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R.I.P. Will Eisner
January 4, 2005 7:23 AM   Subscribe

Will Eisner Dies at age 86 The father of the modern Graphic Novel and hugely influential comics figure has died today from heart surgery complications. His concept of Sequential Art helped move comics out of the idea of being solely "kid's stuff" and was seen as a cannon in the comic art world. He was working on a book called "The Plot" due out later this year. He will be missed. More info and Eisner Bio at Newsarama
posted by Jeffy (54 comments total)

 
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posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:25 AM on January 4, 2005


That sucks. I have two of his, um, graphic novels. Plus read a lot more standing in the aisles of the comic book store. Sure'll be missed.
posted by jsavimbi at 7:34 AM on January 4, 2005


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posted by melissa may at 7:36 AM on January 4, 2005


Eisner was one of the reasons I wanted to be a cartoonist- I remember "reading" The Spirit before I could even read. I'm going to be depressed the rest of the day now.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:41 AM on January 4, 2005


"Seen as a cannon"?

Eisner was terrific, but this makes no sense spelled either way.
posted by pnh at 7:44 AM on January 4, 2005


Very sad.
posted by picea at 7:46 AM on January 4, 2005


Oh man, The Spiritwas so so so so so so good. Better than most stuff out there now.

My favorite Spirit story was probably this one, entitled Gerhard Shnobble: The Man Who Could Fly. I remember reading it in a comic history book from the Smithsonian when I was a teenager and just fell in love. It's funny, sad, whimsical, exciting and so so memorable.

Man. I'm sad.
posted by tittergrrl at 7:48 AM on January 4, 2005


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posted by infidelpants at 7:50 AM on January 4, 2005


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posted by Smart Dalek at 7:53 AM on January 4, 2005


seen as a cannon

Canonization perhaps? I doubt many would argue against a declaration of Sequential Art sainthood for Mr Eisner.
posted by grabbingsand at 7:54 AM on January 4, 2005


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posted by cookie-k at 7:55 AM on January 4, 2005


Awwwwww, Jesus H. &*%$!!. I never met him. Never will, in this life.

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Just a great big:

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...for an innovative genius whose contributions to the medium will never be matched. I'm rarely sad for people I've never met, but I'm sad today.

Frank Kelly Freas, best known for creating the Mad Magazine icon as well as many of its covers (and also many album and book covers including the iconic art for Queen's News of the World) passed away too.

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posted by Shane at 7:56 AM on January 4, 2005


I was a huge fan of the Spirit when I was a teenager (tittergrrl and I have something in common there), and remain big fan of Eisner in general. I've always been amazed at how active he continued to be in his twilight years. It might sound weird that I don't think I'll miss him: he's been too influential in an industry that still affects my life and he's been so prolific throughout his entire career that I don't think it'll ever truly feel like he's gone....
posted by kimota at 7:58 AM on January 4, 2005


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posted by xmutex at 8:04 AM on January 4, 2005


Farewell to one of the true greats.
posted by tdismukes at 8:07 AM on January 4, 2005


I was fortunate enough to hear him speak a couple of times, and met him once. He was a charming man, eloquent and passionate about the potential of the medium. We are the poorer for his passing.
posted by mkhall at 8:13 AM on January 4, 2005


Damn but it sucks to lose a genius.

pnh, I agree that the usage of "canon" here is counterintuitive (and misspelled), but according to this Episcopalian site:

the term comes from the Greek word kannon, that means "measuring rod or ruler." When used in reference to people, a canon is the title of a priest who either serves on the staff of a cathedral, or who has exhibited exemplary service to a diocese.

Surely, as an artist, author and teacher, Eisner has given "exemplary service" to his medium and his colleagues. And in the Greek sense, the future may well judge his work as a standard against which others might be measured. Silly as it seems to apply High Church terminology to an artist whose Judaism was so central to his work, I'd say Jeffy's use of "canon" could probably stand.

Of course, if the spelling was right and Eisner was being compared to a large artillery weapon that hurls lead shot, hmm. Well, I guess he was something of a "big gun" in the comic art world, at that.

