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 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). However, his signature comic is 'The Spirit' (1940-1952), an atmospheric detective comic which gained a cult following over its innovative, unpredictable storylines and visual execution. In the second half of his career, Eisner produced numerous 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. The maestro paved the way for many graphic novelists and furthermore wrote various 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 an artform.

Early life and career
William Erwin Eisner was born in 1917 in Brooklyn, New York City, as the son of a mural artist/theatrical background designer of Austrian-Hungarian-Jewish descent. His family was poor and therefore moved a lot, in search for work. They were frequent victims of antisemitism as well. When Eisner was 13 years old, his mother forced him to become a newspaper salesboy. The pay was too low to provide any significant income, but at least offered him the chance to read the daily comics. Among his graphic influences were J.C. Leyendecker, George Herriman, Cliff Sterrett, Burne Hogarth, Alex Raymond, 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, making no difference between talented writers like Ambrose Bierce, Ben Hecht and O. Henry and pulp stories. He learned that no matter how complex or low-brow a story was, good ones always need to be understandable and easy to follow. Last but not least, he was very much influenced by films. Not just from Hollywood, but also 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, because he failed at geometry. He nevertheless found a night job at the New York American, where he worked as a copywriter, illustrator and letterer of advertisements. The high school dropout furthermore illustrated stories in pulp magazines like Western Sheriffs and Outlaws. Part of the income was 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
His 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). Thanks to his old school mate Bob Kane he was able to publish them in the magazine WOW by Henle Publications, albeit under 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 then continued as weekly newspaper strips in the second half of the 1930s, such as the adventure serials 'Harry Karry' and 'Hawks of the Seas' (as "Willis B. Rensie"). As "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 he had been offered to draw pornographic comics around this same time too, the so-called 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 Eisner set up a comics 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 say the "Syndicated Features Corporation", but that belonged to the Sangor Shop). Although Eisner was 19 years old at the time, he lied that he was actually 25, in order to be taken seriously. Iger on the other hand later claimed 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 genuine bestsellers, but Eisner realized that these publications were bound to run out of material soon. Therefore their company focused on the production of new, original comics series. Eisner wrote and drew most on his own, while Iger lettered them. He deliberately used various pseudonyms which were 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 gentlemen were able to hire more employees. Some future comics legends actually started their career at Eisner & Iger, including Bernard Baily, Nick Cardy, Reed Crandall, Lou Fine, Bob Kane, Jack Kirby, Mort Meskin, Bob Powell, John Spranger, George Tuska and Wallace Wood. All comics were made in commission of clients like Editors Press Service, Fox Comics, Fiction House and Quality Comics and sold to not only U.S. magazines, but also the Canadian, British and Australian market. In December 1939 Eisner left the company when Quality Comics offered him to create a newspaper comic with the possibility of being published in comic book format afterwards. He sold his share of Eisner & Iger's stock, whereupon 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 major success series was 'Sheena, Queen of the Jungle' (1937), published 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 his responsibility and adopts her. By the time she reaches adulthood Sheena has become "queen of the jungle", leaping from tree to tree in her leopard skin outfit and protecting her tribe and all creatures from danger. Originally she had a chimpanzee sidekick, Chim, while the attractive hunter Bob Reynolds was her love interest. In later episodes Koba was remodelled 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 obviously cashed in on the success of Edgar Rice Burroughs' 'Tarzan' novels, adapted as a comics series by Harold Foster and Burne Hogarth since 1929 and, from 1932 on, as an equally beloved film series starring Johnny Weissmuller. Yet the character's name was inspired by "She-who-must-be-obeyed" from H. Rider Haggard's novel 'She' (1886), while her personality was lifted from 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 comic book series. This made 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 didn't really care about the stories and were more interested in the idea of a sexy blonde in fur bikini strolling around in the wild. Despite never showing anything risqué, it still had an erotic flavour. Other than Norman Pett's 'Jane' most other mainstream comics of the 1930s weren't so sexually suggestive. While Sheena obviously offered fan service, she was strong, intelligent and independent, in short: far less passive than most female comic characters. Most stories actually feature her rescueing men. Therefore she attracted a large female readership too. 'Sheena, Queen of the Jungle' was the first "jungle princess" character in comics and therefore 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, 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 Sheena is drawn far sexier than before, though her stories are nowadays set in the South American jungle, rather than Central-South 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 over the actress when he was a teenager. The influence of Sheena is also noticeable in his comic strip 'Angelfood McSpade' (1967), which stars a similar wild jungle woman, only portrayed as a stereotypical African. Pop singer Tina Turner was also a fan of Sheena. She chose her stage name because it rhymed with "Sheena" and wore similar revealing skirts during concerts. The punk band Ramones wrote the song 'Sheena Is A Punk Rocker' (1976) as a tribute to the comic. So far only one 'Sheena, Queen of the Jungle' movie was made, namely 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 reboot of the TV series was launched, starring Gena Lee Nolin, but this didn't last long either.

