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The Post and Courier

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Say the name Will Eisner, and for many it is like invoking the names of Homer or Picasso: pioneer figures in their fields.

While Eisner’s cultural contribution may not be quite so exalted, for millions of readers he is the seminal figure in a publishing phenomenon.

Eisner created the first successful graphic novel, popularizing the term in the process, with the release of “A Contract With God” (1978).

This semi-autobiographical story is credited with revolutionizing the comic book form. Today, the graphic novel is, arguably, America’s fastest-growing literary genre. And widely influential. The character of Kavalier in Michael Chabon‘s Pulitzer-prize winning (non-graphic) novel “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” was inspired to a considerable degree by Eisner’s life and career.

Following “A Contract With God” at an age when most of his contemporaries had long since retired, Eisner created more than 20 additional graphic novels and instructional books.

“Will was still very productive near the end of his life,” says Carl Gropper, archivist of Will Eisner Studios, Inc., in New Jersey. “I suspect that now that the new movie based on his work is coming out, there will be quite a bit of additional interest in his remarkable career.”

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