Bob Schwartz

Tag: Will Eisner

Will Eisner Week

Will Eisner (1917-2005) was a pioneer in the comic art form, the godfather of the graphic novel with publication of A Contract with God (1978), a teacher and theoretician of the medium with publication of Comics and Sequential Art (1985). The major award in the medium is named after him.

This is officially his week.

I see myself age 7, standing on a corner in the Bronx, reading a Superboy comic book I had just bought at the candy store. I couldn’t wait to get it back to our apartment.

I didn’t know then that comic books would shape me as much as any other cultural influence. I didn’t know that comic books would evolve into “real” literature in the form of graphic novels. I didn’t know that by 2018 comic books and graphic novels would end up being the multi-billion dollar backbone of the movie and TV industry.

I didn’t know about Will Eisner either, but I would learn that he, more than any other person, was responsible for the breakthrough that turned cheap disposable entertainment for kids into a major art form of the twentieth—and now the twenty-first—century.

The poster for Will Eisner Week says “Read a Graphic Novel!” If you haven’t ever, you should.

As with all literature, “best” is a matter of taste and interest. For me, and for many others, it is Watchmen (1986) by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Time magazine listed it as one of the 100 Best Novels since 1923—that is best novels, not just graphic novels. Like all supreme literary works, it weaves so much into its pages that the reader is mesmerized way after the book is closed for the first, fifth or nth time. And like many works—including now many comic books and graphic novels—the attempt to transform it into film was good but only partly successful, and still not the experience of reading the book. So whether it is Watchmen or one of the many other worthies—Read a Graphic Novel!

Comic Book Plus: Digital Superheroes

Comic Book Plus
If it isn’t apparent from previous posts, the premier pop cultural medium of these times (meaning the last century) may not be movies or music or television or any of the usual suspects. It is comic books, and while explaining that in detail will have to wait for another post, just ask the entertainment enterprises that have built billion-dollar franchises on that foundation. Hint: Don’t just look at the movies; look at video games, which are sometimes expressly, sometimes implicitly interactive comic books at heart.

Digital has provided new ways to enjoy the old and the new. Comixology, for example, offers an excellent cross-device platform for digital comics. But if you love comic books as essential cultural artifacts, the digital pickings have been slim and erratic. Of course comic book connoisseurs and scholars have been scanning and distributing them for as long as there has been an internet, but organization, information and, above all, copyright integrity has been missing.

The developers of the Comic Book Plus are digital and cultural superheroes. “Free and Legal” they trumpet, and nowhere in the universe can you both read and download such a collection representing decades of this historical basis of American—of world—culture. Free and legal. (Note: The downloads are in special comic book file formats that require some sort of reader. One way to deal with this is with Calibre, the world’s most popular free ebook manager and converter. Calibre will convert the comics to any format you choose, e.g., epub or pdf, to be read on your existing readers.)

If you love comic books and graphic novels, no more needs to be said. If you love pop culture and its origins, immerse yourself in the sequential art of these digital waters. Just make sure you have some time to spare because you won’t want to come out. And for those in the know, just tell them Will Eisner sent you.