'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 - also cashed in on a popular franchise, namely Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's 'Superman' (1937). 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 practially the same as Superman. It didn't take long before DC Comics sued for copyright infringement, making it the first superhero comics plagiarism case. During the trial on 6-7 April 1939, Eisner supposedly admitted ripping off Superman, hereby ending the trial in a victory for DC. In interviews he always 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, which of course nobody 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 to save himself from the embarrassment of lying under oath? 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 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. Yet Eisner never sued them. By that time he had already sold his share of the company and his early creations to Iger.

The Flame
In Wonderworld Comics issue #3 (July 1939) Eisner and Lou Fine created 'The Flame'. The series stars Gary Preston, who was placed in a basket by his father, a missionary in China, until the baby washed downstream to Tibet, where he was rescued by a group of monks. They learned him various mystical talents, mostly by using fire to his advantage. As such Preston becomes 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, until their publisher Fox Publications went bankrupt.

Doll Man
In the 27th issue of Feature Comics (December 1939) Eisner created the superhero 'Doll Man', illustrated in cooperation 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 (15.24 centimeters) in height. Through intense concentration he is able to control his height and much like an ant he is still far more stronger than his tiny size assumes. Doll Man works as a maverick crimefighter with two special pets. One a Great Dane - Elmo the Wonder Dog - the other a bald eagle, which he uses as transport. For faster travel he uses a model airplane. His girlfriend, Martha Roberts, is first a mere damsel in distress, but from issue #37 (December 1951) on, she becomes his team partner under the name 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 and even then he was mostly a side character in titles like 'Justice League of America', 'Freedom Fighters' and 'The All Star Squadron'. The 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.

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. Aforementioned British magazine Wags also ran Eisner's spy feature 'ZX-5 Spies in Action', which later also appeared in Fiction House's Jumbo Comics. The 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), before moving to Smash Comics. 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, starting with Wonder Comics #2 (June 1939). Originally written and drawn by Eisner himself, he can be considered a predecessor to Eisner's later creation 'Mr. Mystic'.

