By Jonathan H. Liu
June 11, 2012
Here’s another in a long line of geek confessions: I hadn’t really read much of Will Eisner before now. I knew about Eisner, of course, called the “father of the graphic novel” both for popularizing the term graphic novel and for being a pioneer of the form. There’s a reason that the most prestigious comics industry award (in the United States, at least) is called the Eisner. If we’re talking about comics as literature, surely Eisner deserves some recognition.
I’d read some of The Spirit several years ago, but these stood out to me mostly as groundbreaking in the way Eisner used the medium but not so much in the dialogue, which seemed a bit corny to me and not terribly different from a lot of other comics I’ve read. What makes them stand out is that the style of storytelling is ahead of its time, and perhaps the reason it feels familiar is because so many comics artists since have been influenced by Eisner’s work. But writing this series gave me the kick in the pants to finally read one of Eisner’s more literary works, his graphic novels set on Dropsie Avenue in the Bronx. I checked out the Contract With God Trilogy, which collects three of his books: A Contract With God, A Life Force, and Dropsie Avenue: The Neighborhood. I spent the course of a few days poring over it, and it’s a masterpiece, well worth reading.
Note to parents: Eisner doesn’t shy away from showing the seedier side of life on Dropsie Avenue. There are uplifting moments, but there’s also corruption, organized crime, murder, adultery and rape, and general unpleasantness.