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Today the Google Masthead is commemorating Will Eisner’s 94th birthday. So who is Will Eisner? I never heard of him. I clicked on the masthead and then clicked the Wikipedia article. American comics writer. Well that’s that, I have no interest with comics and I started to close the article. I had departed with the comics about the time I was 12 years old, and have never found any interest in the medium since. Before I closed the article, I grabbed the page slider and whipped down through the article and found three cover images that spiked my interest. The first was a busty dame in a slinky red dress saying that this story is not for little boys. Well that appealed to my lecherous side. The second was very odd. It looked like an Army maintenance manual done in comic book form. The third though floored me, Contract With God, what a religious comic book?
OK so now I had to check this guy out. Again comics are not my bag so forgive my brevity. Eisner was one of the most influential people in the medium and the industry created awards and a hall of fame named after him. You can read about him at Wikipedia, Will Eisner. What interested me was his interest in writing comics for adults (the old usage of “adult”—people over 21 not X rated content) and this series involving God. The aim for an adult audience first showed when Eisner created The Spirit. The newspaper wanted a superhero and asked if The Spirit had a costume. Eisner wanting a character appealing to adults put a mask on The Spirit and replied yes he has a costume.
Eisner employed his drawing ability in the Second World War by creating maintenance manuals for the Army in a comics format. Eisner continued to create manuals for the Army until 1970.
The desire to appeal to adults appeared again to Eisner in the 1970s. After attending a comic book conference, it occurred to him that his audience of the 1940’s had grown up. So he decided to develop a graphic novel that would appeal to adults and part of that novel would be devoted to God. Eisner later stated in the preface to the Contract of God trilogy that the death of his daughter was a motivating force for the novel:
“My only daughter, Alice, had died of leukemia eight years before the publication of this book. My grief was still raw. My heart still bled. In fact, I could not even then bring myself to discuss the loss. I made Frimme Hersh’s daughter an “adopted child.” But his anguish was mine. His argument with God was also mine. I exorcised my rage at a deity that I believed violated my faith and deprived my lovely 16-year-old child of her life at the very flowering of it. This is the first time in thirty-four years that I have openly discussed it.” ~ Will Eisner*
Now here is something I can sink my teeth into. No I have no interest in comics or graphic novels, and no I am not going to order Contract With God from Amazon. But here is something that appeals to the grief voyeurism that is defining property in my Soul resulting from my Irish “abiding sense of tragedy”. A comic book creator is so grief struck over the death of his daughter that he creates a graphic novel in which he rails at God. This is the reason I wrote this post, not to celebrate one of the greats of the comic industry and the father of the graphic novel, but to commemorate a father’s love for his daughter and his despair with God.
You can order The Contract With God Trilogy and Eisner’s other books at Amazon:
Amazon.com, The Contract With God Trilogy
If you go to the above web page at Amazon, you can see some of the artwork employed in the book by clicking on the “Click to Look Inside” feature. The available pages are limited, but it will give you a flavor for Eisner’s work.
*Eisner's quote from the preface of The Contract With God Trilogy: Bookie Mee, The Contract With God Trilogy
Google Doodle: Google
Cover Images: Wikipedia, Will Eisner