 'Rarotonga' (Guillermo de la Parra, Constantino Rábago, Antonio Gutiérrez, 1951-1998), 'Lorna the Jungle Girl' (Don Rico, Werner Roth, 1953), 'Jann of the Jungle' (Don Rico, Jay Scott Pike, 1954), 'Leopard Girl' (Don Rico, Al Hartley, 1954), 'Shanna the She-Devil' (Carole Seuling and George Tuska, 1972) and 'Rima the Jungle Girl' (Robert Kanigher, Nestor Redondo and Joe Kubert, 1974-1975).

Cover illustrations by Will Eisner for Jumbo Comics #13 and #15 starring Sheena.

In May-October 1988, 'Sheena' was rebooted in the two-issue Jungle Comics series, by Blackthorne Publishing, written by Bruce Jones, drawn by Dave Stevens, Adrian Moro and Dragan Flaese. A decade later, London Night Studios created a miniseries (February 1998- Spring 1999), written by Gabriel Cain, Everette Hartsoe and Mike Shoemaker, with artwork by Rick Davis, Greg Loudon, Dave Nestler, Stephen Sandoval and Art Wetherell. In 2007, Devil's Due Publishing launched another comeback series, written by Robert Rodi, Steven de Souza and drawn by Alex Horley, Mike Hudleston, Joe Linsner, Matt Merhoff and Khary Randolph. As a sign of the changing times, this Sheena was drawn in a sexier style, with her stories set in the South American jungle, instead of Central Africa.

Between 1955 and 1956, 'Sheena, Queen of the Jungle' became a TV series, starring Irish McCalla. As revealed in his comic strip 'My Troubles with Women, Part 1', Robert Crumb used to fantasize about the actress when he was a teenager. The influence of Sheena is also noticeable in Crumb's comic strip 'Angelfood McSpade' (1967), which stars a similar wild jungle woman, but portrayed as a stereotypical African. As a tribute to the comic, the punk band Ramones wrote the song 'Sheena Is A Punk Rocker' (1976). A 'Sheena, Queen of the Jungle' movie was made by John Guillermin in 1984, with Tanya Roberts in the title role. The picture flopped, but Cary Burkett and Gray Morrow adapted it into a comic book (June 1984), published by Marvel. In 2000 a short-lived reboot of the TV series was launched, starring Gena Lee Nolin. Last but not least: U.S. pop singer Anna Mae Bullock took the name 'Tina Turner' because 'Tina' sounded similar to Sheena from 'Sheena, Queen of the Jungle'. 

'Wonder Man' from Wonder Comics #1.

Wonder Man
Eisner's 'Wonder Man' (Wonder Comics issue #1, May 1939, Fox Publications) - published under the name Willis - cashed in on the popularity of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's 'Superman' (1938). The comic revolved around Fred Carson, a man with an unrequited love for a girl named Brenda Hastings. One day, he obtains a magic ring from a Tibetan monk, which provides him with tremendous super powers - all practically the same as Superman. It didn't take long before National Periodicals (later DC Comics) sued for copyright infringement, making it the first superhero comics plagiarism case. The short trial, on 6-7 April 1939, ended in a victory for National. In subsequent interviews, Eisner claimed he admitted in court to ripping off Superman, and maintained that his integrity was more important to him than financial gain. However, after his death, a transcript of the court case was investigated by Ken Quattro of the blog site The Comics Detective, who discovered that Eisner actually lied during the trial that 'Wonder Man' was an original creation, a claim which was not believed. It remains an open question whether Eisner's memory merely failed him or that he deliberately tried to portray himself in a better light. Either way, 'Wonder Man' was discontinued after only one issue. Wonder Comics itself continued under the different title, Wonderworld Comics, and managed to last a few more years. Interestingly enough, DC Comics came up with 'Wonder Woman' in 1942, created by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter. In August 1963, they introduced a one-shot character named Wonder Man in Superman issue #163 (August 1963), while Marvel Comics also had a 'Wonder Man' (1964), created by Stan Lee and Don Heck. Despites these similarities, Eisner never sued any of them, since his early creations were by then fully owned by Iger.

The Flame
In Wonderworld Comics issue #3 (July 1939), Eisner and Lou Fine created 'The Flame'. The series stars Gary Preston, a baby placed in a basket in a river by his father, a missionary in China. Preston washed ashore in Tibet, where he was rescued by a group of monks who raised him, teaching him mystical talents, mostly by using fire to his advantage. Once grown, Preston became The Flame, a crimefighter supported by his girlfriend Linda Dale, AKA Flame Girl. By the summer of 1940, 'The Flame' received its own comic book title, which lasted until January 1942, when the publisher Fox Publications went bankrupt.

Doll Man in Feature Comics, (January, 1941).

Doll Man
In the 27th issue of Feature Comics (December 1939), Eisner created the superhero 'Doll Man', illustrated in collaboration with Lou Fine, until Reed Crandall took over the drawing from 1940 until 1942. Between 1941 and 1953, 'Doll Man' ran as its own series, continued by different artists. The Doll Man is actually chemist Darrel Dane, who invented a formula with the power to shrink him to six inches (approximately 15 centimeters) in height. Through intense concentration, he is able to control his height, and much like an ant, he is extremely strong despite his tiny size. Maverick crimefighter Doll Man works with two special pets: a Great Dane, Elmo the Wonder Dog, and a bald eagle, which he uses for transport. For even faster travel, he uses a model airplane. Doll Man's girlfriend, Martha Roberts, at first was just a damsel in distress, but starting in issue #37 (December 1951) she became part of his team as Midge, the Doll Girl. 'Doll Man' was published by Quality Comics until 1956, after which DC Comics obtained the rights. It still took nearly two decades before Doll Man made his comeback, mostly a secondary character in team-up titles like 'Justice League of America', 'Freedom Fighters' and 'The All Star Squadron'. The Doll Man character inspired other superheroes with shrinking abilities, such as Gardner Fox and Gil Kane's 'The Atom' (1961) and Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's 'Ant Man' (1961).

