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.