Eisner and me

On August 18, 2010 · Comments Off

In a sort of postscript to her School Library Journal review of Hereville, Elizabeth Bird mentioned Will Eisner’s landmark A Contract With God. That really, really pleased me.

I took a class from Eisner at School of Visual Arts, which is a privilege I wish I had appreciated more at the time. Eisner’s work — not so much his Spirit work, as the work he did in the last three decades of his life — is a frequent, conscious inspiration to me while I draw. Especially when it comes to drawing people, my never-met goal as a cartoonist is to make my figures as full of life as Eisner’s.

Eisner did have some weaknesses as a cartoonist, especially when it came to writing; his characterization could be thin, and his dialog was often clunky. At his worse, he used embarrassing stereotypes (don’t lend Life On Another Planet to any Italian friends you have). But his strengths — his page layouts, effortlessly leading the reader’s eye, and his astonishingly fluid, graceful drawing — put him in the top rank of all cartoonists who have ever set brush to paper.

In her review, discussing page layouts in Hereville, Elizabeth singles out a two-page sequence in which Mirka is visualizing a math problem. In that sequence, I was deliberately imitating Eisner’s 1990s work, in which he minimized the use of panel borders, instead letting elements of the panels provide the divisions between panels.

Here’s a page from Eisner’s Invisible People:

And here, for a perhaps unfortunate comparison, is one of the Hereville pages Elizabeth discussed in her review.

Related link: My 2005 obituary for Eisner.


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