Thursday, July 26, 2007

Guest Blogger GPerez

Tony's taking a week off so this week there will be a guest blogger.

Why is he forgotten??
By Gabriel Perez
Ok quick. Make a list of the best comic book authors of all time. Hell I’ll even give you a chance to write your top five just to give you a shot. Ok time is up I bet I can name some of your top five: Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Brian K. Vaughan, Garth Ennis Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Mark Waid. Hell, if you are old school I’ll even bet you may have put down Stan Lee, Dennis O’Neil. And the one person on top of everyone’s list is none other then one of modern comics’ greatest writers Alan Moore. But is he the greatest? Not that I am going to sit here and write about Alan Moore being a bad writer. in my opinion he has single handedly changed the industry to what it is today. But was he the first to do what he did? For all your work in making your top five list I bet there is one name that isn’t there that no one ever figured too put down. That one name being the name of Will Eisner. If you are pretty new to comics or you’re just not into the history it is save to say you may never have heard of that name. Well let me give you a little history on who Mr. Eisner is. He was born in Brooklyn…BROOKLYN!!!!! (Sorry it’s a Brooklyn thing), New York back in 1917. After finishing high school he got into the business due mainly to the advice of an old high school friend Bob Kane (…..FYI Kane created Batman).
During this time period comics where a new invention, which mostly featured reprints of comics strips from the new papers collected into one book. There was no original work being done until 1932 when two teenage boys created a character name Superman, this one event lead to the comic book that we know and love today. Up until 1939 Eisner was working with Jerry Iger on their own publishing company, until Eisner got an offer of a life time. Everett “Busy” Arnold offered him a job writing for Quality Comic. This job was writing a weekly 16 insert in the Sunday newspapers for the Des Moines Register, and Tribune Syndicated. Out of this agreement, The Spirit was born. Well that seems to be in end of the story about Will, but its not. The Spirit ran from June 2, 1940 until 1952. and unlike Jerry Siegel (creator of Superman) and other writers of his day Will owned the Spirit property along with anything created from the comic section from the newspaper, which was called the “The Spirit Section”. To think that the creators of some of the oldest, and most important characters in American history never saw a penny or were even given credit for their work until 1975. Not even Will being drafted into World War Two (1942-45) would stop the Spirit from being printed weekly every Sunday.
So let’s stop here for a second. Will along with his assassins wrote a weekly 16 page comic, every week (more or less no one is perfect) for 12 years. A new story with art work every week for 12 years and don’t forget The Spirit was one of only 3 features in that section that he did. There were still two other comics involved. Yeah, let that sit in your brain for a little. But The Spirit was only the start. During his time in the army he created a character for the army known as Joe Dope. Why would the army use Will Eisner to create a character for them? Will as strange as it is to imagine, even in the 1940s not everyone knew how to read books, let alone an army technical manual. Joe Dope was created to bridge the gap for those that didn’t know how to read or understood technical talk. As smart of a move as this looks this can’t be measured by sales or copies made, but in lives. Just imagine how useful one of his manuals would have been for someone trying to understand how to correctly load a machine gun, or how to fix the breaks of an army car.

He continued doing this line of work until about the 1970s, until he had an idea for a longer storytelling format. He finished his first try at this format, but found it hard to sell the idea of a big comic to publisher. He tired to sell the idea of his book not as a comic but as a graphic novel. That is right ladies and gentlemen Will Eisner created the graphic novel and its story telling format. And with that the gentle writer started his career as a graphic novelist at the age of 61, when in 1978 Contract with God was printed. At the age of 61 when most people are retiring he was starting a new genre-one he worked on until his death in 2005, a few months after he finished his last book The Plot: the Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Not to undermine the great writers of today but Will was doing things 50 years ago that people think are break through today. I once read an article about Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta. how it was an example of his trade mark story telling in which he told the story though minor characters, and not the main characters. A style that he “ mastered and made famous”, this was also a style that Eisner mastered in his Spirit run some 40+ years earlier. He was also smarter then most of his fellow writers from that period because he was able to get the rights of his characters where most of the same writers from his time period didn’t get anything. Not only does this mean a lot of money for him and his family but it also means a whole lot of control. The rights to his characters he created are in the hands of his family, and trusted family friends. That is why it has taken so long to see a Spirit movie. Not because there is a fight within the family, but because every movie studio they when to always tried to make a Spirit movie that wasn’t the Spirit. I have everything from giving super powers to making him a spirit of vengeance. Creators never have rights other their properties. Ever wonder why after The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan Moore stopped writing for DC comics. Even a few days ago when the directer was announced for Y the Last Man, it was rumored that Brian K. Vaughan’s script wasn’t going to be used for the film. And when it is often said that someone wrote the book on a given subject or craft, well Will did write the book on it, well actually two books Comic and Sequential Art and Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, which to this day are used to teach up and coming writers.
Like all statements that start off by someone saying “this is the greatest person to ever…” I understand that I am opening the door to people calling me wrong or stupid. But what I am aiming to do is to open the door to debate, and hopefully get more people out there reading his work. As sad as it would be in my mind for a comic book fan not to know who he is, I think that it is sadder if said fan has never read any of his work. Will Eisner is for the lack of a better term, the writer that time has forgotten. He fathered a library of more then 30 graphic novels and trade, and his Spirit Archives have reached volume 20 with 2 years left of comics to reprint. But he’s books never get talked about a lot. Keep this in mind the yearly awards for the comic book industry are called the Eisner’s not the Lee’s.

Once again I would like to thank Tony for letting me write this. Thanks Tony and have fun during your week off!

March 6, 1917- January 3, 2005

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