By Hannah Means-Shannon
March 13, 2013
Towards the end of his life, witnessing the rise of the graphic novel as a format, Will Eisner commented on the fact that his books formed a subsection of the graphic novels display at a large bookstore by clarifying that his desire was to see his books shelved in the literature section alongside works by Jewish-American novelists of his generation (as expressed in an interview with David Hajdu). It’s enough to make you chuckle that he wasn’t pleased enough with the impact his books had on pushing the graphic novel format forward in American comics, but at the New York Comic and Picture-Story Symposium on the 11th of March, an Eisner-Week event critiqued the comparison between Eisner and his generation of fellow writers to see if his work stood up to his own claim of similarity. Speakers Jeremy Dauber (Professor in Yiddish Studies at Columbia University) and Danny Fingeroth (educator, author, former Marvel Comics editor and Chair of the Organizing Committee for Will Eisner Week) investigated Eisner’s use of setting, dialogue, and themes, as well as common cultural references he shared with his generation, to place Eisner in context and challenge the divide typically assumed between prose and comics media.