Espionage by "Will Erwin", from Feature Comics #22 (July, 1939).

Other Eisner-Iger comics
The Eisner-Iger team was responsible for a host of other characters, generally used as back-up features. An early comic book creation was the gunslinger 'Wild Tex Martin' (1937-1938) for Western Picture Stories by Centaur Publishing. British magazine Wags ran Eisner's spy feature 'ZX-5 Spies in Action', which later also appeared in the Fiction House book  Jumbo Comics. A short-lived comic book of the Globe Syndicate, Circus The Comic Riot (1938, three issues), featured the Eisner creations 'Jack Hinton the Guardsman' and 'Charles O'Malley'. 'Espionage' (1938-1940), starring the secret agent Black X, was created by Eisner for the Quality Comics title Feature Funnies/Feature Comics in late 1938, debuting in issue #13. It later moved to Smash Comics, where Eisner's final story appeared in the August 1940 issue. Another secret agent feature created by Eisner was 'K-51 Spies at War' (1939-1941), appearing in Wonderworld Comics by Fox. Eisner's magician crime-fighter 'Yarko the Great' appeared in a couple of Fox titles, beginning with Wonder Comics #2 (June 1939). Originally written and drawn by Eisner himself, 'Yarko the Great' can be considered a predecessor to Eisner's later creation 'Mr. Mystic'.

'The Origin of The Spirit' (2 June 1940).

The Spirit
In 1940, Will Eisner left Eisner-Iger, after being offered a more interesting deal from Everett M. "Busy" Arnold, publisher of Quality Comics. At the time, newspaper comics felt rivalry from independent publishers that produced superhero and crime comic books on a monthly basis. Arnold asked Eisner to create a Sunday newspaper comic about a crime fighter, "something in the style of George Brenner's 'The Clock', but with better artwork." Instead of just one page a week, Arnold envisioned a weekly newspaper supplement of 16 pages per issue, with seven pages devoted to Eisner's new creation. Well aware that this would be very labor-intensive work, Arnold granted Eisner full rights over his creation. To manage the production, Eisner set up his own "Eisner Studio" in Manhattan's Tudor City apartment complex, employing some of his former colleagues, like Bob Powell and Lou Fine. On 2 June 1940, The Spirit Section - as the newspaper supplement is generally referred to - made its debut, syndicated by Register & Tribune. It ran in various newspapers until 1952. Between 13 October 1941 and 11 March 1944, there was also a daily newspaper comic of 'The Spirit', created by Eisner's assistants Lou Fine and Jack Cole.

The Spirit advertisement
Ad for The Spirit Section from the Philadelphia Record (2 November 1941).

'The Spirit' is the secret persona of Denny Colt, a detective working for police commissioner Dolan until he appears to be killed in the streets. In reality, he is still alive, but trying to scare criminals into thinking that he is a ghost, or "the spirit". Setting up his secret headquarters in Wildwood Cemetery, Denny Colt becomes a mysterious crimefighter in a blue domino mask. Only three people know his identity: Commissioner Dolan and his daughter Ellen, (who later becomes the Spirit's steady girlfriend), and Ebony White, an African-American taxi driver. Although Eisner made this character a helpful, if not well-educated, assistant, to modern-day readers, Ebony White seems an unfortunate outdated racially offensive stereotype. Eisner eventually wrote the character out of the series, replacing him on 31 July 1949 with a white sidekick, a driver-assistant named Sammy. 

The Spirit is frequently confronted with seductive femme fatales, including Silk Satin, Nylon Rose and P'Gell. He also repeatedly encounters Dr. Cobra, an archetypical mad scientist, as well as the mysterious master villain Octopus, always shown off screen except for his gloved hands. Encounters with Sand Saref, a childhood friend of Denny Colt who ended up on the criminal path, are complex for The Spirit. The two men still have a strong bond, which causes moral dilemmas when they face off against each other.

Since Eisner had more pages to work with, he had more ability to build up his story and create atmosphere. In many stories, he uses innovative perspectives, shadow work, framing angles and colors to enhance a gritty atmosphere. 'The Spirit' makes frequent use of mist, starry skies, steaming sewers and especially rainstorms with water gushing down sidewalks. In the homage book 'Spirit Jam' (1981), Harvey Kurtzman dubbed these typical rainy scenes "Eisenspritz". On the surface, 'The Spirit' is a typical 1940s detective noir comic, but upon close examination, it reveals deeper levels. Eisner, for instance, enjoyed playing with the visual look and narration. A typical episode begins with a splash panel to grab readers' attention. Yet these weren't always huge drawings. On 13 October 1940, for instance, the first page looks like a newspaper article. The episode of 1 June 1941 narrates all action in rhyme. On 22 June 1941, Eisner wrote everything in the style of a fairy tale, with the sentences filling the pages and tiny cartoons appearing in between certain words. He used a cutaway of various rooms in a house in 'The School for Girls' (19 January 1947), making the walls look like a comic strip page. In 'Ebony's X-Ray Eyes' (15 September 1940), The Spirit's assistant Ebony sees all action as if it was an X-Ray, drawn in a black-and-white chalkboard style.

