I came to school this morning to get ready for my first class upon returning from Christmas break. Checked my e-mail and visited the Fanboy Radio forum. Scott had posted "Will Eisner Passes Away" with a link to the news source. My first reaction was confusion. Sure, Mr. Eisner recently had major surgery, but reports were he was doing fine. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Comic legend Will Eisner died due to complications from heart surgery performed on December 22nd. Eisner had undergone quadruple bypass surgery, and was last reported to be recovering well.
Eisner was 87 years old, and was still actively working. His latest graphic novel, The Plot was due to be released later this year by W.W. Norton.
My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, family, and enormous circle of friends. He was well-loved and well-respected. As a tireless advocate and patron for the comic book medium, many people owe Mr. Eisner a debt of gratitude.
Will Eisner is the Father of the Graphic Novel. He started his career during the first days of this bastard artform's modern inception. He was there during the Golden Age. He worked in newspapers. He wrote and drew in almost every genre imaginable. He wrote the first true graphic novel, A Contract with God, giving comics a depth and intellect it previously lacked. (At this time, I was one year old.) Mr. Eisner wrote from his experience and culture, as a proud Jewish American. He told intensely personal stories with bold honesty, touching humor and irony. He also wrote about comics, creating guides and thoughful analysis on the medium. Unlike others, he never apologized for doing comics. He believed in comic books as literature to rival any other narrative media. The comic book industry was built on Mr. Eisner's confidence. In fact, the highest award in comics bears his name.
This past summer, Craig Thompson won the Eisner Award for his graphic novel, Blankets. When Craig Thompson took the stage, on the verge of tears, he thanked and acknowledged only one person for all his inspiration and desire, Will Eisner.
To say he lived a "full life" would be an understatement, Mr. Eisner lived an epic life. Amazingly, he was always in his prime. Even at 87 years old, he was still creating comics-- graphic novels that were just as good as, if not better than, when he first started. To all the artists and storytellers, Mr. Eisner was our patriarch. He will be missed.
From Sean Keefeld (who I greatly respect) at FF Plaza:
For those of you who may not think Will had an impact on mainstream comics, since his work was largely self-published and out of the mainstream, let me relay that Will was the guy who first hired Jack Kirby to draw comic books. Jack worked under Will for only a year or two, but recognized how masterful Will really was and continued to call him "boss" until Jack's death in 1994. Think about that. Jack Kirby worked under other greats like Joe Simon and Stan Lee, but continued to call Will Eisner his boss. Jack "The King" Kirby, who is almost universally revered in the comic book community as one of the all-time greats, continued to publically recognize Will Eisner as his superior.
From Bob Andleman, author of the upcoming Eisner biography:
At every Eisner Awards ceremony, each recipient was handed his or her award by the man himself.
Several years ago, a big red velvet chair was put on stage for Eisner. The Eisner Awards promoters said, "Come on, Will, you shouldn't have to stand up all this time; here, have a seat." Eisner sat on it briefly, got a laugh out of it, but then he stood up again, and stayed on his feet the rest of the night. Eisner demonstrated his strength of character and enduring physical wherewithal by standing on stage throughout the entire presentation, shaking hands and personally congratulating the winners. Because there is a different presenter for each award, no one else stood for as long as Eisner.
That's why, when Eisner handed the 2002 Eisner Award for Best Serialized Story to writer J. Michael Straczynski and artists John Romita Jr. and Scott Hanna, Straczynski thrust the award in the air and remarked, "You know, you get the Emmy, you don't get it from 'Emmy.' You win the Oscar, you don't get it from 'Oscar.' How freakin' cool is this?"