March 6, 2013
In the final issue of Will Eisner’s Quarterly, published in 1986, Eisner wrote and drew three comics stories that each deal with a protagonist in the last decades of his life. In the previous installment, we looked at the first of these stories, “The Long Hit.”
Another story, “Winning,” is a more straightforward and positive comedy. On the day of the fifteenth annual “Big City” Marathon, in an unnamed metropolis that is probably New York, a balding, bespectacled man named Benny joins the racers, despite the protests of a woman named Clara. She tells him, ““You’re crazy! You can’t do this!” and points out, “Benny, you never, ever ran, or jogged—even for a bus. . .It’s 28 miles. . .29 miles!” Benny replies, “I know that. . .” and calmly continues his preparations. Eisner does not specify how old Benny and Clara are, but they are clearly far from young.
Although she does not understand why the out-of-shape Benny would want to participate, and tries to discourage him, once the marathon begins, Clara is wholly supportive, bringing him water and verbally encouraging him.
But as Clara points out, the other runners quickly leave Benny behind. As Benny runs, he seemingly has visions, seeing and hearing memories of being reminded that he quit high school, that he did not try for a promotion (“you’ll be stuck in that shipping department forever”), and that he dated Clara for over five years without proposing. (He’s clearly known her even longer than that.). A voice in one of his visions scolds him, “It’s typical of you, Benny. . .Frankly, you are a nobody. . .you’ll always be a nobody. . .You’ll accomplish nothing with your life. . .”