Opening panel for The Spirit Section of 6 January 1946 (recolored version for the reprint by Kitchen Sink Press in The Spirit #1 (1983).

Apart from its innovative look, 'The Spirit' also stands out for its unpredictable storylines. Many frequently change moods and genres. Some play out as a comedy, like the 22 June 1941 episode in which Adolf Hitler arrives incognito in the USA to personally install Nazism, only to fail because "Americans are too patriotic." The episode is also remarkable because the U.S. hadn't entered World War II yet, and many Americans didn't consider Hitler all that dangerous. In an episode published on 2 February 1949, Eisner satirized Dr. Fredric Wertham and his anti-comics witch hunts. Even Eisner himself wasn't spared from ridicule. In one story, all action is constantly interrupted with commercials, until the Spirit personally visits Eisner to beat him up, sighing: "How cheap can a cartoonist get?". Eisner showed his gift for self-deprecation again on 3 May 1942, in a story where the cartoonist is replaced with an imposter, who is promptly more popular with readers than the "real artist". On 20 July 1947, Eisner and fellow cartoonist Al Capp struck an agreement to have a crossover between 'Li'l Abner' and 'The Spirit', but while Eisner had Abner appear in his comic ('Li'l Adam', issue #373, 20 July 1947) Capp oddly enough never returned the favor, despite suggesting it in the first place.

Other episodes are more dramatic. Some delve into horror ('The Haunted House', issue #28, 8 December 1940), while others play up elements of romance. Eisner was quite daunting in his experiments. 'Ten Minutes' (11 September 1949), written by Jules Feiffer, begins with an announcement that the story will actually take "ten minutes" to read about the final ten minutes of the life of Freddy, a failed store robber. All throughout the story, a clock on top of the page counts down the remaining minutes. It is a remarkable experiment in pacing and timing. Once Eisner even adapted short stories by Ambrose Bierce and Edgar Allan Poe. In quite a number of episodes, The Spirit is barely present. Sometimes he only appears at the start or near the very end. A famous example is 'The Story of Gerhard Shnobble' (5 September 1948), where crime fighting by The Spirit is basically a subplot to Gerhard Shnobble and his ability to fly.

Panels from 'The Spirit' (24 August 1947).

'The Spirit' quickly gained a cult following, which only grew in the following decades. The Spirit has no special powers, nor training. He is a good fighter, but still very vulnerable, much like other characters. The violence in 'The Spirit' is often painful and brutal, leaving people seriously wounded or dead. Novelist Kurt Vonnegut ('Slaughterhouse Five') once said that "Eisner introduced agony in comics." In one episode, published on 24 August 1947, the Spirit is temporarily blinded after an explosion. Rather than have his eyesight return in the next episode, Eisner kept him blind for several issues. This story arc made readers more engaged with the character's well-being, uncertain whether he would ever recover. Eisner constantly pushed the boundaries of what is possible in the medium, while never losing sight of a captivating plot and humanity. He proved that comics could be artistic and appreciated by adults too.

Opening page of 'The Spirit' (24 September, 1950).

Of course, Eisner couldn't have produced a full comic book each week without a huge number of ghost writers and artists. Among them were John Belfi, Dave Berg, Gene Bilbrew, Tex Blaisdell, Toni Blum, Chris Christiansen, Jack Cole, Martin de Muth, Jim Dixon, Jules Feiffer, Lou Fine, Jerry Grandenetti, Abe Kanegson, Jack Keller, Fred Kida, Robin King, Don Komisarow, Alexander Kostuk, Alex Kotzky, Joe Kubert, Andre Leblanc, Marilyn Mercer, Klaus Nordling, Ben Oda, Don Perlin, Bob Powell, Sam Rosen, Sam Schwartz, John Spranger, Manny Stallman, Manly Wade Wellman, Al Wenzel, Wallace Wood and William Woolfolk. When Eisner was drafted during World War II, Lou Fine was left in charge of 'The Spirit' between 1942 and 1945. After his return, Jules Feiffer scripted several stories, mostly because Eisner was preoccupied with creating educational comics for the U.S. Army. After his marriage in 1950, Eisner had even less time to work on the series. On 5 October 1952, 'The Spirit' came to a close, ending on a high note. Between 1952 and 1954, Fiction House reprinted several of the older stories in a comic book series devoted to 'The Spirit', which lasted five issues.

'The Spirit' (21 June 1947), from the Kitchen Sink reprint.

Other comics in 'The Spirit'
Besides the title comic, 'The Spirit' section in newspapers also had extra features in each issue, including Bernard Dibble's 'Jonesy' (1948-1950) and Jules Feiffer's 'Clifford' (1949-1951), both gag comics. Eisner himself scripted 'Mr. Mystic' (1940-1944) under the pseudonym W. Morgan Thomas, with Bob Powell providing the artwork. The comic stars a magician named Ken. During a peace mission to Tibet, he crashes near a monastery, where the monks believe he's some kind of prophet. They tattoo an arcane symbol on his forehead, which gives Ken extraordinary magic powers. Like many U.S. superheroes during World War II, Mr. Mystic not only fought ordinary criminals, but also Nazis. After Powell was drafted in 1943, Fred Guardineer continued the feature until its cancellation on 14 May 1944.

