The term “graphic novel” is one of the great triumphs of branding, creating space for American comics to reach beyond genre constraints and a juvenile audience to reach their full potential as a storytelling medium. Now there’s a new biography of the seminal figure who made graphic novels a viable concept by creating a shelf full of classics – all in the second half of an amazing career that extended from the Depression-era origins of the comics industry into the 21st century.
Will Eisner: Master of the Graphic Novel (Abrams ComicArts ) is a deluxe, illustrated critical biography by Paul Levitz, former President and Publisher of DC Comics out November 10. It presents a complete look at the career of Will Eisner, who rose from humble roots in the tenements of New York City to become arguably the most consequential individual in the history of the comics industry.
An artistic and commercial innovator. In Master of the Graphic Novel, Levitz digs deep to reveal the unusual combination of creativity and entrepreneurial vigor that drove Eisner, for better or worse, throughout his life.
The son of a failed artist father and an ambitious mother, Eisner was driven not only by pride in his craft but by a flinty commercial instinct and a deep-seated desire for recognition by “respectable” literary society. Throughout his career, he pushed the limits of the comics medium but always drove a hard bargain, making him an unusual figure in an industry where naïve creators were routinely exploited by publishers.
A legend from comics’ Golden Age. Starting in the 1930s, Eisner and his partner Jerry Iger launched one of the first studios for creating original content for the new format of comic books. Eisner left in 1940 to launch an original character, the Spirit, which ran as an 8-page supplement in newspapers through 1953. Those stories are now regarded as early classics of the medium, pioneering dozens of visual storytelling techniques and using the comics form to portray a wide range of dramatic and comedic story ideas.