• Laura Hudson's Myriad Issues
  • Brill Building
  • The Comics Reporter
  • The Newsarama Blog
  • The Beat
  • Comics Should be Good
  • Comic Feed
  • Chris Arrant
  • Comics Waiting Room
  • Dave's Long Box
  • Neilalien
  • Love Manga
  • Progressive Ruin
  • Comics Worth Reading
  • BeaucoupKevin
  • Riot
  • LeftyBrown's Corner
  • Comics Ate My Brain
  • Mark Evanier's News From Me
  • So So Silver Age
  • A David Lewis

  • Meta:

    The Best Advice From the Great Will Eisner

    Fifteen bucks was all it took for Will
    Eisner to get started on the road to “legend” status. That covered the first three months’ rent at the office building he and fellow artist Jerry Iger chose to form their Art Syndication Co. Within a year he had created The Spirit, a costumed character for adult newspaper readers. Eisner’s creativity — pushing the envelope for both writing and art — continued unabated for the next 60 years, and his genius influenced an entire generation of comic creators. The most coveted award in cartooning bears his name. Will Eisner died Jan. 3, 2005, and Comic Foundry offers up a treasure trove of insights, hints and tips from Eisner’s numerous interviews and articles.

    On the nomenclature of the industry:

    “The term ‘comics’ long ago became obsolete and inaccurate. It merely defined the content of the early joke-based comical strips. ‘Sequential art’ is a more accurate description of the form. I first suggested it because I believed something needed to be done to correct the feeling of inferiority by artists and writers in this field. If we ever hoped to address serious subject matter in this medium I felt students had to see the discipline as a valid literary/art form.” (From Famiglia Cristiana, in an article by Stefano Gorla)

    On cartooning:

    “Cartoonists have always worked for publication, as opposed to painters, who work for galleries. It’s the final vehicle that often determines ‘the challenge,’ as you put it. A painter’s vehicle is the gallery. The painting he makes is ‘the product.’ The cartoonist, however, is creating something for reproduction. This has an effect on the challenge.” (From Hogan’s Alley Online, in an article by Tom Heintjes)

    “The work we do is as demanding as any of the great painters because nothing that happens on the page of a comic is accidental. It has to be imagined first in your mind before you do it. Those of us who know something about the art of painting know that working on a canvas, very often a lot of serendipitous things happen that work to the advantage of the painter ultimately.” (From BadAzz MoFo, in an article by David Walker)

    “What’s happening now is you’re at a point now in the history of this medium that’s really a turning point — it’s a maturing. You’re now getting books and material being turned out that’s written for adults containing — and when I say adults I don’t mean sex and kinky stuff — I mean serious, life-experience stories. I’ve been working on that for the last 22 years.” (From BadAzz MoFo, in an article by David Walker)

    “The blank spaces between images, when properly employed, are not blank. They are abstract elements of time and space in which imagined action connects the images. Remember sequential art functions without sound, or motion. The sounds, the motion, the dialogue, the emotion the artist creates on a page are meant to be perceived by the reader.” (From Famiglia Cristiana, in an article by Stefano Gorla)

    “I prefer The Spirit in black and white — I prefer all of my work in black and white, to be honest with you. I believe the black line is a more pure contact with the reader. Color tends to obliterate or interfere with the flow of the story. I try very hard to make emotional contact with my reader early and to maintain an intense relationship as the story goes on. I find that anything that interferes with that is counterproductive.” (From Comic Book Artist, in an article by Jon B. Cooke)

    “You’ll find that in the case of superheroes and adventure stories, the artwork tends to be very tight and complex, heavily detailed and so forth. I’m dealing in impressionism. So my work today, if you want to put a name to it, would be impressionistic.” (From, in an article by Andrew Arnold)

    “Comics are designed in a way that allows the readers to move at their own speed and to imagine the events as they are unfolding, you can go back to reread a panel, you can imagine the action, whereas in film they tell you when (you) can see it, not only that but each frame is presented under the control of the projector. You can’t say, ‘Hey wait, I want to go back and see that last frame again.’ They are totally different; comics are much more than ‘movies on paper.’ ” (From Silver Bullet Comics, in an article by David Gallaher)

    “I’ve always been in pursuit of an emotional connection between what I’m saying and my reader. Which is probably why I use devices like rain. I now have the reputation of what Harvey Kurtzman called ‘Eisner-spritz,’ which is a fascination with rain. Rain and heat are the two things that readers understand.” (From Red Dwarf, in an article by Andrew Ellard)

    “I write about what I know and what I have experienced. This keeps me an ‘honest’ writer. The Great Depression left a mark on all of the civilized world. It was a defining moment, like a giant earthquake, that reminds us of how little control we have over human destiny — despite our technology and innovation.” (From Famiglia Cristiana, in an article by Stefano Gorla)

    On online comics:

    “In print, you can count on the fact that the reader will either glance at your work or dwell on it for a great length of time. You therefore can develop what I call a ‘contract with the reader’ during the time he or she has it in their hands. In electronic transmission, we have no way of knowing how long a readers stays with you or what their retention time is. We’re dealing with a totally different relationship.” (From Hogan’s Alley Online, in an article by Tom Heintjes)