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

The Spirit
In 1940 Eisner left Eisner-Iger, because he was offered a far more interesting deal from Everett M. "Busy" Arnold, publisher of Quality Comics. At the time newspaper comics felt rivalry from independent publishers who produced superhero and crime comic books on a monthly basis. Arnold asked Eisner to create a Sunday comic about a crime fighter, "something in the style of George Brenner's 'The Clock', but with better artwork." But it wouldn't be just one page a week. Arnold envisioned a weekly comic book supplement of 16 pages per issue, with seven pages devoted to Eisner's new creation. Well aware that this would be very labour-intensive work, Arnold granted Eisner full rights. If he ever wanted to leave the syndicate he could keep it as his legal property. To manage the production, Eisner set up his own "Eisner Studio" in Manhattan's Tudor City apartment complex, taking some of his former colleagues such as Bob Powell and Lou Fine with him. On 2 June 1940 The Spirit Section (1940-1952), as the newspaper supplement is generally referred to, made its debut, syndicated by Register & Tribune. 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, who originally worked for police commissioner Dolan until being supposedly killed in the streets. In reality he is still alive, but tries to scare criminals into thinking that he is a ghost, or "the spirit". He becomes a mysterious crimefighter in a blue domino mask and sets up his secret headquarters in Wildwood Cemetery. Only three people know his identity. First of all commissioner Dolan and his daughter Ellen, who later becomes the Spirit's steady girlfriend. His second confidant is Ebony White, an African-American taxi driver and unfortunate outdated racially offensive stereotype to modern-day readers. However, in Eisner's defense: Ebony is an intelligent and useful assistant, just not well-educated. During World War II, Eisner was drafted and met more black people, which made him so embarrassed about the character that he wrote him out the series in late 1949. On 31 July 1949 The Spirit received another driver-assistant: a white boy named Sammy. Our hero is frequently confronted with seductive femme fatales like Silk Satin, Nylon Rose and P'Gell. Dr. Cobra is an archetypical mad scientist, while the mysterious mastervillain Octopus is always seen off screen, except for his gloved hands (it's not sure whether Bruno Bianchi based Dr. Claw in 'Inspector Gadget' on Octopus?). Less easy to pigeonhole is Sand Saref, who was a childhood friend of The Spirit, but ended on the criminal path. They nevertheless still have a strong bond, which often 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, camera angles and colours to enhance a gritty atmosphere. 'The Spirit' makes frequent use of mist, starry skies, fuming sewers and especially rainstorms gushing down the sidewalk. In the homage book 'Spirit Jam' (1981) Harvey Kurtzman dubbed these typical rainy scenes "Eisenspritz". In many ways 'The Spirit' is a typical 1940s detective noir comic at the surface, but in reality it has far deeper levels. Eisner, for instance, enjoyed playing with the visual look. A typical episode always starts off 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 printed on 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 chambers 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) 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 fom an innovative look, 'The Spirit' also stands out for its unpredictable stories. Many frequently change moods and genres. Some play out as a comedy, like the 22 June 1941 episode in which Hitler arrives incognito in the U.S. 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. Eisner also satirized Dr. Fredric Wertham and his anti-comics witch hunts in an episode published on 2 February 1949. Even Eisner himself wasn't safe. 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 favour, despite suggesting it in the first place.

Other episodes feel more like a drama. Some delve into horror ('The Haunted House', issue #28, 8 December 1940), while others are more like a seductive 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's 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 a crime fight by The Spirit is basically a subplot to Gerhard Shnobble and his ability to fly.

'The Spirit' (24 August 1947).

'The Spirit' quickly gained a cult following, which only grew in the decades beyond. Compared with many other comics the series isn't formulaic. The Spirit, for instance, 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 even permanently 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, even 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.

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 mostly 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 even had less time to work on the series. On 5 October 1952 'The Spirit' therefore came to a close, ending on a high note. Between 1952 and 1954 Fiction House reprinted several of the older stories a comic book devoted to 'The Spirit', which lasted five issues.

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

Other comics in 'The Spirit'
Apart from the title comic, 'The Spirit' also featured extra comics 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, while Bob Powell provided 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 millionaire's daughter who becomes a crimefighter because she is bored. Under the name "Lady Luck" the veiled heroine saves the day. Much like Batman she has no super powers except for her own intelligence and athleticism, while her 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 pen to Dick French and female scriptwriter Toni Blum. Chuck Mazoujian was the original illustrator, until Nicholas Viscardi (aka Nick Cardy) succeeded him from 18 May 1941 until 22 February 1942, followed by Klaus Nordling from 1 March 1942 on. Nordling put 'Lady Luck' more to his own hand 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. 'Lady Luck' furthermore ran as a separate comic book series at Quality Comics, again drawn by Nordling. From issue #42 of Smash Comics (April 1943) until issue #85 (October 1949) she was a mainstay in its pages. When Smash ended she starred in her own comic book title, Lady Luck Comics, for four extra issues until issue #90 (August 1950).

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

Other 1940s comics
Outside 'The Spirit', Eisner also created some patriotic comics during World War II for National Comics and Military Comics. In the first issue of National Comics (July 1940) 'Uncle Sam' made his debut, perhaps the oddest superhero he ever wrote and drew. Based on the national personification of the U.S., Sam was the spirit of a soldier who died during the U.S. War of Independence. Eisner wrote most of the stories en pencilled 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 him 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 remained unpublished, such as John Law and Pirate Comics.

