The following is a transcript of Will Eisner’s keynote address at the “‘Will Eisner Symposium: The 2002 University of Florida Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels.”
By Will Eisner
I’d like to start this evening by talking about how important this gathering is. I think this is probably a turning point. I’ve been trying all evening to think of a decent metaphor to explain this wonderful thing that has been put together by Don Ault and his team. All I could think about is trying to explain to you how a Jewish boy feels being able to join a gentile country club.
This seriously is a moment in time for which I have been dreaming all of my professional life, as most of those who worked around me dreamt about but weren’t even aware that this was possible. We now, for the first time, we’re being recognized, not yet accepted, but we’re now recognized in major bookstores and in the rooms of academia – in the academic community. We’re now being discussed as a form of literature, and this is what I’ve been hoping for in all these years.
Let me start by telling you how it was in the beginning. In the beginning, God made comics, and we drew on the walls of caves trying to tell everybody how we captured a mastodon that afternoon. Back in 1935-36, when comics as we know them got started – by the way, they were called comic magazines back then, not comic books as they’re called today – they were really a compilation of daily strips into a magazine, which then became a marketable product originally called Famous Funnies. These soon became obsolete because publishers were looking for complete stories. So, original stories were then being created.