'Lady Luck' (1941-1949), written by Eisner under the pseudonym Ford Davies, was indeed luckier in terms of longevity. The series revolves around Brenda Banks, a bored millionaire's daughter who enlivens her life by becoming a crimefighter. Under the name "Lady Luck", the veiled heroine saves the day. Like Batman, she has no super powers except for her own intelligence and athleticism, while her servant, the chauffeur Peecolo, is the only one aware of her secret identity. And just like Superman, she has an unrequited love for someone who can't know her real identity, police chief Hardy Moore. Eisner only wrote a few episodes, before passing the series to Dick French and scriptwriter Toni Blum. Chuck Mazoujian was the original illustrator, until Nicholas Viscardi (AKA Nick Cardy) took over from 18 May 1941 until 22 February 1942, followed by Klaus Nordling from 1 March 1942 on. Nordling changed the look of 'Lady Luck' and transformed it into a humorous-satirical feature, which lasted until 3 March 1946. A few months later, the character was briefly revived by Fred Schwab, running from 5 May until 3 November of that year. Additionally, 'Lady Luck' ran as a separate comic book series at Quality Comics, again drawn by Nordling. The Lady Luck character was a mainstay in the pages of Smash Comics from issue #42 (April 1943) until issue #85 (October 1949). When Smash ended, she starred in her own comic book title, Lady Luck Comics, for four issues until the series stopped publication in August 1950.

'Uncle Sam', from National Comics #1 (July 1940), lay-outs by Eisner, finished art by Dave Berg.

Other 1940s comics
During World War II, Will Eisner also created some patriotic comics for National Comics and Military Comics. In the first issue of National Comics (July 1940), 'Uncle Sam' made his debut. Perhaps the oddest superhero Eisner ever wrote and drew, the character was based on the national personification of the USA. Sam was the spirit of a soldier who died during the American War of Independence. Eisner wrote most of the stories and penciled some splash pages, but most of the story art was done by Dan Zolnerowich, Dave Berg or Lou Fine. In 1944, the final episode was published, though DC Comics revived Uncle Sam in 1973, mostly as a member of the 'Justice League' series. Eisner also attempted to launch other comic book magazines, but most either lasted one single issue, like Baseball Comics (1949) and Kewpies (1949), or John Law and Pirate Comics, which remained unpublished.

In the first issue of Military Comics (August 1941), Will Eisner and Bob Powell introduced 'Blackhawk', a feature about the Polish-American ace pilot Bart Hawk and his private squadron, nicknamed "The Blackhawks". The squad operate from a secret army base on a faraway island. Originally Hawk's men weren't a consistent team. The Russian Boris, the Englishman Baker and Polish fighter Zeg were replaced by a septet of fighters starting in issue #11 (Military Comics, August 1942). The acrobatic Stanislaus is Blackhawk's Polish second-in-command officer. Other team members include André the French demolitions expert (and womanizer), Olaf the Swedish strongman and Hendrikson, AKA "Hendy" the Dutch-German sharpshooter. Chuck, their communication's specialist, is the other American on the team.

Covers for Military Comics #1 and #10, (August 1941 and June 1942) by Will Eisner.

True to the times, the 'Blackhawk' team featured stereotypical versions of various nationalities, including the racially offensive Chinese cook Chop-Chop. As the series progressed, Chop-Chop became a skilled pilot, and the stereotypical portrayals of the European members of the team were toned down. In issue #49 (Modern Comics, May 1946), Miss Fear was introduced, a young woman adept in many combative skills. She and Blackhawk develop a platonic love interest. Another female pilot - Zinda Blake, AKA "Lady Blackhawk" joined the team in February 1959 (issue #133). The squadron later also received an animal mascot, Blackie the hawk.

'Blackhawk' was an instant success. Chuck Cuidera drew the first story, but most other episodes were illustrated by Reed Crandall. In later years, controversy rose over who was the true creator of 'Blackhawk'. Cuidera often claimed that his input far outstripped Eisner and Powell's. What is certain is that Eisner came up with the concept and the characters' uniforms. In the winter of 1944, 'Blackhawk' received his own long-running comic book series. Between 1946 and 1955, Chop-Chop got his own spin-off gag comic, which ran as a back-up feature in each 'Blackhawk' issue. The adventures of this military squad were popular enough to inspire a radio serial (1950), the film serial 'Blackhawk: Fearless Champion of Freedom' (1952), various toys and a 1982 novel. In Mad Magazine issue #5 (June/July 1953), Harvey Kurtzman and Wallace Wood spoofed the comic as 'Black and Blue Hawks'.

In January 1967, 'Blackhawk' was drastically modernized. The squad was redesigned with superpowers and a more fantastical tone, with the team battling monsters and aliens. The franchise was discontinued after the October-November 1968 issue, but was revived in 1976 with a return to its familiar realistic tone. Hendrickson - whose nationality often switched between Dutch and German - now became permanently Dutch. Chop-Chop received a new name, "Chopper", and became a martial arts expert. From 1982 to 1984, Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle revived the series, and 'Blackhawk' was rebooted again in 1988.