In the first issue of Military Comics (August 1941), Eisner and Bob Powell introduced 'Blackhawk'. 'Blackhawk' centers around Polish-American ace pilot Bart Hawk and his private squadron, nicknamed "The Blackhawks". They operate from a secret army base on a faraway island. Originally Hawk's men weren't a consistent team. The Russian Boris, the Polishman Zeg and Englishman Baker were replaced by a septet who received their permanent form from issue #11 on (Military Comics, August 1942). Another Polishman, Stanislaus, is Blackhawk's second-in-command officer and the team's acrobatic strongman. Other team members are André the French demolitions expert (and lady killer), Olaf the Swedish strongman and Hendrikson, aka "Hendy" the Dutch-German sharpshooter. Chuck is the only American on the team and their communication's specialist. The Asian Chop-Chop is no aviator, but still travels along with Blackhawk as the team's cook.

Covers for Military Comics #1 and #10, by Will Eisner.

True to the times, the 'Blackhawk' team often featured stereotypical versions of various European people, not to mention the racially offensively portrayed Chinese cook Chop-Chop. As the series progressed Chop-Chop too became a skilled pilot, while 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. In issue #20 (Military Comics, July 1943) an unnamed female character tries to enter the Blackhawks, but despite rescueing Blackhawk still isn't admitted. In issue #133 (Blackhawk, February 1959) the same character receives a name, Zinda Blake, aka "Lady Blackhawk" and is accepted within the team. The team 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 has risen over who was the true creator of 'Blackhawk'? Cuidera often claimed that his input far outranked Eisner and Powell's. What is certain is that Eisner came up with the concept and the character's uniforms. By the winter of 1944 'Blackhawk' received its own long-running comic book series. Chop-Chop also got his own title, albeit as a spin-off gag comic, 'Chop-Chop' (1946-1955), which ran as an extra in each 'Blackhawk' issue. The adventures of this military squad were popular enough to inspire a radio serial (1950), film serial 'Blackhawk: Fearless Champion of Freedom' (1952), various toys and a 1982 novel. Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood spoofed the comic as 'Black and Blue Hawks' in issue #5 (June/July 1953 ) of Mad Magazine.

In January 1967 'Blackhawk' was drastically modernized. The team was redesigned with super powers. The tone became more fantastical, with them battling monsters and aliens. Nevertheless the franchise was discontinued in October-November 1968. In 1976 the series returned 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 on Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle revived the series. In the 1988 reboot Olaf became Danish, while Chuck became an Italian-American. Lady Blackhawk became a more prominent team member and was revealed to be Russian-American.

Military instructional comics and manuals
Between 1941 and 1972 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 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 easily the most controversial aspect of his career. Some fans feel he "wasted" his talent making military propaganda, which became particularly sour during the highly unpopular Vietnam War. Most of the material is heavily dated and only of interest to historians and military buffs. It especially frustrates fans of 'The Spirit', because he could have made more stories for that series instead. Others have defended Eisner for doing his patriotic duty. They also pointed out that his educational comics still stayed to 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 furthermore made the more personal and artistic comics of later in his 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 finally given more serious attention, with some cartoonists elevated to the status of underappreciated geniuses. One of them was 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 also reprinted 'The Spirit', while Eisner created two new episodes, 'The Capistrano Jewels' (1973), and 'The Invader' (1973). In later decades he merely scripted 'The Spirit Jam' (Kitchen Sink Series, issue #30, July 1981), in which 50 artists illustrated the story in homage to his work. In 1996-1997 a similar tribute was published. 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, save 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. Both got bad reviews.

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

A new direction
For years Eisner had cherished the dream of creating more ambitious and personal comics. Yet many of his colleagues remained skeptical about his plans. Rube Goldberg even flatout discouraged him in 1960: "You are a vaudevillian like the rest of us... don't ever forget that!" However, the cultus of 'The Spirit' had grown so considerably during the following decades that Eisner became convinced that there was a market for his work. In 1969 Denis Kitchen and Art Spiegelman introduced him to underground comix, a genre partially inspired by his own work. Seeing how they continued on the path he had paved, he 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'.

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). All are available in a single volume too. The trilogy is set in an apartment block in New York City, a microcosmos of people either moving in or out. Many stories are inspired by the author's own youth as a Jew living in the immigrant neighbourhood in Dropsie Avenue, during the Great Depression. To evoke an old-fashioned feeling he used sepia ink. Eisner uses this urban setting to portray moving, recognizable human dramas, both in past as well as present.

The first volume, 'A Contract with God', features several short stories with no direct correlation. 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's own daughter died from leukemia when she was 16, making the story very close to home. In 'The Street Singer' a 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. Their names were based on Eisner's real-life family members, including himself as "Willie".

