I refer to Will Eisner, the cartoonist who created The Spirit and who was a contemporary and coworker with/employer of many of the famous names behind the Golden Age’s finest comic books. Bob Kane (Batman). Jack Kirby (Captain America, The Fantastic Four). Lou Fine. Eisner is the man who effectively created the “graphic novel,” paving the way for future works by other artists (Art Spiegelman’s Maus) as well as himself (A Contract with God, Fagin the Jew).
Eisner died last night at age 87 from complications of heart-bypass surgery. [Thanks to jeffr at the IFOC Dead Pool for the link.]
I am taking this loss a little more to heart than those of most public figures. Sure, we’ve lost Jerry Ohrbach (notable actor known for roles in “Law & Order,” “Chicago,” “The Fantasticks,” etc.) and Frank Kelly Freas (commercial artist and cartoonist whose work included many famous SF magazine and book covers as well as covers for MAD magazine) in the last couple of days.
But She Who Must Be Obeyed and I met Eisner just a few weeks ago at the Atlanta Jewish Book Festival. We listened to him speak, a relatively spry 87-year-old who stood up behind the lectern for the entire duration of his talk. We spoke to him. He autographed my books.
And just last Sunday, we had gone to visit the Breman Museum’s “Zap! Pow! Bam! The Superhero” exhibit in midtown Atlanta, an exhibit that featured numerous Golden Age works by Eisner and his contemporaries. Having just met the man made the show that much more personal. More real.
And so hearing the news of his demise has a lot more personal resonance than it otherwise would. Thus passes one of the last of the great Golden Age comic book artists, a man of intelligence, creativity, and insight. I will miss him.
[And, no, I didn’t have him as a pick on my Dead Pool roster.]