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Will Eisner: A Spirited Life (Deluxe Edition) Hardcover – Jun 2 2015
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From Publishers Weekly
It is highly fortunate that Andelman got to write this authorized biography of the towering American cartoonist Eisner before his death this year at age 87. Following Michael Chabon's insightful introduction, Andelman states that he will not critique Eisner's work, and so barely describes Eisner's innovative "The Spirit" or the contents of his pioneering graphic novels. Andelman thus limits his audience to comics aficionados who are already thoroughly familiar with Eisner's oeuvre; others will be left puzzled as to why he merits a biography. Thoroughly researched, the book confusingly jumps back and forth in time, while presenting vivid portraits of Eisner's colleagues like Jerry Iger, Denis Kitchen and Cat Yronwode. Eisner is depicted as a hardworking, almost universally beloved artistic visionary. Yet Eisner's work indicates that he was a far more complex figure. Andelman briefly touches on intriguing issues, like Eisner's capacity for anger, his obsessive penny-pinching, his religious doubts, and his anguish over his daughter's death, but never probes them sufficiently. A future biography should delve beneath Eisner's public persona to draw connections between his life and his art. Still, so far there are few serious biographies of important figures in American comics. In authorizing this book, Eisner has proved a pioneer yet again.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Michael Chabon contributes a heartfelt introduction to Andelman's first-ever biography of Will Eisner (1917-2005), and the story that follows is a real-life Kavalier and Clay. Present at the comics industry's birth in the 1930s, Eisner revolutionized the field not just creatively in work spanning from his 1940s stories featuring masked crime fighter the Spirit to his later, pioneering graphic novels but also as businessman and entrepreneur, teacher, mentor, and the inspiration of countless young artists. Andelman covers all those roles and points up Eisner's uniqueness among his peers: he retained ownership of his creations, and that allowed him to reprint the Spirit stories at a time, decades after their original publication, when so doing cemented his reputation in a new era of comics fandom and facilitated launching a new career as a graphic novelist with A Contract with God (1978). Besides verifying Eisner's impact on nearly every artist who drew comics in his wake, Andelman shows that Eisner's influence extends to such film directors as Spielberg and Tarantino. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
superb study of a great literary genius. Drawing
enormously from a vast wealth of previously
unavailable resources, the M Press book is made
all the finer by the biographer's decision to
focus on the man and, in doing so, draws a more
acute, highly intimate bead on the influential
work Eisner produced across the greater 20th
century, and beyond.
That being said, I question the logic of the
Publishers Weekly reviewer, who felt that
Andelman's decision to place Eisner's life
as the primary focus, rather than fixate
upon his technique, would somehow limit
the book's readership to comic book
One would think that just the opposite would be
true; that a book principally aimed at discussing
technical aspects would have come across as far
too in-clubby and far less audience-spanning for a
biographical work. Too, considering that Eisner's
personal life has almost never been a topic for
audience discretion, one has to wonder what the
Publishers Weekly reviewer had in mind for a more
appropriate biographical subject?
One ponders if that reviewer was the same one
who wondered if the sobering subject of Eisner's
final work, THE PLOT, was appropriate for the
medium of comics?!! It might do such critics
well to actually read the material they're
reviewing, and gain some wisdom -not
stereotypes- about what they purport
to talk about.
Few places could provide a better start into
the inner workings of a classic storyteller
than this book. Drawing from direct interviews
with Eisner, family, friends and professional
associates spanning some 60 to 70 years, this
book is at once the historical goldmine and
an anecdotal treasure house.
Those who have long wondered about Eisner's
art, cultural background, and how he parlayed
all this into a life's work which crosses
idioms and sets standards even now, will
find this book to be a magnificent
revelation into the nature by which
pioneers are born.
Those who know nothing about THE SPIRIT, the
connections with generations of Sequential
storytellers from Kubert and Kirby to Miller
and Gaiman, or the vast reshaping of an art
form some 30 years after "retirement", will
simply find a most absorbing read about a
man who grew up poor, hungry, and oppressed,
yet refused to live his life as a victim.
