by Amy Ratcliffe

November 30, 2012

Confession time: until this month I’d never read a Will Eisner comic.

I know he’s incredibly influential in the medium. I understand that the Eisner Awards are a huge deal, and they wouldn’t be named after him if he wasn’t the same. Reading The Spirit has been on my list of things to read for a while but so is a lot of other stuff and I haven’t got around to it (I know). I was introduced to his work through A Contract with God instead.

Apparently it’s commonly said that this was the first comic to call itself a graphic novel; it was published in 1978. From Eisner’s keynote address at the 2002 Will Eisner Symposium:

“That began what is known as the graphic novel today. Those of you who’ve heard me speak before know this now famous story about how it was called a “graphic novel.” I completed the book, A Contract With God, and I called the president of Bantam Books in New York, who I knew had seen my work with The Spirit. Now, this was a very busy guy who didn’t have much time to speak to you.

So I called him and said, “There’s something I want to show you, something I think is very interesting.”

He said, “Yeah, well, what is it?”

A little man in my head popped up and said, “For Christ’s sake stupid, don’t tell him it’s a comic. He’ll hang up on you.” So, I said, “It’s a graphic novel.”

He said, “Wow! That sounds interesting. Come on up.”

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