Published quietly in 1978, Will Eisner's revolutionary literary work A Contract With God marked the invention of the modern graphic novel, took on a life of its own, and inspired a generation of "sequential artists."Will Eisner (1917–2005) saw himself as "a graphic witness reporting on life, death, heartbreak, and the never-ending struggle to prevail." The publication of A Contract With God when Eisner was sixty-one proved to be a watershed moment both for him and for comic literature. It marked the birth of the modern graphic novel and the beginning of an era when serious cartoonists could be liberated from their stultifying comic-book format.
More than a quarter-century after the initial publication of A Contract With God, and in the last few months of his life, Eisner chose to combine the three fictional works he had set on Dropsie Avenue, the mythical street of his youth in Depression-era New York City.
As the dramas unfold in A Contract With God, the first book in this new trilogy, it is at 55 Dropsie Avenue where Frimme Hersh, the pious Jew, first loses his beloved daughter, then breaks his contract with his maker, and ends up as a slumlord; it is on Dropsie Avenue where a street singer, befriended by an aging diva, is so beholden to the bottle that he fails to grasp his chance for stardom; and it is there that a scheming little girl named Rosie poisons a depraved super’s dog before doing in the super as well.
In the second book, A Life Force, declared by R. Crumb to be "a masterpiece," Eisner re-creates himself in his protagonist, Jacob Shtarkah, whose existential search reflected Eisner’s own lifelong struggle. Chronicling not only the Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression but also the rise of Nazism and the spread of left-wing politics, Eisner combined the miniaturist sensibility of Henry Roth with the grand social themes of novelists such as Dos Passos and Steinbeck.
Finally, in Dropsie Avenue: The Neighborhood, Eisner graphically traces the social trajectory of this mythic avenue over four centuries, creating a sweeping panorama of the city and its waves of new residents—the Dutch, English, Irish, Jews, African Americans, and Puerto Ricans—whose faces changed yet whose lives presented an unending "story of life, death, and resurrection."
The Contract With God Trilogy is a mesmerizing, fictional chronicle of a universal American experience and Eisner’' most poignant and enduring literary legacy.
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The legendary graphic novel and the sequels that launched an art form.With graphic narrative that "was closer to the writing of Bernard Malamud or Isaac Bashevis Singer than any comic art which had preceded it" ( The Economist), Contract with God, originally published in 1978, was the first graphic novel: the prototype; along with A Life Force and Dropsie Avenue; for such seminal works as Maus and Persepolis. Set during the Great Depression, this literary trilogy, assembled in one volume for the first time, presents a treasure house of now near-mythic stories that fictionally illustrate the bittersweet tenement life of Eisner's youth. With nearly one dozen new illustrations and a revealing brand-new foreword, this book ultimately tells the epic story of life, death, and resurrection while exploring man's fractious relationship with an all-too-vengeful God. This mesmerizing, fictional chronicle of the universal American immigrant experience is Eisner's most poignant and enduring legacy. About the Author:
Will Eisner was born William Erwin Eisner on March 6, 1917 in Brooklyn, New York. By the time of his death on January 3, 2005, Will Eisner was recognized internationally as one of the giants in the field of sequential art, a term he coined.
In a career that spanned nearly eight decades—from the dawn of the comic book to the advent of digital comics—Will Eisner was truly the 'Orson Welles of comics' and the 'father of the Graphic Novel'. He broke new ground in the development of visual narrative and the language of comics and was the creator of The Spirit, John Law, Lady Luck, Mr. Mystic, Uncle Sam, Blackhawk, Sheena and countless others.
During World War II, Will Eisner used the comic format to develop training and equipment maintenance manuals for the US Army. After the war this continued as the Army's P.S. Magazine, which is still being produced today. Will Eisner taught Sequential Arts at the New York School of Visual Arts. The textbooks that he wrote based on his course are still bestsellers. In 1978, Will Eisner wrote A Contract with God, the first modern graphic novel. This was followed by almost 20 additional graphic novels over the following 25 years.
The "Oscars" of the Comic Industry are called The Eisner Awards, and named after Will Eisner. The Eisners are presented annually before a packed ballroom at Comic-Con International in San Diego, America's largest comics convention.
Wizard magazine named Eisner "the most influential comic artist of all time." Michael Chabon's Pulitzer-prize winning novel The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is based in good part on Eisner. In 2002, Eisner received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Federation for Jewish Culture, only the second such honor in the organization's history, presented by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman.
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