Will Eisner, R.I.P.

Just received word that Will Eisner passed away, due to complications from his recent heart surgery.

Will was one of the true greats in the comics industry. He was one of its earliest visionaries, telling people in 1940 that comics could be used to educate and could be more than mere escapist entertainment. It took him decades, but he brought that vision to life time and again.

I got to chat with Will now and again at conventions through the 1980s and he was cordial and happy to chat. While still at Comics Scene, I was covering the San Diego Comic Con and was about planning to sit in on an Eisner panel. Cat Yronwode, then the pre-eminent Eisner scholar, was scheduled to conduct the panel but something came up and she turned to me, in a panic, and asked me to cover for her.

I had not met Will in person at that point, but was certainly familiar with his work, starting with reading my first Spirit story in Jules Feiffer

3 comments

  • This is very sad news. I never met him, but I’ve heard so much about him that I feel I knew him well.

    “A Contract With God” is probably one of the most important works in the comics field, along with his books on comics as an art form.

  • Mike

    This is the first I heard this. I’ve loved Eisner’s work even though the percentage of what I’ve actually read versus what he’s produced is slim. One of my favorite books is “The Dreamer” and I have read it several times.

    This is very sad news. I’m at a loss. I hope at the least he went peacefully. Every personal account I’ve read of the man (like this one) made him sound like such a sweet soul. I’ll miss him even though I never knew him (much like Kirby).

    Oddly, this morning on the bus to work I was reading about the beginnings of the Eisner & Iger studio in Gerard Jones’ stunningly brilliant “Men of Tomorrow.” Get it if you don’t have it and if you do have it — Read it now!

  • Lance Woods

    Two things immediately flashed through my mind when I heard this sad news at work this morning.

    The first was a memory of reading an advance copy of “Dropsie Avenue” from Kitchen Sink Press a few years ago. I’d read Mr. Eisner’s “Spirit” work off and on, but this was my first exposure to his real-world graphic novels, and it blew me apart. The scene where two of his characters (an ill woman, then her grieving husband at her bedside) die within moments of each other will never leave my memory. That’s when I knew Mr. Eisner’s talent was beyond genius — and certainly beyond my limited capacity to describe here, so I won’t even try beyond … wow.

    My second memory was of reading about the creation of the Escapist in Chabon’s KAVALIER & CLAY. It may have echoed of Siegel & Shuster, but all I could think as I read on was, “Damn, I’d give anything to see Will Eisner draw this story. Or just draw the Escapist!” (I thought I’d heard/read that he might do something for the Dark Horse “Escapist” series. If so, I have no idea how far it got before today.)

    The term “master storyteller” gets thrown around a lot in the comics business. (Trust me; I’ve had to throw it many times.)

    Will Eisner didn’t just earn the title of “master storyteller.” He defined it.