'A Life Force'.

The second volume, 'A Life Force', shares 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 maffia. 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 a goy (non-Jew). The tale unfolds as 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 aforementioned street from its colonial beginnings as a 17th-century Dutch farm over a 19th-century small village to a 20th-century tenement block. While the times change, humans basically remain 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 observes that their neighbourhood "isn't what it used to be", but it is clear that it never once was.

'Dropsie Avenue'.

Graphic novel
'A Contract with God' is a milestone in comic history. It has often been called "the first graphic novel", though there have been predecessors to that honorific title. In the early 19th century Rodolphe Töpffer and Gustave Doré, to name a few, already created longer comic stories which 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 before Eisner was 'Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary' (1972) by Justin Green, which dealt with his Roman Catholic upbringing. Eisner wasn't the inventor of the term "graphic novel" either: that honour should go to Richard Kyle in an essay in the fanzine Casa-Alpha, in November 1964. Yet 'A Contract with God' had a far larger cultural and commercial impact. Eisner wanted his work to be distributed in regular bookstores, even though many owners didn't quite know in which section to place it? Thanks to Eisner's status as a comics legend the books received a lot of media attention. Many literary critics gave it raving reviews. Some declared it worthy of being a contender for the title "Great American Novel". The work became a classic and was translated in many languages. In 1983 the Amsterdam comics store Lambiek launched the first Yiddish edition, translated by Bobbi Zylberman as 'An Opmakh mit Got' and lettered by Flip Fermin and Peter Pontiac. Eisner himself 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 giving comics more critical attention. Many adult readers have been converted to comics through the genre. The only downside is that it created a huge divide between "serious, artistic" graphic novels and the more straightforward humor and adventure comics. Some, including Eisner himself, have dismissed the term "graphic novel" as an unneccesary distinction from any other excellent comic books.

Life on Another Planet
Eisner followed his success with several other graphic novels. 'Life on Another Planet' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1983), was serialized 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 (clearly inspired by the 1977 real-life "Wow!" 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 Sidami people want to be annexed to the planet for the same reason. The KGB abducts two U.S. astrophysicists for more information, while a multinational supports the plans for colonisation of the new planet, for business purposes...

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

Autobiographical graphic novels and family sagas
While 'A Contract with God' already had autobiographical elements, Eisner combined 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 his early beginnings as a cartoonist, mostly referring to people and events from his time at Eisner-Iger. In a bigger picture it shows how difficult it is to get an enterprise from the ground and keep 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'.

In 'To the Heart of the Storm' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1991) the reader follows a young man on board of 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'd written an autobiography in comic form. The work won both the 1992 Eisner and Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album.

'Last Day in Vietnam'.

'A Family Matter' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1998), revolves around a family meeting where the patriarch's 90th birthday is celebrated. However, as the members reminsce about the past, many long suppressed traumas and frustrations slowly bubble to the surface. A supposed joyous occasion now becomes a bitter conflict. 'Minor Miracles' (DC, 2000) brought Eisner back to Dropsie Avenue, though wasn't a sequel to 'Contract with God'. The graphic novel delves into stories about incredible (un)luck(iness) or coincidence which pushed their 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 recrutes not only face daily military hostilities but also larger, more mental issues. The work won the Harvey Award (2001) for Best Graphic Album or Original Work. 'The Name of the Game' (DC, 2001) was loosely inspired by his mother's side of the family and unfolds as a saga spanning over several generations. It deals with the family's enterprises as well as their inner conflicts.

'New York: The Big City'.

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 as well as 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 passers by in New York. 'The Building' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1987) was the result of Eisner's melancholic feelings about the destruction of old buildings. To him this loss was just as tragic as a person dying. In the same vein of 'Contract with God' he therefore 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 support system. Two months after her death went by, all while nobody 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 Awards for "Best Writer" and "Best Cartoonist". All four aforementioned 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'.

Literary adaptations
In the final years of his life, 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, while 'The Last Knight: An Introduction to Don Quixote' (NBM, 2000) tackles Cervantes' mad knight wannabe and 'Sundiata: A Legend of Africa' (NBM, 2003) visualizes an Malian folk tale. However, not all of his adaptations followed the original books to the letter. '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 Dickens original novel, illustrated by George Cruikshank, Fagin was basically a 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 more 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 Protocols of the Elders of Zion' (1905), written a century earlier, 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 used as a propaganda tool today. It reflects 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 which prove that 'Protocols' were plagiarized from older sources. The 2005 publication of Eisner's final work had a foreword by Umberto Eco, most famous as the author of 'The Name of the Rose'.