Farewell, Eisner, thou shalt be missed.
posted by Pallas Athena at 8:15 AM on January 4, 2005


I like Eisner a lot, but it's a bit of hyperbole to call him "father of the graphic novel." Maybe it works if you qualify that with "... in English," but there are plenty of examples of pre-Eisner graphical fiction. I don't think it does Eisner any honor to misattribute it to him.

on preview: Especially when looking at mid-'80s indie art (think about Cerebus or Love & Rockets), Eisnerian touches abound. His work is definitely part of any serious canon you'd want to dream up. Does that formulation maybe work a little beatter? [/g]
posted by lodurr at 8:19 AM on January 4, 2005


Eisner was one of the great american artists of this century. I had the good fortune to meet him briefly at a couple of comic book conventions and he was always a gentleman.
posted by marxchivist at 8:20 AM on January 4, 2005


This is terrible. Will was a great artist, a relentless proponent that comics were art, and was apparently a pretty nice guy to boot.

Over the long haul of the 20th and part of the 21st century, he has to rank as one of the two or three most significant figures in the medium.

RIP.
posted by the wind at 8:23 AM on January 4, 2005


I'll be honest and admit that I thought he was already dead. I'd assumed that the Will Eisner Award was a tribute to his passing.

Whoops.
posted by grum@work at 8:28 AM on January 4, 2005


Augh! Eisner was one of those artists you can't imagine running out of things to explore if he lived 200 years. I was hoping he would.
posted by furiousthought at 9:05 AM on January 4, 2005


God damn it. If I had a flag, I'd put it at half mast.
posted by Hildago at 9:07 AM on January 4, 2005


Ok, I'll admit to my misspelling of canon, but I think it applies.

And Pallas Athena, I like your explanation of how it works as originally spelled.

Also, yes, perhaps there is a bit of hyperbole here, but isn't a man's eulogy as good a place as any for exaggeration? Yes, his contributions were mostly for the English speaking art world, and more specifically the American comics system, but that doesn't diminish what he accomplished of his influence.

How about throwing the word "popularized" in there somewhere? Does that satisfy?
posted by Jeffy at 9:07 AM on January 4, 2005


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posted by Stynxno at 9:07 AM on January 4, 2005


I like Eisner a lot, but it's a bit of hyperbole to call him "father of the graphic novel." Maybe it works if you qualify that with "... in English," but there are plenty of examples of pre-Eisner graphical fiction. I don't think it does Eisner any honor to misattribute it to him.

Eisner is generally credited with both inventing the term "graphic novel" and with evangelizing the concept. In a field overwhelmingly dominated by short-form and/or serial works, his advocacy of longer, stand-alone narratives alone would earn him the title. But even beyond that, there are practically no stand-alone long-form works of significance (actually exactly none to my knowledge, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt) that predate Eisner's evangelism. Before Eisner, no significant long-form works; after Eisner, all of them.
posted by jjg at 9:17 AM on January 4, 2005


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posted by magullo at 9:25 AM on January 4, 2005


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posted by davebushe at 9:36 AM on January 4, 2005


Will Eisner, is easily my favorite comic artist. A very sad day - anyone who's seen interviews with him can attest that the guy seemed to be filled with boundless energy and enthusiasm. An incredibly important artist who was there from the very early days and established the basis for the comic form as we know it (for better or worse).

I think his importance can be gauged somewhat by the amount of material available in other languages and the respect he has earned the world over.

Also by the wide variety of critical pieces on him and his work or that reference him.

Hopefully, the inevitable Spirit film isn't too horrible (uh like this unreleased beast). He will be greatly missed.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:47 AM on January 4, 2005


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O

Damn, but it hurts to lose Eisner. We wouldn't have anyone from Scott McCloud to Alan Moore if it hadn't been for him. I'll read the other comments later; I'm too depressed now.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:48 AM on January 4, 2005


aww
posted by jimmy at 10:02 AM on January 4, 2005


He was one of the all time great sequential artists. Also, from what I've read, a great supporter of up and coming talents. He will be sorely missed.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:03 AM on January 4, 2005


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posted by WolfDaddy at 10:54 AM on January 4, 2005


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:( The Spirit is still my all time favorite, just for his style.
posted by dabitch at 11:15 AM on January 4, 2005


Outside of Mad magazine, the Spirit was the only comic I read (in various reprints) through junior high and highschool and the only one I've ever been passionate about getting all of the stories from. I've never seen another artist that had such a perfect balance of controlled lines and free flowing style. And he knew how to tell an amazing story.