Military instructional comics and manuals
Between 1941 and 1972, Will Eisner spent a large part of his time producing educational comics for army magazines. During World War II, he was drafted as a warrant officer, creating comics like 'Private Dogtag' in The Flaming Bomb and 'Joe Dope' in Army Motors. Even after his active service ended, he kept providing illustrations and comics for the military, including his own self-produced magazine PS: The Preventive Maintenance Monthly (1951-1972). He also set up The American Visuals Corporation, to produce instructional material for various businesses and government agencies. Eisner's army comics are a controversial aspect of his career. Some fans feel he "wasted" his talent creating military propaganda, a criticism that increased during the highly unpopular Vietnam War. Most of the material is heavily dated and only of interest to historians and military buffs. Eisner's military work especially frustrates fans of 'The Spirit', who would have preferred if he had made more stories for that series instead. Others have defended Eisner for doing his patriotic duty, and point out that his educational comics still stayed true to his ideal of elevating the status of comics in U.S. society. Eisner himself was always proud of this aspect of his career, because he felt his talent was put into practical and beneficial use. The steady financial income from this work made the more personal and artistic comics of his later career possible. The book 'Will Eisner and PS Magazine' (2008) by Paul E. Fitzgerald collects the best work of Eisner's military comics, with commentary and interviews with Murphy Anderson, Joe Kubert, Mike Ploog and Eisner himself.

Manual for M16A1 Rifle by Will EisnerManual for M16A1 Rifle by Will Eisner
Manual for M16A1 Rifle (1968).

The Spirit: revival
By the 1960s, comics were given more serious attention, with some cartoonists elevated to the status of underappreciated geniuses. One of them was Will Eisner, whose 'The Spirit' was heavily promoted in the book 'The Great Comic Book Heroes' (1965) by his former assistant Jules Feiffer. Demand for new 'The Spirit' stories was so high that on 9 January 1966, The New York Herald Tribune published a new five-page episode, drawn by Eisner. Harvey Comics reprinted classic episodes in their comic books between October 1966 and March 1967. Eisner and his assistant Chuck Kramer not only drew new covers, but also redrew seven pages to retell the protagonist's and Dr. Octopus' origin story. In the 1970s and 1980s, Kitchen Sink Press, Warren Publishing and Olaf Stoop's Real Free Press in the Netherlands also reprinted 'The Spirit'. Eisner created two new episodes in 1973: 'The Capistrano Jewels' , and 'The Invader'. In later decades, he scripted 'The Spirit Jam' (Kitchen Sink Series, issue #30, July 1981), in which 50 artists illustrated the story in homage to his work. In 1998, Kitchen Sink published 'The Spirit: The New Adventures', a reboot of the series, drawn by Eddie Campbell. Eisner made one final new episode in crossover with Michael Chabon's The Escapist: 'The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist' (issue #6, Dark Horse Comics, 20 April 2005). As 'The Spirit' was reprinted by DC Comics in the 2000s, it made new entries in the franchise possible, such as 'Batman/The Spirit' (written by Jeph Loeb, Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier, drawn by Darwyn Cooke, Mike Ploog, Paul Smith and J. Bone, January 2007), 'The Rocketeer and The Spirit: Pulp Friction' (IDW, 2013), 'Who Killed The Spirit?' (Matt Wagner, Dynamite Entertainment, 2015) and 'The Green Hornet '66 Meets The Spirit' (written by Fred Lente, art by Bob Q., July 2017). Despite its cult status, 'The Spirit' hasn't been adapted much to other media, except for a 1987 ABC TV movie and a 2008 film, 'The Spirit', directed by Frank Miller with Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes and Scarlett Johansson in supporting roles.

From: 'How To Avoid Death & Taxes and Live Forever' (1975).

A new direction
For years, Will Eisner had cherished the dream of creating more ambitious and personal comics. Yet many of his colleagues remained skeptical about his plans. Rube Goldberg discouraged him outright in 1960: "You are a vaudevillian like the rest of us... don't ever forget that!" However, as the status of 'The Spirit' had grown considerably during the following decades, Eisner became convinced that there was a market for his new material. In 1969, Denis Kitchen and Art Spiegelman introduced him to underground comix, a genre partially inspired by his own work. Seeing how they continued down the path he had started, Eisner decided to go ahead with his plan. His first new mainstream comics in years were still simple in their ambitions. For publishing company Poorhouse Press, he illustrated several guide books with comic panels, including 'Gleeful Guide to Occult Cookery: The Saucerer's Apprentice' (1974), 'The Gleeful Guide to Communicating with Plants to Help Them Grow' (1974), 'Incredible Facts, Amazing Statistics, Monumental Trivia' (1975), 'Living With Astrology' (1974) and 'How To Avoid Death & Taxes... and Live Forever' (1975). 'Odd Fact' (1975-1976) was a short-lived attempt at a daily one-panel newspaper cartoon with general fun facts, for the Register and Tribune Syndicate.

'A Contract with God' (1978).

A Contract with God
After two years of preparation, Eisner published 'A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories' (Baronet Publishing, 1978), which received two sequels, 'A Life Force' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1988), and 'Dropsie Avenue' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1995). In 2005, the three books were collected into a single volume by publisher W.W. Norton. The trilogy is set in an apartment block in New York City, a microcosmos of people moving in or out. Many stories are inspired by the author's own youth as a Jew living in the immigrant neighborhood in Dropsie Avenue, during the Great Depression. To evoke an old-fashioned feeling, Eisner used sepia ink. Eisner uses this urban setting to portray moving, recognizable human dramas, in the past as well as the present.

