Thursday, 13 January 2005

Graphic novel inventor dies

Will Eisner, inventor of the graphic novel, passed away. I’ve never actually read a graphic novel, but the movies based on them have been astounding, especially Road To Perdition. That movie managed to both look beautiful and have a great story. From Hell was a good movie, but not as well received. OK, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was an embarrassment storywise, but it looked fabulous. How could it not? The storyboards were done in advance. Here’s a bit from the obituary, which is in The Economist and I believe is a free link:

Mr Eisner’s first teenage comic strips were what most teenagers might produce: a buccaneer saga called “Hawks of the Seas”, and the six-inch-high “Doll Man”. This sort of pulp was churned out in various studio partnerships, including collaborations with Jack Kirby, who later devised “X-Men”, and Bob Kane, who would create “Batman”. Mr Eisner’s career did not take off until “The Spirit”, and even that was interrupted for three years during the second world war, while warrant officer Eisner drew a character called “Joe Dope” to instruct soldiers in the use of their equipment. After that came his corporate career, until the conversation in New York.

Towards the end of his life Mr Eisner tackled anti-Semitism, a subject which had dogged him from his boyhood. He wrote a sympathetic biography of Fagin, and his last graphic novel, “The Plot” (to be published in May), was about the forging of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. Mr Eisner saw that anti-Semitism was returning in the 21st century, and believed that comics were strong enough to be ammunition against it.

It constantly bothered him that art critics would not put him in the same category as “real” artists, such as Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning. Cartoonists, he complained, “have lived with the stigma, or the mark of Cain”, because their medium was regarded as inferior. “You are now seeing the beginning of a great maturity in this material,” he told a journalist in 2002. “And it will achieve acceptance.” His words implied, however, that there was still some way to go.

Payola on my left, payola on my right

I don’t have anything particularly insightful to add to Robert’s post on Armstrong Williams below, except to note that everyone’s now abuzz that America’s favorite lefty blogger-slash-political consultant, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, was on the Dean campaign’s payroll; the Daily Kos founder draws distinctions between himself and Williams in an email to InstaPundit, as does Jerome Armstrong of MyDD fame. Being on the government’s take and on a campaign’s take are two different things—that said, I’d expect those who condemned the Thune v. Daschle guys to also come down hard on Kos and Armstrong for their ties to the now-defunct Dean campaign.

The issue of payola in general is a sticky one; for example, I was asked to review a textbook to give suggested revisions for an upcoming edition a while back, a book I’d planned on using anyway (although I hadn’t placed any orders yet)—but if I hadn’t made that decision before the review, would the $150 they paid me have influenced the adoption decision? I can’t honestly answer that question “no,” although I’ve also reviewed other textbooks that I’d never use in a million years.