While Will influenced several generations of cartoonists and graphic artists he actually had the opposite effect on me. For me his work was at such a high level that I set the bar at that level and judge everything else to it. I can never hit that level of drawing so I stayed with my Don Adams inspired style instead.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:20 AM on January 4, 2005


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posted by thethirdman at 11:29 AM on January 4, 2005


eisner said it was okay to take comics seriously and i believed him. broke new ground in comics for sure but also had a huge influence in hollywood with many directors taking cues or outright pirating his style. he will be sorely missed.
posted by lucksmonday at 11:35 AM on January 4, 2005


RIP Mr. Eisner
posted by blackturtleneck at 11:50 AM on January 4, 2005


jjg: But even beyond that, there are practically no stand-alone long-form works of significance (actually exactly none to my knowledge, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt) that predate Eisner's evangelism. Before Eisner, no significant long-form works; after Eisner, all of them.

I'm currently reading Tezuka's Buddha which appears to be roughly contemporary to Eisner's development of the long-form story. However, it has only recently been translated into English. So I don't think it is really safe to say that Eisner alone was experimenting with stand-alone long-form stories, but he certainly was the pioneer in English. Unfortunately, I came into the graphic novel concept with the second generation of graphic novelists in the 80s and 90s. I think I might have to pick up Contract with God this afternoon.

It should also be noted that the contrast between novel and serial has not always been so clear-cut. For example, many of Dickens' "novels" were initially published in serial form.

It is a shame, "The Plot" looks like it would be a marvelous read.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:16 PM on January 4, 2005


"."

What Neil said today about Will.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:48 PM on January 4, 2005


Damn.

There are certain people who shouldn't die. He was one of them.
posted by GreatWesternDragon at 12:54 PM on January 4, 2005


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In my travels in the comic world, I've met Will Eisner on several occasions and he was definitely full of boundless energy and loved to talk about his craft - after having influenced pretty much everyone (in the West) who has ever worked in it. He was always friendly to me and gracious to everyone else. His books have been my bibles on drawing comics. He was really a great guy and a truly marvelous artist.

I can safely represent here a whole bunch of cartoonists (I'm a member of a couple of organizations) when I say we're all very sad at his passing. A lot of guys I hang out with have known him for 20 or 30 years.

Thanks for showing us the way, Mr. Eisner. We'll keep it going.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:03 PM on January 4, 2005


I should add that between this and Kelly Freas, it's been kind of a rough week for cartoonists. And both these guys were members of my organization, too. :(
posted by zoogleplex at 1:04 PM on January 4, 2005


This is terrible.
posted by interrobang at 1:36 PM on January 4, 2005


Will Eisner was somewhat the bomb.

He was definitely one of a kind.
posted by soyjoy at 2:16 PM on January 4, 2005


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posted by shmegegge at 4:29 PM on January 4, 2005


that was only supposed to be one period.
posted by shmegegge at 4:30 PM on January 4, 2005


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posted by drezdn at 5:18 PM on January 4, 2005


Ditto what xmutex said.

Will Eisner hasn't had as much of an influence on me as, say, Carl Barks, but this post came as a shock nonetheless.
posted by May Kasahara at 5:39 PM on January 4, 2005


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posted by MrBadExample at 6:31 PM on January 4, 2005


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posted by litlnemo at 6:49 PM on January 4, 2005


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is not enough

I was so small when I read 'The Spirit' I couldn't even spell it. I used to write 'SPIRT'.

RIP Mr. Eisner, your legacy is our treasure.
posted by bdave at 8:40 PM on January 4, 2005


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just bought some Spirit comics at the store today and was thinking about getting more. cursed timing.
posted by jeribus at 9:31 PM on January 4, 2005


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posted by yeoz at 7:46 PM on January 6, 2005


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