The first volume, 'A Contract with God', features several short stories with no direct correlation to one another. In the opening story, a Jewish man carves a stone tablet, promising God to live a devout life in exchange for a happy existence. Everything goes well until his adopted daughter dies of an illness, which causes a crisis of faith. Eisner drew from pain he experienced personally, as his own daughter died from leukemia when she was 16. The title character in 'The Street Singer' is approached by an aging opera soprano who offers to become his manager. The artist, however, only wants to take advantage of her. 'The Super' is about an antisemitic superintendent who discovers how his environment turns against him. The final story, 'Cookalein', follows various people in extramarital affairs while on vacation. The characters' names were based on Eisner's real-life family members, including himself as "Willie".

'A Life Force'.

The second volume, 'A Life Force', has a more connected narrative, featuring characters whose lives intertwine. Jacob, a 60-year old man, is laid off at his job and wonders what to do with his life. He learns that a former girlfriend, Frida, wants to immigrate from Nazi Germany to New York. As he still has feelings for her, he helps her, with aid from the mafia. He considers leaving his own wife for her. Meanwhile, his daughter Rebecca is in love with a stockbroker. He opposes their relationship, because her fiancé is not Jewish. The tale unfolds as a family saga about people making moral choices and wondering what their sorrowful life is all about.

The third and final volume, 'Dropsie Avenue: The Neighborhood' (1995), follows the chronological history of the street from its colonial beginnings as a 17th-century Dutch farm, then a 19th-century small village, and finally a 20th-century tenement block. While the eras change, the behavior of the residents remain more or less the same. They are jealous, xenophobic and paranoid about newcomers. Little events cause huge misunderstandings. Moral barriers are crossed for easy gain of money. Older residents move out, new people move in. Invariably, everyone in every era observes that their neighborhood "isn't what it used to be".

'Dropsie Avenue' (1995).

Graphic novel
'A Contract with God' is a milestone in comic history. Some have called it "the first graphic novel", though there have been predecessors that also qualify to be termed as such. In the early 19th century, Rodolphe Töpffer and Gustave Doré, to name a few, created longer comic stories that were collected in book format. Eisner himself pointed to Frans Masereel, Otto Nückel and particularly Lynd Ward's 'Frankenstein' (1934) and Milt Gross' 'He Done Her Wrong' (1930) as his main inspirations. All four artists created woodcut pantomime picture novels about deeper human themes. The most modern example of a graphic novel before 'A Contract with God' is 'Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary' (1972) by Justin Green, which dealt with the cartoonist's Roman Catholic upbringing. Eisner wasn't the inventor of the term "graphic novel" either: Richard Kyle coined the term in a November 1964 essay in the fanzine Casa-Alpha. But the popularity and press surrounding Eisner's  'A Contract with God' was an extremely important event in helping put the term "graphic novel" into the public lexicon. Many literary critics gave it rave reviews, and some declared it worthy of being a contender as "the great American novel". Eisner wanted his work to be distributed in regular bookstores, even though many owners didn't quite know in which section to place it. The work became a classic and was translated in many languages. In 1983, the Amsterdam comic store Lambiek launched the first Yiddish edition of the book, translated by Bobbi Zylberman as 'An Opmakh mit Got' and lettered by local underground cartoonists Flip Fermin and Peter Pontiac. Eisner was present at the book presentation in Lambiek and stated this translation "brought me closer to my roots (...) It's like having my bones be brought back to Israel." Countless comic artists have been inspired by Eisner to create their own graphic novels, which helped give comics more critical attention. Many adult readers have been converted to comics through the graphic novel genre, even though for some, it created a divide between the serious, artistic aspects of graphic novels and the content of more straightforward humor and adventure comics. Some, including Eisner himself, have dismissed the term "graphic novel" as an unnecessary distinction from other excellent comic books.

Life on Another Planet
Eisner followed up on his trilogy with several other graphic novels. 'Life on Another Planet' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1983), was composed of serialized material that first appeared in Spirit Magazine from October 1978 to December 1980 under the title 'Signal From Space'. Sometimes described as a science fiction story about an extraterrestrial radio signal, the novel is actually more about how people on Earth react to it. A cult is organized with people who want to travel to the planet. In the African country of Sidami, people want to be annexed by the planet for the same reason. The KGB abducts two U.S. astrophysicists for more information, while a multinational corporation supports the plans for colonization of the new planet, for business purposes.

A page from Eisner's 'John Law' (1983).

John Law
In 1983, a previously unpublished crime comic series by Eisner, 'John Law', finally saw the light of day when it was published by Eclipse Comics. The stories, originally made in 1948, deal with a detective and his African-American shoeshiner sidekick Nubbin. Even though the project was shelved, the plots of some episodes were re-used for 'The Spirit' instead. Sand Serif, a recurring character in 'The Spirit', actually originated in 'John Law'. After Eclipse Comics, IDW republished the series in 'John Law: Dead Man Walking' in 2004, along with new material written and drawn by Gary Charloner.

Autobiographical graphic novels and family sagas
In 'A Contract with God', Will Eisner combined autobiographical events with elements from other people's lives and his own imagination. Some of his later graphic novels were far more autobiographical. 'The Dreamer' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1985) is set in the 1930s and reflects on his early beginnings as a cartoonist, mostly referring to people and events from his time at the Eisner-Iger studios. The story examines how difficult it is to get an enterprise off the ground while keeping a certain integrity. Ironically enough, it's this last aspect that some readers have held against the author. Eisner's version of the facts isn't always reliable, though at least compensated by the fact that he uses fictional characters and names, rather than directly depicting himself and his past colleagues.

'The Dreamer' (1985).