    “Well, there’s no viable economic model for publishing comics online. Obviously, cartoonists are always looking for a new reader, a larger audience. They know now that a Web site can secure 100,000 hits overnight, but no one has figured out how the creator can make money off of that. This is not encouraging cartoonists to leave print. In fact, there are more cartoonists looking for print work than there ever have been. Perhaps the marketplace for cartoons is shifting. I’m not wringing my hands, because it’s simply a new phenomenon that we have to deal with.” (From Hogan’s Alley Online, in an article by Tom Heintjes)

    “Remember, the creator’s primary function is to provide the material for ‘the vehicle,’ and I consider the Internet to be a vehicle. When I was doing comics for the newspaper in 1940, the paper that we were printed on was so rough and porous that the artistic style everybody used was rigid. There were no vignettes, so the flat benday coloring could be contained. Reproduction today permits oil painting or air brushing. Cartoonists have always learned to accommodate the technology as it changes.” (From Hogan’s Alley Online, in an article by Tom Heintjes)

    On the declining marketshare of comic books:

    “If someone stopped me on the street, grabbed me by the lapel and asked me, ‘What’s causing all this?,’ my quick response would be ‘content.’ The content of comics is not keeping up with the demands of the readers. In Europe, as in the United States, the novelty of comics has worn off. It’s no longer a novelty. When my former company in the ’60s, American Visuals Corp., was selling comics for industrial and educational purposes, one of my salesmen called up American Motors and said, ‘We’d like to do a booklet for you on the new Social Security
    laws,’ the man at American Motors replied, ‘We already have a booklet.’ My salesman said, ‘No, we’re going to do it in comics form.’ The guy at American Motors said, ‘Oh, great! We’ll be glad to talk to you about that.’ To them, comics was a novel vehicle and a novel medium. The idea of a comic book is no longer new. You can’t sell it just because of what it is. You sell it because of what it contains.” (From Hogan’s Alley Online, in an article by Tom Heintjes)

    “The problem is not superheroes; it’s how they’re presented. Trash and pandering in any field, whether it’s in movies, whether it’s in literature, always have the effect of turning people from a medium. Most folks are really not aware of the fact that below that 90 percent of trash there is some 5 or 10 percent of really good stuff that they should look for.” (From Grayhaven Magazine, in an article by Barry Wolborsky)

    “This medium is capable of storytelling well beyond the business of two mutants trashing each other.” (From The Jewish Week, in an article by Julia Goldman)

    On his life’s accomplishments:

    “I enjoy teaching because it allows me (secretly) to review and evaluate my technical skills and abstract ideas. All professionals should teach at some time in their career because they are obliged to pass on what they have learned.” (From Famiglia Cristiana, in an article by Stefano Gorla)

    “In the course of teaching I realized that all the things I understood about when you write in this medium — beyond the visceral approach you take — needed to be said. No one had said anything about it. So I wrote a book in which I attempted to explain the medium. My interest was in explaining it to university art teachers and very serious, more advanced, professionals. It wasn’t written for the kid who wants to know how to draw noses and ears!” (From Red Dwarf, in an article by Andrew Ellard)

    “Actually, I’m still looking to achieve what I set out to do 50 years ago: to achieve a literary level in this medium. One of the problems is in marketing. Maybe one of the problems is that the adult reader is turned off by the form. He sees a lot of pictures, and he sees balloons, and he sees a book that he pays $14 for, which gives him maybe a half-hour’s worth of reading time. For that same money, he can get a book by Stephen King or John Updike that would give him hours and hours of reading time. Perhaps the solution is not in form but in content. This is something I’m struggling with: trying to seize the adult reader.” (From Hogan’s Alley Online, in an article by Tom Heintjes)

    Regarding DC’s The Spirit: The New Adventures, not written by Eisner

    “Clearly, I would never have done stories the way these guys did. Guys like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman are very much in touch with today’s reader, and they were talking to them in that vein. I had no sense of violation or concern; they just saw The Spirit from their perspectives. When I created The Spirit, I never had any intention of creating a superhero. I never felt The Spirit would dominate the feature. He served as a sort of an identity for the strip. The stories were what I was interested in.” (From Hogan’s Alley Online, in an article by Tom Heintjes)

    On the future of comics and cartooning:

    “If I’m talking to a 13 year-old kid who hasn’t yet read a comic I’d say one thing: ‘There’s a lot of good stuff out there, don’t be fooled. Yes, there are going to be superheroes as long as we have a civilization because there’s a need for them. But on the other hand, don’t believe it.’ ” (From BadAzz MoFo, in an article by David Walker)

    “As far as adults are concerned: I want to point out to adults that there is a world of good material available to you now in comic form — in this medium — and learn to give it your support because the more you support it, the better the material will be as it comes out.” (From BadAzz MoFo, in an article by David Walker)

    —Compiled by Patrick Rollens

    Posted by Tim Leong on April 13th, 2005 filed in Story Archive |

    Comments are closed.