A SPIRITED LIFE is the tale of a talented
man who made his aesthetic mark upon the
ages, and made a lucrative living without
How Eisner did this in a field still
largely known for robber baron business
practices, while exuding a charm and
grace which complemented the succinct,
no-nonsense demeanor of his images and
words, is the magic which comprises
WILL EISNER: A SPIRITED LIFE. Clearly,
a read which is more than worth the
lifetime that many have waited for
its pages to be filled, and its
heart-stirring tale to be
When Michael Chabon began rseearching KAVALIER AND KLAY he interviewed Eisner about the early days of comics and what it wa slike being a young American Jew in the era when Hitler was rising to power, a shadow across Europe. Was there something special that drew Jews to comic work, is what he essentially wound up asking. In response Eisner commented, "We have this history of impossible solutions to insoluble problems." Struck by the wisdom and beauty of this remark, Chabon turned it into the epigraph of his novel. There's a recent biography of Ray Bradbury with some of the hagiographic tone of A SPIRITED LIFE, but this work is superior because of its massive research and its real insight into the mind of Ann Eisner and the terrible tragedy that was Alice's death at 16. He makes the readers of the future sorry they never met the legend who invented the graphic novel.
I wanted to give this book a 4, but just couldn't do it. The main reason is the writing. It seems very forced in a lot of places as if the author cataloged and chronicled all of Will's personal effects and correspondence (which by his own admission he was privy to, and actually knew Will) and anywhere he saw something that interested him he wrote a paragraph or two about it. Certain little trite quips do not need to be elaborated on or even included in this biography because they are simply not entertaining nor lend to create a clearer picture of the man himself or his legacy. Maybe that's the editors fault, trying to stretch out the pages, maybe not, but it makes the reading very stifled and more often than not, not at all flowing. I simply have read too many good biographies to compare this one to. It could be better. Now enough on that, onto Will Eisner.
There are two types of people in this world the types like me (before reading this book) who say who the hell is Will Eisner and the others who know him as a genius, pioneer and demi-god. Either way, it is guaranteed that something you appreciate is inspired by Will. His list of achievements in the world of comics are too numerous to name but I think the quote on the back panel summarizes it best "When comics started, the recipe was simple: 'Put words and pictures on paper.' Pretty much everything else was the invention of Will Eisner". If you are a fan of DC COMICS, MARVEL, BATMAN, SUPERMAN, SPIDERMAN, WATCHMEN, THE AVENGERS and a million others, the people who created them either worked for or were heavily influenced by Will Eisner. He helped the artist retain the rights to their creations, and revolutionized the evolution of comic strips into comic books and eventually graphic novels. In fact, although debated, the origin of the term graphic novel and its concept is credited to Will himself.
What I will credit this book with doing is giving the reader a clear picture about this man, his undying sense of professionalism and his never-ending desire to teach each and every artist to make themselves and their products marketable. Unlike most artist, Eisner could see that creativity was only half the battle and that even the best of products could be shelved, or not turn a profit, or the artist could simply loose any profit to the editors. He was emphatic about writing a good story in addition to being meticulous about the artwork. What's more, throughout his life, Eisner always helped the underdog. He would always take the time out to mentor, teach or criticize any up-and-comers work, no matter how famous he became. He even, along with Denis Kitchen, gave life to the underground comic movement. Furthermore, he even influenced everything from some of today's top superhero franchises to the birth of the punk music scene.
Eisner's "THE SPIRIT" ran in the 30s, 40s, 70s and onward. The comic book industries biggest award (equivalent to the Oscars) are named after him; The Will Eisner Awards. He served in the U.S. Army why continuing his comics work and successfully outbid others to do artwork for the Army's "PS Magazine" and for General Motors. Nowadays young people bow to Bob Kane (Batman), Frank Miller (Sin City), Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster (Superman) or Alan Moore (Watchmen), but once you read this book you will realize that their body of works pale in comparison to the late great Eisner and although monumental on their own, they do probably idolize him.
In short, a very interesting albeit choppy read. If you are a comic fan, a fanboy or "nerd", this is a must read. Otherwise, it is still worth the time as the man Will Eisner as a person and certainly as a business model, are a forced to be reckoned with.