'Moby Dick'.

Comics & Sequential Art
While Eisner is most famous as a creator of fiction, he also published theoretical books about comics: '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 the culmination of the courses he gave at the School of Visual Arts, combined with essays about the medium printed in The Spirit Magazine. They offer practical tips on how to draw movement, body mechanics, facial expressions and postures, but are more than just a drawing guide. Eisner shows how small alterations in line work, shading, lay-out, colouring, perspective, shading... can all increase the impact of a story or convey different messages. He stresses the importance of pacing and keeping focus. At the time Eisner's guides offered the first theoretical analysis of storytelling in comics written by someone with actual lifelong experience as both a comic writer as well as an artist. The trilogy remains an insightful guide today. They also introduced the now familiar definition that comics are "sequential art" or "sequential illustrated narratives", which Kees Kousemaker of the Amsterdam store Lambiek used to determine which artists could receive an entry in his online cartoonists encyclopedia The Comiclopedia from 1999 on.

Graphic and written contributions
Eisner wrote a personal homage to Robert Crumb in Monte Beauchamp's book 'The Life and Times of R. Crumb. Comments From Contemporaries (St. Martin's Griffin, New York, 1998).

From: 'Comics and Sequential Art'.

In 1967 'The Spirit' was added to the Alley Award Hall of Fame. 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 (1975). He won a Reuben Award for 'Contract with God' in 1998, while the German translation of 'The Spirit' and 'A Contract with God' won the 2010 Special Jury Prize at the Max und Moritz Awards. The maestro 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 Max und Moritz Preis for Outstanding Life's Work (1994), a Golden Adamson Award for Lifetime Comic Medium Achievement (1998) and the National Federation for Jewish Culture gave him the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.

Final years
In 1993 Bob Foster organized a comic book storytelling course in Dublin, to which Will Eisner, Ulrich Schroeder, Pat McGreal and Dave Rawson participated. 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. The maestro passed away in 2005 at the age of 86, after a quadruple bypass heart surgery. Craig Thompson, Shawn McManus and Everett Raymond Kinstler all drew graphic in memoriams.

Legacy and influence
Will Eisner remains a giant in comic history. He helped the medium grow out of its children's shoes and contributed to it being taken seriously as an artform. The "father of the graphic novel" may not have been the first author of a graphic novel, but did popularize the genre among a large audience. His work was a strong influence on Jack Kirby, Jules Feiffer, Jack KirbyMurphy Anderson, Kevin AtkinsonJulio Ribera, Johnny Craig, Harvey KurtzmanMort DruckerAngelo Torres, Steve Ditko, Robert CrumbArt SpiegelmanRand Holmes, Joost Swarte, Minck OosterveerPiet Wijn, Dave SimWesley Alexander, Gary ChalonerFrank MillerNeil GaimanAlan Moore, Darwyn CookeGleever, Scott McCloud, Paul Evitz, Michael Chabon, Mike Allred, Scott Shaw, Mike Gorman, Batton LashSteven De Rie, Ed PiskorJeff SmithFlixZep, Tim Lane, Erik Kriek, Stefan de Groot and Guy Gilchrist. '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 novel 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay' (2000), which won a Pulitzer Prize, took a lot of inspiration from many Golden Age comic artists, including Eisner. In an eerie example of the series' influence, cartoonist Jim Osborne was found dead in 2001 with three bottles of vodka and a copy of 'The Spirit' at his side. Other celebrity fans of Eisner are 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 once said: "Eisner was not only ahead of his times, the present times are still catching up to him." The legend inspired the name of the Dutch literary comic magazine Eisner which appeared between 2008 and 2011, as well as the annual Eisner Awards. Since 2005 the publishing house W.W. Norton Books has reprinted most of Eisner's back catalogue.

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). In 1999 'Will Eisner: Profession Cartoonist' (1999) was made, 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' (2007), 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 comics shop Lambiek in Amsterdam in 1993. 


Series and books by Will Eisner in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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