In 'To the Heart of the Storm' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1991), the reader follows a young man on board a troop train during World War II, reflecting his youth. He looks back at the poverty and antisemitism he experienced as a young boy during the Great Depression. Eisner originally set out to create a graphic novel about how prejudices shape people's personality and decided to work from his own personal experience. Before he knew it, he had written an autobiography in comic form. The work won both the 1992 Eisner and Harvey Award for "Best Graphic Album".

'Last Day in Vietnam' (2000).

'A Family Matter' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1998) revolves around a family meeting where the patriarch's 90th birthday is celebrated. However, as the members reminisce about the past, many long-repressed traumas and frustrations slowly bubble to the surface. What starts out as a  joyous occasion becomes a bitter conflict. 'Minor Miracles' (DC, 2000) brought Eisner back to Dropsie Avenue, the location of 'Contract with God'. The graphic novel delves into stories about incredible luck, misfortune or coincidence which pushed character's lives into remarkable directions. As unbelievable these stories may seem - and they often are - the narrators themselves want to believe them, for better or for worse. With 'Last Day in Vietnam' (Dark Horse, 2000), Eisner delved into his war past. The book contains six short stories reflecting soldier's lives during World War II, the Korean and Vietnam War. Eisner's own military service was an eye-opening experience to him, and he always wanted to do something with his memories. 'Last Day in Vietnam' shows that young recruits not only face daily military hostilities but also larger, psychological issues. The work won the 2001 Harvey Award for "Best Graphic Album or Original Work". 'The Name of the Game' (DC, 2001), a saga spanning over several generations, was loosely inspired by Will Eisner's mother's side of the family. It deals with the family's enterprises as well as their inner conflicts.

Panels from Eisner's 'New York: The Big City' (1986).

New York: The Big City
With 'New York: The Big City' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1986), Eisner provided an analysis of daily life in his favorite city, touching upon both the splendor and the less romantic aspects. The sequel, 'City People Notebook' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1989), is a more anecdotal pantomime graphic novel. In 32 vignettes, the artist touches upon tiny moments in the lives of New Yorkers. 'The Building' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1987) was the result of Eisner's melancholic feelings about the destruction of old buildings. To him, the loss of these structures was just as tragic as a person dying. In the same vein of 'Contract with God', Eisner created this graphic novel about the residents of a city flat. His fascination for city life and its citizens continued in 'Invisible People' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1993). Eisner was motivated to draw this comic after reading about a neglected poor woman who committed suicide after being denied help from the community's support system. Two months after her death, nobody had claimed the body. She was eventually buried in an unmarked grave. 'Invisible People' focuses on the anonymous masses in each city, who all have interesting stories even though most people aren't interested. The book won the 1993 Harvey Award for "Best Writer" and "Best Cartoonist". All four graphic novels were compiled into one hardcover collection, 'Will Eisner's New York: Life in the Big City' (W.W. Norton, 2006).

'Fagin the Jew' (2003).

Literary adaptations
In the later years of his life, Will Eisner made various adaptations of famous books and novels. 'The Princess and the Frog' (NBM, 1999) is based on the Grimm fairy tale 'The Frog Prince'. 'Moby Dick' (NBM, 2001) offers his take on Herman Melville's classic novel about the obsessive captain Ahab and a white whale. 'The Last Knight: An Introduction to Don Quixote' (NBM, 2000) tells the story of Cervantes' aspiring mad knight and 'Sundiata: A Legend of Africa' (NBM, 2003) visualizes a Malian folk tale. Not all of Eisner's adaptations followed the plotlines of original books faithfully. 'Fagin the Jew' (Random House, 2003), for instance, is a retelling of Charles Dickens' classic novel 'Oliver Twist' from the perspective of Fagin, who leads the juvenile pickpocket gang in the story. In the Dickens novel, illustrated by George Cruikshank, Fagin was basically a negative Jewish stereotype, often called "the Jew" in many chapters. Eisner imagines a backstory for his life of crime and depicts him as a flawed, but complex character. Antisemitism was also a concern in his final graphic novel: 'The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion' (W. W. Norton, 2005). The book 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion', written in 1905, is an antisemitic hoax about supposed Jewish plans for world domination. Unfortunately, the book has been taken at face value by Nazis and other racists ever since. Eisner drew his graphic novel because it shocked him how it was still being used as a propaganda tool. The story tells how 'The Protocols' were written by Mathieu Golovinski, an opportunistic Czarist functionary in Paris who wanted to discredit liberal Jews as people planning to overthrow the world. Eisner's graphic novel also offers official documents proving that 'Protocols' were plagiarized from older sources. The 2005 publication of Eisner's final work had a foreword by Umberto Eco, the author of 'The Name of the Rose'.

'Moby Dick' (2001).

Comics & Sequential Art
Beyond his work creating comics and graphic novels, Will Eisner also published books about comic theory: 'Comics & Sequential Art' (Poorhouse Press, 1985, revised in 1990), 'Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative' (1996) and 'Expressing Anatomy for Comics and Narrative' (2005). All are an outgrowth of the courses he gave at the School of Visual Arts, combined with his essays about the medium printed in The Spirit Magazine. While the books offer practical tips on how to draw movement, body mechanics, facial expressions and postures, they are more than just drawing guides. Eisner shows how small alterations in line work, shading, lay-out, coloring, perspective, shading can increase the impact of a story or convey different messages. He stresses the importance of pacing and keeping focus. Eisner's guides offered the first theoretical analysis of storytelling in comics written by someone with lifelong experience as both a comic writer and an artist. The trilogy remains an insightful guide to this day. Eisner's books also introduced the definition that comics are "sequential art" or "sequential illustrated narratives". When in 1999 Kees Kousemaker of the Amsterdam store Lambiek started The Comiclopedia, his online cartoonist encyclopedia, he used Eisner's "sequential illustrated narrative" definition to determine which comic artists could receive an entry.

From 'Comics and Sequential Art' (1985).

Contributions to other projects
In 1993, Bob Foster organized a comic book storytelling course in Dublin, to which Will Eisner, Ulrich Schroeder, Pat McGreal and Dave Rawson participated. Eisner wrote a personal homage to Robert Crumb in the 1998 Monte Beauchamp book 'The Life and Times of R. Crumb: Comments From Contemporaries' (St. Martin's Griffin, New York). After the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, Dark Horse Comics published the comic book '9-11: Artists Respond' (2002), with graphic contributions by Eisner and several other comic artists.

In 1967, 'The Spirit' was added to the Alley Award Hall of Fame. In France, Will Eisner became the first American to win the prestigious Grand Prix de la ville d'Angoulême, held during the 23-26 January 1975 edition of the festival. The same year, he also received an Inkpot Award at Comic-Con International in San Diego, California. He won a Reuben Award for 'Contract with God' in 1998, and the German translation of 'The Spirit' and 'A Contract with God' won the 2010 Special Jury Prize at the Max und Moritz Awards in Germany. Eisner was inducted in the Academy of Comic Book Arts Hall of Fame (1971), the Shazam Award Hall of Fame (1971), the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame (1987) and posthumously in the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame (2015). He was further bestowed with a 1994 Max und Moritz Prize for Outstanding Life's Work (Germany), a 1998 Golden Adamson Award for Lifetime Comic Medium Achievement (Sweden) and the National Federation for Jewish Culture in the USA gave him the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.

Will Eisner passed away on 3 January, 2005 in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida at the age of 86, after a quadruple bypass heart surgery. Graphic artists Craig Thompson, Shawn McManus and Everett Raymond Kinstler all drew "In Memoriam" pieces.

Legacy and influence
Will Eisner remains a giant in comic history. He helped the medium grow more complex and contributed to it being taken seriously as an art form. The "father of the graphic novel" may not have been the first author of a graphic novel, but he did popularize the genre among a large audience. In the United States, he was a strong influence on Wes Alexander, Mike Allred, Murphy Anderson, Kevin Atkinson, Orlando Busino, Johnny Craig, Robert Crumb, Steve Ditko, Mort Drucker, Jules Feiffer, Mike FontanelliGuy Gilchrist, Mike Gorman, Raye Horne, Jack Kirby, Harvey Kurtzman, Martin LandauTim Lane, Batton Lash, Joe MattScott McCloud, Frank Miller, Ed Piskor, Rich PowellScott Shaw, Jeff Smith, Art Spiegelman, Angelo Torres and Wallace Wood. In Canada he has been cited as an inspiration by Darwyn Cooke, Rand Holmes and Dave Sim. In Europe, he gained followers in the U.K. (Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore), The Netherlands (Stefan de Groot, Gleever, Erik Kriek, Minck Oosterveer, Peter PontiacJoost Swarte, Piet Wijn), Belgium (Steven De Rie), Germany (Flix), Switzerland (Zep) and Spain (Julio Ribera). In Australia, Gary Chaloner is an admirer of Eisner. 'The Spirit' was parodied by Brian Buniak as 'The Sprite' (1974) and by Rick Veitch and Alan Moore as 'Greyshirt' (1999). Mathieu Sapin and Christian Rossi's 'Paulette Comète' (2010) also paid tribute to Eisner's masterpiece.

Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay' (2000), took a lot of inspiration from many Golden Age comic artists, including Eisner. Other celebrity fans of Eisner are novelists Kurt Vonnegut, Harlan Ellison and John Updike. Ellison once designed a window in his home to look like Wildwood Cemetery Home from 'The Spirit'. Updike described the comic legend as follows: "Eisner was not only ahead of his times, the present times are still catching up to him." The graphic novelist inspired the name of the Dutch literary comic magazine Eisner which appeared between 2008 and 2011, as well as the annual Eisner Awards given out at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Since 2005, the publishing house W.W. Norton has reprinted most of Eisner's back catalog.

Will Eisner with Lambiek's Kees Kousemaker (1985).

Books and documentaries about Will Eisner
For those interested in Eisner's life and career, the following books are highly recommended: Robert Greenberger's 'The Library of Graphic Novelists: Will Eisner' (2005), Bob Andelman's 'A Spirited Life' (M. Press Books, 2005), Michael Schumacher's 'Will Eisner: A Dreamer's Life in Comics' (2010) and 'Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel' (Abrams Comicarts, New York, 2015). 'Will Eisner, Profession: Cartoonist' (1999) is an extensive three-part documentary about his career, featuring interviews with Denis Kitchen, Bill Sienkiewicz, Angeli, Guazzelli, Jano, Lailson, Mauricio de Sousa, Ota, Jerry Robinson, François Schuiten, Art Spiegelman and Ziraldo. In 2007, Andrew D. Cooke made the award-winning documentary 'Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist' which features interviews with Eisner, Jules Feiffer, Jack Kirby, Art Spiegelman, Gil Kane, Frank Miller, Stan Lee and Kurt Vonnegut, among others.

Special drawing made by Will Eisner for the 25th anniversary of the Amsterdam comic shop Lambiek in 1993.


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